Teacher who won highest honours

A former headteacher who was awarded two prestigious honours for his contributions to Catholic education has died.

Joe Connolly, 76, spent 25 years at the helm of The Blessed Cuthbert Mayne RC High School on St Anthony’s Drive, Fulwood, Preston, which his six children also attended.

Mr Connolly retired when the school merged with St Edmund Campion to become what is now know as Our Lady’s RC High School in 1988.

His efforts in education spheres earned him the OBE in the 1984 New Year’s Honours List and he was also awarded the Knighthood of St Gregory from the Pope five years later.

Mr Connolly, born in Wallasey, was one of 11 children of Edith and Simon Connolly.

He attended school in the Lake District and later became a Bevan Boy working in the mines during the war years.

The grandfather-of-eight, from Jepps Avenue, Barton, near Preston, went on to achieve a history degree at Liverpool University where he later completed his teaching certificate. Mr Connolly became a teacher at St Anselms RC School in Birkenhead and other posts later followed in Northamptonshire and Warwickshire.

He married his late wife Ann, a primary school teacher, on July 29, 1959 in Heswall on the Wirral and the couple had six children – James, Ann, Joseph, Peter, Francis and Maria.

They moved to Lancashire in 1963 when Mr Connolly was appointed as the first headteacher of The Blessed Cuthbert Mayne RC High School in Fulwood – later St Cuthbert Mayne RC High School.

His daughter Ann Murphy, 40, said: “So many people in Preston knew him because of his ties with the school.

“He was very dedicated to his pupils. While he set very high standards, pastoral care was equally important to him.

“Receiving his OBE from the Queen was a very proud moment for him. We travelled down to London and it was very exciting. His only regret was that not all of his children could go into Buckingham Palace with him.”

Mr Connolly was also a former clerk to the governors at St Anthony’s RC Primary, Fulwood and at St Mary’s and St Andrew’s RC Primary, Barton.

A keen gardener, Mr Connolly also enjoyed classical music and DIY. He was a member of St Mary’s Church at Barton where he helped with Communion services and was a regular reader.

His daughter, Maria Connolly, 31, said: “His family was his life and he was the kind of dad who would do anything for you at any time.”

Mr Connolly’s funeral took place yesterday at St Mary’s Church, Barton.