Peter Tiernan Essay

1954-1958 student in Faculty of Agriculture and followed the course in Horticultural Science

Agricultural Co-operation was the subject I chose for my Inaugural Paper. At that time (1957) the Inaugural Paper presented by the Auditor on the first Friday of December each year drew substantial media publicity. Usually chaired by the President of UCD, the Minister of Agriculture of the time would be an automatic speaking choice and backed up by prominent speakers with expertise in the topic covered in the paper. In my case I had an entrée to the then Taoiseach, Eamonn de Valera, who was Chancellor of NUI, who agreed to be Chairman. So that was a good start to drawing the media. I lined up Senator Séan Moylan (Minister for Agriculture), Major General M. J. Costello (General Manager Irish Sugar Co.), Dr. Louis Smith (then Economic Advisor National Farmers’ Association and subsequently Associate Professor UCD) and Herr H. Ennegren (Swedish Agricultural Attaché). Both Costello and Smith were recognized authorities on Agricultural Co-operation and there was a strong co-operative movement in Sweden.

A few weeks before the Inaugural date, Senator Moylan died suddenly. Thankfully the new Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Paddy Smith agreed to come, although I knew it was far from horticulture that he was reared.

That evening in 1957 was probably the highlight of my four years in College. I have still vivid memories of much of what went on 56 years ago – the buzz about Earlsfort Terrace, the building swarming with Security personnel, bearing in mind the political volatility that prevailed on both sides of the border then and the Physics Theater and surrounding corridors packed to capacity.

That night shaped my professional career as well.

The theme of my paper was the development of fruit and vegetable processing on a cooperative basis, bearing in mind there was virtually no processing done in Ireland at the time. So impressed was General Costello with my presentation that it prompted him to pursue the idea further, resulting in his establishment of a food processing facility, under the umbrella of the Irish Sugar Co., subsequently becoming Erin Foods.

I had invited many prominent people associated with Agriculture, including The American Agricultural Attaché who encouraged me to further my education in Iowa State University graduate school. While there, I corresponded regularly with General Costello, sending him relevant literature pertaining to food processing, which was well advanced in the U.S.

The second major aim outlined in my election manifesto was to produce a Faculty of Agriculture student magazine. Bearing in mind that there was no other student magazine being published at the time it seemed a far-fetched idea. It gave me great satisfaction to achieve that aim and I am now extremely proud to know that the magazine has been published every year since its first publication in 1958. I titled it “Ceres” (after the Roman Goddess of Agriculture).

Many other memories of those far off days come crowding back – the Ags dances in the Olympic ballroom, the proceeds of which financed our educational tours of Denmark and Holland at the end of fourth year, organising the dress dance in the Gresham Hotel for which I formed a ladies’ committee comprised of the wives of the Professors and the two female students in the Faculty, the few romances that blossomed but faded almost as quickly. Now in my eighty third year, this is the first time I have committed these memories to paper and I am glad I did it. Thanks to UCD Alumni Relations for the opportunity.

After all those years my two best and constant friends are classmates whom I continue to meet regularly, which I think is a feature of friends you make in adult life. I have reason to be very grateful for what UCD has given me and I hope I returned some of in good measure as I served on the staff for the best part of my working life.

Academic record – not an A student but might well have been were it not that I was so involved in Gaelic football and student affairs! Nevertheless I did complete the course without losing any time. And with a good record.
Sport – Quite involved in Gaelic football at county and club level. I opted to play with my home club rather than with UCD and therefore this entailed a lot of week end travel. During the week I used the facilities of Belfield which was then just open spaces. I am proud to possess two interfaculty football medals via the P. J. Duke competition. This competition was established to commemorate the memory of P.J. Duke, a UCD dental student and outstanding Cavan footballer who died very prematurely. The competition was keenly contested by all the Faculties and the two Agricultural winning teams I was on were virtually county teams.
Student affairs – During my first year (1954/55) I kept the head down and concentrated on studying with good results. In second year and thereafter I got quite involved in student activities. I attended the regular meetings of the Agricultural Science Society and took part in most of the debates winning the Society’s Gold medal in my third year. During that year I was elected Correspondence Secretary of the Society. This prepared me for contesting the position of Auditor of the Society, which I did at the end of third year. It was highly unusual for a hort student to be elected Auditor. In my election manifesto I remember tailoring my “pitch” to overcome this. It worked because even with two other candidates in the field I was elected on the first count with an overwhelming majority. I remember highlighting two aims I would pursue.

Peter Tiernan. B.Agr.Sc. (Hort.), M.S. (Iowa), Ph.D.