A retired Trillick headmaster is currently answering police questions after it emerged he collected over £3000 a year from pupils and their parents ‘for the poor people of Fermanagh’ despite no evidence of such a charity existing as well as the fact that the average family income in Fermanagh has been £4 higher than in Tyrone since 1833.
Master Cuthbert (81), who retired from St Gretta’s in 1989 and set up his own soup kitchen in Ballinamallard with the help of a dubious international grant, is said to have pocketed £60’000 from the Fermanagh Charity from 1965 until 1985 after which he claimed he had solved the Fermanagh poverty issue.
Ex-pupil and general sceptic Harry Brennan admits he thinks Cuthbert pulled a fast one:
“We used to pray 2-3 times a day for the poor people of Fermanagh even though we sort of lived next to them and they had bigger cars and houses. But the Master was very convincing and made us feel bad about not donating by telling sob stories about visiting Ederney and Belleek and the shanty houses and people going to the toilet in open fields. But sure, that was the same up the road in Fintona.”
Brennan also claimed the Master would show pictures of Fermanagh children with sad, dirty faces but now thinks it was just his own children mucking about in his garden.
Master Cuthbert subsequently, on retirement, set up a soup kitchen in Fermanagh with the help of a £30’000 European Charity grant but failed to attract any customers apart from a man from Strabane who popped in each day for a bowl of tomato soup.
Fermanagh Tourism Director Pierce McGrath rejected the notion that Fermanagh ever had a poverty issue and went on to declare that ‘by the state of the people walking around Trillick today, you could be doing with a lock of our pounds’.