The New Year Honours List 2017 saw Mr. Robert Northridge recognised with the MBE for services to rowing and community relations in Northern Ireland.
A highly regarded member of the county’s teaching profession, Robert was Deputy Headmaster of Portora Royal School.
He retired in August 2010, having given 37 years’ service to the school, where his association spanned 55 years - being an old Portoran (1955 to 1962).
Robert saw the development of Portora Boat Club from a Portorans only rowing club into a club that embraces boys and girls from all the schools in Enniskillen.
According to Robert the motivation for this was the aftermath of the Enniskillen Bomb when he invited boys from St. Michael’s College to cross town and row with the Portora boys.
“This proved very successful,” remembers Robert, who went on to say that in the early 2000s Portora Boat Club merged with Enniskillen Rowing Club whose members were largely girls.
He noted: “This enlarged club was the basis for what the club has become today, which has a membership of 100 boys and girls who train together six days a week and who have been very successful at Irish and International regattas.”
Robert says that the Club could not function without the large number of parents and other adults from the community who help with both coaching and fundraising.
Part of the development of the club involved rebuilding the boathouse at Portora; the facility is now one of the best in Ireland and Robert was honoured by having the new boat house named the Northridge Boat House.
Born in Londonderry, Robert’s late parents were Aubrey and Moyra Northridge. He lived in Convoy, followed by Castlederg (where his late father served as rector for 30 years, 1951 to 1981).
After leaving Portora, where he boarded, Robert studied mathematics at Trinity College, Dublin. He did Voluntary Services Overseas in the West Indies and taught in Nigeria.
He completed his PGCE in Cambridge, where he met his wife Hannah and he then taught for a time at Coleraine Academical Institution, before taking up his position at Portora.
Throughout his career, Robert has been very interested in rowing, a sport he took up during his schooldays at Portora and continued at Trinity, followed by Cambridge.
At Portora, he succeeded David Robertson as Master in Charge of Rowing and he, in turn, was succeeded by Derek Holland.
The well known father of four, Claire, Tamsin, Rebecca and Richard, is enjoying an active retirement; he continues to take a keen interest in rowing and natural history.
In 2012 his book, the Flora of County Fermanagh, was published; it was jointly authored with Ralph Forbes.
Commenting on his MBE, Robert said he was ‘very honoured and pleased’, but stressed it was not just for him, and highlighted the team effort at the boat club.
Robert says it is for all who have been involved in the development of the boat club over the past 20 years and who have worked to make it the club what it has become.