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Geoffrey Wilkinson: 'People's teacher' who shaped young lives

He was a top teacher, a total gentleman and a great character

Geoffrey Wilkinson, who has died, aged 42, after losing a fight against leukaemia, was a much-respected geography teacher at Ballymena Academy, where he also helped his classes decide on their future careers after their schooldays were over.

He was also a former pupil at the academy, a place of education to which he dedicated his life.

"We all loved the man," said one former pupil. "He was a top teacher - a total gentleman and a great character. There were more than 500 tributes on a website in one day when we all heard he had gone."

Geoffrey, who lived at Cullybackey, Co Antrim, is survived by his daughter Annabel, his parents Hugh and Ruby and his brother David.

His principal at the academy, Ronnie Hassard, said: "So many people have been in touch with expressions of sympathy, especially former pupils who benefited from his guidance and support, especially on educational trips down the years."

In a tribute to his brother at the funeral service in Ballymena Baptist Church, David Wilkinson recalled his love of rock guitar music, salmon fishing and mountain trekking - especially in Switzerland.

The man who was described by one pupil as "the people's teacher" was referred to by another member of his class as "someone who didn't bring the word teacher to mind.

"Instead, he was a person who influenced those who had the pleasure of being around him. He was an incredible individual."

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