The retiring principal of Killicomaine Junior High School says he will be leaving with “wonderful memories of wonderful children and a committed and wonderful staff”.
Hugh McCarthy will officially take his leave on August 31 after 23 years at the school and 45 in education.
He is the longest-serving, post-primary principal in the controlled sector in Northern Ireland and one of only two principals to have served at Killicomaine, his predecessor being David Riley.
Speaking in the final days of term, Mr McCarthy said that while he was busy with the preparations for prize day among other things, it was a “strange feeling” knowing that he would not be returning in September.
And he added that memories of pupils, events and staff had been uppermost in his mind.
Some of his fondest recollections are of the “tremendous drama productions and scenery and costumes to match”, of which ‘Cinderella’ and the ‘Time of Our Lives’ were just two.
He was also to be found every Saturday morning on the sidelines of various sports pitches supporting the school’s hockey and rugby teams.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it and enjoyed my contact with the children. You see different skill sets and characteristics on the field that you don’t see in the classroom,” he said.
On a more serious note, he was, and still is, an avid supporter of the Dickson Plan, firmly believing that delayed transfer at 14 gives the child and parents the opportunity to know where aptitudes and abilities lie.
He said, “The privilege and responsibility of maintaining the reputation of the school, of preserving the Dickson Plan, of £40 million of real estate and of safeguarding and developing young people as they enter adulthood has been wonderful.”
And of the pupils themselves, he said, “My experience of children gives me great hope for the future of Northern Ireland. The vast majority of children are caring, thoughtful and decent.”
Mr McCarthy, who will be succeeded by vice-principal Charlie McAleese, said he is leaving the school “in good shape and in good hands”.
He will not be bowing out of education entirely, however, as he will be lecturing part-time at the University of Ulster and will continue to press the case for the controlled sector as a director of the Controlled Schools’ Support Council.
As for Killicomaine JHS, he plans to follow its progress online.