logoObituary - MRS. FLORA WOODMANby Victor Gordon.


Flora Woodman
One of Portadown's best-loved personalities, Mrs Florence Rebecca (Flora) Woodman, died recently, shortly after her 90th birthday. Mrs Woodman lived for just over 60 years at 103 Killicomaine Road, and after taking ill in May this year, she moved to Sandringham Nursing Home at Gilford Road. She was the widow of the late Donald Woodman, who was Headmaster of Portadown College from 1946-73, and is also survived by her son George, a librarian at the NI Assembly in Stormont. Mrs Woodman also had a daughter, Kathleen Maud, who tragically died at just five months old, back in 1945.

The daughter of a Methodist minister, Mrs Woodman (nee James) was born in Castlebar, County Mayo; in the days Methodist ministers served a three-year term with each church before moving on. Mrs Woodman was one of a family of three, and spent her childhood in places as far apart as Counties Mayo, Cork, and Donegal, and in Belfast. Her first settled schooling was as a boarder at Methodist College, Belfast, after which she graduated from Queen's University (1938) with a general Bachelor of Arts degree, specialising in English. Her formal education was rounded off in the National Froebal Institute in Bedford, where she qualified as a teacher and entered a career in nursery teaching, returning to Ireland and Bandon, County Cork, where she taught for a year.

This was during the war years, and she was then appointed deputy principal of the Arelian Nursery School in Belfast, the city where she met her future husband. Mr Woodman, a schoolmaster in London who served in the Royal Navy as a telegraphist and a stand-in padre, stationed on the aircraft carrier HMS Tracker which was anchored in Belfast. They met in the Royal Overseas League building in Belfast, where Mr Woodman was billeted and where his future wife was carrying out voluntary work. They married in July 1944 at University Road Methodist Church, with Mrs Woodman's father, the Rev George James, officiating.

They initially settled in Willesden, North London, near Kilburn Grammar School, where Mr Woodman taught Latin. Their daughter was born a year later in July 1945 but died on Boxing Day that year. They moved to Portadown in 1946 when Mr Woodman was appointed Headmaster of Portadown College, then at Bann House. They lived initially in a flat in Bridge Street, across the road from the College and then at Killicomaine Road, the first occupants of number 103.

Mrs Woodman, a founder member of the Portadown branch of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, has served the Portadown community with great distinction, purely on a voluntary basis over the years, initially by helping to set up one of the town;s first nursery schools, which has developed in modern times to become Edenderry Nursery Unit. A number of women helped start the project, among them Dr Winifred Hadden, another tireless community worker in the town. They also worked together to establish a family planning unit at Portadown Health Centre. Other organisations Mrs Woodman served with selfless commitment include the Church of Ireland.

Her husband was a committed Anglican, and as well as attending St Mark's regularly, his wife was a Sunday School teacher at Seagoe's St Patrick;s Hall, Killicomaine, for a number of years. She was also a keen member of the Women's Institute, of the Mothers' Union and served for many years with the town's branch of the Citizens' Advice Bureaux. Mrs Woodman also took a keen interest in politics as a member of the Edenderry Unionist Branch, contesting the 1977 Craigavon Borough Council elections as a supporter of the Brian Faulkner style of moderate Unionism. She attracted a sizeable vote, but not enough to make it into the council. A woman with a keen social conscience and one who espoused fairness, the establishment of a Northern Ireland Assembly was one of her dreams.

The funeral service was at St Mark's Church of Ireland, Portadown, with the Rector of Portadown, the Rev Jim Campbell officiating, assisted by the Rev Gary Galway, curate. Burial was in the family plot at Seagoe Cemetery.


Many thanks to Victor Gordon and the Portadown Times for permission to use.