‘To teach is to touch a life forever’.
One incredible Coleraine family is living proof of that saying and now the parents of the 14 Macauley children have been moved to pay tribute to the local teachers who inspired their offspring.
Parents Brendan and Angela have just celebrated the graduation of the last of their successful children - all 14 of whom have enjoyed hugely successful university careers at some of the top educational establishments such as Oxford, Cambridge and the London School of Economics.
And now the Guinness Book of Records has shown an interest in the family group - mum and dad were among the first graduates of the New University of Ulster in Coleraine back in the 1970s - in the category of ‘Most Siblings and their Parents to obtain a Bachelors degree.’
Speaking to the Times, Brendan said: “My wife Angela was one of the first batch of students at the New University of Ulster, Coleraine. We were married in 1971 and Angela graduated in 1972. We moved away but returned to Coleraine in 1975 so I could study English at the university.
“Angela and I ended up with fourteen kids, eight boys and six girls. They all excelled at school. All passed the 11 Plus.
“The Belfast Telegraph ran a front-page story to highlight their achievement.
“They have gone to the top universities in Belfast, Oxford, Cambridge, and LSE London etc. Now all the birds have flown the nest. This summer our final two children graduated - Abraham in Chemistry from St. Andrews and Angela in Neuroscience from Edinburgh.
“We now live in Portaferry having moved here in 1998. When we all get together at Christmas, special times or daily on WhatsApp, our thoughts often turn with gratitude to our time in Coleraine.
“Our children attended Loreto College, Coleraine High School, Coleraine Inst and Dominican College, Portstewart, but it’s usually the primary school teachers from St. Malachy’s and St. John’s that are the favourite topic.”
Brendan explained that different children remember different things about specific teachers, such as music graduate daughter Nora who described Miss Keenan as ‘the best music teacher in the world’ while Brendan Junior added: “She was also very good looking”.
Recalling their primary school teachers, Mary said McAuley was a star while Aaron remembered Mr Magee as a great football coach.
Shann recalled Mr O’ Driscoll taking Irish dancing during break time while John said that Mr and Mrs McMacken were ‘inspirational’ while David remembered Terence McMacken as an excellent soccer coach.
Ruth remembered Mrs Bakewell who ‘was lovely’ while Hannah mentioned Mr Curry, Miss Maloney and Mr Polan. Patrick recalled memories of Sister Olive, Sister Geraldine and Mrs Jack.
Paying tribute to the Coleraine teachers who set the Macauley children on the path of great academic success, Brendan said: “Good teaching has always been emotionally, intellectually and physically draining. Nowadays the implementation of the National Curriculum under the critical eyes of politicians and government must make it overwhelming.
“Generally Angela and I have found teachers to be great allies in rearing our children. Primary school teachers are the salt of the earth, the one profession positively shaping all other professions.
“Our daughters Mary and Hannah are saving the lives of mothers and babies worldwide through Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine’s Centre of Maternal and Newborn Health programmes. I wonder just how much of what they are achieving is down to the caring teachers who influenced and shaped their formative years?
“I don’t believe our future depends on new technological and scientific inventions and breakthroughs.
“It lies in the hands of good parents and good teachers because that’s where it all springs from.
“Over the years as we’ve proudly watched our fourteen children graduate from the world’s top universities, Angela and I have always spoken well of and given thanks for the army of hardworking teachers who have invested so much into our family.
“Thank you, Coleraine teachers!”