The Avondhu - By The Fireside
A MODEST PERSON
Hazel Baylor passed to her eternal reward on 24th September this year. Outgoing, affable and engaging, her sudden death occasioned great sadness in Fermoy and beyond.
‘A people person’ who was involved in a wide range of social and cultural activities, Hazel touched the lives of many - none more so than the hundreds of pupils she put through her hands during a long and fruitful tenure as principal of Adair Primary School in Fermoy.
A ONE WOMAN SHOW
Remarkable as it might seem today, for many years, Hazel taught all 8 classes in the school. While she would have made a success of any career, her qualities of patience, compassion and understanding meant she was perfectly suited to teaching. Nervous junior infants were gently welcomed into the Adair N.S. family, with older children also benefitting from a stimulating atmosphere of learning that was carefully cultivated by the Ennsikeane native.
An unassuming individual, Hazel was involved in a variety of clubs, groups, voluntary groups and charities. Even during her hectic Adair Primary School days, she found time for a whole range of good causes.
I can’t claim to have had any special relationship with Hazel, except that, through her various roles, she came on my radar. Invariably, she was pleasant and helpful and only more than willing to engage in conversation and discuss anything from local matters to international politics. Along with the aforementioned characteristics, Hazel Baylor always stood out in my mind for her modesty.
Having attended several events in Christchurch in Fermoy over the years, one couldn’t fail to notice that the person who played the organ most frequently was Hazel. When I innocently remarked to her that she was the ‘Christchurch organist’, she clarified that while she did play the organ in Christchurch, she wasn’t, in her mind at least, ‘the’ Christchurch organist.
Hazel was also active within Fermoy Ploemeur Twinning Association; when I queried her role, she explained that having ‘a little French’ made her useful. It was some time later that a high ranking member of a visiting delegation would declare, that the woman who claimed to have just ‘a little French’, possessed in his words, ‘complete mastery of the French language’.
She was equally adept at Irish and instilled a love of the language in her pupils. Following her retirement, she was to the fore in setting up conversational groups in Fermoy and Mitchelstown. Here, a familiar pattern emerged, in that she would claim to be ‘out of her depth’ among native Irish speakers, when in actual fact, she was completely fluent and comfortable in any company.
A CHRISTAIN FAITH
By her own admission, Hazel was guided by Christian principles and while absolutely not in the Bible bashing brigade, she never deviated from the tenet of loving your neighbour. Far from avoiding religious discussions, she revelled in teasing out theological matters such as: creation, morality, sin, forgiveness, the existence of evil and of course, an after life. Her broadmindedness when it came to other religions made it difficult to categorise her however as, on more than one occasion, she expressed ‘deep reservations’ about extracts from the Old Testament. Without going into the minutiae of this, her reservations centred around the harshness of God’s justice and the non compromising nature of punishing sinners.
I don’t think it’s breaking any confidence to state that Hazel Baylor ‘didn’t do punishment’. While the wrath of an Old Testament God may have made generous use of fire and brimstone, this wasn’t for Hazel who preferred a more liberal, relaxed and nuanced approach to dispensing justice. As is so often the case, I do regret not asking her, how she kept law and order when she was charged with managing all 8 classes of an entire school.
Another extended exchange I had with Hazel centred around ‘good causes’. Those who knew Hazel will testify to the fact that she wanted to help all those in need. Expanding on my argument that no matter how well intentioned, it wasn’t possible to help everyone, I ventured the premise, that the woman opposite me was, ‘too soft’. Responding that I was ‘a terrible man’, she went on to inject a trademark laugh that declared the debate a draw. Again, in the interests of clarity, being called ‘a terrible man’ by Hazel Baylor, translates as someone with contrary or challenging views. Possessing a deep intellect and razor sharp mind, coming away with ‘a draw’ against Hazel, was nothing to be ashamed about!
Hazel was secretary of Fermoy Agricultural Show for several years, she was a founder of the Fermoy Retired Teachers’ Association and one of the few who believed Fermoy should have a dedicated Gaelscoil which of course came to pass. She was a valued member of the Fermoy Flower & Garden Club, a volunteer with Fermoy Resource Centre, as well as being very active in the Fermoy Mothers’ Union, a Church of Ireland organisation. This is not a definitive list, but gives some indication of her activism in Fermoy.
The decision to select Hazel as a Grand Marshal for the St Patrick’s Day parade in Fermoy was an inspired one. After the inevitable ‘I’m not worthy’ phase, Hazel went on to really enjoy the role, even if it was Covid interrupted.
For the small few who didn’t recognise here, she was a sweet lady in glasses, waving to the crowd, to her family, relatives, neighbours and wide circle of friends. This was Hazel Baylor (nee Moore) from Enniskeane - a gentle but resilient woman, who encountered and overcame adversity, who dedicated her life to teaching and whose time on Earth was guided by a code of Christian living, that manifested itself in good example and noble deeds.
Hazel Baylor, bean uasal cairdiuil - ní beidh a leithead ann arís.