After 50 years in the classroom Herbie is set to retire – maybe


By Annie Stewart

AT THE end of this academic year a local teacher will have been educating children for 50 years.

Herbie Barr began teaching in 1974 at Dundonald High School where he stayed until 2008 when he retired from a full time position to then begin substitute teaching.

He has continued to teach ever since, for a further 16 years, bringing him to this year’s milestone.

In 1973 Herbie finished his final year of teaching practice in Dundonald High where Gifford McConkey,the former Bangor F.C. chairman was head of the maths department, and who created a job for him which was predominantly PE with a small amount of maths.

“Gifford was heavily involved in Irish League football in those days and was very keen to have me in his department,” said Herbie.

“I taught PE for a long time but little did he know at the time that I would eventually leave the PE department to become head of maths before leaving in 2008.

Herbie says Dundonald High School played a huge part in his life and is ‘so thankful for the memories that I have from my time there’.

“I worked for seven principals during my time at Dundonald and it is the quality of those teachers that I most remember as opposed to the longevity of my time there.

“Not only did they mould Dundonald High School into a school that survived through difficult times and consistently moved forwards but also into a school that played an immense role in the wider Dundonald community.

“Dundonald is one huge family but it is with greatest affection that I remember teaching the present principal, Ken Perry, along with the plethora of Irish League footballers who were pupils at the high school.”

Herbie, who is an former Irish league referee, said he enjoyed reminding former pupils about a homework they owed him when he was refereeing.

“For a long time Dundonald school produced players who graced every Irish League ground and I admit that I would be hard pressed to pick a ‘best 11’,” he said.

“I could pick three teams that would give any present Irish League team a game with the likes of Ferguson, Larmour, Allen, Walker, Jeffrey, Kelly, Mathieson, Knell, Millar, Dickey, Brotherson and Caughey squeezing into selection.

“It certainly made my job as a referee a bit easier when I could have gone into many changing room and reminded an ex pupil that they still owed me a homework from years previous.”

Herbie advises anyone hoping to get into education to ‘just be sure it’s your calling’.

“There are many positive aspects of choosing teaching as a career but it can be challenging during present times,” he said.

“Just be sure that you’re choosing the job for the right reasons. “Teachers can be that role model, they can provide that guidance or that inspiration which encourages young people to be the best version of themselves.

“A teacher has the opportunity to have an unlimited and positive impact on children’s lives but one must have that desire.

“I always encouraged and nurtured core values like respect, fairness, empathy and good work ethic, some things which many people feel are lacking a lot of the present generation. I can honestly say I enjoyed every minute of it.”

Having reached a landmark of 50 years, Herbie openly admits he looks forward to ‘closing the book one last time’ and finally retiring from what has been a wonderful journey.

The last 16 years sub teaching has provided for continued opportunities to do what he still enjoys doing but an extended time in Lakewood school has been a source of personal fulfilment for Herbie.

Herbie jokes that he has retired 85 times but as long as he continues to get the call he will most probably continue his remarkable journey into year 51.