The new school
- - -
The new school, which was to take the place of
the old school, was opened at a ceremony held in the school on 18th May,
1959. The ceremony began outside the school with the singing of the National
Anthem, after which the Rev. J. B. Wallace, Chairman of the School
Management Committee, asked Mr. William Cherry, on behalf of the building
contractors, to hand the key of the building to Miss Sarah Maxwell, who then
opened the main door of the building. The platform party, visitors and
children then proceeded to the assembly hall where a short service was
conducted by the Rev. Wallace. The building was dedicated by the Rev. M.
McCreery, minister of Ballycairn Presbyterian Church, after which Miss
Maxwell declared the new school open.
The school, which has four main
classrooms, an assembly hall, a staff room and principal's office, was built
to accommodate 150 pupils and had been used by teachers and pupils for
several weeks, prior to opening.
Although the new primary school was built to accommodate 150 pupils, the
reorganisation of education in the late 1950s and early 1960s forced pupils
to transfer to the new intermediate schools at Knockbreda and latterly
Newtownbreda, at the age of 11, and this cut severely the number of senior
pupils attending Drumbo.
Throughout the intervening years education in Drumbo has not been a
static commodity and they have brought change through staff changes, pupils
commencing and leaving school, curriculum change through the Education Order
and many others. However, through those years the pupils in Drumbo have had
continuity and progression. They have had opportunities to widen their
horizons and deepen interests through a number of projects in which pupils,
over the years, have been well placed and their efforts commended. One such
project in 1970 was the International Milk Day Project in which pupils had
to look at all aspects of milk production and complete a scrapbook which
included milk ingredients, charts, recipes, paintings, photographs etc. The
pupils showed much initiative and originality in their work, and even had
Beth Doherty elected "Dairy Queen" for the period. Drumbo Primary School was
placed second out of 51 entrants, in this competition, and received a cheque
The following poem was written by a pupil in the group. Written by a girl
after a close encounter with a calf, the poem has been used on a number of
occasions by the BBC and published in two books:
My fingers slide down the little calf's throat,
Its tongue is rough and pink,
It sucks and slurps, And nearly pulls my fingers off.
It slabbers like a baby,
And makes my fingers sticky,
No matter how hard I pull,
It just won't let me go.
At last I am free and look at my fingers,
They are covered in little bubbles,
And they nearly make me sick,
The calf puts out its head, but I'm away.
In 1998 it was discovered, purely by accident, that the school, in some
shape or form, had been operating since approximately 1796, and the Board of
Governors decided to celebrate the Bicentenary in 1999, in conjunction with
the dawning of the new Millennium.
||At the commencement of 1999 the pupils in P7 wrote, as a development of
their letter writing skills, to the President of the United States of
America, outlining their hopes for the peace talks which were taking place
in Stormont at the time.
The Bi-Centenary was celebrated in a number of different ways. These were
May - Tree planting ceremony.
June - Balloon release.
June - Summer Fete.
October - Folk concert.
December - Exhibition of old school photographs.
December - Thanksgiving Service.
December - Release of History Book.
During 1999 the school also appeared in cyberspace, when it launched its
own web site on the Internet.
Primary Web Site
Drumbo, as has been remarked, "is out in the sticks", which 200 years ago
when our story began may well have been the case. Today, Drumbo is a very
popular area from which commuters travel to their many daily pursuits. On
their journey to either Lisburn or Belfast they pass road signs which point
to Drumbo Primary School, in which today's pupils are being well prepared
for the challenges of the new Millennium, just as those pupils in the
Session House in 1796, were being prepared for the challenges of the 19th
So, this story of the history of the school must end, where it began, at
a beginning. That beginning is a new Millennium. In looking back let us
;give thanks to those who, over the past two centuries, have contributed to
the richness of our educational heritage in this beautiful part of Co. Down.
Looking forward, as we must do, let us not forget the heritage and legacy
which is ours and of which, 1 hope, this book will have revived memories in
some, and given a deeper insight into our past to others.
The following list has been compiled from church minutes, newspaper
reports, inspector's reports and other available sources. They have been
included in order that a token tribute can be accorded to these persons for
the part they have played in the development of pupils in Drumbo. Whilst
every endeavour has been made to provide accuracy in names and dates,
inaccuracies are possible. If these occur, may one be forgiven`?
The following are the names of persons who have been appointed as
Principal in Drumbo. In some cases it has only been possible to mention the
year/s in which these persons appear in records rather than their service
span in total. This list is complete from 1883.
|Mr. James McKee 1826
|Mr. John Baillie 1840/1841/1842
|Mr. Samuel Graham 1842
|Mr. William Dorman 1848/1849
|Mr. George Brydon 1849
|Mr. William Watson 1861
|Mr. Robert Entwistle 1874
|Mr. Thomas Allen 1883-1917
|Mr. William Boles 1917-1917
|Mr. William Hunter 1917-1918
|Mr. William Todd 1918-1938
|Mr. Robert Morrison 1938-1945
|Mr. Herbert Currie 1945-1981
|Mr. Maurice Wright 1981-1983
|Mr. lames Kelly 1983-1997
|Mrs. Ruth Daly 1997
|Mr. Stewart Carse 1840/1842
|Mr. Charles Horne 1861
|Mrs. Hannabella Watson 1861
|Mr. Thomas Entwistle 1861
|Mrs. Caroline Entwistle 1874
|Miss Jennie Stevenson 1901/1902
|Miss Margaret Clarke 1901/1902
|Miss Susan Lockhart 1903/1904/1905
|Miss Ada McCartney 1905/1906
|Miss Annie Dempsey 1907/1908
|Miss Sarah Maxwell 1907/1944
|Miss Mary Martin 1917-1932
|Miss McCleverty Taylor 1944-1950
|Miss Ethel McRoberts 1948-1949
|Mr. Thomas Maxwell 1949-1950
|Mr. John Wilson 19_50-1950
|Mr. Dermot Purdy 1950-1953
|Mrs. M. Bell 1950-1954
|Miss Sylvia Douglas 1954-1959
|Mrs. Lorna Lyster (nee Beattie) 1954-1965
|Mrs. Mary Clarke 1954-1969
|Miss Elizabeth Abernethy 1959-1974
|Mrs. Moyra Alexander 1965-1966
|Mrs. Elizabeth Vance 1966-1969
|Mrs. Hester Currie 1969-1982
|Mrs. Honor Stephens (nee McDowell) 1970-1973
|Mrs. Sandra Hall 1973-1974
|Mrs. Pauline Wilson 1974-1991
|Mrs. Mabel Bell 1975-1997
|Mrs. Sharon Shields (nee Hamilton) 1977-1983
|Mrs. Ruth Daly 1983-1997
|Mrs. Florence Reid 1991
* Transferred from Leverogue National School when it closed in 1917.
As I saw it from the blackboard
By HERBIE CURRIE - PRINCIPAL - 1945 - 1981
In May 1945 1 visited James Johnston, Principal of Legacurry Primary
School. James, a good friend of mine for many years, told me that a school
over the hill was vacant and suggested that I should apply for it. The Rev.
Rankin gave me directions to the local committee members, and then added:
"Don't tell them that you were with me, because if you do you'll not get the
job." I didn't tell them, and 1 got the job. I commenced in Drumbo on 1st
October, 1945. Although there were over seventy pupils on rolls, there was
only one assistant - Miss Clevy Taylor, who later went to Africa as a
missionary with the Qua Iboe Mission.
I can recall that shortly after arriving in Drumbo, I spent a Saturday on
my knees trying to hammer home nails on a wellworn floor. As the school was
in the church hall, the sliding partition separating the two rooms, had to
be moved every weekend and on other special occasions. The coal stoves gave
plenty of heat to those near them, while others near the door froze in the
wintertime. In a corner at the door, sat the water-filter (minus a filter),
and on a hook hung a tin mug for everyone's use!
As numbers grew and a third teacher was appointed, the platform had to be
used as a `classroom'. Off the platform was a small room which was used
mainly for cookery. The Modern Mistress was given a coat of black-lead every
Monday morning. This was done by Mrs. Patterson, wife of the caretaker, Mr.
Johnny Patterson. As the pupil-teacher ratio was lowered, a fourth teacher
was appointed. A temporary classroom was erected at the foot of the
playground which was in use until the new school was built.
When school meals became available from Clontonakelly kitchen, we managed
to have these delivered to the school. The leaf of the dual desks was
levelled by placing a book underneath, and a piece of oil cloth was spread
over it to make the 'dining table'.
Toilet facilities were always a problem. When efforts failed to have
flush toilets erected, the push for a new school began. We had hoped to get
the site beside the telephone exchange, but had to settle for the one up the
The finances of the Down Education Committee were low in 1959, resulting
||Plans for a three-teacher
school. It was only when the work was well on the way
that the Committee agreed to have four classrooms. That
meant that one of the staff toilets had to be replaced
by the corridor which leads to the fourth room.
||Changing from double-glazed
to single-glazed windows.
||The deletion of a school
radio from the plans. The following year it was
installed at a much greater cost
||The old dual desks and
teachers' desks were used for the first year until new
desks and chairs were supplied.
The new school was opened on 18th May, 1959 by a former Drumbo teacher,
Miss S. E. Maxwell. The pupils sang the song: "We build our School on Thee,
After reorganisation and losing the senior pupils to the Secondary
School, the numbers on roll fell, but we still kept the three assistants.
With the erection of more houses in the area, the numbers rose again and a
fourth assistant was appointed, necessitating the erection of a temporary
One of the projects in which the senior pupils participated was a Road
Safety scrapbook competition. Part of the work involved pupils observing
road behaviour in Drumbo Square. Two pupils took turns for one hour from 8
a.m. till 8 p.m. to record such things as: the use of seat belts, signs
given by drivers, speed down through the village (using a stop-watch, over a
measured distance), and parking in the village (the local clergy proved to
be the worst offenders!). We got second prize in Co. Down for this effort.
Another project which created great interest was that of a scrapbook on
Milk sponsored by The Dairy Council, for which we came second in Northern
Ireland. The senior pupils visited eight dairy farms in the district where
they got the answers to their fifty questions which had been discussed in
class. This resulted in the writing of letters of thanks for kindness shown
and goodies received during the visits. Graphs and diagrams were drawn,
illustrating the number of cows, size of farm, milk production, silage
production, etc. Much prose and poetry was written. An outstanding poem by
Fiona Davidson was broadcast from Belfast and London on school programmes,
and appeared in two or three poetry books. It was entitled
Fingers", and was written by Fiona after the experience of a young calf
sucking her fingers during a visit to one of the farms. A small hand
operated churn was used to produce our own butter in school. 'Milk in the
Bible' was one of the topics studied and entered in the scrapbook. The milk
story wouldn't be complete without a Dairy Queen. By unanimous vote, Beth
Doherty was chosen and crowned. The poems about the Queen were exciting,
especially those by the boys. A present parent of the school (unnamed)
excelled by his masterpiece.
Shortly after the new school was opened, an after-school Good News Club
was commenced. This was led by Mrs. Olive Adams, Mrs. Currie and myself. 1
am glad to say that this club still continues to operate weekly in the
One of the highlights was the school production in May 1977 in the church
hall of the pageant `The Book that will not burn.' This was attended by a
large audience, and the proceeds were received by the Rev. Charles Presho on
behalf of The British and Foreign Bible Society.
Another highlight was a sponsored run in the school grounds in aid of
Tear Fund. The day turned out to be very warm, and many gallons of juice
were supplied by parents as runners called in at the refreshment base. The
magnificent sum of over f 1,100.00 was raised by this effort. The cheque was
received on behalf of Tear Fund by the Rev. Wesley Lindsay who had
previously shown slides in the school of the work done by Tear Fund, of
sinking wells and other work in West Africa.
As I look back on the thirty-six years from 1945 till 1981, I give thanks
to God for all He meant to me during that period. My prayer is that God will
richly bless all teachers, pupils and parents, both past and present.
MISS MAMIE GRAHAM 1914-1924
MRS. ELLEN CRAVEN (nee Thomson) 1914-1922
MR. ERNEST PATTERSON 1918-1926
We remember . .
... the boys playing football with newspaper rolled up in a ball. The
girls playing skipping and hopscotch and some boys playing "three hole
... the girls doing cookery on the stove in the back room. Sometimes they
let us sample the goodies - the soda bread was particularly popular."
... school work was recorded in jotters using a pencil. When we got older we
were allowed to use a jotter pen which was dipped into an inkwell on the
front of the desk. Mr. Todd used to say "Get those pens pointing over your
right shoulder." Some children in the lower classes still did their written
work on slates."
... studying arithmetic, geography, history, drawing and physical
education or drill. Miss Maxwell used to play the organ when we had singing
lessons. Studying English and having to read Shakespeare and learn off the
Merchant of Venice. The girls also studied shorthand, but this was done out
of school hours and parents had to pay for the tuition. If painting was done
parents also provided money for the paints."
... the minister, the Rev. Cordner coming into school quite regularly to
teach Catechisms. He wore a top hat and a coat with tails, and used to ride
a bicycle around the area."
... the pupils wearing any type of clothes to school. There were no
school uniforms in those days. The girls wore white pinafores and the boys
wore suits and a shirt with a heavy collar. The girls wore lace up boots and
the boys wore hobnail boots. These were super for skating in the frost.
There was a man called McBrier who was a shoemaker, and he used to ride a
motorbike and sidecar, and came round the houses to measure for the size of
... Miss Martin using the cane on pupils for not paying attention. Mr.
Todd used the cane frequently also on boys, and when he didn't have one he
would send the boy out to select one from the hedge. Before Mr. Todd caned a
pupil he always used to whack the blackboard and then the pupil."
... Mr. Todd riding a bicycle to school every day from Belfast. He came
up the Drumbo Road and the boys used to wait for him at the corner of
Tullyard Road so they could wheel his bicycle up to school. While the boys
were wheeling the bicycle, Mr. Todd walked along reading his newspaper."
... boys being sent to the village pump with a bucket to bring back water
for washing and drinking. The bucket sat just inside the door, with an
enamel mug hanging on the wall above it with which to wash or drink!"
... walking to school, but some pupils came in traps."
... two pot bellied stoves, heated by coke and coal, with fireguards
enclosing them on four sides. These were great in the winter time if you
were sitting near one, if not you nearly froze with the cold. Miss Maxwell
would have stopped lessons and brought the pupils up to the stove to et some
... the desks at which we sat had seats attached to them, and about five
pupils sat at each desk. The desks had inkwells on them, and this always
encouraged the boys to dip their pens and flick! Jotters and books were
stacked on a platform underneath."
... Miss Martin had a favourite saying when she became exasperated she
would shout out "Will you for goodness sake sit down'?"
. . . bringing homemade soda and wheaten bread and sometimes buttered
bread with jam or cold fried bacon for lunch. Sometimes we ate the lunch, in
class, during the morning when the teacher wasn't looking and then had
nothing at lunchtime. If you wanted a drink you brought milk from home, or
took water from the bucket!"
... pupils taking extended "holidays" during the time the hay was being
cut and harvested and potatoes being dug. Parents encouraged their children
to stay at home and help on the farm at these times."
... the dry toilets with wooden seats at the back of the school. There
used to be very unpleasant smells from here and they were very cold in the
... the school being lit by paraffin lamps. These lamps hung from the
ceiling with some on the walls."
... being able to buy 10 sweets for 1 penny in Jimmy Allen's pub."
Maureen Shannon (nee Davis)
My grateful thanks are due to all who supported and encouraged me in this
To the Board of Governors of Drumbo Primary School for allowing the work to
To the Session and Church Committee of Drumbo Presbyterian Church, for
giving permission to peruse and quote from church minute books;
To Professor Richard McMinn who wrote the Foreword;
To Mr. Herbie Currie, former principal, who wrote regarding his memories in
To Mrs. Ellen Craven, Miss Mamie Graham and the late Mr. Ernest Patterson,
who permitted me to interview them regarding their memories of school life
To my colleagues Dr. Eamon Phoenix and Mr. Michael McCurley, who proof read
the script and provided helpful and constructive comments;
To all those, too numerous to mention, who provided photographs, information
regarding photographs, poems and any other details.
Christopher I. Reid
I. History of Irish Education from 1800 - T. J. Duncan
2. Committee Minutes - Drumbo Presbyterian Church 3. P.R.O.N.I. - ED/1/15
ED/ 1 /20 ED/6/1/3/1
ED/7/1/613 ED/7/5/ 1 D 4. The Past Revisited - A History of Drumbo
Presbyterian Church - Dr. Chris Reid.
5. The Morning News - 18th February, 1876.
6. The Northern Star - 27th June - 1st July, 1796, p.3.
THE TOWNLAND OF DRUMBO
|There's a beautiful spot in the County of Down
Away from the din of the City and Town
Where the light-hearted traveller roving along
May be heard in a jolly mood humming a song
There the hills and the dells form a picturesque scene
And the clear silent brooks steal their passage between
Could we find a place dearer as thither we go
That would ever surpass the Townland of Drumbo.
There the birds full of life at the first call of spring
Through the woods and the hedge rows their merry notes ring
And the sun spreads its rays o'er the valley and mead
While the farmer with eager hand scatters the seed
There the peasant throughout the fair summers day
Is pitching and spreading away at the hay
To get it right saved ere the winters storms blow
Or the heavy rains sweep o'er the Land of Drumbo.
In the autumn the plants and the flowers decay
And the leaves on the tree natures call must obey
But the farmers hard labour with glory is crowned
With the wheels of the thresher revolving around
Then the peasant with crops safely gathered and stored
Can a short term of leisure in winter afford
Just to sit snug and cosy while fast falls the snow
And the stormy winds rage through the Land of Drumho.
In that land I was born. In that land I was bred
And I oft times reflect on the years that have fled
When an innocent lad peaceful hours I spent
With my toy water wheel and my sack covered Tent
Where I preached but my congregation was small
In fact there were only two hearers in all
But I was content with my near little show
In my youth when I lived in the Land of Drumbo.
There the scholars go tripping along to the school
Where discipline is strictly observed as a rule
While some of the Teachers, though doing their best
Have their patience exhausted and put to the test
There on Sunday, the voice of the choir is heard
And the Pastor to preach
has his message prepared
While through their devotions the worshippers go
In that old village Church in the Land of Drumbo.
There the dead in the Churchyard of the loved and the brave
Are hidden from view in the depths of the grave
And the place that once knew them now knows them no more
Their troubles are ended their trials are o'er
And so will it be when life's journey is trod
There'll be fullness of joy in the presence of God
When back to the dust this vile body shall go
And I'm laid neath the sod in my tomb at Drumho.
Then as time hastens on may we not in our day
Be engrossed with the things which may shortly decay
For pamper or treasure those bodies that must
So easily crumble and turn to the dust
But while to the nobler things we attain
Oh may we be happy in sunshine or rain
And may health, her blessings upon them bestow
Those folks who dwell in the Townland of Drumbo.
Alex D. Johnston. (Written about 1910).