Mr John McGrath

“And still they gazed and still the wonder grew,

That one small head could carry all he knew,

But past is all his fame. The very spot

Where many a time he triumphed is forgot.”

So run the words in the last few lines of Oliver Goldsmith’s epic poem, ‘The Village Schoolmaster’.

And while its Genesis is almost 300 years ago the words are as appropriate today when one remembers John McGrath, of Minerstown, a true village schoolmaster, who passed away a few short days ago.

For in essence he was a ‘master’ in every respect but, as his myriad pupils would attest, never a harsh disciplinarian nor one whose draconian whims had to be instantly obeyed.

No. John was a gentle genial  soul and a gentleman to all.

His knowledge, not only of the teaching profession, but the wider world around him was expansive.

Ask him a question on practically any subject and his answer was quick and accurate.

So it was no surprise that his many pupils at Legamaddy Primary School not only loved their Master, but also appreciated the sound grounding he gave them for later life.

He will be sadly missed by a large community and all who ever encountered him.

Sadly the cruelty of the COVID-19 lockdown has deprived hundreds from paying the respects in person they would have liked to accord this fine man.

But we have the memories and the tangible results of his endeavours over the years to make those going out into the world better equipped to meet all the challenges it can throw at them.

It was a pleasure to have known John over a long period of time; it was a privilege to have had him set the Drake children on their individual roads to life.

The condolences of a very wide circle are extended to his family at this trying time.

Michael J Drake,