Teaching couple instilled a warm ethos at Cope school

Patricia Reilly.
Patricia Reilly.

Well-known former primary school teacher Patricia (Pat) Reilly has passed away.

Born Patricia Moore in March 1933, her mother died when she was two years old and she was brought up on the family farm at Ardrea.

At the age of six years she started at the Cope Primary School in Loughgall village under the principalship of Mr Mills.

From there she gained a scholarship to Armagh Girl’s High School and after this went to Teacher Training in Stranmillis College, Belfast where she met her husband Ronnie Reilly.

Her first teaching post was in the Hart Memorial Primary School, Portadown but not long after this she was appointed as a teacher in the Cope Primary School where her husband had been appointed as Principal.

They had a very unique partnership in education and instilled a warm ethos in the village school – high achieving yet with a sensitive and balanced approach to education.

All pupils left the Cope with the widest of educational experiences and the staff’s work was widely recognised by Inspectors and their fellow professionals.

Pat had a great love for the arts and her pupils gained many opportunities to excel in choral singing and verse speaking, painting and nature study.

They were well supported by their teaching colleagues and parents, and had an active Parent Teacher Association which they had set up early in their career.

During her teaching career Pat completed an M Phil in Education and following on from this she became a member of the Education Research Network for Northern Ireland.

She regularly attended meetings and conferences discussing educational policy and reform.

In 1992 retirement beckoned and it was no surprise that Pat and Ronnie retired at the same time.

It was the end of an era – they had taught together in the Cope PS for 31 years.

They enjoyed a wonderful night of fun and celebration at their farewell in the Parish Hall in Loughgall.

Thus began another phase in their lives looking after and teaching their grandchildren after school.

They also enjoyed travelling abroad, gardening, and singing as founder members with the Lowry Singers.

Pat took on the role of choirmistress of the Church Choir of St Luke’s Loughgall and gave the new position all her usual enthusiasm and creativity.

Pat had also earlier in her career directed a girls choir for a number of years, and they had great success singing at local festivals.

Shortly after retirement she started writing. In 1993 she wrote a Parish history ‘Loughgall, A Plantation Parish’, and then in 2009, a Kilmore Parish history ‘A Journey Through Time’.

The research for these books was carried out in conjunction with her husband Ronnie. Her most recent book in 2018 was a memoir of the Cope Primary School entitled ‘Once Upon a Time’ which was a seasonal account of day to day school life, in more easy going days of education in rural primaries.

It contains some social history, a collection of incidents, and something about educational reform.

The books are almost sold out and much treasured by local people. All the proceeds from the sale of her books went towards the Church Building Funds.

Unfortunately Pat developed cancer in February 2018. She managed to launch her school memoir in October 2018, but after that her health deteriorated further.

She was granted her wish to finish her days in her own home surrounded by the love of her family and she passed away peacefully on 6/3/19.

At the funeral service Canon Ian Ellis said Pat ’had a love of words and a love of poetry’.

He said ‘she saw the presence of God in nature and the world around her’ and he described her as ‘a deeply spiritual person who found the Spirit of God in the world of music and the beauty of art and drama, seeking God in worship, hymns and literature’.

He said she shared the qualities of Christ in openness, tolerance, kindness, generosity and a joy of living and that her memory would live on in the lives of her children, Paul, Ruth and Clare, her grandchildren great-grandchildren and others whose lives were touched by her - pupils, parishioners and the many in the community who knew her.