Community mourns popular principal
There was widespread shock as news broke that David Hutchinson had died on Thursday afternoon (August 11).
The 51-year-old had been in a coma at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast after he fell off a ladder at his home and suffered brain damage.
Greenisland Presbyterian Church was packed for his funeral on Tuesday, with many mourners gathering outside.
Mr Hutchinson is survived by his wife Alison, principal of Harmony Primary School in north Belfast, and two teenage sons.
He was a popular figure in east Belfast and in the wider education circles.
He had only recently returned from a working holiday in Africa.
All week pupils, parents and well-wishers have been arriving at the school carrying floral tributes and poignant messages, which they attached to the school gates.
A green sweatshirt bearing the school crest and carrying the message ‘RIP Hutchinson, now at rest’, clearly rendered by a child’s hand, was among the tributes — which also included children’s drawings of the popular principal.
Alderman Jim Rodgers said that eight of Mr Hutchinson’s organs had been donated to people awaiting transplants.
He said he had known the headmaster whom he described as a “real gentleman” for many years.
Mr Rodgers added: “He was a man highly respected by staff, pupils and parents.
“He gave superb leadership in Elmgrove and had a brilliant track record, producing many fine people in the world of sport, industry, commerce and the church. His loss is immense. He was very well respected.
“This is a major blow to his family and to education in east Belfast. My deep sympathy, thoughts and prayers are with his family circle.”
East Belfast MP Naomi Long said: “He was very well-loved in the area — a really lively guy and very committed to the school and kids.
“It’s a tragedy for the family. I am thinking about them.”
During his 10 years at Elmgrove, Mr Hutchinson was a member of the Northern Ireland Primary Principals’ Action Group which represented around 500 primary schools who lobbied the Northern Ireland Assembly for improved funding of the sector.
One-time chair of the East Belfast Primary and Nursery Principals' Group, Mr Hutchinson took part in presentations to the Assembly’s education committee to help hammer home the importance of investing in the early years of education.