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Ronnie Milligan: Principal who saved east Belfast primary

 

The former principal of Cregagh Primary School in east Belfast, who saved the institution from closure or amalgamation, has died less than three years after retiring.

Ronnie Milligan, who was 63, had joined the school in the 1988/89 academic year as vice principal having previously taught at Andrews Memorial PS in Comber.

He believed fervently that every child should be given the best opportunity to progress in life and has been described by colleagues as a pragmatist. While he was not against education reform he defended the 11-plus examination - which he recognised as not perfect - as one method of social mobility.

He recalled how he had benefited from it coming from a working-class home where his father had died while he was still a boy.

Another example of his devotion to his pupils was shown when he publicly spoke out about the noise created by the flight path of planes landing at and leaving Belfast City Airport, saying that they had often interrupted the boys on the football playing field.

Mr Milligan also recognised the need for parents to work with teachers and he sought to create a family atmosphere in the school, where he became principal in succession to Ivan Parkinson several years after joining the staff.

He remained in the post until October 2014.

Colleagues said one of the most tangible monuments to his work is the new Cregagh PS building, which opened in 2002. Without his campaigning and mobilising parental support there were fears it would be closed or amalgamated with another school.

He grew up in east Belfast and attended Grosvenor Grammar School.

Away from the classroom he was an avid birdwatcher, loved travelling and was a keen supporter of Ulster rugby.

His musical tastes ranged from Horslips to Fleetwood Mac to Willie Nelson and two of his favourite places to visit in Northern Ireland were Rathlin Island and Portballintrae.

He is survived by his wife Lynn and daughter Sophie.

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