Headmaster's Tribute to Retiring Staff

At the final assembly at the end of term on Tuesday 30 June, the Headmaster bade formal farewell to those staff who were retiring or leaving to take up posts elsewhere. What follows is his tribute, which is reprinted in shorter form in the BGS News, a new colourful magazine, which is being distributed with the School's reports in early July.
Towards the end of term, it is only human nature to look forward yearningly to the end of term; it too often brings with it, however, a melancholy sequence of good-byes as much-valued and respected, perhaps even loved, members of staff ride off into the sunset of retirement. This year, alas, is no exception as we take our leave of five senior members of staff, who, between them, have accrued 142 years of loyal service to the School.

In order of length of service!

Chris Harte was appointed to BGS in 1972 and after 37 years might be said to be part of the furniture. The son of a distinguished teaching family, Chris brought to the teaching profession a degree in Legal Science from Trinity College, Dublin. In the course of his career, he has taught History, Latin, Law (as part of the Sixth Form enrichment), Mathematics and, of course, his greatest love, Geography. Mr Harte is simply a natural, instinctive teacher and communicator, who can turn his hand to anything. His legal training has equipped him to look at issues with a forensic, analytical and sceptical eye and a caste of mind which makes him impervious to educational fashion and contemptuous of change for change’s sake.

He has been deeply involved in the pastoral side of School as a Housemaster and, since 1994, Senior Teacher entrusted with the administration of detentions and substitute cover. Outside the class, his involvement in the School has been simply phenomenal. He was, indeed still is, a gifted sportsman, having been an Irish international cricketer, winning 20 caps; he played hockey for Trinity and received a trial for the Leinster inter-provincial team. This formidable talent was devoted to the greater good of BGS sport and it is at his door that the huge cricketing success of the last thirty years must be laid. He is also an enthusiastic bridge player and, under his management, the BGS bridge teams have bestridden the narrow Irish Schools’ bridge world like a colossus.

Alan Mackie was appointed to the History department in 1974 and there are few aspects of school life in which he has not been deeply involved. Assistant Director of the School Play, Assistant Librarian, in charge for many years of cross-country, sailing and the History Society, for which, over the course of ten years he organised regular trips to Europe during the holidays. He was also in charge of a wonderful institution, the Bazaar, a grand fair which involved every member of the BGS community, including governors, parents and old boys, a huge feat of organisation. Most of all, of course, he has been the Contingent Commander of the joint Glenlola – BGS CCF, one of the largest contingents, not only in Northern Ireland, but in the UK. It is one of the most respected contingents and something of this may be evidenced in the quality and rank of our inspecting officers. And beyond all this of course, a wonderfully good teacher, an inspiration to generations.

And as if that weren’t enough, Alan has also been a valued member of the Senior Management Team, in charge, among much else, of the Junior School and our annual Open Evening; he has been characterised by a warm, humane regard for the boys, a meticulous eye for detail, a probably unsurpassed organisational skill and unquenchable enthusiasm.

I confess to having known Mrs Isabelle Weir for longer than anyone else on the staff since we were near contemporaries growing up in Londonderry and undergraduates in Trinity College, Dublin. She was appointed in 1977 to teach French and Latin having graduated from the ancient and distinguished school of ‘Ancient and Modern’ in TCD. She has endeared herself to generations of BGS boys by the depth of her enthusiasm for the language and culture of both France and the ancient world. Her service in BGS was broken by a period of seven years during which she taught in St John’s School, Cyprus, and Moreton Hall, Shropshire, but she rejoined the staff in 1992, having been appointed once again, this time to the Modern Languages department. In 2001, she was made Head of French, a post she has held with distinction ever since. During her time, she was also much involved with the extra-curricular life of the School, particularly in the CCF and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. Mrs Weir has a keen interest in local politics and is also on the Policing Board, so she will have much to occupy her in her well-deserved retirement.

Mr Eric Cardwell leaves the Biology department after 24 years. He taught for thirteen years in what was then Annadale before coming to BGS. A modest, undemonstrative man, he would never allow you to know that he had been a very distinguished rugby player and athlete in his day, having been trialled for the Ulster inter-provincial team and a reserve for the Northern Ireland Schools Athletics team. As a member of staff, Mr Cardwell has been an exemplary classroom teacher, for a number of years acting as Joint Head of Biology. Outside the classroom, he has been heavily involved in sport, virtually every sport; and I do mean heavily. He has run the Swimming teams for many years and through his efforts has brought BGS to a sustained eminence among Ulster schools. He is an officer in the Naval section of the CCF, where he has been a vital support to Alan Mackie, and has led and organised four expeditions under the auspices of World Challenge to South America, Africa, India and Thailand. A typical summer for Eric would involve him in accompanying the pupils’ trip to Germany, attending the CCF camp, leading a month long World Challenge expedition and involving himself in the cadets’ course at Dartmouth in August. Nothing short of the phrase ‘heart like a lion’ will serve to describe his attitude of unswerving loyalty to the School and its boys.

Last of this distinguished line, but by no means least, is Mr Willie Cree, who retires from his post as Head of German after a mere 21 years! A past pupil of the School, Mr Cree taught for some time at Cambridge House School for Boys, before being virtually head hunted for a post in BGS. He brought to the staff wonderful personal qualities of grace, energy, enthusiasm and expertise both in the teaching of languages and the coaching of rugby. Little short of adored by the boys for his teaching, he also won universal and province-wide respect for his coaching. He formed a close partnership with Duncan Macpherson for many years and contributed hugely to that golden era of success in the Schools’ Cup. His intellect and wisdom have been put to good use in a number of staff working parties and in 1999 was appointed Head of German, a language and culture he loves and communicates with an infectious zest. He has been in charge of more foreign trips than anyone, least of all himself, can count. He can justly be called in his devotion to the School, his subject and the boys, and in his relationships with staff and parents, ‘a verray parfit, gentil knight.’

We also say farewell to Mr Dylan Gallagher of the Geography department, who takes up a position in Foyle College and Mrs Sarah Crawford of RE, who has been appointed as Head of RE in Newtownbreda High School. Also taking their leave, having been appointed temporarily to replace staff on maternity leave or career break, are Mr Stuart Hennessey, Miss Caroline Champion and Miss Shirley Stockdale.

To all our soon-to-be former colleagues, we wish every happiness and fulfilment in whatever their futures hold.