The red carpet treatment as Mr Farrell arrives at school for the last time.The red carpet treatment as Mr Farrell arrives at school for the last time.
The red carpet treatment as Mr Farrell arrives at school for the last time.

Picture special: Farewell Mr Farrell

It was with a heavy heart that Francis Farrell decided to call it a day as head teacher of St Athanasius Primary School in Carluke.

For the school, its staff, pupils and parents have been like a home away from home for him for 14 years.

However, with his wife Jacqueline already retired and son Paul now at university, the 63-year-old wants to spend more time with his family.

His last day in charge may have been April Fool’s Day but the school community pulled out all the stops to make sure Francis had a fitting send off.

He said: “I was on strict instructions not to arrive before 9.30am. A Bentley arrived outside our home in Carluke at 9.05am.

"We took a wee drive out to Newmains, then back through the streets of Carluke, arriving at the school bang on 9.30am.”

A red carpet and a piper greeted Francis, along with a picture wall of memories from his time at the school. He was also presented with a cloak and cap which he wore most of the day.

The morning was spent saying farewell to each class before a garden party was held at noon, attended by staff, pupils and parents – all safely socially distanced.

Francis said: “It was a very emotional day and difficult for me to keep those emotions at bay. I can’t thank everyone enough for their kindness and gifts.”

Among those was a baby grand piano which Francis, a solo singer, plans to put to very good use.

There are too many highlights of his time at St Athanasius to recount here but Francis shared a couple of stories with us.

“When I moved to St Aths in September 2007, the school was decanted into the old Carluke PS. We were still there on Valentine’s Day in 2009 when I saw the postman coming with big boxes.

"I joked with a colleague that we must be popular – then discovered it was notice of an HMIE inspection!”

The official opening of the new school adjacent to the Lifestyles Centre in August 2009 will also remain a fond memory, as will working with Carluke Development Trust on the Jam and Ham Festival.

"We started hosting annual concerts and they just grew and grew. I remember we managed to squeeze 387 pupils onto the stage!”

Francis also left a lasting legacy for pupils in the form of their school song, which they sang for its writer and composer with much gusto as they said goodbye.

"The school didn’t have its own song so I decided to write one when I was on holiday in Italy,” said Francis. “The pupils gave it their all on my last day and I know they will sing it for many years to come. It’s a nice legacy to leave them with.”

Having postponed his decision for a year to see the school through the pandemic, Francis feels it is now time to pass the reins on.

He added: “I have a favourite piece of music by Phil Coulter, Home Away From Home. St Aths has been my home away from home. I have my own family and my school family.

"Sometimes we need to give up or lose something special in order to gain something precious.

"Having people to love is family, having somewhere to go is home. To have had both at school and home has been a blessing.”

Francis will remain in Carluke, as the town is now home. And St Aths may not have seen the last Farrell walk the corridors either – as Paul is now considering a teaching career.

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