Paddy Harrower: Tributes to Wallace high School’s ‘legendary’ PE teacher who ‘made men out of boys’

‘Legendary’ Wallace High School PE teacher Paddy Harrower “modelled commitment and excellence on a daily basis” since he accepted his post in 1977, the school has said.

By Philip Bradfield
Wednesday, 27th July 2022, 5:26 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th July 2022, 6:30 pm

A family notice said John Patrick (Paddy) Harrower died peacefully on Sunday, aged 67, at his Dromara home. He is survived by his wife Andrea and sons Fraser and Alex.

Senior teacher Heather Gracey noted in a tribute that in his acceptance letter in 1977 Mr Harrower wrote: “I need hardly say that it will be my earnest desire to make a full contribution to the life of the school.” 

She added: “Were any words ever more apt? From his initial appointment as a teacher of PE and Geography Patrick - affectionately known as Paddy - served generations of Wallace pupils providing challenge, support and inspiration along the way.”

Longtime Wallace High School PE teacher Paddy Harrower in practise for the Sport Relief Mile in Belfast.

Ironically, she noted, he had actually been schooled at the rival Friends School Lisburn (FSL) as a pupil. “In 1972-1973 Paddy stood over FSL like a colossus as he was Head Boy, Captain of Rugby, Captain of Cricket, Senior Athletics Champion and, not surprisingly, the holder of colours in each of these areas. He was also a Northern Ireland international athlete specialising in the javelin event.”

 After ‘A’levels he completed an honours degree in Geography and completed his PGCE at Loughborough. His former Head of Department, Mr WE Greene, found the young teacher’s passion for his role was evident, being still at school most afternoons until after 5.30 coaching rugby and basketball and coming in early on Tuesdays to coach basketball. Mr Greene noted: “Mr Harrower sees what needs doing and does it without being asked. He is a great help to me.” 

Citing his organisation of the sports day, Miss Gracey added: “Throughout his time as a teacher, Head of Department and coach Paddy brought his famed efficiency to every task.”

He was Captain of Lisburn Rugby Club from 1981-2, a Level 3 referee for the IRFU, an Amateur Athletic Association Assistant Club Coach and fitness Coach for Banbridge Ladies’ Hockey from 2000-2002. He also worked extensively with the CCEA examinations board to develop PE as an academic subject.

“As a teacher and a coach he modelled good practice before the term was coined. He gave every individual personal attention and considerable encouragement, he used humour effectively and he built an atmosphere of disciplined enjoyment.”

She added that he “faced his diagnosis with the strength of character we knew so well and respected”. Hundreds of tributes were posted online. Gareth Lynas said: “Paddy was and always will be a legend who impacted so many lives throughout his time at Wallace. He made ‘men’ out of boys and was a fantastic inspiration and motivator. Very sadly gone too soon.”

After a private committal at Roselawn crematorium there will be a public celebration of Paddy’s life in Wallace High School in Lisburn on 4 August at 2.30pm followed by a party at 4pm at Lisburn Rugby Club. The family notice said those attending “should feel free to wear appropriate/colourful sporting tops. No all black attire unless it is a New Zealand top”. It added that donations can be made to ‘Douglas Donations Account’ for Macmillan Unit and NI Hospice c/o 20 Dromore Road, Ballynahinch, BT24 8HP.