BROTHER PATRICK COFFEY RIP
died October 2014
Brother Patrick Coffey, a chemistry master and a former headmaster died
peacefully in the Christian Brothers nursing home in Dublin on 28th October 2014.
May he rest in
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Click here for an appreciation of Brother Coffey's time as headmaster
Br. Coffey - our form master and teacher of Chemistry. 4/5 Alpha 1951-2; 1952-3. A great teacher. Not one for any messing about, but passionate about his work, dedicated and much respected. Could be fearful at times, but showed insight, understanding and compassion. He seemed able to separate the genuine from the fraudulent. Much to my surprise, I came to understand our level of Chemistry and - great triumph! - how to balance equations. And I passed O level. - John Le Roi. (1955). Now retired Headteacher in Darlington.
So sorry to hear the news of Bro Coffey. I was fortunate to have met him when a few of us visited him at St Anselm's a few years ago after our reunion. We had a drink together and he was on good form.
May he rest in peace and God bless him - Edmund Blackie
I was one of those with Ed Blackie who visited the retired Brother Coffey at StAnselms. Click here for a picture At St Anselms 2007. As far as I can recall, Brother Coffey was my chemistry teacher from Lower Five Alpha through the sixth form and as I spent my entire largely successful career in chemistry-related work you could say he was my inspiration. He may have been fearsome but he encouraged the curious, even to ask seemingly daft questions. 'It is better to look a fool for a few minutes than to remain ignorant all of your life' he would say. He also taught me that all salts of sodium, potassium and ammmonium are soluble, and that all nitrates are soluble, but I forget the rest. He also supervised me, but less successfully in the school cross-country team of 1956-1957. In fact that team was so devoid of success that we didn't even merit a team photograph. Joseph Chamberlain
I am an Old Boy from 1949 to 1956, and I remember Brother Coffee
very well. He was strict, but not overly, he was true, although I didn't
know what that meant until years later, he was understanding, although
I didn't appreciate this until I had already left St. Edwards.
What I learned in St. Edwards has been the guiding line of many years.
I remember all the names of all the teachers during my seven years,
but Brother Coffee stood out as an clear and distinct leader in the
teachings of St. Edwards, together with Brother Hooper and Brother
Foley, who I clearly remember, even today.
Much later, I learned that Monsignor James Nugent, the founder of
St. Edwards was a not-to-distant member of my family, which has
helped to consolidate the memories of my school days, which I will
never, never forget !
I am proud to say that I am an Old Boy of St. Edwards. With the deepest respect to those who guided my youth - Francis Nugent Dixon - Britanny in France
Many tributes will flow in to celebrate Br. Coffey's outstanding contributions to St. Edwards. A majority will emphasise his contributions as Head of Science and then Headmaster - both of which were outstanding. I would like to detail his dedication to all round development through sport, particularly Athletics.
In the early 50's St Edwards was largely a rugby school until, about 1951, when Bro.Coffey introduced cross-country running. Very soon we were one of the top cross country teams in the nation. He was also 'volunteered' to develop athletics during the summer months. At that time we had a sloping grass track and, if i remember correctly, a long jump pit. Within a couple of years thanks to great physical effort on his part, plus negotiating skills, there were tremendous changes. Shot and discus circles appeared; a high jump pit was dug; pole vault planter box and pit were established; and finally we became one of the very few schools in the country to have a full steeplechase pit and steeplechase hurdles. I put the latter to very good use, but it took me years to realise what effort must have gone into their construction. His efforts resulted in us producing a couple of English Schools winner and record holders, plus numerous other representatives, by as early as 1955. I know that these results were reward enough for him.
Since i left St Edwards in 1955 I have learned that, when he returned as Headmaster a few years later, he was able to magically produce a top level running track, swimming pool, new gym and sports hall, plus vastly improved Science facilities.
I visited him a few years ago when he was retired and in the Brothers House at St Anslems. He was in his late 80's then and was becoming quite fragile. However he had almost total recall of most of my fellow athletes of the early 50's, and he had followed many of their careers. Over the last few years we have exchanged Christmas cards. In spite of serious health issues he kept trying to get a mile or so of walking in every day while he resided at the Brothers retirement home in Dublin. He never was one to give up easily.
I will always remember him. Brother Coffey, may you rest in peace - Tony Linford, Coolum Beach, Australia
" You Goose"!! His famous expletive often recalled when one's "mind at rest"
An excellent chemistry teacher and form master period 1955-1957 who had a great influence on my life and my subsequent 53 yr pharmacy career. Fond memories of his accompanied cross country trips around Merseyside by corporation bus and train then over muddy fields ,freezing cold and sometimes no shower facilities, but we survived .!! Now his labours O'er.
Thanks, God Bless, and R.I P . Bro.Patrick - John Tindall
Brother Coffey and the scientific process.
I remember once on one of many summer holidays at a place called Greystones, on the coast 30 miles south of Dublin, where my father;'s cousin had a guest house, being confonted by a group of Christian Brothers, all strapping fellows, out for their morning walk. One of them said, good morning Mr.Hart. It was Brother Coffey. They were on their way to 'The Men's Swimming Pool' - a narrow cove amongst the rocks. The shock at seeing the 'group of black crows' as James Joyce described them - nearly spoiled the holiday.
Three years later, I went to the Headteacher, Brother Wall I think, and said that a lot of lads who had been at St Edwards later became doctors and dentists but they had to begin their degrees with a foundation course because St Edward's didn't do A-level Biology. He consulted with Brother Coffey. the next thing I knew was that I would be the first A-level Bio student ever at St.Edwards. I wanted to do a degree in Botany as there was a future in the Canadian Forestry Service for graduates ( i wasn't big enough to wield an axe). It meant I had to face the awful tragedy of dropping Didgie Rowe's A-level Maths!
Brother Coffey was so supportive. A Science lab was turned over to me and Mr 'Gaza'Vignolds was drafted in to be my teacher. A few weeks later Frank Harkins and Peter Zanetti made up the trio of Bios. We were a test case, the experimental group, we had less than two years to do it and we all passed A-level well. Some years later I was in the college and discovered that classes of 30 to 40 were by then doing A-level Biology all largely through the largesse and foresight of Brother Coffey then Head of Science. I didn't get to Canada. I had a reserved place in Liverpool University to do Zoology but opted to get my National Service done with first.
I became an artist and teacher but Biology and the scientific process has always been invaluable in my artwork
John Hart - St Edward's College until 1954
Bro Coffee was a very nice man, straightforward and not overly strict. I finally got to understand chemistry with him in 1948-49; I left in 1950. We were so fortunate to belong to such a good school. I retired a while ago from the Royal Free UCL where I was Professor of Medicine specialising in kidney diseases. There was something about the discipline of learning in that school that lasted all my life. We all admired Bro Coffey’s simplification of chemistry complexities; I remember too, the great Bro Hooper who made me believe I had it in me to do better; it was something all our teachers shared - John Moorhead 1944-50
Sorry to hear of the death of Brother Coffey. I was able to meet him in 2007 along with Ed, Joe and Bill Lomas. He obviously lead a very productive life. I was never actually in any class which he taught but he was a major figure around the school. May he rest in peace - John Boon.
I have no recollection of being taught by Brother Coffey, all my contact with him was related to his enthusiasm for athletics and cross-country and I found him to be a kind and understanding person for whom I had a great respect.
I left SEC in 1955 and some months later I left Liverpool. During a brief visit to the city in 1963 I visited Brother Coffey and he updated me on many of my contemporaries and their university and work careers. It was over thirty years later, sometime in the 1990's, when he was in retirement in St. Clare's next to SEC that I saw him again. I was on a visit to UK and just turned up without an appointment. Having introduced myself, he had no difficulty recalling my exploits and the fact that I had a brother who was also an OE and who he hadn't seen or heard of in at least 45 years. I next met him in 2007 when, with four of my contemporaries, I visited him at the retirement home next to St. Anselm's College, Birkenhead. Thereafter, we exchanged Christmas cards and letters until early 2012, when he became too feeble to respond.
Tony Edwards, my contemporary, wrote to me when he was headmaster of SEC in 1992. He wrote that Brother Coffey, despite innumerable operations, attacks of malaria and being stone deaf was still going strong and running the CB school in Sierra Leone, Tony went on to write, ''They don't make them like that any more. In fact they don't make them like that at all''. I can only agree with Tony's assessment. Brother Coffey will remain in my memory as a GREAT man - William (Bill) Lomas
When people die after a long and full life of goodness and service one does not feel sadness but rather immense gratitude which leads on to a thoughtful remembrance of the past. Such were my sentiments when I learned of Br. Coffey's death.
I owe him many things, perhaps most of all the gentle guidance he gave me when, as an adolescent seeking his way in life and wondering about a possible religious vocation, he explained how important it was work out what seemed right and not to fudge issues even if choices seemed difficult. Generally he was always very accessible to talk to, as in fact were nearly all the brothers, and spontaneously he would give advice, particularly in sport, not in a domineering way but speaking to you individually and urging you to raise your game: "Come on! You know you are better than that."
The only year I had Br. Coffey as a teacher was for Chemistry in 4th year when he was also our form master. He was very good and clear and I might have pursued his subject further but in those days we had to choose between Arts and Sciences when we went into the Vth form and I'm afraid the smells emanating from the Chemistry and above all the Biology lab. certainly deterred me from any further progression in traditional science subjects.
On matters of sport he was long-sighted. He knew how important good physical health was for all pupils but he realised also that choice in a variety of sports enabled youngsters who were very ordinary in the traditional games (e.g. rugby) to discover talents for what were then minor activities like cross country running.
Two anecdotal quotes to conclude. In Chemistry he would frequently remind us that calcium carbonate (CaCO3) was not soluble in water. That was a basic fact we had to grasp. Hence the constant repetition: "If it were soluble," he would say, "the white cliffs of Dover would long ago have disappeared into the sea." And you know, he was absolutely right.! Whenever I come over on the ferry from Calais, I see those cliffs standing firm as ever.
The other quote I only know from hearsay. I heard it from Joe Ratchford who came out at the end of an A-level Chemistry class hooting with laughter and gave us a magnificent imitation of Br. Coffey, urging his class to put in extra work as the exams approached with the words: "Now's the time to burn the midnight oil." I don't know if this saying is an Irishism but I have only heard it once since then.
Which brings me to my conclusion: where is Br. Coffey now? Somehow I do not see him as an Irish tenor, baritone or bass amidst the heavenly host lustily singing the praises of the Almighty. Rather I see him as one of those sanctuary lamps, which we had, and I hope still have in churches, keeping its vigil night and day in the presence of the Lord; in Br. Coffey's lifetime, the lamp would be burning before the tabernacle, now it is he who brings the warm glow of a heart still burning with love for men into the presence of the living God who says to him: "Come in, thou good and faithful servant. Welcome home!"
2nd November 2014 Brian Ludden, St. Edward's College, Liverpool. 1949-57