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Lasting legacy of popular vice-principal and Gaelic footballer marked at Co Tyrone school where he taught

Frankie McGoldrick with P7 pupils are among the first to use Christopher's Cabin at St Patrick’s PS, Donaghmore. Picture by Hugh Russell

A POPULAR vice-principal and Gaelic footballer will be remembered for generations to come following the unveiling of 'Christopher's Cabin' at the Co Tyrone school where he taught.

The new facility at St Patrick's PS in Donaghmore was created in memory of Christopher Colhoun, who died of a severe strain of flu in January 2018. He was just 33.

Mr Colhoun, a father-of-two, had only been appointed vice-principal at the school less than six months before he died.

Principal Dera Cahalane said he "left a deep footprint on our hearts".

"His name will go forward in the school and all that he represented and all the positivity he brought," she said.

Ms Cahalane said almost £60,000 raised by Mr Colhoun's wife Lisa and 300 family and friends in his memory was used to create Christopher's Cabin, which will house an ICT suite and a nurture room.

It was officially opened yesterday in honour of the teacher, who was a Gaelic footballer with Pomeroy Plunketts and a member of Tyrone's 2007 McKenna Cup panel.

Mrs Colhoun and the couple's two young daughters joined family, teachers and pupils at the unveiling.

Ms Cahalane said following his sudden death, the school "wanted something representing Christopher and to leave a legacy".

"Following his death, Lisa decided she wanted to do something in his memory so she ran the Belfast Marathon and along with her, there were teachers, school governors, parents, members of the Donaghmore community, the Clonoe community and from Pomeroy, they all got involved," she said.

"From all the fundraising and support, she then presented us with an amazing cheque for almost £60,000.

"We knew straight away that we wanted something lasting, we wanted something representing Christopher and to leave a legacy. We are a mushrooming school, we are bursting at the seams, so we need the additional space and decided we wanted to get a portacabin. While £60,000 is a lot of money, it is a drop in the ocean when you are wanting to buy a portacabin."

She added that when Covid hit, demand for portacabins intensified.

"But a local company, Western Buildings, got in touch and said one would become available at the start of the year," she said.

"It was delivered on March 5 and to me it was very much a Cinderella story because what I would call our fairy godfathers and fairy godmothers stepped in and worked their magic on it.

"From what it was then to what it is now, is incredible."

Ms Cahalane said the facility has been divided into two rooms.

"The first is a new ICT suite as ICT was Christopher's key area," she said.

"It has 18 PCs and an interactive white board.

"Then there's the Rainbow Room to be used for circle time and nurturing activities.

"I also use it for my drawing and talking therapy - it is a wonderful relaxation room for pupils, particularly our younger pupils."

She said that Christopher's Cabin was a wonderful tribute to a teacher who had made such a difference in a short space of time at the school.

"Christopher was just 'Mr Positivity', there was always a positive in everything he did," she said.

"His class, who are now P7, had a great deal in input into the cabin, we really wanted them to have that input.

"His name will go forward in the school and all that he represented and all the positivity that he brought.

"Christopher may have only been at the school for a short period of time, but he left a deep footprint on our hearts."

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