Noel J. Burke, class '36
FEW deaths of past students so numbed the Community as that of Noel Burke last April. Of course there were warning signals in his last serious illness but still it hardly seemed possible that one so full of life should be struck down at the very height of his career.
When the feeling of shock had somewhat passed we realised the great loss the College and others had suffered by Noel's death. Noel fell into that rare enough category of people about whom you would always say that you were the better off for knowing.
Almost since he left Castleknock in 1935 Noel had been a member of the Union Committee, later its Secretary and only last year its President. Noel's interest and loyalty to the College were unbounded and the several innovations made while President of the Union live on as a testimony to his great regard for Castleknock past and present. The special Union Prize awarded this year will, we hope, be a particularly fitting memorial to him.
Noel's success in the insurance world was outstanding and he had just seen the growth of the Voluntary Health Insurance from a small beginning to a great national institution fulfilling for a large section of the community a real need. The success of this semi-state company was in no small measure due to Noel's drive, experience and ability.
Some days after Noel's death there appeared in the papers an appreciation of him. It sums up so well what many of us felt about a Pastman that we were so genuinely proud of that it is worth giving in full.
"A man he seems of cheerful yesterdays
And confident to-morrows."
So wrote Wordsworth, and that sentiment, so succinctly stated echoes today in the hearts of hundreds of Noel Burke's friends— business, sporting and professional—throughout the length and breadth of the land he loved so well, and of whose race he was amongst those best representative of its more endearing qualities.
"Seems" is one of the significant words in the quotation, for to him as to the rest of us, all his yesterdays were not unexceptionally cheerful. But with his innate aversion to giving his friends occasion for worry or concern, he avoided an overt reference to the troubles which he had to oppose. We all recall, with an awed appreciation, his gallantry throughout an illness of long duration, when his very life was so precariously balanced, some few years ago. His only expressed concern through that anxious period was for his wife and children.
His confidence for the future stemmed from a precise but very humble assessment of those gifts and abilities with which he had been endowed. This fortified him to undertake tasks of a magnitude which would cause men of lesser calibre to hesitate.
Yes, that cheerfulness and that confidence were the very essence of the man. Superficially, perhaps diverse, they flowed from the one eternal source—his steadfast and unbounding faith in the goodness of God, His eternal love and His divine guidance.
Requiescat in Pace.