The pupils at Irvinestown Primary School have paid tribute to their retiring Principal Leah Abbott in this adorable video.

The Lip Dub of 'Let Her Go' features lyrics which voice the sadness of the pupils at seeing their dearly loved teacher go, whilst wishing her well for the future.

Speaking to The Impartial Repoter this week, Principal Leah Abbott, who has spent her entire teaching career in the same school, explained that, after training at Stranmillis College from 1974 to 1978, she took up her first teaching appointment on September 1, 1978 in Irvinestown. She became Vice Principal on September 1, 1987 and has been Principal since March 1, 1999.

“I absolutely love teaching – always have and always will,” enthused Mrs. Abbott, who admitted when she arrived fresh out of college in 1978 she never imagined staying in IPS for 38.5 years! “However it has been an amazing place to work,” she said.

“The pupils, staff, parents and Governors have always been supportive,” acknowledged Mrs. Abbott, who added: “We have worked hard together to help the school develop to the successful position it has reached today. There is a great sense of camaraderie among the staff – teaching and non teaching alike.”

She feels every day that she has been at school has been special - “many of the wonderful memories are the little things.”

She describes the children as ‘really wonderful’: “I will miss them most of all. It has been wonderful watching pupils enter Y1, follow their career through PS and help them develop their potential across all aspects of their lives –educationally, socially, spiritually and emotionally.”

Impartial Reporter:

Mrs. Abbott continued: “I have had a number of ups and downs in my life. The community of IPS has been there with me through them all. They have helped me celebrate the good times and consoled me in the not so good. The school staff, pupils and parents played a huge part in helping me adjust after the sudden death of my first husband, Ray Bruce in October 1999 (only months after I had taken on the Principal’s post).”

She points out “the staff members are all my close friends. I am not sure what life is going to be like without the craic that is the IPS staff room! We are a very close knit community.”

Mrs. Abbott goes on to say: “I am 100% indebted to, and want to take the opportunity to thank the Governors who trusted me with this role in 1999 and have supported me throughout and to the staff without whom I could not have done the job at all. A special thanks to my VP, Edwina Read, to whom I am passing the Principal’s baton on to. I know that in her capable hands with the rest of the team, the school will go from strength to strength. To the parents, many of whom are former pupils and work under the umbrella of the PTA I am extremely grateful.”

She speaks about ‘the absolutely mind blowing experience’ that was the retirement celebration organised by the school for her last Wednesday evening in the Bawnacre Centre. Among those who joined her were family members and friends including her husband Bennie, her sister Hazel, her son Christopher and daughter in law Laura (with a video clip from her other son Steven in Australia).

The event began with George Beacom, the manager of the centre, followed by the chair of Governors, the Rev. Nigel Elliott and Mrs. Edwina Read (VP) thanking her for services to Education and the Irvinestown community since 1978. It continued with the school presenting “This is Your Life.” All the children from Y1 – Y7 took part, even the teachers sang “That’s what friends are for.” 

Year 7 pupils Ben Elliott, Ben Stewart and Amos Johnston aka Michael Aspel, Eamonn Andrews and Trevor McDonald with their red files, led the audience through her life. There were many musical items and choral speaking.

“It was one surprise after another, a roller coaster of emotions – laughing one minute, in tears the next!” confessed Mrs. Abbott, who felt ‘the amount of organisation and preparation was phenomenal’ - all done without her knowledge. A lap top and holiday vouchers from the parents and children of the school were presented last Wednesday night to Mrs. Abbott, who last night, Wednesday, was due to go out with school staff and Governors.

Mrs. Abbott concludes that she could write a book about her life over the years in IPS: “I truly have loved every minute of it. I would not swap a moment. I am eagerly anticipating retirement in a bitter sweet sort of way. How I am going to live without school and all that is associated with it – well, who knows?”