An ex-pupil of Cookstown High School who went on become a leading business leader in Northern Ireland, has had his old assembly hall renamed in his honour.
Sir Allen McClay never forgot his Cookstown roots and at a special ceremony yesterday in what was formerly known as the Lower Hall his widow, Lady Heather McClay, unveiled a plaque in his memory.
Also attending were Ms Heather Stephenson from Almac, and Mr Alan Armstrong OBE, CEO, of the Almac Group.
Sir Allen played hockey at the school and upon leaving it he undertook a pharmacy apprenticeship, qualifying in 1953.
After a period working for Glaxo he founded his own company, Galen, which was successfully floated on the stock exchange in 1997. In 2001 he became concerned that Galen was departing from the values he believed to be important and aged 69 he took the courageous decision to resign from its board and build a new company – Almac.
The ceremony was held at midday and focussed on Sir Allen’s values and vision as a leader, entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Guests were welcomed by Mrs Heather McIvor, Chairman of the Former Pupils Association who spoke of the Association’s pride in Sir Allen’s achievements and their desire to associate themselves with them and to honour his memory.
Musical entrainment was provided by Deputy Head Boy James Marks who sang movingly ‘The perfect wisdom of our God’ by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend and Year 9 pupil Emily Millar who gave a splendid rendition of ‘Black eyes’, a traditional Russian folk melody arranged by Polly Waterfield on the violin.
Lady Heather McClay spoke of Sir Allen’s pride in his Cookstown roots, his love of school and how, although he preferred to stay out of the limelight, he would have been delighted at today’s recognition. She then unveiled the memorial plaque.
Headmaster Mr Graham Montgomery spoke of how Sir Allen demonstrated the school motto, Character through Knowledge, in his daily life and work. He described him as, “an inspirational leader who knew that the only way to build yourself up is to build others up and that before you can build an empire you first have to build a family.” The ceremony was brought to a conclusion in prayer by Rev T Greer, Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors.
Following the ceremony guests were entertained to lunch in Coolnafranky House during which Lady Heather took time to speak with everyone. At the conclusion of lunch Mrs Lynne Dripps, Chairman of the Board of Governors paid a further tribute to Sir Allen and expressed the sincere thanks of the school to Lady Heather, Alan Armstrong OBE and Ms Stephenson for taking the time from their busy schedules to be present.