Belfast Telegraph

Shock as Portadown College principal dies suddenly in Scotland

Simon Harper, principal at Portadown College, has passed away suddenly.
Simon Harper, principal at Portadown College, has passed away suddenly.
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

The principal of Portadown College has died suddenly in Scotland.

It is understood Simon Harper died while on a walking holiday.

Peter Aiken, chairman of Portadown College Board of Governors, said: "It is with extreme sadness both on a personal level and on behalf of the Portadown College Board of Governors that I pay tribute to our esteemed Principal Simon Harper who has passed away.

"As a professional leader and teacher there are two words which were ever to the front of his life and work. They were  'Student Centred'.

"Right from the time he entered the Interview room when the College were seeking to appoint a Principal in December 2009 until the last Board of Governors on 28 March 2019 he breathed, talked and delivered for young people.

"He was a committed professional and educationalist who heart embraced his students and staff.

"Simon loved travelling the world and being outdoors so it is justly fitting his last hours were with his passion.

"At this time we would wish to send our heartfelt condolences to Mr Harper's partner, his family and friends. He will be greatly missed at Portadown College."

A spokesman for Lurgan College posted on social media: "Everyone connected with Lurgan College will be deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the sudden death of Mr Simon Harper, Headmaster of our sister school, Portadown College.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to Catherine and the Harper family circle at this time of great sadness."

Rathfriland High School, one of Mr Harper's former schools, said on Facebook: “It is with great sadness that we learnt this morning of the untimely passing of our former Principal, Simon Harper.

"To his partner Catherine, and all his family circle we extend our deepest and heartfelt sympathy.”

DUP MLA Carla Lockhart told the Belfast Telegraph Mr Harper was an "absolute gentleman" and that pupils and the entire community were shocked by the tragic news.

The Upper Bann MLA said: "My thoughts and prayers are with Catherine and the wider family circle. Simon was a gentleman who gave so much to education locally. A vibrant principal who was an educator, an encourager and a friend to all the pupils.

"What a loss to our community."

DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley said: “Mr Harper’s death will be met with a great deal of sadness. He was a great advocate for Portadown College and will be missed by both staff and pupils.

"Over the coming days we will be remembering his partner Catherine and family circle at this very sad time.”

A family death notice said: "Harper – April 19th 2019 (Suddenly) while in Scotland, Robert Simon. Dearly loved partner of Catherine and much loved brother of Paul and Stephen and son of the late Craigie & Pearl Harper.

"Funeral Arrangements later.

"Very deeply regretted by his sorrowing partner, brothers & the entire family circle."

Mr Harper, who was originally from Banbridge, was previously headmaster at Rathfriland High School. He took over as principal at Portadown College in 2009.

He was a chemistry teacher by background and had previously been head of department at Regent House in Newtownards.

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