Remembering the late, great Anna Gallagher

The late Anna Gallagher.
The late Anna Gallagher.

Anna Gallagher, who died in Culmore Manor on April 9th, was one of Derry’s great educators.

A long-time teacher and vice principal at St. Anne’s Primary School in Rosemount, her teaching memories went back to the 1940s. Indeed, although she retired in 1988, many of her educational aids and books continue to be used by teachers in the school to this day.

Elizabeth Anne orAnna, as she was affectionately known, was born to Hugh and Nora Gallagher in 1923, one of six surviving children. Formerly of Bishop Street and Nualamount Drive, in recent years she lived with her sisters Agnes, Clare (pre-deceased) and brother, Pappy, in O’Donovan Road. Another brother, well-known builder Alphonsus (Sonny) Gallagher, had died in 1971, while another sister, Philomena, now resides in a nursing home in Randalstown.

Anna often spoke lovingly of her parents. Hers was an upbringing of its time; one that instilled the traditional values of hard work, education and achievement. Yet there was time for fun. Anna, along with her brothers and sisters enjoyed their annual holiday in Portstewart, where the family visited for the month of August. Anna’s own path in life took her on to Craiglockhart College (now part of Edinburgh Napier University) and into teaching, which she embraced with a true vocation.

Anna began her teaching career at Rosemount Girls in days when classrooms of 60 children were not unusual. Anna spoke of having to light a fire each morning, one that, unfortunately, belched more smoke than it did heat! Yet her commitment to educating generations of Derry’s children never wavered. She remained, through its transition to St. Anne’s Primary and the modern school it now is, reaching the position of vice-principal, before her retirement in 1988.

Anna’s vocation to learning extended very much to her own family. A loving and dedicated aunt to her nieces and nephews and in later life, grand-nieces and nephews, she showed a great interest and concern for them in all things, not least their education. Even on Friday night, sitting by her bedside, reminiscences were shared of after school 11 Plus papers. She was always on hand too for support, guidance and above all, great kindness.

Anna led a full life with many varied interests and hobbies. She loved to travel, combining curiosity for new experiences with her own deep religious faith. She travelled several times to Oberammergau where the world renowned Passion Play is performed every 10 years. She had a strong devotion to Padre Pio and, along with her sister Clare, for many years organised an annual pilgrimage to San Giovanni.

She especially loved Italy, not least for its art and culture which influenced her own creativity in later life. Her home was adorned with her many paintings.

After retiring from primary school teaching, Anna immersed herself in charitable work.

Each week for many years she made a recording of the Royal National Institute of Blind People’s talking newspaper for the visually impaired. When no longer able to travel abroad she continued to keep her mind active and stimulated. Reading, crosswords and ‘Beat a puzzle,’ shared along with her brother Pappy, were regular features of her day.

It was testament to her life-long love of learning that when she went into hospital in January, in what was to be her final illness, her doctor commented that no patient had ever before quoted Shakespeare to him!

May she rest in peace.