Belfast Telegraph

Portadown College head Simon Harper always had taste for adventure, funeral told

Simon Harper’s coffin is carried out of the church
Simon Harper’s coffin is carried out of the church
Simon Harper
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

Mourners at the funeral of Portadown College principal Simon Harper heard how his last day was spent doing what he loved with the woman he loved.

Mr Harper died suddenly on Good Friday while on a walking holiday in Scotland.

Several hundred family members, friends, fellow heads of school and pupils from Portadown College, where the 57-year-old had been headmaster for the past 10 years, packed into Loughinisland Parish Church in Seaforde, Co Down, for the service.

Mr Harper was buried in his Royal Navy uniform, in recognition of his time served as a reservist.

Rev Adrian Dorrian told mourners how his taste for adventure had led him to meet "the love of his life", his partner Catherine.

Rev Dorrian said: "Simon loved to travel. From Norway and South Africa during his time with the Royal Navy, to Pakistan and Bolivia where he took on some of the world's highest peaks. He was the first Irish person to conquer some of those summits.

"Once he had to be helicoptered out of the Karakoram mountains in Pakistan after suffering altitude sickness, but he wouldn't let it beat him and went back the next year for another go.

"He enjoyed travelling to far-flung places. Indeed, he met his partner Catherine in China."

Rev Dorrian also spoke about Mr Harper's love of the military.

"He was proud to serve in the Royal Navy reserve for over 20 years at HMS Caroline in Belfast. It's fitting Simon is buried in his Navy uniform today," he said.

"But you can't speak about Simon and not mention his love of education."

After studying chemistry at Queen's University and completing teaching qualifications, Mr Harper began his career in 1984 as a chemistry teacher at Wallace High School in Lisburn before moving to Regent House in Newtownards, where became head of chemistry.

He then served as principal at Rathfriland High School before moving to Portadown College 10 years ago.

"He defended his schools vociferously when he needed to," Rev Dorrian said.

Portadown College remained closed yesterday and will hold a service of commemoration in St Mark's Church of Ireland on Friday at 6.30pm.

Mr Harper is survived by Catherine and brothers Paul and Stephen.

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