22nd October 2010 at 01:00

Ishbel Gilroy, the headteacher of Inshes Primary in Inverness, has died at the age of 55.

Mrs Gilroy, who was honoured with an OBE in 2006 for her services to Gaelic-medium education, had been absent from work through illness since the summer holidays and was receiving treatment at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary at the time of her death on October 8.

A fluent Gaelic speaker from the Isle of Lewis, she began her teaching career at Avoch Primary in 1976. She then went on to gain a postgraduate qualification in special educational needs (SEN) teaching and for four years was education development officer in the advisory service, providing advice throughout Highland on special education issues.

As headteacher at Central Primary in Inverness from 1994, Mrs Gilroy oversaw both English and Gaelic-medium classes, and spearheaded a number of successful initiatives for the council.

She was then appointed to head the new Inverness community school at Inshes in December 2006, in readiness for its opening in August 2007. The pound;6.6 million school drew pupils from Drakies, Cradlehall and Hilton primaries, and had 10 classrooms, two nursery rooms, specialist facilities for the pupils with additional support needs in whom she was so interested, a multi-agency meeting room, public library and community sports facilities including a full-size football pitch. It was, she said, a new "state-of-the-art community resource" that would be the focus of community life.

Hugh Fraser, director of education, culture and sport, said that Mrs Gilroy had made a huge contribution to education in the Highlands since taking up her first post at Avoch more than 30 years ago.

She was an inspirational leader at Central Primary, where she had also developed and overseen a thriving Gaelic-medium unit, and had continued her excellent leadership at the new community school at Inshes, which now has a roll of 430 primary and 70 nursery pupils.

"This is very sad news indeed," he said. "No tribute is high enough for a headteacher, whose leadership and mentoring skills were exceptional. Our sympathies go to her husband and family at this very sad time."

Richard Syred, acting headteacher at Inshes Primary, said that the entire school community had been deeply saddened by Mrs Gilroy's passing.

"She was," he said, "an outstanding headteacher and a wonderful mentor to everyone who worked with her. The children will sadly miss her. It was a privilege to call her a friend."

Mrs Gilroy is survived by her husband, Eric.

- Obituaries and appreciations from contributors should be emailed to, or posted to The TESS, Thistle House, 21-23 Thistle Street, Edinburgh EH2 1DF.

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