TRIBUTES have poured in for a hugely popular Greenock teacher who has tragically died in hospital after contracting coronavirus.

Gerry McHugh, who taught maths at Notre Dame High, passed away on Saturday afternoon.

He was 58 years of age.

Mr McHugh's death has left his loved ones and his many friends distraught and a local school in mourning.

Notre Dame's head teacher Kate Couttie led the tributes to her late colleague, saying that his family 'cared for him deeply and are very proud of him and what he achieved'.

She said: “This loss will have a devastating effect on our entire school community, our mathematics department who loved him dearly, the wider staff who found him a rich source of experience and knowledge as well as our pupils and parents, past and present, all of whom respected him so highly.

"Every teacher hopes that they can make a connection with young people - Gerry had a unique gift in being able to inspire every single pupil who walked through his classroom door.

“Pupils at Notre Dame High loved learning mathematics because of him.

"Gerry had a kind word for everyone he spoke to, he was also funny, committed and caring in everything he did for our school - a true gentleman."

Mr McHugh had initially been taken to Inverclyde Royal after becoming ill and was later transferred to hospital in Glasgow.

Mrs Couttie said: "Gerry was cared for tremendously by staff at Inverclyde Royal Hospital and at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

"Some of these staff were former pupils, parents of our pupils and relatives of our staff.

“We are truly indebted to them all and when it is safe to do so, our school community will thank NHS staff for the work they have done in very difficult circumstances for Mr McHugh."

The school has been inundated with messages from people paying their respects.

Mrs Couttie said: “We have been overwhelmed by the messages of support which have all had to be outwith the community of Notre Dame High School due to restrictions at this difficult time.

"I would ask everyone to hold on to this faith as we come to terms with such a sad loss."

Mr McHugh's family today thanked everyone who has sent messages of condolence.

They told the Telegraph: “We thank staff and pupils for their condolences and the greatest tribute to Gerard would be to aspire to be the type of caring person he was and to work hard and make him proud of whatever they achieve in their life.”

Inverclyde's Provost, Martin Brennan, not only worked with Mr McHugh but had taught him too and said his death was 'the worst of news'.

Provost Brennan said: "I'd known Gerry since September 1976 first as a pupil then as a colleague.

"It's hard to imagine a better teacher or a more decent man."

Dozens of ex-pupils have paid their own tributes on social media.

Young boxing champion Rhys McCole from Greenock said: "Mr McHugh was a great man and teacher who encouraged and included everyone. He was always checking on me and wanting me to achieve the best I could and I will continue to follow his wise words.

"I didn't really look on him as a teacher, but as my friend. He had such a positive impact on so many."

Town councillor and former Notre Dame pupil Chris McEleny said: "The word legend is overused but he was a legend. A great ambassador for Inverclyde education and Catholic education in Inverclyde his whole life. He will be sorely missed."

St Stephen's High School in Port Glasgow said: "The loss of Gerry McHugh will be felt through Inverclyde and beyond. He was a friend, colleague and teacher to many of us and we will miss him."

Mr McHugh had helped to inspire many pupils to follow him into the teaching profession.

St Patrick's Primary P4/5 teacher Miss McDade said: "If I can be half the teacher he was I’ll be happy. He will be so sorely missed by every single pupil he taught and everyone who met him."

Teacher Leona Donnelly said: "Today Covid took the life of a great and truly inspirational guy. RIP Gerry McHugh. You were the reason so many of us from Notre Dame went on to study maths."

St Ninian's Primary P6 teacher Mr Coyle said on Twitter: "He was one of those teachers that built relationships and got to know you and one of the ones that gives me inspiration every day as a teacher."

Outside of his work Mr McHugh was a big football fan who had followed Morton up and down the country for many years.

The club said it was 'so sad to hear of his passing', describing him as 'a great Morton man and a pillar of the community'.

They added: "He will be sadly missed and our thoughts and prayers go to his family and friends."

Amid many tributes online, Francesca Brennan said on Twitter: "I'll fondly remember my old teacher Mr McHugh for the three 'M's: maths, Morton and magnanimity. This kind and generous man will be sorely missed."

Greg Metcalfe said: "A lovely guy, a really down to earth teacher and motivational and inspirational, and a great Morton man. Rest in peace Gerry."

Gary Lyne posted: "A true class act. The world is a sadder place without you, Sir."