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School principal killed by falling tree during Storm Arwen is laid to rest

We are richer for having known school head, priest tells mourners

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Francis Lagan

Francis Lagan

Francis Lagan

Mourners at the funeral of primary school principal Francis Lagan heard how he was the “very best husband” and “most loving” father to his four children.

A father of four children, Mr Lagan died after a tree hit his car in Antrim during stormy weather on Friday.

During the service at St Patrick’s Church, his children described him as a “gentle fun-loving giant”, while Maghera parish priest Fr Paddy Doherty said the local community were “richer for having known him”.

The 40-year-old was principal of St Mary’s Primary School in Maghera, Co Derry.

Dozens lined the route outside the church as the coffin was led in, while children from St Mary’s Primary School and young players from his GAA club Watty Graham's Glen stood in tribute.

Wife Louise told those gathered her husband had many “happy days”, none more so than his wedding day in Rome in 2010 and the birth of each of his “beautiful children”.

The pair met while Mr Lagan was training to be a teacher at Strawberry Hill training school in London, where he taught for four years before returning to Northern Ireland.

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Funeral of school principal Francis Lagan at St Patrick’s Church, Glen on Tuesday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Funeral of school principal Francis Lagan at St Patrick’s Church, Glen on Tuesday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Funeral of school principal Francis Lagan at St Patrick’s Church, Glen on Tuesday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

“These four children sitting in front of me were undoubtedly Francis’ greatest achievements. I will continue to instil his profound values - faith, family, hard work, education and good manners,” she said.

“We will honour his memory. Francis is gone in body, but his legacy is strong and vibrant.

“Francy the legend will live on. May my gentle beautiful husband, my best friend, who blessed and graced my life rest peacefully in the kingdom of heaven.”

Two of Mr Lagan’s children were in his car when it was struck by the tree.

Parish Priest Fr Paddy Doherty noted the poignant tragedy of the family having lost Mr Lagan’s mother Mary just eight weeks ago and said the principal’s unexpected death has left the community “stunned”.

“We cannot take it in,” the priest said.

Fr Doherty said the man had a “place in so many” hearts and said the family are struck by “confusion and grief” over the tragic loss.

“At times like this as we feel helpless, we are shaken and try to make some sense of it,” he added.

“As Francis is loved so much, the loss is even greater. Francis always looked on the bright side, the full glass and always sought many pockets of goodness and hope around him as he cherished the good around him.

“In St Mary’s he achieved much and reflecting on his leadership role, he often told me how fortunate and blessed he felt to be leading St Mary's.”

The priest reflected on how much Mr Lagan “appreciated and valued” everyone at the school and said he wanted “so much” for every child at the school to “achieve their potential”.

He said “faith” defined Mr Lagan’s life.

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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th November 2021

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th November 2021

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th November 2021

“He took time to welcome people with a smile,” he said.

“He set out to make it the best he could and he did make a difference in our lives and the community and beyond.

“Francis made friends easily and his influence spread far. He made an impression on those who knew him. A people magnet, willing and obliging.

“We are richer for having known him our best and final tribute to his memory would be to go on living to find the truth as he did.

“That great sense of dignity and respect he instilled those values to family, school and children. Today we give thanks for what he has given for what he has been and to his family we extend our support and care at this time.”

Mr Lagan is survived by his wife Louise and children Rose, Alice, Beth and Frank, his father Brian, alongside sisters Roisin, Maura, Anne and Brenda.

Following the service at St Patrick’s Church, Glen, Mr Lagan was buried in the adjoining cemetery.


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