by Kim McRae
MORE than 300 people attended a memorial service dedicated to popular Westhill Academy teacher Craig McAlpine, who had been missing for 40 days.
The service, which lasted just over 30 minutes, was held at 6pm on Friday (April 23) at Trinity Church in Westhill.
Craig went missing on February 22 after a night out with friends in Aberdeen. The 28-year-old's body was found on the beach at Newburgh on April 1, by a member of the public.
Trinity Church opened its doors at 4pm on Friday (April 23) to allow pupils and others to sign a book of condolence which is due to be given to Craig's parents and girlfriend.
The book remained at Westhill until yesterday (Wednesday), and has now gone on to Portlethen Academy — where Craig had also worked as a teacher — for pupils and staff to sign.
Friday's service was open to all pupils who had been taught by Craig, his football team and tutor group — although other pupils also attended.
Craig's parents Margaret and Stewart, his sister Gillian, girlfriend Jacqueline Evans and her parents also attended as did parents of children and staff.
Westhill Academy headteacher Derek Thompson said: “It was the idea of the school that as well as the funeral, we wanted to mark Craig's time in school in a 'school' way — to give pupils the opportunity to attend, who might not have wanted to attend the funeral.”
As people entered the church on Friday, pipers played and a welcome was given by Ian Thomson, one of the school chaplains.
A tribute to Craig, who taught history and modern studies, was given by Derek Thompson and a reading was given by Bert Swinborn, headteacher at Portlethen Academy.
A prayer was then said and Craig's family and girlfriend lit Craig's Candle in his memory.
Representatives from various school groups then lit other candles from Craig's Candle — these included the Under 14s football team, school pupils and their parents and staff from Westhill and Portlethen.
The hymn Morning has Broken was then sung and closing remarks and another prayer were said.
As people left, the pipers (pupils from Westhill Academy) played again.
Derek Thompson said that of the 300 people that attended the service, more than 200 were pupils.
“It was a celebration of Craig's life but, as you can imagine, it was also a very emotional occasion and very moving.
“His mother and father and girlfriend stayed behind at the end and we gave them each a bouquet of flowers which had been used to decorate the church.
“They said they very much enjoyed the service and said it made them appreciate what Craig had achieved in his life in relation to the school.”
Mr Thompson said there were currently no plans for a permanent memorial to Craig at the school.