Emmanuel Blair is keen to contact his old schoolmates at Portadown ‘Tech’ circa 1959-64.
And it’s a fair bet that few have led a life parallel to that of the 68-year-old who has worked his way around the world on two occasions since he left the Church Street establishment.
Originally from Ahorey, he attended the local primary school in the days when James McBain was the principal, along with teachers like Mr Wilson, Miss Lenaghan and Miss Watson – Emmanuel was there from 1959-64, and then he moved to Portadown Technical School as it was then.
Dr Brian Gee was principal and the staff included names like McCall, Robb, McFerran, Thompson, King and Frazer. And long before the words ‘integrated education’ became fashionable in Northern Ireland’s world of education, ‘The Tech’ embraced all sections of the Portadown community.
Friendships across the community were forged during those formative years and have lasted a lifetime – a situation appreciated by Emmanuel as he seeks to make contact with the former pupils of the school that still means so much to him.
Now domiciled in South Wales, he has been working temporarily in repairing an oil rig in Belfast, and took the opportunity to visit his native Portadown to try and organise a get-together with old friend from half-a-century ago.
He made an impromptu list for the Portadown Times. And if anyone wants to contact him, his number is 07804 912976. His list is – Cecil Baxter, Terence Baxter, Norman Best, Jimmy Burnett, Trevor Burns, Ivan Callender, Malachy Hamill, Davy Kernaghan, Michael McCabe, Robert McNally, Ian McKeown, Ian Morrison, John Parkinson, Rodney Spence, Earl Taylor, Johnny Thompson, the Armstrongs, Walter Beattie…
The Portadown Times was able to bring him up to date with a few of his old classmates. He recalled that Rodney Spence was a superb pianist. In fact, Rodney is long-time organist and choirmaster at Armagh Road Presbyterian Church, having had a distinguished career as head of English at Banbridge Academy.
Earl Taylor was a special mate of Emmanuel’s and we have reported that Earl has won a plethora of athletic award in the field of senior sports. And the name of Trevor Burns has been synonymous with Tandragee Golf Club over the years.
When he left The Tech, Emmanuel took up a career in engineering – he joined the RAF in 1968 working on ground radar, and then he worked with firms in the Continent (Germany and Holland among them) – he worked on the Dutch oil rigs on the North Sea before really taking itchy feet.
He worked on power stations in various ports – his favourite destination was Australia – and then for 10 years, he worked on cruise ships that sailed from Miami.
In fact, he was married at one stage, to a Brazilian woman (“just for 13 months”0 and they had a son Jamie Daniel. Said Emmanuel, “The marriage – which took place in Wales – lasted just over a year. My ex-wife lives in Spain, but we keep in touch. I’m grandfather of a five-year old Granddaughter and there another grandchild on the way.”
He does work for two firms – one based in Great Yarmouth and the other in Aberdeen, and he’s off to Invergordon in the North of Scotland this week, and he aims to return to N orthern Ireland to look up those old schoolmates.
“I suppose life goes full circle,” he said, “and the older you get, the more you want to re-establish your roots. I’m looking forward to renewing old friendships, and I hope the majority of my old friend are still alive and in good health.”