Given that Ann Maguire regarded herself as little more than an “ordinary” teacher, the scale of the memorial service held in her honour was nothing short of extraordinary.
Usually reserved for grand civic occasions, Leeds Town Hall was packed with about 1,200 people wanting to pay their respects to a naturally shy woman who may well have blushed at the huge wave of affection that has mounted following her tragic death.
Countless tributes have been paid since Mrs Maguire, 61, was fatally stabbed by a pupil in a classroom at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Halton in April.
Today her widower, Don, daughters Emma and Kerry and nephews Andrew and David Poole were joined by relatives, friends, colleagues, pupils and civic dignitaries as the city officially recognised her contribution to Leeds.
Such was the response to the public invitation that a big screen was erected outside to accommodate the hundreds who were unable to get in.
In truth, despite her modesty, it was clear to all those who attended that there was very little ordinary about Mrs Maguire’s life and a love for teaching that saw her spend four decades at the same school.
Former colleague Sheila O’Kane summed up the thoughts of many when she said: “Ann never believed she was in any way special or different from thousands of other teachers. But, to colleagues and to generations of Corpus Christi pupils, she will remain very special indeed.”
The event had promised to be celebratory rather than mournful.
And while there were, inevitably, tears the service was characterised by the music, laughter and applause that befitted a life lived to the fullest.
A large image of a beaming Mrs Maguire was projected onto a big screen at the front of the ornate hall for the whole of the 100-minute service.
Children’s choirs from the diocese of Leeds, including the choir from Corpus Christi led the hymns and a small group of pupils and teachers from the school performed a rendition of The Beatles’ song My Life.
A minute’s silence was held before a filmed compilation of tributes from pupils who were asked to use one word to describe Mrs Maguire.
They said she was “perfect”, “passionate”, “fantastic”, “amazing” and “warm”.
Celebrant Reverend Monsignor John Wilson, who led the service, said: “Ann was a priceless gift, a treasure forever in our hearts for eternity. She believed in the innate goodness of children and young people. Ann rightly lived up to the accolade of mother of the school.”
Leeds City Council leader Keith Wakefield paid tribute to Mrs Maguire’s “inspirational” qualities.
He said: “The legacy that she will provide us will be compassion, care and commitment for the vulnerable.”
A 15-year-old boy charged with murder has already admitting being responsible for Mrs Maguire’s death.
He is remanded in custody and is due to appear in court again in November.
• A charitable fund set up in Ann Maguire’s memory has already raised more than £25,000.
The Ann Maguire Arts Education Fund was started “for the enhancement and personal development of young people under 18 years old through music, drama, language and dance”.
Today’s memorial service heard that Mrs Maguire had a deep passion for music and performing arts.
She ran the choir at Corpus Christi Catholic College. Her two daughters, Emma and Kerry, were both accomplished ballet dancers.
Hundreds of people, including many outside of Britain, have already donated through the website www.annmaguire.org