Development & Alumni Relations Office 


Pat Deery, BA, MSc (Died 17 March 2020, aged 79)


Submitted by son, Manus Deery


Pat Deery, was among that exceptional first generation of students to pass the 11+ and win a scholarship to St Columb’s College. Born in the Bogside in 1940, Pat was the eldest of four siblings and was the first in his family to attend post-primary education. Six years later he graduated with a State Exhibition in maths at the same time as fellow St Columb’s student Seamus Heaney.


He studied Applied Maths at Queen’s, graduating in 1961 and stayed on to do a post grad. He thoroughly enjoyed his time in Belfast getting into Modern Jazz and playing his trombone. He shared digs with fellow Derry students, among them Phil Coulter, and recounted a group of them buying an old piano in the Markets, as part of the Glee Club, and pushing it the mile and a half up to Queen's. For his post grad he worked with Fortran on mainframe computers funded from America. He didn’t know it at the time but the work was part of a worldwide NASA effort to put man on the moon.


Pat always put family first, however, and came home before completing this project to take up a job as a maths teacher in his old school. In a period where the lead reinforced strap was a major instrument of instruction ‘Wee Paddy’ didn’t possess one and instead relied upon enthusiasm and logic. He inspired a generation, if the complements of those taught by him are anything to go by. He also brought excitement to senior classes by bringing them to Derry Tech to test out mathematical problems on their mainframe.


In 1964 he met Ann, the love of his life, at a 21st birthday party.  From then on, they were inseparable and were married in 1965. Two boys Manus and Kieran soon followed.


Growing up in the same street as John Hume and teaching maths in the hut next to him for most of the 1960s, it was inevitable he would become involved early in the committee of the Derry Credit Union. He was there for many years reflecting his interest in volunteering and a strong desire to give something back to the community. 


In the early 1970s Irene and Aine completed his family and Pat left St Columb’s to become a Principal Lecturer in Maths and Computing at the Tech. By the 1980s he was involved in volunteering for Youth Encounter, Seymour House nursing home, and was on the first UK committee to develop a syllabus for O’Level computing. In 1988 he completed an MSc in Computing and Education. In 1990 he was appointed Deputy Director of the Tech, and became heavily involved in its transformation into the North West Institute of Further and Higher Education (NWIFHE).


In 2000 he retired and was quickly immersed in both the Samaritans and in the development of the Derry branch of the University of the Third Age. Unsurprisingly, as a former maths teacher, he served as treasurer for both organisations, but also became Chair of the U3A and then managed a major extension of their arts and sports facilities.


In 2006 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but it was caught early and after a period of radiotherapy in Belfast City Hospital he got the all-clear. When a different cancer appeared thirteen years later and was shown to be terminal, he was philosophical and prepared.  A mathematician to the end, however, he took to walks around a local park recording steps on his iPhone and calibrating this via the loan of a pedometer. His enthusiasm, life and good humour will be sorely missed by all who knew him.


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