Former councillor and teacher ‘had a positive impact on the lives of many’

Robin Cavan.
Robin Cavan.

St Patrick’s Church in Whitehead was at capacity on Saturday for the funeral service of former Deputy Mayor of Carrickfergus Borough Council Robin Cavan.

Mr Cavan, who passed away peacefully in hospital on February 13, served as an Alliance councillor for 11 years on the legacy Carrickfergus Council.

He was also formerly a teacher at Carrickfergus College. Colleagues from local politics and education as well as representatives from the wider community joined Mr Cavan’s family for the service conducted by Rev Mark Taylor.

Mourners heard Rev Taylor trace “a long and full life” from May 27, 1932 when Robin and his twin brother John were born to Jack and Mabel Cavan.

Growing up in Glengormley, Robin attended the local public elementary school and then Ballyclare High School. After graduating from Queen’s University Belfast, he qualified at Stranmillis College before embarking on his teaching career, first at Abbots Cross public elementary in 1955.

Rev Taylor noted: “At this time the new secondary intermediate schools were being set up and when Carrick College opened in 1959 Robin joined the staff as head of environmental studies, which was principally geography and citizenship with a bit of biology and history thrown in for good measure. As the school developed Robin became head of the geography department with responsibility for audio-visual teaching aids which eventually led to the introduction of computers and IT becoming a new school subject.”

He met Dorothy Graham, also a teacher, and they married in 1962 and came to live in Whitehead. Dorothy continued teaching in Larne High School until their son Graeme was born, when she took a career break.

Rev Taylor added: “Robin was a devoted husband and father. Valuing his family above all else he and Dorothy settled down to a happy family life in Whitehead enjoying the many activities that the town offered. Robin was a keen gardener growing his own vegetables, he was an able DIY convert and went to woodwork classes to make furniture for his home and items to help on camping trips.

“Robin was an active member of St Patrick’s Church, serving on the select vestry and as a church warden in his time. Throughout his life his faith was important to him.

“Although Robin and John were both type 1 diabetic the brothers kept on being involved in sports. Robin was a member of Whitehead Golf Club, the church badminton club and the weekend ramblers club.”

Robin also played a part in community activities being involved in Whitehead Community Association and running a youth club in the Parochial Hall during the worst of the Troubles. He was a founder member of the Alliance Party and secretary of the Carrick branch.

Rev Taylor continued: “Throughout Robin’s life he had many strings to his bow, but throughout it all ran these three threads, his great love of his family and friends; his sense of duty to those he shared his life with, seen in his work for his local community in his political activities and through the Whitehead Community Association; and his faith in Jesus Christ.

“Robin lived a long and full life, he met adversity head-on, and was always ready to try to walk further and do more for himself right to the end.”

Leading tributes on behalf of the Alliance Party, Stewart Dickson MLA, who served on council with Mr Cavan, said: “He was a founder member of Carrickfergus Alliance Association and along with his wife Dorothy were very active members.

“He was great fun and helped make events such as the annual Burns Night event a great success. He was very strong on environmental matters, perhaps influenced by his enthusiasm for hill-walking, hiking and fly fishing. He will be sadly missed.”

Mr Cavan’s love of the outdoors helped to inspire scores of pupils through the Rambling Club at Carrickfergus College.

School principal Hedley Webb said: “Robin Cavan (Rab) taught in Carrickfergus College for 33 years and was both head of geography and senior teacher. He was a founding member of staff who set up the rambling club which is still going strong today. He enjoyed retirement from 1992. The principal, staff and governors of the college send their sympathies to Robin’s wife, Dorothy, and his family circle.”

There was tribute too from local government.

The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Paul Reid, said:“We are extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Mr Cavan and the thoughts of everyone at Mid and East Antrim Borough Council are with his family at this difficult time. “Also a teacher, Mr Cavan was a long-serving councillor who had a positive impact on the lives of many people in his home borough of Carrickfergus.”

Mr Cavan is survived by his wife Dorothy and son Graeme. Interment took place after the funeral service at Islandmagee New Cemetery.