TRIBUTES have been paid to a popular teacher and grandfather who taught and inspired hundreds of pupils across the borough.

Eric Farrell, a retired foreign languages teacher at St Monica's RC High School, has died aged 69.

Staff at the Prestwich school shared loving memories of Mr Farrell, which include his instrumental role in helping St Monica's to become a Specialist Language College in 2003.

Paying tribute, they said: "Mr Farrell engaged widely in all aspects of school life. His popularity, combined with his obvious leadership qualities, helped to raise the standards and the status of modern foreign languages.

"He was also a valuable member of the PE department, managing school teams to success, especially in football, basketball and hockey, and with his leadership qualities and qualifications, was a valuable teacher of outdoor education."

Mr Farrell began his teaching career at Boteler Grammar School in Warrington. He joined the staff of St Peter's Catholic High School, in Prestwich, in 1981, and was teaching French and Spanish in 1987 when the school merged with St Joseph's High School, Whitefield, to form St Monica's.

During his 31 years at the school, Mr Farrell was promoted to Head of Department and then to Specialist Languages College Manager.

St Monica's staff said it was his "drive and intellect" in leading the bid for the school to become a Specialist Language College that resulted in its ultimate success. The College opened in February 2003 and gave a commitment to allow every pupil to study a foreign language as well as the establishment of evening French, Spanish and Italian language classes for the communities of Prestwich and Whitefield.

He was a member of the Bury Twinning Group and in 2009, Mr Farrell committed the school to an initiative known as Comenius, which connected St Monica's with other schools across Europe.

Due to ill health, Mr Farrell was forced to retire in 2011, but continued as a consultant in several projects he had started.

In addition to his school life, Mr Farrell had a rich social life.

"Sport was always important to him", staff said. "He played hockey early on, was a member of the staff football team and played five-a-side into his 60s.

"Mr Farrell's great enjoyment was socialising with his family and friends — the consummate raconteur and host, he loved to work English jokes into French and Spanish and would have the room exploding in laughter."

During his retirement, Mr Farrell pursued the activities he loved, including cooking, cinema, music, technology and reading. He also achieved a life-time ambition to complete El Camino Inglés de Compostela, through Galicia.

"Mr Farrell was fiercely proud of his beloved Salford roots. As his condition progressed, he rarely complained about his infirmities and people would tell him how brave and strong he was, but Eric would just gave a stoic Gaelic shrug, honed in his beloved France and earlier by word and later by pen would riposte 'Well, I'm from Salford'."

Mr Farrell died peacefully in Bury Hospice on January 5.

He leaves behind his devoted wife Heather, children Ian, Jennifer and Alex , daughter-in-law Sara and his treasured grandchildren Harriet and Violet.