Mrs Gough locks up for her final time

The 400 pupils at St Joseph’s Primary School in Lisburn will be bidding a tearful farewell to their principal of 14 years, Maria Gough today (Friday).

Maria Gough, principal at St Joseph's Primary School, is retiring after 36 years at the school. US1426-564cd Picture: Cliff Donaldson

Mrs Gough (58) was the first lay head teacher at the convent school which was opened in 1902 and run by the Sacred Heart of Mary Order of Sisters.

Maria, a granny and mother of four, is married to Kevin who is principal of Edmund Rice College in Glengormley, and she hopes to spend more time with her family.

“I look forward to bringing Amy, Bronagh and Ronan to playgroup, nursery and eventually school and being a real granny to these and hopefully other grandchildren,” she said.

She also hopes to spend more time doing the things she loves such as flower arranging, gardening, walking and reading.

“Hopefully I will take up Art and Craft classes, but will be looking for exciting voluntary activities to get involved in which will help others enjoy,” she said.

Mrs Gough originally from Roslea, was the only girl to a family of 12.

Trained in St Mary’s College Belfast (1974-1978) she worked at St Marks Primary where she spent 22 years, five as Vice-Principal.

For 11 years she was Trocaire’s NI Development Education Officer working at raising the profile of poverty related issues in Third World Countries to primary schools in NI.

In 2000 Mrs Gough was appointed Principal at the convent school.

“The sisters Motto ‘He came so that they could have life and have it to the full’, I felt was my aim for the children in St Joseph’s,” said Mrs Gough.

“The children would have wonderful experiences in St Joseph’s which help them to enjoy life to the full.

“I have a passion for developing Gaelic culture in sport, music, dance, song and poetry and passing on Irish traditions to keep these alive for the next generation.”

In September 2000, 165 children enrolled, 14 in P1. Last year 97 families applied for one of 60 places available in P1. There are now 395 pupils at the school.

“To this day I am so proud of the families who choose to send their children to St. Joseph’s and I have never taken that for granted,” said Mrs Gough.

She praised the children and staff for their help throughout the years.

“I will miss the dedicated people who work in the school.

“Those people go the extra mile to make sure that the children’s every talent and ability is stimulated and nurtured so that they experience success.

I am proud of the work they do.”