Tribute to Jim Grant

15 February 2013

An outstanding individual who lived life to the full despite adversity

Jim Grant was born outside Buncrana, the second child of Hugh and Elizabeth Grant. He attended the local National School where it was noted he was highly intelligent and so he proceeded to St Columb's College, Derry. There he excelled in all subjects, obtaining exceptionally high marks in Physics, Additional Mathematics and Art.

Deciding on a teaching career he trained first in St Mary's College, Belfast and later in Stranmillis College where he gained the Outstanding Merit Award for teaching. An advocate of life-long learning, he went on to obtain an Honours Degree from the Open University and a Masters Degree from the University of Ulster in Coleraine.

His long teaching career of forty years began in Newtownstewart Primary School as an assistant and then as Principal of Gallon Primary School. However, having trained for secondary teaching, he was appointed as a staff member of St Patrick's High School Omagh when it opened in 1959. There he taught Science and Religious Education.

He was a popular teacher who believed every child should be encouraged to realise his/her potential and many years into his retirement he could instantly recall the names, personalities and life stories of the many pupils he taught.

On his retirement, WELB Chief Officer, MHF Murphy, writing on behalf of the Board stated: “The high esteem in which you are held by your colleagues, pupils, parents and the community says much for your dedication and commitment and your outstanding qualities as a teacher.”

His main hobbies were gardening, golf, sailing and European travel. Round his home in Retreat Close he created a greatly admired wooded garden. He loved his golf, joining Newtownstewart Golf Club when he was twenty years old and became both Captain and President. With his friend, the late Colm Devlin, he built a boat in the basement of his house. When his health permitted he sailed on Lough Erne and along the coast of South West Donegal. Motoring was a special joy and he and his wife travelled all over France and Italy.

He was a dedicated husband who supported his wife, Bernadette, in her public commitments as a District Councillor and as a member of several public bodies. He was particularly pleased when she was the first woman to be elected to Omagh District Council in 1977.

Though he was a strong man, renal failure afflicted him for most of his life and in 1973 he was one of the first in Northern Ireland to receive a kidney transplant. It was a dangerous operation at that time but Jim faced this hurdle with resilience and fortitude and eventually became the longest surviving kidney transplant patient in Northern Ireland. He steadfastly refused to let medical conditions get him down however difficult they became. He was truly an inspiration to anyone facing failing health. Jim had a wonderful knack of making light of his ailments and often joked: "In me you can recognise an intellectual man with a posh accent – my kidney came from Oxford!"

Jim Grant was a big man in every sense who lived life to the full and he will be sadly missed.

The above tribute was written by Jim’s wife Bernadette Grant (nee McGovern). Bernadette trained as a teacher at St Marys Training College from 1946-1948. Mother Ailbe was the Principal at the time. Bernadette described the course as wonderful.
Her career has covered a wide range of roles:

1948-1949: Assistant Teacher in Newtownsaville Primary School.
1949-1961: Principal Teacher Correnary School.
1951: A course in physical education in preparation for secondary school teaching. Taught by two department inspectors.
1955-1956: Stranmillis College - English with special reference to speech and drama.
1961-1989: Senior Teacher Saint Brigid’s High School Omagh.
1977: First woman elected to Omagh District Council.
1978: Open University – BA honours 2.1.
1982: University of Ulster – MA (Adult Education}.
1990-1995: Queen’s University Belfast - qualified as a solicitor.

Bernadette has also served as a member of several public bodies including:

PBNI Probation Board NI; USEL Ulster Shelter Employment Limited; Western Education Library Board; Western Health Social Services; Senate of Queen's University Belfast.

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