Former teacher was a true Christian gentleman

Errol McCreedy adds another postcard to his collection BL17-222EB
Errol McCreedy adds another postcard to his collection BL17-222EB

Popular and well respected former Lurgan College teacher Errol McCreedy was the picture of sartorial elegance with a love and passion for all he was involved in.

Mr McCreedy passed away last week and was laid to rest following a service at Richhill Methodist on Friday - with the church overflowing with family, friends, former pupils and teaching colleagues.

Paying tribute to Mr McCreedy, Lurgan College Principal Mr Trevor Robinson said: “As Headmaster of Lurgan College and on behalf of the staff, pupils and governors, I wish express our heartfelt sympathy to Dianne, Mark, Anna and the McCreedy family circle on the loss of our esteemed former colleague, Errol.

“It was my privilege, with many colleagues both past and present, to attend the lovely Service of Thanksgiving for Errol’s life last Friday in Richhill Methodist Church, during which the congregation was moved by many wonderful tributes which encapsulated perfectly everything which went to make up this remarkable teacher.

“Errol devoted his full career to Lurgan College where he served with distinction for 40 years.

“He inspired all with whom he came into contact with his expertise and his inimitable ready wit.

“In his time, he touched many lives, be it as a classroom practitioner teaching PE and RE, as Head of the RE Department, as Senior Teacher, as Director of numerous School Plays, as Head of Cowan House, as Academic Tutor, as School Coordinator for Education for Mutual Understanding and as rugby coach.

“His love of the stage even extended to a stint as Director of a memorable production of Hello Dolly! a number of years after his retirement.

Errol’s love and passion for everything he was involved in both inside the classroom and outside are his greatest professional legacy and his influence on so many young lives down through the years has contributed significantly to making the College the fine institution it is today.”

One of his contemporaries, former Vice Principal, Mr Ian Wilson has kindly put together the following fitting tribute to this very special and much loved man:

The community of former Lurgan Collegians, both pupils and staff, will have been saddened to hear of the death of Errol McCreedy on September 11th. Errol was born and educated in Portadown, and went from the College there to Stranmillis to train as a PE Teacher. In 1959 he was appointed jointly to Lurgan College and Lurgan Tech to teach PE. By the early 1960s this became a full time appointment in the College, where he was to stay until his retirement at the end of the 1998/9 school year.

As a PE teacher, Errol had an undeniable gift of motivation, as generations of pupils will testify. During the 1960s and into the 1970s Lurgan College was one of the leading schools in Athletics in Northern Ireland, and produced a number of both individual and team champions. Following the opening of the new swimming pool in Lurgan and, under Errol’s guidance, the school also produced a number of award winning swimmers. There was also an All-Ireland Individual Cross-country Champion.

By the mid 1970s Errol had decided that a change of direction was called for, and, having taken an Open University Degree he hung up his boots and took up the position of Religious Studies Teacher. Here, he was responsible for introducing Religious Studies as both a GCSE and an A-Level option for pupils.

As with his PE teaching, he approached his subject with enthusiasm and wit and turned his motivational skills to encouraging good examination performance. This was reflected in the results that were regularly produced by his classes.

In addition to his classroom teaching he took over responsibility for school drama, beginning with a couple of one act plays as part of the regular Christmas Entertainment, before spreading out to full productions, starting with ‘Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime’. These productions reflected once again his ability to motivate young people in order to turn out quality performances, sometimes from quite unpromising material. It was good that his stint in charge of drama came to an end, in 1997, with a re-run of that first full length play that he had staged.

By that time, Errol had joined the Senior Management Team as Senior Teacher and Academic Tutor, roles that he fulfilled with his customary commitment and dedication. He was also, for many years, Head of Cowan House. He never missed a competition in which they were involved, and his cry of “Come on Cowan” from the touchline spurred many a team to victory!

Among the staff, Errol was popular and well respected. He was the epitome of sartorial elegance, putting most of the other male members of staff to shame. His sense of humour was legendary and all his former colleagues will recall with delight his tales of Saturday nights at the Floral Hall (a well-known dance location in Belfast) when he was a student in the city. Since the Hall was unlicensed, the traditional chat up line was “Will you take a mineral?”, and I can still hear Errol saying that with glee. He also recalled sleeping in one Saturday morning, when he was due to referee a rugby match, and arriving down to find the match under way and the Headmaster, James Trewsdale, refereeing, dressed in his suit and wearing suede shoes.

At staff functions he used to regale us with some tunes on the violin, an instrument that I believe he only learned to play in later life. Certainly, when he was younger, he would have said that his musical experience was limited to playing the triangle in the Corcrain Band. But at the bottom of it all, Errol McCreedy was a deeply caring and compassionate gentleman. When people were going through difficult times he was always ready to lend a listening ear and to give support and advice and I know many will remember his encouragement at such times.

Following his retirement, Errol went through a period of serious illness, from which he recovered, but which left its mark upon him. Nevertheless, he soldiered on, not least with his antiques and collectables. He was also active in the work of his local church, Richhill Methodist Church. I know that he will be sadly missed by his family, and by the wider community in which he was held in such high regard. We remember a loving father and grandfather, a gifted teacher, a loyal colleague, a stalwart friend but most of all a true Christian gentleman.