Storm Arwen: ‘Renowned’ and ‘dedicated’ headteacher among victims of falling trees during severe weather

Community left ‘stunned’ by death of principal hailed ‘a giant in his prime’

Andy Gregory
Monday 29 November 2021 07:36
<p>Community said to be ‘stunned’ by the death of principal teacher Francis Lagan </p>

Community said to be ‘stunned’ by the death of principal teacher Francis Lagan

Tributes have been paid to Francis Lagan, a “renowned educationalist and civic leader” who was one of three people in the UK killed by falling trees during the high winds brought by Storm Arwen.

The community in South Derry was said to be “stunned” by the sudden loss of Mr Lagan, who worked as the principal of St Mary’s Primary School in Maghera.

He was killed when a tree struck his car while travelling along the Dublin Road in County Antrim with his wife and two of their children on Friday.

“He will be sadly missed by the entire community,” said St Patrick’s College, where Mr Lagan had been a pupil in the 1990s. “Education in South Derry has lost a giant in his prime.”

Expressing her “deepest sympathy” to Mr Lagan’s friends and family, Northern Ireland’s education minister Michelle McIlveen said: “I was privileged to visit his wonderful school. He was a dedicated and passionate principal and will be greatly missed.”

Sinn Fein MLA Declan Kearney said that Mr Lagan had “made an immense contribution to the community which he served”, adding: “My thoughts and sympathies are with his family, school colleagues and students, and the wider community of Maghera, where he was held in very great regard.”

Mr Lagan’s death will have a “wide ripple effect right around the town of Maghera”, said the local constituency’s SDLP representative Patsy McGlone.

Barry Slowey, the chair of Mr Lagan’s Gaelic Athletic Association club Watty Graham’s GAC Glen, said Mr Lagan was “a gregarious character, a wonderful person, he filled the room”.

“He brought a vitality to what he did,” Mr Slowey told the BBC. “A very determined person who was never going to let anything stand in his way.”

Local parish priest Paddy Doherty, who knew Mr Lagan from his work at St Mary’s, told the Belfast Telegraph: “He had a great couple of years as principal and had great promise and put in a great amount of work. It is a great loss to the parish and community and we are all stunned by the death.”

The paper carried a statement from St Mary’s school on Sunday, which said that their “much-loved principal” and “his kindness, dedication and commitment to staff and pupils will be sorely missed”.

It added: “Our heartfelt sympathies are with his wife Louise, children Rose, Alice, Beth and Frank, his father Brian, sisters Roisin, Maura, Anne and Brenda and the wider family circle.”

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