‘I really enjoyed teaching in the classroom, getting to know the youngsters and having a bit of craic’

Brian Hanna with Lurgan College principal Trevor Robinson.
Brian Hanna with Lurgan College principal Trevor Robinson.

The legend that is Brian Hanna has blown the final whistle on his teaching career at Lurgan College.

Brian (62) started his teaching career 40 years ago and came to the college in 1979.

Looking back on his career Brian said he remembers the successes enjoyed by the school’s teams and will miss the banter with the pupils.

After attending Stranmillis College Brian served a year at Brownlow College and taught at his former school - Friends.

Of his move there he said: “I had a great love for the place.”

He joined the staff of the college as head of PE in 1979 and has been a fixture at the school ever since, bringing his joy for sport to pupils there, along with his trademark friendly banter which has endeared him to generations of college pupils.

Brian said: “It was handy to home in those days, I was travelling and playing rugby and cricket every Saturday and travelling to Lisburn every Saturday as well as during the week, I was tired out. The opportunity came up and it’s been great ever since.”

He’s lived in Waringstown for past 35 years - originally from the Demesne Avenue-Avenue Road area: “For some reason my mum sent me to Friends school, my cousin went and my sister as well. I just accepted that.

“I met my wife Glenis at Friends school, it gave me my love for sport and my love for my wife.”

Of the highlights in his career he said: “I have lots of them I suppose, I really enjoyed teaching in the classroom, getting to know the youngsters and having a bit of craic.

“A big highlight was the year we won schools trophy with the first 15 against Cambridge House when they were overwhelming favourites and the Medallion Trophy. Working with Brian Faith has been good, we are so close we can finish each other’s sentences.

“We had quite a few cricket successes especially early on with Paul and Charlie McCrum and the Hunters - all good cricketers. My own son Peter came in to play here. we also had Jonathan Bushe, Neil Anderson and Simon Harrison They were a good team. Unfortunately we didn’t win the schools cup that year but we had lots of other trophy wins, that’s been enjoyable. Then the girls’ hockey - those wins in the Irish Cup were absolutely brilliant. They’re absolutely great memories.”

And on what got him into teaching: “I really don’t know the answer to that. I remember going to Friends School as an 11-year-old and people asked me what I wanted to do and I had no idea. The PE teacher was Brian Shaw, he was my hero. I liked the way he went about his work, always very friendly with the kids and my mum used to ask what did I want to do and I said I liked Mr Shaw and I liked PE, he gave me a great love for all sport.

“Friends wasn’t particularly academic then. The ethos was to develop each person as a person so they discovered I was quite talented at sport and allowed me to do that.

“When I left there and got to Stranmillis I had a fantastic time there, about two dozen in each year group (all got jobs).

“I went on a tour of Canada in 1975 with a rugby team, the Kings Scholars and had a fantastic time. We still meet up each year, only three of this year are teaching still and sadly a couple of the boys have passed away.

“I love what I do and the contact with the pupils and the craic you have with them, especially on the rugby pitch on Saturday morning. I’m going to miss that terribly. Gives you a purpose.”

Outside of school Brian played rugby for Portadown and for the Ulster A team.

He said: “That’s akin to the Ulster reserves nowadays. Nobody went to watch those games only three men and a dog.”

On the cricket side of things he started in Lurgan and then moved out to Waringstown to play there - he captained the seconds for 10 years.

He said: “It’s been brilliant, absolutely fantastic.”

And asked to chose between cricket or rugby: “That’s tough. Definitely I was a better rugby player than a cricketer. And I love my cricket, I get a lot of enjoyment going to all the matches home and away living at The Lawn, what a place to live, our back garden is cut for us every day basically.”

His son played there and his daughter. Brian added: “We go every Saturday, Glenis and I. We feel part of a big family.”

As a teacher Brian was always so approachable - the anti-Derek as one former pupil described him in reference to the late Derek Edgar. Of Mr Edgar, Brian had this to say: “Derek made our lives very easy, He kept law and order and it made our lives so much easier. I got on with Derek, very well. The rest of the staff called him Mr Edgar, I called him Derek and he called me Brian. We had a good working relationship,

“There was a really warm friendly side to him.”

He went on: “Derek and Molly, Albert Houston, Erroll McCready, Jim Stevenson, those sort of characters are now all out of teaching, I suppose I’m the last of all that. I enjoy that craic with the kids.”

He said everyone in the staff room got along ‘terribly well’: “We all have the common goal of getting these youngsters through their exams.

“I never take myself too seriously, you have to have a sense of humour. I don’t mind the youngsters laughing at me, I laugh with them and they enjoy that.”

Brian also enjoyed seeing the success of his students - seeing students succeed: “When I see an individual I remember something from their school days. There’s great pride whenever you see them play for the village or whatever team.”

He also praised the cooperation with the sporting clubs in town: “Relationships have developed over the years. Lurgan have been very good at helping out with facilities, sometimes our grass has been so wet we have went to them for rugby and Waringstown and Lurgan cricket clubs have been helping us out now that we’ve lost our ground here with the plastic pitch over the road.

“It was very kind of them to give us those lovely grounds and they might get a player or two in return.”

Speaking in advance of the college tour of South Africa, Brian said: It’s a nice way to finish, I was delighted to be asked to go.”

And of his departure from the school: “My year group going that was a tough day, saying goodbye to them - they looked on me as a father figure. That was the hardest day for me saying goodbye to them. They were very kind to me giving me gifts.

“I’m looking forward to South Africa, Just about getting my head round the departure now - I was there 10 years with my wife Glenis.”

Looking further ahead he said: “Nothing really planned, we always go on a cruise every summer but not this year.

“I have always wanted to go Australia or New Zealand for a test series so I’m going to do that before I get too old.”

Of course, he will also be more than happy to look after the grandchildren and is also going to see Spurs in Europe.

Brian and Glenis have two grown up children - Peter and Catherine (Kate) and they have provided two grandchildren each.

Brian added: “It’s going to be an interesting future, I will leave it in God’s hand, I’m lucky I am retiring in good health, a lot of my mates aren’t any longer.

“I haven’t a lot of hobbies or interests, will have to find something.

“Sometimes in life you know it’s time to go and it’s time.”

He reserved a final word for his friend and colleague Brian Faith: “He worked with me here for 25 years and got to the point where we finish each other’s sentences.

“He’s been great company and a great pal and I’ll miss him terribly.”