Dubai: Bernadette McCarthy, the former headmistress of Dubai English Speaking School, DESS, died on March 16 in Ireland where she had retired.

McCarthy was headmistress of Dubai’s oldest British curriculum school from 1977 to 1997 and was the driving force behind the school’s insistence on high standards. She saw generations of expatriate and Emirati children through the school, many of whom still recognise their debt to the legendary headmistress.

McCarthy was highly respected in the Dubai community as her leadership took DESS to be the first school of choice for many parents, including from the emirate’s leading families and a wide range of expatriates, basing her skills on the motto “Manners Mayketh Man”.

“Bernadette was a wonderful human being, and a great friend to the end. She was a legendary headmistress and whenever we think of expatriate pioneers in education in Dubai, we think of Bernadette McCarthy. She made a genuine difference for the better to the lives of so many,” said one long-term expatriate involved with the school.

One of the highlights of her time as headmistress was when Britain’s Princess Anne visited DESS in 1987. The Board, management and staff of DESS expressed their deepest condolences to McCarthy’s family.

Another alumni still remembers that the most important lesson she learnt at DESS when she was there between 1979 to 1986 “was to have respect for one another, respect for ourselves and how to embrace self-confidence. This was imparted to me by the then head mistress Miss McCarthy. She was an amazing lady who had time for everybody”.