RODNEY McCoy devoted half his life to bringing out the best in pupils at Carrick Primary School.
The former principal passed away last Thursday (December 8) at the age of 66.
Rodney was a competitive sportsman and he brought the same will-to-win to Carrick where he strived to give young people the best possible start in life during his 33 years at the school.
Rodney grew up in Bleary, the youngest of four children. His father Wesley was a very well known singer. One of his last appearances was at Glenavon’s Irish League winning celebration dinner in 1952. He died later that year.
Having lost both his parents at a young age, Rodney was enrolled at the Masonic boarding school in Dublin.
After completing his education at the Masonic school, Rodney went to Stranmillis. It was at the teacher training college that Rodney met Ruth. They married soon after qualifying and moved to the Kinnego area of Lurgan before settling at Regents Park.
Rodney and Ruth have two children - David and Kathy.
Kathy followed her parents into education and is now the vice principal of Taughmonagh. She has a five-year-old daughter Evie.
Their son David lives in Kent where he works for a publishing company. He has two children - Rory, who is coming two, and Dotty, who is five-months-old.
Before starting a family Ruth and Rodney were both scouring the same job ads looking for a teaching job. Ruth was first to get a permanent job at King’s Park and Rodney soon followed, starting as a P7 teacher in Carrick in 1968.
Ruth commented: “There was rivalry between the schools but it was something that never came home. Both our children went to King’s Park and now our granddaughter Evie is at Carrick so it’s nearly a fair split.”
When Rodney started Carrick the principal was Alastair Black. Des Gregg, who also passed away this year, took over from him, before Rodney took the helm.
Rodney was at Carrick for 30 years, 20 of them as principal. He played an important part in the school’s history, introducing speech and behavioural classes to halt falling numbers.
Most of the current staff at Carrick were appointed by Rodney which serves to illustrate the solidifying effect he had on the school.
His vision was to create a family-friendly school which gave every child a chance.
Rodney, a member of the board of governors at Ardmore and Lurgan Model, went ‘back to school’ to do a Bachelor of Education degree in the mid-eighties for which he received a commendation.
Rodney retired from Carrick in 2001, preceded by Ruth who left King’s Park in 1997.
As joint-coach of Carrick football team he guided the boys to become the first team outside Belfast to win the Telegraph Cup in the 1970s. The team boasted the likes of Colin Malone and Jim Gardiner who went on to become successful players and managers in the Irish League.
The Lurgan man was also involved with the Mid Ulster team and the Northern Ireland Schools team.
Rodney was himself a keen sportsman and was one of the main instigators of very competitive after-school badminton sessions at Carrick which involved a number of teachers from local schools.
He played rugby and cricket for Portadown and was a former chairman of the cricket section.
Rodney opened the batting for Portadown and was a hard man to shift. One of the highlights of his cricketing career was being able to line up in the same team as his son David.
He captained one of the rugby teams at Portadown where he starred as a combative prop forward.
He also tried his hand at golf and indoor bowls and was a member of PAKT.
Rodney will be dearly missed by his family, who will cherish particularly their summers spent camping in Donegal.
Ruth and Rodney had their fair share of holidays which allowed Rodney to fuel another passion of his - photography.
“He liked taking photos but didn’t like being in them,” said Ruth. “We’d come home from holidays and show people the snaps and there was nothing to show he was even there because he wasn’t in the photos.”
Rodney enjoyed a laugh, but as his son David pointed out most of his jokes weren’t that successful.
“When it came to his jokes it was quantity over quality,” said David.
In May 2010 Rodney had to have a leg amputated following diabetes. He was coping well with his prosthetic limb and had plans to get back playing golf when he was diagnosed with cancer.
He’d received treatment during the summer, but sadly passed away after a short spell in the City Hospital.
His funeral took place on Sunday from his home at College Walk to Shankill Parish Church followed by interment in Lurgan Cemetery.
The service was attended by a large number of local principals as well as Rodney’s friends from his days at Stranmillis and some of the old boys from the Masonic.
There was also a large turn out of Carrick staff and former rugby and cricket team mates.