TRIBUTES have been paid to a school principal who died when his car was struck by a falling tree during storm Arwen on Friday.
Francis Lagan, the head of St Mary's Primary School in Maghera, Co. Derry, was driving along the Dublin Road in Antrim when the accident happened.
His wife and four children were reportedly in the car with him at the time.
Derry GAA offers its sincerest condolences to the family of Francis Lagan. A long standing member of the board of Cumann na mBunscol Dhoire, Francis was a caring and leading figure in our community, where he helped improve the life of many young people in our schools and clubs.
— Derry GAA (@Doiregaa) November 27, 2021
St Mary's expressed their shock at his passing in a statement via funeral directors JA Gormley.
"The governors, pupils and staff of St Mary's Glenview are shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden, tragic death of our much-loved Principal, Mr Lagan," it read.
"His kindness, dedication and commitment to staff and pupils will be sorely missed.
"Our heartfelt sympathies are with his wife Louise, children Rose, Alice, Beth and Frank, his father Brian, sisters Roisin, Maura, Anne and Brenda and the wider family circle.
"Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for him. May his gentle soul rest in peace."
Education Minister Michelle McIlveen described Mr Lagan as a "passionate principal".
"I want to express my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Francis Lagan following his tragic death," she said.
"I was privileged to visit his wonderful school St Mary's Primary, Glenview.
"He was a dedicated and passionate Principal and will be greatly missed by his colleagues and pupils."
Ann-Marie Kealey, principal of St Matthew's Primary School in Dundrum, Co. Derry, said Mr Lagan was "a gentle giant with a heart of gold".
"We were devastated to hear of the tragic death of Francis Lagan," she said in a statement on behalf of the school's staff and governors.
"I first got to know Francis when I was Acting Principal of St Matthew's, he was the first person to call me to offer me support and a listening ear during my first principalship.
"We had many a conversation and lots of laughs too, I knew I could always rely on Francis for sound advice and I'm sure many others in the education sector would totally agree.
"On behalf of the staff, governors and wider school community, I would like to extend our sincere condolences to his wife Louise, children, wider family circle, staff of St Mary's PS Glenview, St Finlough's PS and St Mary's PS Gortnaghey.
"You were a gentleman Francis, a gentle giant with a heart of gold, you will be sorely missed! May you rest in peace.”
Mr Lagan was a former pupil of St Patrick's College in Maghera, where his sister currently works.
In a statement, the college described Mr Lagan as "a giant in his prime".
"The entire College family is shocked to hear of the sad passing of Francis Lagan, brother of our Head of Mathematics Mrs M. Devlin," read the statement.
"Francis was a valued past pupil and Principal of our feeder Primary St Mary's, Glenview."
It added: "He will be sadly missed by the entire community. Education in South Derry has lost a giant in his prime.
"Condolences to his wife Louise, Mrs M. Devlin and the entire Lagan family. St Patrick, pray for him."
It’s with extreme sadness that we learned of the sudden & tragic death of our friend & former colleague, Francis Lagan. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this tragic time. May God grant him eternal rest & give his family strength to cope with this devastating loss. pic.twitter.com/mei2HwEENU
— St. Mary's P.S. Draperstown (@StMarysBscreen) November 26, 2021
St Eoghan's Primary School in Moneyneena, Co. Derry also paid tribute, describing Mr Lagan as “a larger than life character who loved teaching and all the children in his care”.
“He was an exceptional leader and a great friend of all the local schools who will be very much missed by everyone in education circles in South Derry,” they added.
Mr Lagan's Gaelic club, Watty Grahams, offered their support to the teacher's family.
'Great club man'
"A great club man, coach, principal, colleague, mentor, friend but more importantly a fantastic son, brother, husband and daddy," they wrote.
"We as a club and community will stand strong with the Lagan family in the days, weeks and months ahead.
"Rest in peace Francis."
Mr Lagan's funeral will be held on Tuesday, November 30 at St Patrick’s Church, Maghera.