Belfast Telegraph

School's tribute to 'hard-working happy-go-lucky' past pupil Joel McTernaghan

Joel was a past pupil at Glengormley High School.
Joel was a past pupil at Glengormley High School.

Eimear McGovern

A teenager from Newtownabbey who died tragically on Thursday has been described as extremely hardworking with a great sense of humour by his former school principal.

Joel McTernaghan (17) was a past student at Glengormley High School.

Principal Ricky Massey said they were pupils and staff were shocked and devastated when they heard of his sudden passing.

“He was a past student at our school, he left a year and a half ago after being with us for part of sixth year and securing employment.

“When we were thinking back of the time he spent here, our memories were that he had a great sense of humour, he was a very hard-working wee pupil and very focused,” he said.

Joel, who was from Newtownabbey, was the son of Steven and Joanne and brother to Kacey.

His sister is a Year 12 student at Glengormley High School. The school has in place support services for grieving students and staff.

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Mr Massey said he was extremely popular and well-liked.

“He really had so many friends and that really says so much about him as a person,” he said.

“On Friday we had other parents of past students ringing the school who were very upset. It’s uncanny the death of any child. The parents were ringing us thinking we hadn’t heard the news but we actually contacted by several parents.

“He really was a happy-go-lucky pupil.”

Our thoughts this morning go out to the friends and family of one our our own at NITF Joel was such a lovely kid that loved his trance. Rest in peace young man ������

Posted by Northern Irish Trance Family - NITF on Friday, January 10, 2020

Social media was flooded with tributes to the teenager.

A former youth worker was among those to pay tribute to Joel after his tragic death.

Robert Neil Taggart, who was a youth worker at YMCA in Carrickfergus, said it would be hard to find a nicer young man.

Posting on Facebook, Mr Taggart said he would remember Joel as “smiling, happy, with a group of friends and as always leading the way”.

“To Joel’s friends out there, we’re all sorry for your loss,” he said.

Joel’s girlfriend Rhianna Allan also paid tribute.

“You and me forever,” she posted alongside a picture of the couple.

Dance group, the Northern Ireland Trance Family, added: “Our thoughts this morning go out to the friends and family of one our our own.

“Joel was such a lovely kid that loved his trance. Rest in peace young man,” the group said.

Brooke Hanna McMaster added: “Woke up again to another wee boy gone, not gonna pretend I knew him because I didn’t.”

“But from the amount of people I’ve seen mourning him he clearly was a lovely fella with a big heart,” she said.

Another friend described the young man’s death as “a heartbreaking time for us all”.

“Seeing the ones you love in bits and not be able to do anything puts you in bits, absolutely devastated thinking of my little brother and all his close boys.

“You have got each other and all [of] us. Rest up.”

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