Glasgow & West Scotland

Coronavirus: Greenock pupils find safe way to honour teacher

Rhys McCole and Gerry McHugh Image copyright Rhys McCole
Image caption Rhys McCole thought his teacher Gerry McHugh was just the best

School pupils in Inverclyde have found a safe way to honour a teacher who died with coronavirus during the lockdown.

The death of maths teacher Gerry McHugh, 58, on Saturday, shocked the school community at Greenock's Notre Dame High.

Due to lockdown restrictions, pupils were unable to leave flowers or attend a funeral.

Instead they wore red and posted images in memory of the lifelong Manchester United fan.

When his death was announced on Saturday, many pupils expressed their sadness online that they would not be able to pay respects at his funeral because of lockdown restrictions.

They soon came up with a way to remember the much-loved teacher while observing social distancing - creating the social media hashtag #redforgerry.

Mr McHugh regularly attended Man United games at Old Trafford and his classroom was decorated with memorabilia.

Those who wanted to show their appreciation were urged to wear red and post a picture using the tag.

The hashtag was launched on Sunday and hundreds of pupils and friends posted tributes to the inspirational teacher described as "a lovely man inside and out".

The hashtag ended up trending on Twitter.

One of those who posted was Greenock boxer Rhys McCole. A former pupil, he said: "Mr McHugh was a great man and teacher who encouraged and included everyone, he was always checking on me and wanting me to achieve the best I could.

"I will continue to follow his wise words."

As well as posting a photograph of him with the teacher, he posted a picture of himself wearing a red boxing outfit and gloves as part of the tribute.

Others wore red T-shirts and recounted their memories of the teacher, while Inverclyde Council turned its usually blue logo to red in remembrance.

Another former pupil, Karen Hunter praised Mr McHugh for inspiring her to study maths and become a teacher herself.

She told the BBC: " I was a pupil of Gerry's for Higher maths, I then went on to study maths and then secondary teaching.

"I did a placement in Notre Dame with Gerry as principal teacher and then worked with him for more than a year before moving to my current school where I have been for 21 years where I am now depute.

"He was an incredible man who inspired a number of students to go into teaching - if we can be as half as good as he was then we are doing well."

'A true gentleman'

Notre Dame head teacher Kate Couttie announced the news of Mr McHugh's death on Saturday.

She said: "It is with the greatest of sadness that I have to report that Mr Gerry McHugh passed away this afternoon. His family cared for him deeply and are very proud of him and what he achieved.

"This loss will have a devastating effect on our entire school community, our mathematics department who loved him dearly, the wider staff who found him a rich source of experience and knowledge as well as our pupils and parents (past and present) all of whom respected him so highly."

She added: "Every teacher hopes that they can make a connection with young people - Gerry had a unique gift in being able to inspire every single pupil who walked through his classroom door.

"Pupils at Notre Dame High School loved learning mathematics because of him. Gerry had a kind word for everyone he spoke to, he was also funny, committed and caring in everything he did for our school - a true gentleman."

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