Tribute to Paul Deegan

I remember it just like yesterday. A council meeting at St Paul’s Girls’ School. I am the in-coming Chair Elect and Paul Deegan casually says in a meeting, “EVTA have suggested that we might do Eurovox, what do you think?” Quite a few blank faces around the table and then Paul turns to me “It would be in your chairmanship. Are you up for it?” A little twinkling in his eye, a wry smile – I can’t resist – “Of course”, I say, “it sounds like a great idea”.

And so, began our journey together along with many others, devising and planning Eurovox 2020. I never dreamed at the start of this that I would be cancelling the conference or writing this tribute to him today.

Paul was a gem – one of a kind. He has been part of AOTOS for as long as I can remember. The two go together.

If we ever had an issue with protocol or the constitution, Paul would be the person to ask. If we needed to word things carefully for a proposal, Paul would find a way. If our direction was uncertain, Paul would see us through. He was wise. He was kind. He loved to chat. He understood people. It is hard to put into words the loss we feel at Paul’s death. The last time many of us saw him was at the Council Away Day in January in London. As usual, Paul had flown over from Ireland – full of life, full of energy, full of singing, full of excitement for Eurovox. We miss him – and I know from the hundreds of responses on email and Facebook that lots of you have also been touched by this special teacher and colleague.

Rest in peace our dear friend, Paul Deegan – it is too soon that we say good-bye. Thank you for being part of our lives and for inspiring us to teach and sing.

Paul Deegan, passed away in Ireland on Saturday 21 March having contracted the Coronavirus. He was Chairman of AOTOS twice in 1989-1990 and 2006-2008, a regular mentor on the Teacher Training courses and a life-long council member serving as EVTA and Overseas Representative. Further tributes will be written by his close friends and colleagues for the Annual Review later in the year.

Heidi Pegler, April 2020

Some of the many messages received from members:

I am so sad to hear that Paul has been taken by this horrific virus. We just do not know what is ahead of us. I first met Paul at a meeting in Napier College in Edinburgh when Jo Estill visited and talked to us about her findings. – Pat MacMahon


Thank you so much for letting us know about this very sad news. He was such an active force in the organisation during crucial years for its development and will be greatly missed. – Sue Anderson


This is such a huge huge huge shock and I'm filled with dismay to read this truly sad news. I would like for you to pass on my sympathies to the people close to him. As I'm from Dublin myself and met Paul over the years, this has hit me hard. – Sara McGuinness


I'm so sorry to hear of Paul's death. He was a major figure in the organisation and such a lovely thoughtful man. I was fortunate to have a lesson with him on one of the training courses in Dudley and especially remember his heartfelt talk at the conference in Leamington last year. This emergency is going to change all of our lives in some way but this is a particularly painful moment especially for all of you who worked closely with Paul on Council. – Kathryn Hardy


Paul was one of the most inspirational members of AOTOS. Years ago, when I first joined he was full of encouragement and indeed knowledge. I am sad to read this and it perhaps a timely reminder to take great care. – Mary Hammond

Barbara Drew (1960–2020)

On the 28 June 2020 Barbara Drew sadly lost her battle with cancer and passed at too early an age from this life. Barbara fought her illness with great courage, fortitude and humour.  These qualities were always prevalent in Barbara both in her personal and professional life. She was an enthusiastic teacher who always went the extra mile for her pupils. Over the years that I knew Barbara she was always striving to inform herself on matters relating to voice and vocal pedagogy. She attended many courses and when she could, travelled to England for AOTOS events. She greatly enjoyed these experiences relishing the friendship and collegiality she found there. Her pupils’ needs were always close to her heart and she worked diligently to make singing an enjoyable and rewarding experience for all her pupils regardless of age or ability. Her sometimes wicked sense of humour made her a lively and vibrant person, qualities which endeared her to her many pupils and friends.

Barbara may have been small in stature but she had a big heart. She was a lady of fashion with a sense of style! I remember how pleased she was when she purchased her new sports car. She greatly enjoyed driving along the coastal roads of County Down!

Barbara you made an impact! You will be greatly missed by all your pupils and by those of us who bonded with you through the medium of singing and the teaching of singing. Rest in peace.

Tribute by Helena McCrisken, August 2020