Harrogate Grammar School say farewell to legend that is Roy Mackay

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Last Updated on 23 July 2020 at 2:28pm

Roy has dedicated years to teaching and coaching thousands of children sport, he is held in the highest regard by all that know him.

Roy has taught and coached many sports for 41 years, including tennis, table tennis and rugby at clubs around North Yorkshire, from junior through to senior level, from recreational to National levels. For 32 of those years, Roy has been a PE teacher at Harrogate Grammar School. He has recently been awarded the highly prestigious ERFSU Services to Schools’ Rugby Award and been nominated as a Mitsubishi Motors Valued Volunteer with Yorkshire Rugby Football Union. Both huge accolades that represent Roy’s contribution to sport.

Through volunteering, thousands of children have benefitted from his time, enthusiasm and experience. He has achieved great success with his teams and many of his students have enjoyed a lifelong engagement in sport, some of whom have made careers as professional athletes. Roy always puts others first; he goes above and beyond in providing care and support for others. He always takes the time to listen and puts the interests of others before his own. His dedication, that only strengthens with age, is inspirational to any teacher, coach and volunteer and is admired by anyone who works with Roy. The impact he has had on the lives of young people over the last four decades has been profound.

Roy Mackay
Roy Mackay

Joe Nicholls Harrogate Grammar School current Head Boy and 1st XV Rugby captain, says:

I have had the privilege of knowing and being coached by Mr Mackay for the last seven years, and my brother also shared the same experience eight years before me. Over the last seven years I have seen how Mr Mackay has helped people grow both on the pitch and off it equally, he has had a particularly profound impact on some of the members of our team. He has personally helped me in several ways, his outstanding coaching has allowed me to develop my game and go on to represent Yorkshire on several occasions but he has also helped me with difficult times personally – being someone who I felt I could confide in when I needed it most.

To me, this is why Mr Mackay represents what rugby is all about better than most, the culture which he has created has allowed many to flourish when they perhaps wouldn’t have without his influence. Last year at our ‘Old Boys’ match in which our current 1st XV played against former students it was clear to see that Mr Mackay had the same influence, which we are accustomed to, with all of his teams, going back to 1988, we all had the same mentality instilled within us by him – pride to play the game.

Rugby has been Roy’s main passion, the teams and students he has coached have enjoyed remarkable success, to name a few: Martin Wood represented England and was selected to play for the British and Irish Lions, before injury ruled him out. Harry Duthie – represented Scottish Universities. Jack Barnard – England U16’s. Oli Rosillo – England 7’s U21’s. Ed Pickles – England U16/18’s. Phil Swainston – Yorkshire, Premiership rugby for Wasps. Ed Maslaveckas – Scottish Exiles. Callum Irvine – Scotland U18, Yorkshire and Doncaster. Dan Metcalfe – England rugby U16/ 18’s, Yorkshire U16/18/20’s. Douglas Baston, Christain Davis, James Roberts and Stephen Worthington U18’s Yorkshire 1989. Jacques Haddleton, Darren Robinson, George Hampson Yorkshire 2014/15. Hugo Tasker – Scottish Exiles, Yorkshire 2014. Achele Agada – Ladies Yorkshire U18’s and moved to Harvard on a full rugby scholarship. Plus, so many others.

Richard Sheriff – CEO of the Red Kite Learning Trust, says:

Roy has been a teacher at Harrogate Grammar School for 32 years and during that time he has been instrumental in making rugby part of the school experience for hundreds of children.

Roy is dedicated, charismatic, compassionate and utterly dedicated to supporting young people in taking an active part in the game. He works with the same enthusiasm with beginners in year 7 as he does with the elite of the 1st Fifteen in the Sixth Form. He seeks no personal glory or attention but quietly goes about his business giving countless hours of his own time in the service of young people and rugby.

Harrogate Grammar School, despite its name, is a co-educational Comprehensive school but still maintains a fixture list on Saturday mornings and gives the opportunity for players to play abroad on tour. This is due to the personal example set by Roy who gives up his precious time at the weekends and after school to take teams to matches across the country. Most of the teams that play in competitions are privately educated and have far greater resources and time to train, but the Harrogate Grammar School teams have given a good game to the opposition and come away with victories.

Attending the finals day at Twickenham with Roy and one of his teams was one of my proudest days as a Headteacher in 18 years of service. The real dedication and commitment of Roy is not shown at such an event as this however, it is when I have seen him, hours after the school day has ended, striding back to the changing rooms in the dark with 20 beaming, muddy boys after a Year 7 training session. Those boys would follow him anywhere and some have gone on to forge impressive careers in the game. Whilst for many, many others Rugby has become a lasting source of pleasure as an amateur player or informed spectator. Roy has also helped turn around many a wayward boy who was getting into trouble in school. Through the game he has found them a new focus and an opportunity to enjoy being part of a team and tasting success. In more recent years, he has taken every opportunity to support the arrival of girls into the game and has always tried to give every player a chance to play and enjoy this wonderful game whatever their ability.

I am just grateful that I have had the privilege of having him on our staff.

Roy was one of only two coaches to hold the equivalent of a Level 4 RFU Coaching certificate. A qualification only 26 coaches in the country held at the time. He was a North England coach assessor and also coached North England U18 and 16’s. As Head Coach for Yorkshire he ran skills clinics for other coaches and in 2001 was involved as an Assistant Head coach with the Scottish Exiles U16 for 7-8 years after which he became team manager. He was also pivotal in starting girl’s rugby at Harrogate Grammar School

Roy has arranged refereeing and coaching courses for boys and girls in Harrogate, which have given many young people the confidence and skills to start refereeing and coaching. He has been extremely effective at developing leadership and responsibility in students. It is no coincidence that many of his 1st XV captains have also been chosen as Head Boy too.

Hundreds of students at Harrogate Grammar School have enjoyed the countless sports tours Roy has organised, to destinations such as Eire, Holland, Canada, USA, Italy, Austria and Switzerland.

Over the last four decades Roy has volunteered many hours of his time which reflects the sheer selflessness and endless enthusiasm he has brought to Harrogate Grammar School and wider community. Roy has been a Father figure to thousands of students. His commitment to sport has spanned generations and former students, who he introduced to sport during their childhood, now watch from the side lines as their sons and daughters benefit from Roy’s enthusiasm and expertise.

Roy has an obvious love for sport and a tireless enthusiasm which he passes on to young people. He has worked hard to develop his own skills in a range of sports, some of which do not come naturally to him. He empathises with the child who feels they’re not the best and is driven by a desire to support and encourage them to be the best they can be.

The two recent accolades awarded to Roy are well-deserved recognition for his years of involvement with young people and a source of great pride for Roy. The England Rugby Football Schools Union (ERFSU) is the school’s arm of the RFU with around 2,000 member schools. The Services to Schools’ Rugby Award recognises outstanding service at Division, County or Local level. The Nominations Panel considered the length of time served and the importance of the role and clearly felt Roy’s contribution to Schools Rugby should be recognised.

England Rugby and Mitsubishi Motors have developed the Mitsubishi Motors Volunteer Recognition Programme, who recognise and reward the volunteers who make up an integral part of the game of rugby. “Volunteers are one of the most valuable assets of a rugby organisation. They offer time, effort and expertise and deserve to be recognised and rewarded for their hard work.”

Chris McDonald, Head of PE at Harrogate Grammar School, states:

Over the last 32 years, Roy’s preternatural contribution to the PE Faculty has positively influenced the lives of thousands of students. His passion for working with young people has been an inspiration for the many PE teachers who have worked alongside him. He has been a great friend to his colleagues and a role model and mentor to many others.

Neil Renton, Headteacher of Harrogate Grammar School, says:

Mr Mackay has inspired generations of young people to be the best version of themselves and find confidence through sport. We are hugely proud of his significant contribution to sport at Harrogate Grammar School and his mantra of ‘manners, behaviour and effort’ is etched in the minds of generations of our students. I would like to thank him on behalf of all the community at Harrogate Grammar School for his hard work, total commitment and service to our school.

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