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Shimna bids a fond farewell to Mr Beattie

Mr Pagan paid the following tribute to Mr Beattie in a special assembly held in the College this morning.


Good morning, everyone and welcome to this special - albeit bittersweet - occasion: a Shimna farewell to Mr Beattie

This farewell is largely composed of the words and memories of our students - the select group I call integrated ‘lifers’ - who attended All Children’s before coming here’  

In life, it’s often - and quite rightly - said that first impressions make a difference. For many starting out at All Children’s, it’s the pure height that they notice 

“When I first joined All Children’s, I thought Mr Beattie was a giant and it took some convincing from my parents that he wasn’t”


A running joke in our family is the first day account of our youngest daughter, aged 4

“How did you get on today, darling?”

“I was hiding in the tent”


“Because Mr Beattie’s so big!”

But with height comes stature, because the real theme of this reunion is about the great man who is our special guest this morning.

Time and again, Shimna students talk about the warm welcome

“He was very kind.  I loved it when he greeted me at the semi- circle when my mum dropped me off for school. Even when I joined Shimna, he would still greet me”


And then there were the assemblies, important in any school:

  • “Mr Beattie’s assemblies were a great start to the day”

  • "My best memory is whenever we had assembly he would say ‘Good Morning’ and no matter how loud we were, he would ask us to go louder, which always put a smile on my face

  • “When we would all say: “Good Morning Mr Beattie”, it sent shivers down my spine and I just loved that”

  • “My favourite memory of Mr Beattie is when he read us the story of the big bag of worries he read it multiple times and it is my favourite thing we did in assembly.”


And then there is the Principal who is, at heart, always a teacher

In our wonderful location, someone who instilled a love of nature, befitting someone with a love of walking and climbing, an explorer at heart. 


“I always loved talking and chatting to him in the school playground. I remember one time we talked about why wasps were in a tree”


And the trips, with memories of

  • The Titanic Museum in Belfast

  • Paris

  • And so many happy memories of Tollymore and Slieve Donard

"In P7 during one of our Tollymore trips, our class was split into 3 groups and Mr Beattie was in ours. Throughout the walk he was incredibly kind, offering to carry our bags and helmets, he chatted with us like old friends.”

And the human touch was seen so many times, a principal who was always willing to step down and get stuck in

“He was the best head teacher. He would always take time out of his busy work day to step in as substitute teacher when other teachers couldn’t make it into school”

And, if you get bored of retirement, Jon, you’ve done your apprenticeship helping out in the canteen!

While we could gone on in the same vein, it’s always important to try and get behind the mask - what’s the real Mr Beattie like

It’s actually very difficult to dig the dirt on Mr Beattie - and trust me, I’ve tried!


As one of his own staff put it, “what you see is what you get”. “Mr Beattie is as straight as they come.”


At the same time, there is a sense of someone who keeps his cards close to his chest. I’m still not sure which football team he supports. That means he’s probably a United fan because, after all, why would anyone admit to that!


There is, perhaps, just a hint of an authoritarian streak in the Beattie way, so much so that his hardline approach has inspired rebellion!


“When he banned our class from playing bulldogs, we refused to play anything in protest”

“He banned running so we had to play catchies whilst walking…Honestly, it made the game more fun”


But talk of Mr Beattie’s tough line can be easily overstated

“When I started a jelly fight in the canteen, he told me off but made me feel better by telling jokes”

I remember when I was in P3, me and my friends got in trouble and we were sent to Mr Beattie. I was really scared that we were going to get shouted at but Mr Beattie was he so calm and a very nice man. We ended up missing break but Mr Beattie was so nice and kind

And an anecdote about his wedding day: part of the programme included games for the children, with Mr Beattie and his wife sitting on the floor. Mr Beattie is nothing if not child centred.


And, as Principal of an integrated school, he has possessed a powerful quality: someone who always sees the best in people, which our children appreciated

  • “His pep talks”

  • “the smiles and joy he brought to us all”

  • Recognising and rewarding good deeds

  • Opportunities like the School Council

  • And the word most used to describe Mr Beattie time and again: kindness


All Children’s motto is ‘harmony through understanding.’ As Principal, Mr Beattie led by example.

And you leave a legacy, Jon - exciting plans for a nursery unit which has taken up so much of your time down the years


News of his retirement took us all by surprise and there has been a sense of shock.

One young man commented on: ‘the worst day of my life’

“Even though I was only in All Children’s a few years with Mr. Beattie

as principal, he still knew exactly who I was many years after I had left

primary school. He was always genuinely interested in how I was

getting on at 'Big School'. Warm and genuine is how I remember him.”


“Mr. Beattie loves his students - that shines through every aspect of his

work. Even in the years after I left All Childrens, I was always greeted

with a friendly smile and words of support on my educational journey.

Thank you, Mr. Beattie!”


A few words from our family

“Thank you for making us feel so welcome”

“I will miss him”

I know these sentiments will reflect the views of countless parents and carers from down the years.

First impressions do count - but, perhaps more important, is how consistent people are. Jon, you will be remembered by the words of those who had the privilege of getting to know you while you were here: kind, calm, positive and the patience of a saint

As a fellow Dad Rocker, I can vouch for Mr Beattie’s excellent taste in music, as demonstrated by his admiration for Bruce Springsteen. As the Boss put it, “you can’t start a fire without a spark”


The esteem in which you are held, the affection for you at Shimna and, above all, the quality of the young people you have sent to us year on year is testament to the fires you have kindled


Emily McMullan was right after all: Mr Beattie is truly a giant.

Thank you, Mr Beattie.

A special thanks to Lucy Beglin for performing a musical item.




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