logoObituary - MISS NORA HARVEYBy Niall Crozier


Years ahead of her time and a teacher par excellence.

A former teacher at Portadown College, who taught Latin, English and History for a quarter of a century - 1948 to 1973 - has died of a stroke. Miss Nora Harvey died on Thursday, April 12th, 2007. Following a private family service, she was buried in Legacurry Church cemetery, near Lisburn. She was 88. Miss Harvey attended Wallace High School before going to Stranmillis College, where she trained to be a teacher. She then successfully completed a BA at Trinity College, Dublin.

Pupils of Portadown College's Preparatory Department were the first to enjoy and benefit from her imaginative, joy-filled approach to teaching. After two years there, she was invited by the then-headteacher of the senior school, Mr Donald Woodman, to join him in the classics department. Over the course of the 25 years she taught at Portadown College, she did not miss a single day. She made a major impact on generations of pupils, for her caring nature, approachability and natural warmth made her the most popular of teachers.

Even so, she had high expectations, for each pupil was expected to work hard and be the very best that he or she could be. But she possessed that factor X which meant her charges wanted to please her. Behaviour issues did not arise, therefore. No-one wanted to disappoint her; quite the opposite. Most former pupils will remember Miss Harvey's Latin lessons in particular. She made the subject interesting, relevant and fun. Lessons were permeated with laughter and warm good humour. Certainly noone who sat through her lessons can have forgotten the rhythmic chanting, of which she was champion, of "amo, amas, amat" or "dominus, domine, dominum". Rote learning - and it worked.

In many ways she was far ahead of her time, for she had 'individualised learning plans' for each pupil and implemented 'differentiation by task, outcome and encouragement' long before these terms had even been thought of by teaching gurus. Her one-to-one attention and tireless support were reflected in outstanding examination results. That, however, was just part of her appeal, for her interest in pupils' lives within the school and outside it, coupled with her willingness to listen and advise, gave her a status which went far beyond the boundaries of mere subject-teaching. Not only was she a born teacher, she was also a wonderful person.

Pupils attending Portadown College in 1973 were extremely sorry to hear of Miss Harvey's intention to take early retirement, for there was a distinct feeling that things were unlikely to be the same again. That marked the end of an era. Miss Harvey had been a key player in a Golden Age of teaching and learning at the school to which she and so many others - the likes of Don Woodman, William Navan, Raymond Purdy, Ray Stewart, Roland Turner, 'Bud' Graham, Bill Dickey, Cyril Abraham and Jimmy Chambers - gave so much and made so many major contributions. Those of us who studied under teachers of that calibre were indeed privileged and fortunate.

Although they wanted the best possible results for their pupils, 'teaching to the test' was not for them. They were committed to education as a whole, and to helping individuals reach their potential so that when they left to enter the world they did so as well-rounded, confident, principled young adults. It is a reflection of the esteem in which Miss Harvey was held that so many of her former pupils kept in touch and visited her years after her supposed 'retirement', even after her move to Donaghadee in the early 80s and then to Orlock near Groomsport in 2005.

In spite of the interesting and worthy activities in which she had been involved - teaching English to the Vietnamese boat people in Durham and teaching in America for a year among them - rather than talk about these, she was always far more interested in what others were doing. She asked questions. She listened. She oozed appreciation. You were left in no doubt that a letter, card, a small gift or a brief visit meant much to her. Her appreciation was matched by her generosity, kindness, thoughtfulness and modesty. A little time spent with Miss Harvey made you feel a better person. She will be missed by many, for she has left an indelible mark. She made a difference. We are so privileged to have known her and shared her friendship.


Many thanks to The Portadown Times for permission to use.