Lives Remembered

Brian McComish: From Belfast to Brazil, an 'unforgettable human being'

BRIAN McComish was a true asset to humanity who made life much more bearable for many, both in his adopted country of Brazil and his home country of Ireland.

The second son of seven siblings, he excelled at languages from an early age at St Mary’s Christian Brothers Grammar School in Barrack Street, Belfast.

French later became a source for many important life decisions and was instrumental in getting to know his future wife, Celia.

Brian's journey to St Mary’s was via St Peter’s PS in Warrenpoint and the Christian Brothers on Belfast's Donegall Street.

He was an outgoing, studious pupil who valued interaction with other young people.

He was instrumental in helping establish the debating society at St Mary's and enjoyed the cut and thrust within the cross-community school debating sector.

Brian also enjoyed Irish studies and was extremely proud of his fáinne óir for proficiency in Irish and the gold pin was a constant fixture on his lapel.

He revelled in his Easter visits to the Rannafast Gaeltacht and the good friends he made while enjoying fireside stories by the legendary Micí Sheáin Néill – the content of which supported the development of his strong social conscience.

Aged 17, Brian entered Queen's University where he studied French and Sociology and was a valued member of the rowing club, coxing many winners and getting the traditional ducking for his pains.

He moved to St Joseph’s teacher training college and really enjoyed his probationary year in Holy Cross Primary School in Ardoyne. That little class of boys lit the fuse for his lifelong love of education.

A further study year in advanced French and audio-visual teaching methods followed at the Sorbonne University in Paris.

Brian then decided to move to Birmingham, Alabama where he obtained a High School teaching post for three years.

This was at a time of great challenge and social unrest in that area and he applied his advice and support to many of those suffering from prejudicial segregation.

There was panic in his parents' household one day when he called to say he had been drafted for the US Army in Vietnam, until a letter from his Belfast doctor confirming his asthma resulted in his rejection.

While teaching in Alabama Brian met Celia, there to visit her surgeon brother.

They decided to re-locate to her country of birth, Brazil, where they married and had two beautiful children, followed by two adored grandchildren.

Brian quickly became fluent in Portuguese and put his linguistic, business and people skills to good use when he joined a fledgling educational company in Rio de Janeiro called CCAA (Centro de Cultura Anglo Americana).

His innovation in, and enthusiasm for, the audio-visual method of teaching English, his prodigious hard work and his talented and loyal staff saw him at the forefront of considerable expansion across Brazil, along with the partnerships with universities in Miami, Washington and London.

He sent many Brazilian students on English language courses to the US and England, so many in fact that he established a travel company for that purpose.

His TV and cinema advertisements for CCAA, written and directed by himself, employed international stars such as Pelé and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

At one stage CCAA had half a million students in Brazil alone, making it the second largest English language learning organisation in the world.

The high quality of his teacher-training courses was recognised when a university library in Saõ Paulo was named in his honour.

Underneath his name, the inscription "Um Ser Inesquecível" (An Unforgettable Human Being) demonstrates the high regard in which his adopted country held him and still do to this day.

Brian's academic and business reputation and knowledge of Brazil and its people also came to the notice of Ireland’s Department of Foreign and he was appointed Honorary Irish Consul in 2000.

He provided a full range of services to many Irish people, some unfortunately in difficult and sensitive situations, and was instrumental in arranging a number of official visits, including that of President Mary McAleese in 2004.

Brian’s broad sense of humour, his love of storytelling, his ability to find something to smile at in most situations and his compassion for, and interest in, all types of people was all-embracing.

It expressed itself in support (without fanfare) for the downtrodden and disadvantaged, a trait referred to in the hundreds of messages of condolence his family received from former colleagues and friends.

Brian McComish died on April 12 and is survived by ... his and siblings Terry, Brian, Michele, Desmond, Gabrielle and Martina.


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Lives Remembered