Tributes to Stephen Connolly, former Bangor Grammar School principal and English teacher at Belfast Royal Academy, who was the world to his pupils

Warm tributes have been paid to an “exceptional” retired principal from Northern Ireland who died while on holidays.

By Graeme Cousins
Thursday, 21st July 2022, 3:40 pm

Stephen Connolly, former Bangor Grammar School head teacher and head of English at Belfast Royal Academy, died on holiday in Switzerland.

His death was confirmed on yesterday.

Mr Connolly was an inspirational figure to many well known journalists.

Stephen Connolly became headmaster of Bangor Grammar School in 2001 ©Jonathan Porter/Presseye.com

BBC Radio Ulster’s William Crawley said: “Stephen Connolly was an wonderful, inspirational teacher.

“It was a joy to study with him at Belfast Royal Academy and I will always cherish those memories. I know his memory will be a blessing to many others too.”

ITV News correspondent Ian Woods, who is from Belfast and has also worked with the BBC and Sky, said: “Stephen Connolly was the finest teacher I ever had.

“My English teacher when I was 11 and again at A Level. Directed school plays at BRA, inspired me and equipped me to go on to a successful career as a TV journalist.

“I owe him so much - glad I had the opportunity to tell him.”

Chris Page, who is Ireland correspondent with BBC News, said: “Very sorry to hear this news about a family friend of many years. Stephen Connolly was an exceptional man – a joy to chat to about so many things, from theatre to cricket, literature to theology. You could imagine what a brilliant teacher he was.”

Principal at Bangor Grammar Elizabeth Huddleson said Mr Connolly had played a key role in the development of the school.

She described him as “a warm, caring, kind and wise man, instrumental in reshaping the school into the positive, vibrant and caring place it is today”.

Mr Connolly was educated at Foyle College, Londonderry, where his father was headmaster, and at Trinity College Dublin, where he took a degree in Modern Languages.

He subsequently did his teacher training at the University of Durham before his appointment to the staff of Belfast Royal Academy. There, he became head of English before becoming headmaster of Bangor Grammar in 2001.

His wife Jane remained at BRA as head of the Religious Studies department until her retirement.

BRA said: “We have lost an inspirational teacher, a loyal and dedicated colleague, and a true gentleman who embodied all of the best qualities in human nature.

“To the world you were just a teacher, but to your pupils, you were the world.”

Mr Connolly was also a diocesan lay reader attached to Helen’s Bay parish church and chair of the Helen’s Bay Players drama group.