Development & Alumni Relations Office 

Mary Boucher 1926 – 2013

This is written as a memoriam for an inspirational teacher and wonderful friend.

I knew Mary for fifty five years. She was my Geography teacher in Victoria College and her classroom in Lower Crescent, on the corner beside the Headmistress’s office, was a haven of calm.  In those early years she quietly, but firmly, took our class on a voyage of discovery and trained us in the many skills of a good geographer: curiosity, enquiry, analysis and  a sense of wonder  and delight in learning  of places far from Belfast in the fifties and sixties. Her room had huge wooden shutters and the most memorable lessons were those in the dark when she would show us slides of places she had been to including Canada and Nigeria. Indeed she had a close encounter with the Biafran civil war and her accounts left us feeling helpless. She instilled a sense of responsible citizenship and caring for others, which is still a mark of her influence on many of her students.

 We studied continents and one of her great skills was drawing beautiful maps on the blackboard, each a perfect replica of what was in our atlases. In preparations for public examinations she stressed how important it was to illustrate the arguments in an essay with diagrams and maps.

Outside the classroom Mary was a pioneer. In Sixth Form we journeyed on the ‘green bus’ to Ballymoney, where she picked us up in groups in her Triumph car and took us in convoy to the Ivy Leaf Guest House in Ballycastle. From there we walked to Knocklayd, Fair Head, Murlough Bay and got to grips with the real purpose of field work. Most contemporaries at that time never left their classrooms.

We had a Geographical Society and Mary ensured that speakers brought their experiences in to our eager group. Her quiet sense of humour inspired those of us who later became teachers. She had a gentle persuasiveness which underpinned her determination that we would succeed - and we were all the better for it. Under her guidance four of us won the Royal Commonwealth Society prize and she was so pleased when we made it on to U.T.V. to be interviewed by Brian Durkin. With our prize money we went to Malham Tarn to study karst scenery and there we enjoyed many formative experiences to report back.

When her students progressed to study Geography at University or College she was like a mother duck fledging her little ones. Friendships begun at school flourished and over all those years we kept in touch. Cards from distant shores where she went with Mrs Devlin’s class, tales of adventures in Iran, Indonesia and South America - she never lost her enquiring mind and search for knowledge. At old girls’ dinners she was the one at the table with the most interesting tales to tell!

Whether from old copies of the National Geographic, or newly produced television documentaries, those of us who were privileged to know her as a teacher, mentor and friend recall an inspirational and kind lady to whom we owe so much. Others have written and spoken of her many other skills in teaching, administration and singing. Many enjoyed her friendship. To a generation of her students she was a very special inspiration, and to her we owe the credit for any achievements we have made.

 

 

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