Mourners gather to celebrate the life of Uel McCrea OBE

Friends and relatives of Uel McCrea gathered at 1st Ballyeaston Presbyterian Church today (Thursday) to give thanks for the former school principal’s life.
Uel McCrea OBE. (Pic: Freddie Parkinson).Uel McCrea OBE. (Pic: Freddie Parkinson).
Uel McCrea OBE. (Pic: Freddie Parkinson).

Mr McCrea, who had served as the head teacher at Ballyclare Secondary from 1985 until his retirement in 2010, passed away suddenly at his home in Ballyeaston on January 22.

The Belfast native, who began his teaching career at Dunmurry High in 1973 before taking up a post at Laurelhill Community College in Lisburn, became Vice Principal at Ballyclare Secondary in 1981. He then served as the Doagh Road school’s principal for two and a half decades from 1985 until retiring in 2010.

He was the “dearly loved husband of Audrey, much loved dad of Alison, loving father-in-law of Craig and devoted Grandpa of Caleb, Micah and Joshua.”

Addressing those gathered at today’s service, Alison and her husband Craig said: “He played so many roles in so many lives. He meant so much to many.

"He was born in Belfast on August 18 1949 to Irene and Samuel, weighing 12 or 13 pounds, so it was always a joke that the day he was born, Belfast welcomed the one stone baby!

"He was the youngest of three children, the late Raymond who passed away in 1988 and his sister Elizabeth.

"During his childhood the family moved to Portadown after his dad took up the ministerial post at Edenderry.

"Uel was educated at Portadown Tech and served as head boy, showing his leadership qualities at a young age.

"He met Audrey at Stranmillis and they were married in 1974. They loved to go on holidays, including happy times camping in France.

"Mum meant so much to him and after his diagnosis, almost two weeks ago, he was texting friends ‘please look after Audrey.’

"He was a dedicated grandfather. He was a rugby fan and Manchester United supporter and enjoyed the friendships he made playing golf.

"He didn’t get into grammar school and used his own experiences to inspire others and give them confidence.

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Uel McCrea OBE: Ballyclare Secondary School leads tributes to former principal

"He was a pioneer and a trailblazer in the field of secondary education and for anyone involved in the sector today, we stand on the platform that was fought for and built on by Uel McCrea.

"He knew students by name, always had time to speak to them and loved Ballyclare Secondary.

"The McCrea Suite is named at the school in his honour and he received the OBE in 2010 in recognition of his services to education, but it was the pupils and their stories that really made him proud.

"He’d a strong faith in Jesus from an early age and this was evident throughout his life.

"As a family, we’ve received strength over recent days from all the lovely messages. Thank you.”

Mr McCrea became an elder at 1st Ballyeaston on May 8 1983 and the church community paid tribute to a “faithful, devoted and highly respected” member of the congregation.

Uel was laid to rest this morning in Ballyclare Cemetery ahead of the service in Ballyeaston.

Sixth Form pupils from Ballyclare Secondary formed a guard of honour on the Doagh Road as the cortege made its way through the town and bagpipers and drummers from the school played.

A two-minute silence was held in the school as his funeral service got underway.

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