Celebrations for class act: students set attendance record


TURLOUGH McGARRITY models himself on the Pony Express: he always gets through. Hail, rain or snow, 11-year-old Turlough made sure that he would never miss a day at Omagh Integrated Primary School.

Yesterday, his headmaster Nigel Cairns and his class teacher Roger Clarke congratulated him after he became the first pupil in the Co Tyrone school’s 21-year history never to take a day off.

His father, Joseph, says of him: “He’s always a very committed lad. His mother and I have always tried to encourage him – and it wasn’t difficult really.”

The McGarrity family is steeped in education. Five of young Turlough’s aunts and his grandmother were teachers.

Joseph McGarrity, a solicitor, says his teacher relatives have remarked on “how well he was taught”.

“He just enjoyed going to school and he never wanted to miss a day. He told me a few years ago ‘Daddy, I can get through this without missing a day’.”

Meanwhile, Turlough is more than capable of speaking for himself.

In eight years at the school surely he was occasionally tempted to snatch an extra 10 minutes in bed or to cry off because of a bad cold or a bout of flu?

“Oh, there were times when I was feeling sick but I still went in anyway,” said Turlough yesterday.

Last winter with the freezing conditions there were times when the school bus to the school two miles away on the other side of Omagh didn’t run.

His mother braved the snow drifts, however, to deliver him to the school gates before the first bell.

He was a couple of years in the integrated school when he decided he would be a record-breaker.

“I hadn’t missed a day, so I decided then that I would try my hardest never to be a day off school.”

He finished up at the primary school yesterday afternoon and after the school holidays he is heading to the Christian Brothers grammar school in the town.

Ultimately, he hopes to be an airline pilot. He has seven years ahead of him at second level and is confident he will maintain his record of never missing a day. “No sweat!” he said.