TRIBUTES have been paid to the former principal of Central Primary School, Mr. Derek Allen, who has died at the age of 79. Mr. Allen, who retired from the school in 1992, was born in Lisburn on June 18 1931, the youngest of the five children of Isabella and Charles Allen. He was educated in Brownlee Primary School and Wallace High School before training as a teacher at Stranmillis and London University.
On March 30 1955 he married Edith Margaret Watson in Christ Church, Lisburn. Like him she was born and brought up in Lisburn.
Derek and Edith were overjoyed with the birth of Christine, their
devoted daughter, and he was a very proud man when he walked Christine
up the aisle in Christ Church as she married Michael Wright, Edith and
Derek were overwhelmed with joy and love when Emma and David were born,
they spent much time with their grandchildren and the love they shared
with their family was great.
Derek and Edith have always had an open home and were always delighted to see family and friends at the door, very soon the teapot was on with the culinary delights of Edith's baking, they were always very happy to share with family and friends.
In 1952 Derek was appointed as a science teacher in Central Primary School, he became Vice Principal in 1972, and then in 1986 became Principal. At one time he saw the enrolment figures soar to a peak of 750 children.
In 1989 Derek pioneered the opening of the new Nursery School to enable more children to be accommodated in Central. By the time he retired from Central in 1992, Derek would have been involved with three generations of the same family circle.
He always loved to hear about his past pupils and what they had achieved. In the early days of his teaching career he would have rung around some of the employers in the area to find if they could employ some of his pupils who were leaving school at 14 years of age. He was often heard say: "I taught him/her". He played no small part in the educational sphere in the Lisburn area and in Northern Ireland in general.
Derek was a member of the NI Road Safety Committee and a convenor of music at Rathvarna Teachers' Centre in Lisburn, He was, for a time, Secretary of the South Antrim Area Savings Committee and keenly encouraged children at school to open savings accounts.
Derek was equally well known in the field of arts. From 1955-1990 he was associated with Lisnagarvey Operatic Society as the society.
1985 saw the beginning of Lisburn Youth Theatre and he produced many of the LYT productions. For several years Derek was a member of the Regional Committee of the Arts Council for NI. He fought for the advancement of facilities in Lisburn and was a strong voice for the progression of the Arts in the area.
Derek had many other interests, including being a Council member of Irish Schools' Football Association, He was a member of the Forum New Arts Council for NI and the committee who raised funds for the erection of the Nurses' Recreation Hall at Lagan Valley Hospital and was a member of the Masonic Order for over 50 years.
The current Principal of Central Primary, Mr. Ian Stewart, paid tribute to Mr Allen and said his love of music and the arts continues at the school.
"He was dedicated to the school" said Mr. Stewart. "He cared deeply about the children, not only their academic well being, but also their development as individuals physically and socially.'
He continued: "Our current pupils' enjoyment of musical participation remains a legacy to Derek Allen. During his time as Vice Principal and Principal he was very keen to promote and develop the involvement of children in music, both in singing and playing instruments. Several of the school's musical productions went on stage in Lisburn Technical College.
"Even after his retirement in 1992, Derek continued to show his interest in how the school was doing. He occasionally called in to see the staff and it was a privilege to see him at our 75th Anniversary celebrations last May. His connection with Central continues through his granddaughter, Emma, who is a Classroom Assistant at the school."
Speaking on behalf of Lisnagarvey Operatic Society, president Mr Roy Mcllwrath said: "Derek Allen had a life long passion and love of the arts, in particular the performing arts."
He described Derek as 'the inspiration and driving force behind the Society during their most successful years when they were recognised as one of the best societies in the country winning many accolades and awards'.
'Also, it was under Derek's leadership in 1972 that the society first embarked on its annual Christmas Pantomime; one that is now a fixture in the festive season in Lisburn and has become the longest running Christmas Panto in the country.
"As a founder member and chairman of the Lisburn Arts Advisory Council (LAAC) Derek sought to bring awareness of the arts in general to the wider public and fought for many years to improve the facilities for arts. "It would be no exaggeration to say that the excellent Island Hall began its life as a vision of the LAAC under Derek's leadership.
"Derek will be sadly missed and on behalf of the Lisnagarvey Operatic Society I would wish to pass on our condolences to his wife Edith and the famiIy circle," he concluded.
A service of Thanksgiving for his life was held on Wednesday May 11 in Christ Church Lisburn, conducted by Rev Paul Dundas. Derek's nephew David Bodell read from the Scriptures, and his long time friend Roy Mcllwrath sang "Be still my Soul". The interment took place in Lisburn Cemetery.