Michael Turner, formerly headmaster of Templeogue College, was born in New York in 1922 but the family returned to Ireland in 1930. In Co Mayo he attended Milltown and Ballindine National Schools before moving to St Jarlath's College. While there he showed his skill at Gaelic football. He represented his school and later UCG and Co Offaly in this game which he loved.
We met at Maynooth College in 1941 and began a lifelong friendship. Academically, Mick was a consistent honours student. His B A, H DE, B Ph, L Ph and, in later years, his M Ed, were merely the outward symbols of a scholar of distinction.
Our ways parted when we left Maynooth and we did not meet again until we became members of "Vexilla Regis" which had its own magazine and held an annual get-together. This organisation was established by the late Chief Supt Harry O'Meara and was the brainchild of Prof Neil Kevin whose classic I Remember Maynooth devoted a chapter to the men who chose the secular service rather than the clerical route.
By then Michael had married Pauline Liddane in 1954 and had three sons, Michael, John, and Raymond. Mick taught at St Joseph's Freshford; CBS Tullamore; Clongowes Wood; Synge Street; and Templeogue College, in addition to lecturing at St Patrick's Training College and Rathmines College of Commerce.
He was an avid reader and writer. He contributed to Studies, The Furrow, Geographical Viewpoint, Educational Studies and Secondary Teacher. The list of articles is too long for enumerating here. He also published textbooks on geography and civics.
He was an excellent committee man and served on a wide variety of boards and attended many seminars and conferences. During his final years he was working hard for the cause of pensioned teachers who, he felt, were being ignored.
The zenith of his professional life came in 1977 when he was appointed headmaster of Templeogue College, one of the earliest laymen to take such a post.
We met at ASTI meetings but our real meetings were over lunch in a quiet hotel where we talked and talked. We discussed education, theology, philosophy, marriage, games, politics. He was a slow, serious talker and rarely became emotional but his convictions were not for revising.
We were both into writing and Michael was far more prolific than I. Indeed, it was he who introduced me to Albert Folens with whom I published some text books. He had written his autobiography which I considered worth publishing. He wrote short stories which some found didactic. He left behind him a novel based on Maynooth but, sadly, unfinished.
Mick was a man of great integrity. His Catholicism was soundly based though some of the fallout from Vatican II upset him. He was a marvellous correspondent and I am fortunate that I filed away his long letters. He was so reliable that I was worried when I had no Christmas epistle from him. I decided the post had lost his greetings and sat down to pen him a note. Having finished the letter, I picked up the paper and there was my answer. My friend of almost 60 years was gone to Paradise. The date was January 25th, the morning after his death. I thought immediately of Tennyson:
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me. This tribute utters a few of the thoughts that welled up in me on that morning in this Jubilee Year. Regrettably, I missed the Requiem Mass.
His son John spoke kindly to me and Pauline, the grieving widow, told me the details of Michael's final days on earth. He never spoke of death but I have noticed that the very ill often wish to spare their loved ones the pain of parting until the parting has occurred. Mick was too intelligent not to have known that the struggle was almost over. De mortuis nil nisi bonum. It is not in death that Michael deserves the good word. His entire life was a testimony to the eternal value of godly living.
To Pauline and his three sons and his many, many friends I say: "Rejoice that you have experienced the love and the friendship of a truly good man."