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Death of RAF pilot Norman Eccles MBE: Revered teacher of pupils on the ground and in the air

By Eddie McIlwaine

Retired teacher Norman Eccles MBE, who has died aged 88, was well known in education circles – but also for his service in the RAF.

He was headmaster of Lurgan College for 10 years. Before that he served at Methodist College and for more than 20 years at Campbell College in Belfast.

But apart from his school life, Norman, who was from Cheshire, had a passion for flying. As a pilot he was officer commanding the Air Experience Flight in which he took RAF cadets up in Chipmunks and Bulldogs on their first flights.

Retired test pilot Paddy Crowther, who often flew with Norman and the cadets out of Sydenham, said: "He was a man every cadet with whom he took on a trip had absolute trust. They learned so much from just being in a plane with him."

Norman was a full-time member of the RAF in his early years, joining 205 Squadron in 1944, the second last year of World War Two. He saw action in Koggala in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) in Catalina flying boats. A Queen's graduate, he then took up teaching on his return to civilian life in 1947.

He was awarded the MBE among other awards in 1971. The medal was from the military division of the Order of the British Empire and was in recognition of his services to the RAF Volunteer Reserve (training).

Norman was a keen rugby player and captain of Collegians and often came into contact with the legendary Jack Kyle. When his playing days were over he became a respected coach. His other hobby was mountaineering in the mountains of Afghanistan and Turkey.

Norman Eccles is survived by Dorothy, his wife of 38 years, a son David and a daughter Kate from a previous marriage.

He was cremated today at Roselawn in a ceremony conducted by the Rev Colin McGaw of Helen's Bay Presbyterian Church.

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