Pioneer meets the new President of the Pioneer Association: James Shelvin, from Glinsk in County Galway.
I am honoured, privileged and absolutely delighted to have been elected as the fifth President of the PTAA. I was the only child of Charlie and Annie Shevlin. My father was from near Killybegs in County Donegal and my mother was from Glinsk in County Galway. They met and married in Manchester and I was born there. My parents returned from England when I was just six months old and I have lived in Glinsk ever since. I am married to Carmel and I have three sons - Kevin, Damien and Aidan, a grand-daughter, Jaimie and two grandsons, Donnacha and Adam.
I received my Primary Education in Ballincurry NS, which was a small two-teacher rural school. The wheel turned the full circle as I returned to Ballincurry School as a teaching Principal in 1975. This is also the school which was central to the cause of the repatriation of Sean Parker in 2014. I received my Secondary Education in Coláiste Seosaimh, Glenamaddy which was founded by the Sisters of Mercy, and has now become Glenamaddy Community School.
Following my Leaving Cert. I studied in St Patrick’s Training College, Drumcondra, Dublin, and qualified as a Primary teacher in 1973. I taught for one year in Ballymun and a further year in St. Joseph’s (Joey’s), Fairview and then returned to Ballincurry NS as Principal. This school was amalgamated to become Glinsk NS in 1973 and I taught there as Deputy Principal until my retirement in 2013. As a teacher of fifth and sixth classes, I always promoted the interests of the Pioneer Association and adoration of the Sacred Heart. I still do voluntary football coaching in Glinsk NS.
I took the pledge at my Confirmation and could not wait for my birthday to come when I could join the Pioneer Association as a Probationer and wear the emblem on my jacket and then go on to become a full member. I have remained a Pioneer all my life. I now have a silver emblem and I am looking forward to a gold emblem in a few years’ time. I am a member of Glinsk Centre and serve as treasurer and PRO for the Centre.
The year 1977 was a year of diverse emotions for me. In February of 1977 my father died and shortly afterwards in June of 1977 my mother passed away. As an only child in the family this was a major blow. The dark cloud yielded its silver lining however, as in November 1977, I married my wife, Carmel.
I had a very active sporting career and played most games, with my main interests being Gaelic Football and Badminton. I won a Connaught Colleges medal with Coláiste Seosaimh and won county medals with my club, Glinsk. I coached under age teams in my school and club for many years with considerable success. I was the manager of the Glinsk Intermediate team in 2000 and 2001. I served as secretary in the club for many years and was also a Divisional and County Board Delegate. I also won two All-Ireland Badminton medals in the PTAA games.
I am a member of Glinsk Parish Pastoral Council and am chairman of the Liturgy Committee. I also accompany and direct the Glinsk Church Choir. I have a keen interest in music of all kinds, especially country and country-and-western music and I have played with local bands in cabaret and dance venues.
I became a delegate from my Centre to the Roscommon/Athlone Regional Committee and, some years later, I was elected President of the Region. I became a Regional Delegate to the Connaught Provincial Activities Committee and am now in my third year as chairman. I became a member of the PTAA Board of Management and represented the diocese of Elphin on the PTAA Central Council. I am vetted through the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association and I have completed all modules in Child Safeguarding Training.
I am chairman of Glenamaddy Credit Union Board of Directors and I hold a professional qualification in Credit Union Management, Control and Supervision granted by the National University of Ireland, Dublin, bestowing the title CUG, and also a Certificate in Online Marketing, delivered by The Shaw Academy.
I have been involved in many Community events and projects including the Glinsk Song Contest, Glinsk Community Sports and the repatriation of Sean Parker in 2014. I trained as a voluntary AED Defibrillator Instructor and spent four years instructing volunteers in the use and operation of defibrillators.
The crowning moment of my life was being inaugurated as President of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association on 8 March. It came as a personal and family honour and also to my Centre, Glinsk, the Roscommon/Athlone Region and Connaught. I am strengthened by the great trust and confidence that has been placed in me and I hope I can justify that trust and confidence.
We were very saddened by the announcement by the Jesuit Provincial, Fr Tom Layden that the Jesuits will be withdrawing from the Pioneer Association. He did not make this decision lightly, but due to a fall in vocations and a rising age profile within the Jesuits, he was left with no option. He did, however, give us a three year transition period through which the Jesuits would assist us in becoming a lay led spiritual association. I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Jesuits who provided us with so many wonderful priests to serve us in the PTAA.
With this phased withdrawal of the Jesuits from the PTAA over the next three years, it opens up a whole new era for us Pioneers. It presents to us a massive challenge but also an outstanding opportunity to establish ourselves into a vibrant, active spiritual lay-led organisation and to bring into a new era the great vision and ideals of the founders and founder members of our great organisation.
I am very passionate about the future growth and development of the Pioneer Association and have worked very hard at all levels to advance the interests and future of our association. I will work hard to help and encourage Centres and regions to continue to function and make every effort and offer any help I can to revitalise some of the weaker or lapsed Centres and regions. I am also anxious to maintain our current membership, try to regain former members and to help to develop strategies to enrol and keep younger people as active Pioneers. I would like to get our National Youth Pioneers active and reaching out to our younger members and hope that our under age activities can be developed to provide a recreational dimension to the spirituality of our Association. I would also encourage our members to wear and display the Pioneer emblem at every opportunity.