Carrickfergus MBE recipient ‘a true gentleman and great public servant’

A long-serving governor has been honoured for his steadfast commitment to schools in Carrickfergus.

Friday, 16th October 2020, 3:15 pm

George Irvine was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to education and to the community in Carrickfergus.

Mr Irvine served continuously on Downshire School’s (now amalgamated with Carrickfergus College to become Carrickfergus Academy) board of governors since the 1980s - service which is very rare in educational circles but emphasises his commitment to the school and the three principals he worked alongside.

Serving his time as a mechanic in Larne in the late 1940s, the Gleno native attended night classes which took him on a different career trajectory.

George Irvine MBE.

As a Technical teacher he worked in Portadown Technical School for two years, Carrickfergus Technical School for seven years and when the latter closed, the new Newtownabbey campus as head of the Engineering Department.

Mr Irvine’s interest in Africa took him to the Gold Coast, where he taught for three years. He was there when the country gained independence to become Ghana in 1957 and officiated at election events.

In the 1970s, there was a spell on secondment to the British Council as advisor to the Argentine Government Project, which saw George and his family move to Buenos Aires for 12 months before returning to Newtownabbey to work.

Further experience as head of Magherafelt Technical College and voluntary work on the Transport Training Board, along with his long service on boards of governors for Downshire School, Sunnylands Primary School and Model Primary School, gave him a wealth of knowledge and interest in all things educational.

His contribution to education also saw him serve for two decades as Sunday School Superintendent at First Carrickfergus Presbyterian Church. He was also heavily involved in the supply of practical projects supporting hospitals in West Africa.

Offering her congratulations, Mrs J Stewart, MBE, DL retired principal of Downshire, commented: “At all times Mr Irvine has supported me and our school – from a raw recruit to the post of principal in 2006 after spending my entire career in Downshire, through to planning for an amalgamation and helping me to pave the way for my retirement 12 years later, he has been at my side

“He has been more than a colleague. I see him as a mentor and a friend. Someone who has always had the best interests of the principals he served alongside and those of his fellow governors, our pupils, staff and parents foremost in his mind.

“I admire him and am very much in awe of his energy and interest in all matters educational even as he approaches his late eighties and this is simply a measure of the man, who is, in every sense of the word, a true gentleman and a great public servant.

“I am delighted that his steadfast commitment has been justifiably rewarded with an MBE for services to education and the community in Carrickfergus and firmly believe that there is no better man to receive it.”

Read another honours story here

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