A FORMER French teacher and head of the Boarding Department at Friends’ School, James Warren (Ernie) McCleary, passed away on February 8 in hospital at the age of 88.
Born in Hillsborough he had family connections with Moira and on Monday a Service of Thanksgiving was held in Moira Parish Church, preceded by a private burial.
A former pupil at Friends’ from 1937 until 1942 he returned as a member of staff in 1966 when he was appointed as Head of the Boarding Department. Together with his wife Gloria, Ernie ran the Boarding Department until his retirement from Friends’ in 1989. A talented linguist, Ernie also served as Head of the French Department and Senior Teacher.
Principal Elizabeth Dickson paid tribute to Mr McCleary.
“Ernie McCleary made a huge contribution to the life of Friends’ School,” she said. “His kindness, good humour and lively interest in others made him a valued colleague and friend.
“Ernie was always active and keen to get others involved. He had a love for literature, music and sport and, within the classroom and beyond, possessed the ability to inspire and enthuse. His influence is lasting.”
He played with Lurgan before moving on to play for Cliftonville at both cricket and soccer. Between 1948 and 1957 he won 14 amateur caps for Northern Ireland and in 1955 won one full cap.
At centre half in the 1948/49 season he was part of the Northern Ireland amateur side who defeated England 1-0, the first win for an Irish side on English soil.
A stalwart of the province’s amateur side for many years he also played for the Irish League team that lost 2-1 to the League of Ireland at Dalymount Park in 1955.
The same year he gained his only full cap, again at centre half, when he played for Northern Ireland in their 3-2 defeat at the hands of Wales at Windsor Park.
Ernie began his teaching career in Newry before moving to Annalong.
He was the husband of the late Gloria, late of Lenamore Park, Lisburn, and the father of Joanna and Brenda.