Special birthday celebrations for former school principal

Special birthday celebrations for former school principal

25 August 2021

FORMER Downpatrick Primary School principal Bill Nesbitt has celebrated his 100th birthday.

He was treated to special birthday treat at RAF Aldergrove Air Wing to mark his service as a Wellington bomber pilot during World War Two. 

Mr Nesbitt also taught in Castlewellan Primary School from 1948 before leaving as principal in 1965 to take up his post in Downpatrick where he remained until 1985.

Mr Niall Stevenson, current principal of Downpatrick Primary School, congratulated Mr Nesbitt on reaching his centenary on behalf of the school and former pupils and their parents,

“Bill Nesbitt is very fondly remembered by the Downpatrick PS family from his twenty years as our principal,” he said.

“We still see Bill every year as he comes to our carol service in Down Cathedral.  

“He shows a great interest in the pupils and staff of the school and he has a wealth of experience and stories from his time here.  

“The staff, former pupils and parents are delighted that he has been able to celebrate his 100th birthday in such grand style.  He has always given great service to the community, be it in the RAF and in his teaching career.  We hope to be able to welcome Bill again this Christmas to our carol service.”

While Mr Nesbitt turned 100 on July 23, the former RAF Flight Lieutenant, had a wonderful surprise last week when his family 

organised a special birthday tea at Aldergrove.  

He was welcomed by Wing Commander Jacs Rankin and several of the RAF family, as well as the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor William McCaughey.

Mr Nesbitt began his distinguished career in the RAF in 1935, serving as a navigator and also piloting a Wellington bomber during WW2. 

He was last stationed at Bishopscourt and left the RAF in 1946 before training as a teacher.

A Ballymena native but now living in Larne, he received a special Silver Poppy in recognition, remembrance and appreciation by the citizens of Mid and East Antrim Council.

Mr Nesbitt was delighted with his surprise party. “It was amazing. The special gift from the mayor will be treasured and on display at home for everyone to see,” he said.  

“The afternoon tea and cake were superb. I really enjoyed meeting young RAF officers and so appreciate them giving their time to hear about my time in the RAF during the 1940s and WW2.

“It brought back so many memories for me, from the best of days training in Canada and Florida and the amazing bond between the comrades to the saddest of days thinking of those who never came home.”

Wing Commander Jacs Rankin, who hosted the event, said: “It was such a pleasure to meet with William and members of his family. He was so interesting to talk to and he has so many stories to tell, it was enthralling, and we enjoyed spending time with this special gentleman.”

Mr Nesbitt was joined by his four surviving children — sadly one of his children passed away at the age of three. He has nine grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren, the majority of whom live in Northern Ireland.