Bessbrook man Gary Kennedy told how he became very emotional as he sat into the small hours, taking time to look at all the treasured items presented to him upon his retirement.
Speaking after the children’s last day under his leadership at Waringstown Primary School, he said: “It hasn’t sunk in yet. It won’t hit me until the end of August.”
A special event took place recently for the retiring principal at Craigavon Civic Centre marking his tremendous service to education at Hart Memorial, Annaghmore and Waringstown.
He said: “It was a wonderful acknowledgement of my retirement with everything from my childhood to the present day with fun and pathos in equal amounts.
“Every child in the school drew a picture or wrote something. It was all put into a book and given to me last Tuesday night. I read it until about three in the morning, holding back the tears.”
Sitting in his office, filled to capacity with cards and presents, Mr Kennedy continued: “It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be principal at Waringstown. I came up the avenue in 1991 and was just taken aback by the beauty of the location, though since then it’s been the hearts and minds of the people that I’ve come to know and love.”
Mr Kennedy, who will continue as chair of the NI School’s FA, reflected on the school’s choral tradition and sporting achievements, commenting: “The reputation of the school has been extended far and wide, nationally and internationally, due to its long tradition of excellence in music, drama and sport.”
He added: “More than anything I will remember Waringstown as a happy, vibrant school, very much part of the community.
“The school has a very distinctive style. I’m only the fourth principal in 81 years. The teachers have tended to stay right through until retirement.”
As well as thanking the children - “with eagerness to learn and boundless energy” - for making his time at the school a pleasure, he paid tribute to the staff, governors, SELB and parents for their unwavering support.
He concluded: “It’s been a long career and I’ve been blessed with good health. The job of principal is one of the best vocations you can have.”