logoObituary: Billy Tate MBE (PC 1965 - 1972)
With thanks to Portadown Times.



A member of a highly-esteemed Portadown family who has died after a short illness, was so highly respected in the cross-community aspect of life that Irish President Mary McAleese paid him a glowing tribute. Describing him as an outstanding pioneer and champion of mutual cultural curiosity and respect across Northern Ireland's two traditions, Mrs McAleese added, "He enriched many lives and leaves a legacy of great goodness, many myths eliminated and friendships made.

"He was glad to see the dawn of peace in which he invested so much, so courageously. Billy bore his illness with typical bravery and I would like to express my deepest sympathy to his family and to all his colleagues and pupils."

Mr Tate (56) is survived by his wife Margaret and four children - Craig, Ryan, Ross and Anna. Their home is at Anaghanoon Road, Waringstown. Originally one of a family of nine born to Harold and Molly Tate of Burnbrae Avenue, Portadown, he is also survived by brothers Brian, Clive and David, and sisters Carol, Myrtle, Margaret and Elizabeth. He was predeceased by his brother James.

Billy Tate was educated at Thomas Street Primary School (later joined with Church Street to form the Millington), Portadown College, Stranmillis Teachers Training College and Queen's University where he attained a Bachelor of Education Degree before entering a distinguished teaching career. And in the course of that career, he gained further international and masters degrees through the University of Hull.

His first post in education was at Armagh Secondary School (1984-90) where he rose to become Head of Department, and from there he moved to Aughnacloy Regional Primary School (1990-2004). And with Aughnacloy being so close to the border with County Monaghan, he initiated a number of cross-community projects with the neighbouring Ulster county.

He continued this ethos of life when he moved to Belvoir Park Primary School in South Belfast, and really hit the headlines when he introduced the sport of hurling to the school which serves a mainly Protestant part of the city. His sincerity and force of personality won over the sceptical parents, and perhaps the greatest tribute to his memory was the fact that two minutes silence were observed at Croke Park where a cross-community hurling match was held between the children of the Shankill and the Falls on Thursday, June 17.

His MBE was for services to education, and he gained a plethora of honours for his tireless work in cross-community co-operation, for his expertise in education and his general compassion for people in general. These included the AIB ‘Better Ireland’ Award; the Prize for Tolerance from the European City of Strasbourg; Fellowship of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts; Membership of the Chartered Management Institute; Master of Business Leadership; Diploma in Education Leadership; Honorary Student of Stranmillis SRC; and he was a Past President of the NI Association of Head Teachers.

In his websites, Mr Tate listed his personal interests as reading, music and rugby and he was proud of being a member of the Class of ‘72 at Portadown College. He was especially proud of being in charge of a school where all opinions mattered, not least in recent years, with so many immigrant children from places as diverse as Europe, Asia, Africa and South America attending the school.

South Belfast MP Alasdair McDonnell - in whose constituency Belvoir Park is situated - said, “Billy Tate just wasn’t any educationalist. He was a great educationalist, both inside and outside the classroom situation. We are numbed by the news of his death, and he will be sorely missed. He devoted himself to his family, to his school and to a wide section of people across the island of Ireland.” Mary McAleese’s representative was among the hundreds who attended the funeral service at First Lurgan (Hill Street) Presbyterian Church where Mr Tate and his family worshipped. Interment was at Lurgan Cemetery. The Rev David Henry, minister of the church, officiated.