Obituary

17th July 2009 at 01:00
In memory of Mary Welsh a former headteacher in Glasgow

Mary Welsh (nee Kerins), who died last month aged 74, was head of St Angela's Primary, in the Darnley area of Glasgow, and a prominent figure in Catholic education. She spent 20 years at St Angela's, assuming the role of head when it was established in 1977, and overseeing its development into a modern and vibrant place of learning.

In this role, she was approached by the late Cardinal Winning, then Archbishop of Glasgow, to form the Association of Catholic Teachers in Primary Education, of which she was later president. Mary also belonged to a number of professional bodies, including the Educational Institute of Scotland, and she served four years on the local association committee of management.

Mary was born in Govan on Good Friday April 19, 1935. The eldest of eight children, she was known as "the heidie" by her family. They moved from the Garngad to Possilpark, where she attended St Theresa's Primary. From there, she won a scholarship to Notre Dame High, where she excelled.

Despite gaining the appropriate qualifications, Mary was too young to attend university and entered teacher training under the auspices of the Sisters of Notre Dame, later qualifying as one of the youngest primary teachers in the country.

Her career started at St Augustine's Primary, Milton, and it was then she met and married the late Terry Welsh, a historian and author who died in June 2006. They lived in Partick before spending three years in Canada. Back in Glasgow, Mary's first promotion was from St Peter's Primary in Partick to St Paul's, Whiteinch.

When she became head of St Angela's, the open-plan school was a landmark in design. The starting roll of around 90 pupils soon trebled due, in part, to new homes being built nearby. But, as the school's reputation flourished, St Angela's began to attract requests from parents living outside the catchment area. A great believer in school uniform, Mary encouraged parents to be involved in its design and promotion.

She was a strong advocate of staff training and encouraged her staff to become IT literate before computing had become mainstream in education. She was a wonderful mentor, and a number of headteacher posts in Glasgow and elsewhere are held by former members of her staff.

A stylish dresser who took great pride in her appearance, Mary read widely and had The Herald crossword completed by 10am most mornings. She loved games, especially chess. She introduced it to her pupils and ran clubs and competitions. Her devotion to St Angela's meant she rejected promotion elsewhere. She had a natural instinct for leadership, which was matched by warmth, humanity and a sharp sense of humour.

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