PUPILS, colleagues and family members joined nearly 2,000 people at a memorial service today to pay tribute to “passionate” and “committed” Leeds teacher Ann Maguire, who was stabbed to death at her school.
Around 1,200 people packed into Leeds Town Hall, while another 500 gathered in front of big screens outside, to listen to the service for Mrs Maguire, 61, who died from multiple stab wounds following the attack at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds in April, as she taught a Spanish lesson.
Mrs Maguire’s nephews, Daniel and Andrew Poole, were among those to share their memories of the teacher.
Past and present pupils from Corpus Christi Catholic College, where Mrs Maguire taught for more than 40 years, described her as “perfect” in a special film shown to the congregation.
The service, in the ornate Victoria Hall, was led by celebrant Reverend Monsignor John Wilson, who spoke of Mrs Maguire’s compassion and commitment to teaching.
He said: “Following the tragedy of her untimely death, we mark her wonderful contribution to education in our city. We unite in sharing one purpose, to honour and celebrate Ann’s life and work.”
Monsignor Wilson added: “Ann loved teaching. It was her dream as a very young child, her ambition as a teenager, a fulfilling reality for 40 years.”
He continued: “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.”
Daniel and Andrew Poole were brought up by Mrs Maguire as her own sons after her sister Eileen’s death from cancer in 1986 at 35.
They shared their childhood memories in a letter written to their aunt and said they were privileged to have her in their lives.
The brothers said: “We hope you realise Ann that all you did has been remembered and appreciated.
“We’re here today to say we miss you, we’re here today to say we love you but we really, really would like to say thank you, goodnight, God bless.”
A photograph of Mrs Maguire, with the caption “Ann Maguire Remembered” was displayed in the hall throughout the service of prayers, music and tributes.
Before the service her widower Don, 62, told the BBC he hoped it would reflect the “beautiful, dedicated, hard working” woman she was.
He said: “I would hope that the memorial service would reflect Ann’s life and help people connect to her life.
“She was a very special individual. She did the everyday things in a very special way.”
And in the same interview, daughter Emma Maguire said: “We really want mum’s legacy to be something that stands for everything she was.
“She taught for 40 years and will have affected thousands of people’s lives and probably shaped their career choices, decisions they made in their life or even the people they became.”
Children’s choirs from the diocese of Leeds, including the choir from Corpus Christi Catholic College, led the hymns and a small group of pupils and teachers from the school performed a rendition of The Beatles’ song In My Life.
In a filmed compilation of tributes, pupils who were asked to use one word to describe Mrs Maguire said she was “perfect”, “passionate”, “fantastic”, “amazing” and “warm”.
The congregation joined in a minute’s silence, which was also observed by several schools across the city.
Following the service, Kerry Maguire, one of Mrs Maguire’s two daughters, read a brief statement on the steps of the Town Hall in which she thanked all those who have supported the family.
She said: “At today’s memorial service, we witnessed a celebration of Ann Maguire’s 40 years of service to education in Leeds.
“One of Ann’s life principles as a teacher was ‘you can never put a limit on a child’s potential’.”
Mrs Maguire’s death on April 28 sent a shockwave through Britain and provoked a huge response in terms of tributes from around the world.
Flowers and messages pinned on the fences outside the school gates stretched for more than 100 metres.
Many of the messages were from current and former pupils but others were from strangers who wanted to register their sadness.
Around 300 people attended Mrs Maguire’s funeral mass in May.
The couple have two grown-up daughters - professional dancer Emma, who has been a member of the Royal Ballet since 2002, and osteopath Kerry, who also trained as a ballerina.
The Ann Maguire Arts Education Fund has been set up in her memory to provide bursaries and funding for the enhancement and personal development of young people through music, drama, language and dance.
Donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/ann-maguire.
• A 15-year-old boy has appeared in court charged with Mrs Maguire’s murder. He is remanded in custody and will appear in court again in November.