A HISTORY OF FRIENDS' SCHOOL LISBURN

By
Neville H. Newhouse

 

 

 

CHAPTER THREE
Fifty Years, 1820-70

In 1813 the School Committee reported to the Quarterly Meeting that for the second successive year expenditure had considerably exceeded income. It therefore asked leave to raise the lowest annual fee from 3 to 5, so that there could be less call on the funds used to help needy Friends. However, a full two pound increase seemed to the Meeting too great and it authorised a fee of 4, only half the amount asked for. In 1824, after a relatively settled time, it was reduced to 3 10s. at which it remained for thirteen years, increasing to 5 in 1840 and remaining at that until 1870.

These bare figures give little idea of the financial struggles the, school often went through. True, Friends would leave money for various purposes (in 1804, for example, Joseph Richardson left it 500 and in 1823 Thomas Richardson donated money for the purchases of books), but all the time staff needed paying and the building had to be maintained and extended. It was essential therefore to have the school full. If the number of pupils fell below a certain figure (thirty-five seems to have been the minimum), the running of the school became uneconomic. For the greater part of the nineteenth century the reports are much concerned with the school's ability to pay its way.

The master himself was miserably paid-25 per annum and his keep until 1837. If he was both master and superintendent he must have done rather better, but the very fact of these two distinct positions perpetuated the staffing difficulties until Joseph Radley came in 1874. The master's duty was to instruct the pupils in basic knowledge and mental skills ; the superintendent's was to run the farm. Since the boys worked one day a week on the farm, the superintendent as well as the master had responsibility for them, and if, as sometimes happened, the master was not a Quaker, or a very young one, then the superintendent assumed responsibility for the religious education given - a strange assignment for the school's business manager whose job was to make the farm pay its way. Such a division of responsibilities which could not be rigidly or even clearly defined and which often varied according to the capabilities of the men involved was awkward, to say the least. One reason for John Gough's success had been that he was in full charge. We know nothing of how the farm was run from 1774-91, but we can be sure that a Quaker of the experience and authority of the first Head, who worked closely with the trustees, was the undisputed leader of the school.

George Greer

Following Samuel Douglas' departure there were five less settled years during which it proved hard to get and hold a resident master for the boys. Henry Bragg came as superintendent in 1817, when James Murray and Jacob Pearson were assistant masters. John M. Douglas thought it possible that Henry Bragg was a forebear of the famous Cambridge father and son scientists of the early twentieth century and got in touch with them, but the link was not established. In any case he did not stay long. Like so many of the masters who came to Lisburn, he found better paid work.

Fortunately, however, in 1822 George Greer came as master and stayed for fifteen years. A year earlier Joseph Druitt had become superintendent and he too stayed a long time - eighteen years. Such stability was not to be known again until Joseph Radley's time. One reason for it was that the daughters of the two men were also involved in the running of the school, Darah Druitt first as housekeeper and later as matron, Maria Greer as apprentice to the governess (Hannah Gummersall in 1826). Of George Greer himself Joseph Radley noted

George Greer's discipline is said to have been terribly strict. He was a conscientious and taciturn Irish teacher, whose nature had not been softened by a training among the Friends. His lot was a hard one. Year in, year out, he had to contend almost single-handed with the sturdy natures of Ulster boys, whose tempers were not improved by long years of schooling away from home, unbroken by vacations, seldom sweetened by the visits of friends, without cricket or football, with no music, and not even the refining influence of education.

Written some fifty years after the times they describe, these words look back to what Joseph Radley obviously thought of as the Dark Ages of the school's history. An era when pupils did not have even the refining influence of education ! In a similar vein Mary Waterfall quotes one of George Greer's pupils as saying that the masters, usually kind though harassed, could only hold their positions if they were severe :

overworked, and under-paid, they had to encounter difficulties which the amenities of modern school life have done away with. We need not reflect on their actions, nor on those of the Committee whose servants they were, and whose rules they had strictly to enforce.

A contemporary account was given by Joseph John Gurney who in 1828 visited Lisburn with his sister, Elizabeth Fry

There is an excellent Friends' school here, the Hibernian Ackworth, and most of yesterday was employed in the examination of the children, and in setting on foot the Ackworth plans of scriptural instruction.

I found the wheel move rather heavily, but believe success is likely to crown the effort. One of our companions has been John Conran, a veteran preacher of eight-eight years, who stood his ground most valiantly in the time of the secession, and was for some time the only minister in the north of Ireland. Our dear sister, Elizabeth Fry, visited the men's meeting, and John Conran preached in the course of the morning one of the best sermons I ever heard, on the Sonship and Divinity of our Saviour.

Kind though these words are in intention, their patronising tone reveals more about their author than about his subject. In fact, it needs no contemporary account or great wisdom to establish the success of the school under George Greer whose best justification, as Mary Waterfall points out, is quite simply the list of 150 boys who passed through his hands. They include : William Valentine, James N. Richardson, Jonathan Joshua Richardson, Robert Greer, William Uprichard, Joshua Richardson, Thomas Richardson, William J. Turtle, Alexander D. Allen, John Douglas, John Wardell, Elias Thompson and Elias Bell. There are names here who in important ways helped to make Ulster Quakerism what it is today. Two of them, James N. Richardson and Elias H. Bell, gave years of service to the school committee. All had the good fortune to be pupils before the many staff changes experienced after George Greer died in 1837.

The Boarding School in Dublin

There was during the 1820's and 1830's a strong feeling among English Friends that there should be `a type of education which would give Quaker boys as fair an opportunity to prepare for life as other English boys had in the great public schools'. As a result, schools for higher education were founded at Tottenham in 1827, and in York where Bootham opened in 1829 and Mount Sion school for girls in 1831. But there were many Irish as well as English Quakers, who were uneasy that their own children had not the opportunity of as good an education as the children of their wealthy and influential friends ; and in 1839 a provisional committee, whose members were Joseph and Samuel Bewley, Joseph Humphreys, William Malone, Jonathan Pim Junior and Henry Russell, announced plans to establish `in or near Dublin' a Boarding School for Boys `to be conducted on principles similar to the provincial schools and affording a course of instruction more extended than that provided by these institutions'. 2,000 was soon promised for the venture.

There is no record of what the Committees of Management in Leinster, Newtown in Munster and Ulster Provincial Schools thought of this, though they can hardly have been surprised as Dublin Friends had always been greatly interested in education. Even though the School which John Gough left for Lisburn in 1774 did not long survive his departure, a number of similar schools opened and closed in the city during the early nineteenth century. And Dublin Friends were also very active in promoting schools for poor children, playing a key role in the opening in 1798 of the Free School, and in the formation in 1811 of the Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor of Ireland, later known as the Kildare Place Society.

But such activities neither benefited their own children nor taught Quaker principles, and so, spurred on by the example of English Friends, the Provisional Committee opened the Friends' Boarding School, Dublin at 29 Upper Camden Street in 1840. The subjects taught included the classics, mathematics, natural philosophy andfor those who wanted them-French, Italian, German, Spanish and Irish. The text books used indicate how wide and modem was the school's curriculum compared with that of Ulster Provincial School. (There is a full account in M. Quane's `Quaker Schools in Dublin' in Volume 94 Part I of the "Journal of the Royal Society of the Antiquaries of Ireland" for 1964.) Ironically, the new Dublin school took from its Lisburn counterpart its most learned master to date, Bedford Gilkes.

A native of Gloucester and a fine classicist, he came to Lisburn in 1838 where he promptly fell in love with and married the mistress in charge of the girls, Eliza Colvin of Lurgan. But he was a scholar rather than a disciplinarian or farmer. Joseph Radley wrote of him

He was always too romantic to succeed in business. He cut in Hebrew characters on the old ash tree in the garden the initials of Eliza Colvin, which are visible to this day. He taught me Phaedrus and Euclid at Croydon, where I learned to love and revere him. He was a fine scholar, and a perfect gentleman. Peace to his memory.

When he gave notice to take charge of the new Dublin School, the Lisburn Committee tried hard to keep him but could do no more than get him to remain a few weeks longer. It is clear that he was giving satisfaction because, for one thing, the numbers were as high as forty-eight. For all that, the Camden Street school failed to attract enough pupils and closed in 1844, whether because Joshua Jacob's White Quakers were at the time bringing the Society into disrepute or because of Bedford Gilkes' possible shortcomings in discipline, we do not know. But there remained the need for Irish Friends to emulate the new educational direction taken in England with the opening of the York schools, which before long were to attract from Ireland those children who sought the equivalent of what `the great public schools' offered.

Staffing Difficulties

The Committee which set about finding Bedford Gilkes' replacement had three objects before them

To adhere to the `original plan of the institution' and reduce the numbers to forty-five by not admitting anyone under 10 ; to effect economies ; and
to act out of the conviction `that one person could not properly fulfil the offices of Superintendent and Teacher' (Committee Minutes for 9th June 1839).

Temporarily, a local Friend was brought in as Superintendent. He 39had no sooner taken up his duties than the apprentice on the boys side left. By the end of the year the Superintending Committee was doubly alarmed for in addition to the prospect of a bad loss on the running for that and the following two or three years, there was serious indiscipline on the boys' side. More hopefully, it was 'satisfactory to report that the conduct of the girls under the present Governess, Mary Hoskins, who has been only two months at the school, is with very little exception orderly and agreeable'.

Numbers remained well up, however, at forty-four, though the full School Committee was thinly represented at the Spring Quarterly Meeting held at Lisburn (still the venue today). It appointed a Superintending Committee of five men and seven women. Three months later staffing arrangements were still unsatisfactory, and Samuel Douglas had to be prevailed on to act as part-time Superintendent. Numbers had fallen to thirty-six. `It is with feelings of much regret', reported the Committee, `but it is forced upon us from our - responsible position to the Society, and to the parents and children themselves, to state that there does not appear to be much improvement since third month'. At last, in September 1840, the Committee were able to announce the appointment of a new master, William Bellows . . . :

his qualifications appear equal to the task of tuition whilst his manner of imparting information we think calculated to advance the pupils with commendable progress . . .

The Committee had examined the boys and approved of their Arithmetic, English Grammar, spelling and catechism though not of their writing, which showed `considerable deficiency'.

Unfortunately,

serious difficulties have arisen from a spirit of insubordination and disobedience having shown itself . . . harmony can be restored only by administering discipline with a strict and temperate hand.

Things were rather better with the girls for, although they were found deficient in writing and needlework, `their household was conducted with order and regularity'.

Friends should not be too much discouraged but rather stimulated to increased interest.

This minute of the full School Committee is signed, as are a number of subsequent minutes, by Henry Bragg, who clearly stayed in Lisburn and served the Society even though his stay at the school was short. What, we may wonder, was his occupation ?

By June 1841 the boys had become so indisciplined that it was thought best to allow them `to return home both on account of repairs and of William and Hannah Bellows making request to be released as they had prospect of a situation'. They had come from Cornwall and stayed about a year. In August 1841, we learn that one, Thomas 40 Everett, `does not appear likely to suit the situation-John Pim to inform'; so there was still no master. Two couples then applied for the superintendency, Thomas Ferris of Sidcot and his wife, and William and Sarah Halliday. The latter had submitted a letter, `parts of which seemed objectionable'- James N. Richardson to confer with them. But both couples withdrew. It seems surprising that when in December 1841 Thomas Fawcett of Antrim came as Superintendent, even though there was still no master for the boys, it was decided to re-open the boys' side on 1st January 1842.

The full School Committee of fifty-four, which was much too unwieldy to be effective in the day-to-day running of the school and yet was responsible to the Quarterly Meeting for it, now took an unprecedented step by instructing the Superintending Committee to procure a temporary master even if he were not a Quaker. It is unlikely that it recommended such an action without first consulting the Quarterly Meeting ; it is certain that whether it did so or not, its recommendation divided the Society. The dilemma has persisted in Quaker Schools until the present day. On the one hand there are those who consider that as a matter of course a Quaker school should have a Quaker Head ; on the other hand, there are those who think that the Head should be the best qualified applicant for the post, Quaker or non-Quaker. In this case, however, it was a matter of continuing or closing a school for which no Quaker Master could be found.

At first, even this bold innovation was unsuccessful. Instructing the Superintending Committee to find a non-Quaker master was one thing ; to carry out the instruction was another. Three months after receiving it, the executive group reported to the full school committee:

 Though not unmindful of the directions of General Committee they had been unsuccessful in their search, and therefore could only throw the subject again before the General Committee.

The boys meanwhile had still not returned, but now did so `slowly from various causes' from September on, after Henry Beale had been appointed master for a trial six months, though `not to reside in the house as he is not a member of our Society'. By December 1842 there were thirty-one pupils, seventeen girls and fourteen boys, and Henry Beale was doing well.

In spite of the improvement at the school, the Society as a whole remained uneasy about things, and the unease is reflected in the General Committee's minutes. `It has been difficult to inspect some accounts', we learn in June 1843 ; and, a number of times, `it is a pity that the school does not fill'. And so, with some Friends unwilling to see at the school a master who was not a member of the Society, the Superintending Committee reversed its previous decision and duly gave Henry Beale notice at the end of his trial six months, at the same time recording on the 4th December 1843 :

It is but due to Henry Beale to say that he has given great satisfaction and has kept the boys in good order, and only that 4rit seemed consistent that we should have a Friend in the situation, as well as fulfilling the trust reposed in us by the Committee, we do not expect to be better suited in many respects.

Seth Gill

Then, with the number of pupils at thirty-one, in the middle of 1844 Seth Gill came from the Quaker school at Rawdon near Leeds, as a result of an advertisement in the English Friend.

It is very comforting [noted the Superintending Committee] to have the different departments once more filled and a great relief to have the boys under the watchful care and oversight of a member of our own Society.

For all the relief, many problems remained, and the small superintending committee had hard work to please the full School Committee, to whom it addressed the following communication in March 1845

Another year of our superintendance has nearly passed over and if we have not been successful in fully meeting the views of the Committee, at least we have endeavoured to act for the best, and our deep interest for the welfare of this valuable institution does not diminish. We have endeavoured to attend to the directions of the General Committee as well as to hints thrown out in 3rd month last.

The `hints', which no doubt emanated from the whole Quarterly Meeting, refer to this minute at the end of 1844

So much was said respecting the necessity of a plentiful supply of milk for the children last winter that the Committee have determined to keep an additional cow and to carry out that intention one has been purchased.

It was by no means the only complaint, and it was like most other complaints in that only the spending of money could rectify it. Still, the Committee did its best, voluntary and unpaid as of course it has always been, and busied itself improving the food, renewing the beds, overseeing pupils' health, and getting books for the library. It was basically a matter of priorities, as these words show

[We] have paid close attention to subjects referred to us in the girls' department and find that the present desks are inconvenient and not well adapted for writing and the Committee had determined to have others made when their attention was arrested by the very crowded state of the Girls' Schoolroom.

After serious discussion, during which it appears that repairs on the said schoolroom had been started a few months since and abandoned for lack of means, it was decided to go ahead and enlarge it.

All this sudden outburst of activity stemmed from the arrival of Seth Gill, who, like many another Master before and since, weighed up the position in his new school and then urged his committee into action. In so doing, he may not have realised, unless similar problems had faced him at Rawdon, how exposed his situation was. The Society of Friends was and is very democratic. There is no Minister to lead ; even the Elders have no more power than any other member. So when the Committee discussed the school's affairs it could make suggestions and bring about changes of which the master disapproved, especially as he was not always consulted. It was the same with Quarterly Meeting as a whole, where aggrieved parents would urge courses of action which they would never dream of first discussing with those running the school. Conversely, if the Master took decisions on his own initiative (as all Headmasters frequently have to) he could well find the Committee and Quarterly Meeting criticising and perhaps reversing them. This is very likely the kind of thing that happened to Seth Gill, for he gave notice that he would leave. The Committee appointed Thomas Christy Wakefield and Jacob Green to interview him, and they persuaded him to stay. He remained until September 1847, in spite of a number of changes in the girls' Governess, ending in one who married Seth. Usually when this happened, the couple soon left in order to provide better for their family, so that what at first seemed a good thing for the school, worked against it in the end, as it did on this occasion.

It was very likely as a result of the interview with Seth Gill that a number of changes were made in the rules governing the relationship of the school, its committees and the Quarterly Meeting. While there was a re-affirmation that the main school committee was subject to the Quarterly Meeting, it was not `to interfere with the sitting thereof'- meaning, apparently, not to occupy so much time as to hold up the Meeting's other business ; and children were to be admitted to the school as soon as a satisfactory doctor's certificate was received, instead of waiting until Quarterly Meeting approved, a procedure which involved long delays just when great efforts were being made to attract more pupils.

Seth Gill, it is clear, had plenty of ideas as to what the school should be doing. He seems, noted Joseph Radley,

to have been the first person to introduce any kind of practical science teaching into the school. He got the Committee to raise a subscription, twenty-five people finding the sum of 25 5s. with which he purchased a theodolite, and at once started taking the boys out with him to measure the school fields, the height of Divis and other neighbouring hills and so on. He also introduced the regular teaching of Mensuration, Euclid, and Algebra, which may not have been quite so popular as his excursions with the theodolite certainly were.

School Life in the 1840's

During the early 1840's there were some significant social changes, well recalled by the son of William Bellows, who, invited to the 1894 centenary of the school's official adoption by Ulster Quarterly Meeting, wrote Joseph Radley the following letter:


At the time [my father and family] landed at Kingstown from Plymouth, the line that ran to Dublin was the only railway in Ireland, the next piece, opened shortly after, being the one from Belfast to Lisburn. Railway work, like everything else, has to be learned by experience, and one item that it took the engine-driver some time to perfect himself in was the art of stopping! for the usual thing was to overshoot the station at Dunmurry by some hundred of yards, and then back in ......

Another great change came in [in 1840], the introduction of the penny postage. Black stamps were at first used, and not many days after they had made their appearance at the school - the postmaster at Lisburn came to Prospect Hill to enquire for one of the girls, who, in her innocence, had peeled off the stamp from the epistle she had received from home and stuck it again on her own letter in reply ; for she understood the boon of penny postage to include a repeated service for the same payment. Trembling and with many tears, she listened to the story of the doom she only escaped by the mercy of the postmaster, who assured her that had he informed against her, as he was in duty bound to do, she would certainly have been sentenced to transportation ........

Of course my recollections of Prospect Hill are those of a child, for I was but seven or eight years old, which means that I remember things of small importance, and forget those of real weight. When I first knew the school, the boys wore no caps at play, but were like the London bluecoat scholars, bare-headed.

When a long country walk filled up a half-holiday, all the boys were marched through the housekeeper's room, which was in the centre of the building, to be fitted with hats, or, to speak more accurately, to receive hats that did not fit. These were kept in two enormous baskets, and included patterns certainly dating from the last century. As we made a few changes, boylike, after emerging into the yard below, for the sheer purpose of getting the very largest hats on the heads of the very smallest boys, and vice-versa, the effect was disreputable. Caps were however, supplied in 1839, though I cannot recollect whether the hats were used for walks afterwards.

A memorable bright picture was the visit to the school of Mary James Leckey, who presented to the library seventy or eighty volumes, then lately issued by the Education Department in Dublin. I cannot recall the titles, but the books contained a mass of delightful reading, which added greatly to the enjoyment of the boys and girls, or `midges' as we always termed the latter. 44

In the playground we were not allowed to go out of bounds or to climb trees, and some of the minor exercises of discipline were for breaches of these rules. I remember my father one day finding a boy climbing a tree near the house, and the latter urged as a plea for the act, that he might grow up `a good Friend' and have a concern to travel in America as a minister, and that in such case his very life might depend on his being able to climb trees when chased by bears or other wild animals. I do not recollect how far this view availed with the master, but the boy knew his weak side, for he certainly wished the boys to grow up `good Friends'.

It would have disheartened him, with this in mind, had he been aware that the boys of Prospect Hill, after several skirmishes with the town boys of Lisburn, accepted a challenge from the latter to fight out the cause of their quarrel in a pitched battle, and that they fixed the next Monthly Meeting day for the contest, because the master would be at Belfast attending it, and therefore out of the way. I was too small a boy to take part in the struggle, which I watched from behind a tree.

I imagine those who took part in it felt as I did, they were under, so to say, the old dispensation, for we certainly regarded the town boys as a kind of Midianites or Amalekites, and looked with a Mosaic satisfaction on the victory over them, which was won by the school ; it being but natural to consider ourselves as a sort of privileged Israel.

The most pleasant times of all to look back upon were, I think, the occasional holiday walks in the country. Moorland and mountain scenes again come to my mind as I recall some of these. The ruins of Castle Robin, the sand-stone pond and caves in a garden whose owner showered on us a hospitality never to be forgotten.

The coming of the railway eventually altered the shape of the school grounds, because the original level crossing was replaced by a bridge, and the school exchanged the narrow strip of land running down to Railway Street for an equivalent area higher up the hill. The transaction included the erection by the Railway Authority of a narrow, pillared gateway into the Magheralave Road, which was then little better than a rough track.

The Famine and its Effects

After the time recalled by these memories, the Committee minutes become much concerned with the farm. It had been `brought into an improved state' in 1841, and was noted in June 1842 to `look well with crops promising'. But the farm was like the school in that it needed constantly bringing up to date, and early in 1844, just as Seth Gill came to the school, a group of Friends examined it and recommended that it be `thoroughly drained'. The work began at the end of that year after a good crop of potatoes and oats, `save for one field'. It was the last such entry before the famine years. In December 1845 we learn :

Crops have been good, potatoes abundant, but in common with the country at large we have suffered extensively with the prevalent disease in that valuable root. Great care has been taken to endeavour to save what we can at considerable cost but whether the labour will prove availing seems doubtful. A machine for making farina has been in use but the quantity decayed is so great, it is a great labour to get through them.

By the early part of 1846 `the Institution [was] under the necessity of purchasing [potatoes] for the use of the `family'. The crop of oats being good, `aid in oatmeal' was looked for ; but it was still necessary to purchase on the open market `other forms of diet', an action which `materially increased the average cost'- a phrase which reveals how conscious the superintending committee was of the need to satisfy Friends that the school was paying its way. On the whole, the scholars came through this dreadful period fairly well. There was one case of fever in 1846, and in 1847 `fever broke out' on a large scale so that an unspecified number of children were sent home, but there were, as far as we know (and we can be pretty sure, for Quakers have from the first kept scrupulously accurate minutes), no deaths. John Douglas always maintained that some of those who, starving and dying, made their way along the roads and byways to Belfast, must have called at the school, but no record has survived of such happenings.

These terrible years were followed by important changes in the conduct of the school. In some ways the committee had at times installed quite modern apparatus there. The steamer, for instance, for cooking children's food, and cattle-food too, was an early example of such machinery, but quite possibly those Friends on the committee who were in the linen industry and were witnessing the growth of the use of steam power in the Lagan Valley, were instrumental in this change. It was suggested in March 1841, delayed owing to expense, and finally installed by the end of the year. It is ironical that it was followed by the potato famine of 1845 and '46, after which there was great attention to pupils' health and conditions. Cloth was substituted for cord jackets and waistcoats (March 1847) ; the beds were provided with `increased covering' ; food and medicine were carefully watched, until there was a feeling that illness was scarcely any longer possible ; so that in December 1851 when six children with scarlatina were sent home for a time, the committee noted disapprovingly that `indisposition had been permitted to appear in the school'.

Year by year the farm was being systematically improved, a typical and interesting minute in March 1854 reading

The farm is in good condition though we suggest that some ditches be sewered and filled up - also the front garden drained
- also the number of pigs should be reduced or better fed.

It also dated from these days, in the opinion of John Douglas, that those responsible for planning school buildings began to insist on large airy rooms (like the old boarders' dining room built in 1893 and demolished in 1973) : the free circulation of air made for good health, it was generally held. Then there was this revolutionary idea abroad in June 1848

The subject of giving a Vacation to the children has been mentioned. It is concluded to let it remain over for further consideration.

It was bound to have come. At a time when the pupils stayed for three or four years without ever leaving the school, perhaps without seeing their parents if they did not attend the Quarterly Meeting held annually in Lisburn, home almost lost its meaning -George R. Chapman remembers as a youth speaking to older Friends who had not recognised their children when they at last returned home after leaving Ulster Provincial School. But the famine years had vividly brought home to all Irish men and women the nearness and finality of death ; and since by 1839 the railway ran from Belfast to Lisburn and three years later was extended to Portadown, there was no need any longer to perpetuate this gulf between home and school. In March 1849 the Superintending Committee proposed `for the approbation of General Committee' a vacation of `two weeks for the children to commence on the first of 7th month'. The 1st of July turned out, as it happened, to be a Sunday, so that the holiday actually began on 30th June, as it still does today, unless the week-end causes it to start a day of two earlier. Two years later, in 1851, the fortnight had become a month -'as two weeks is short for teachers who have to go a distance to their homes'. The Superintendent remained at school, taking his leave at another time, `as suitable'.

These very considerable changes, it should be noted, were paralleled in English Quaker schools, which underwent severe scrutiny during the 1850's. In 1853, only some six years after Joseph Radley left it, the Croydon School suffered some serious cases of typhus, apparently caused by defective drains, and correspondence about the health of Quaker pupils continued in "The Friend" until 1858 and beyond. In fact, in the 1850's "The Friend" received many letters about the Society's schools - their method of holding examinations on a platform before rich and influential Friends encouraged pupils to be unnecessarily `forward in manner' (July 1852) : their failure to meet their expenses, reported on `Year after year in our Yearly Meeting', was bound to have an injurious effect on the principles of our young people' (June 1855) : they paid their teachers badly, which was a reflection on the whole society (February 1857). They are the beginnings of what today's readers of "The Friend" know all too well -fiercely held and strongly expressed views on the value or otherwise of Quaker schools.

A few months before Seth Gill left, Joseph Black came to the school as a very young assistant master. `He seems likely to be useful', noted the Committee cautiously and, as it turned out, accurately For although when left on his own he was too young to provide the kind of direction or innovation of Seth Gill, he was nevertheless a good organiser and disciplinarian who could keep the school going very adequately. So in spite of the usual difficulties in finding a suitable master (Thomas Fawcett being first moved from his post as superintendent to that of master, soon to be followed, if only briefly, by Daniel O'Brien), there was a degree of continuity in the school. To the deep regret of Friends it came to an end in 1850 when Joseph Black was drowned in the Lagan while bathing at Glenmore.

William Groom

As a result, William Groom came to Lisburn from the Flounders Institute, a training college for men teachers set up on property adjoining Ackworth School after a bequest by Benjamin Flounders. Like Seth Gill he made during his four years (not six, as Mary Waterfall says) 1850-54, an important contribution to the development of the school. Full of educational ideas learned from the Institute which had only been opened in 1848, he soon set about remedying some of his new school's shortcomings. In classroom work he furthered the movement started by Seth Gill, increasing the number of books in the library and adding again to the new but small stock of scientific instruments. Then, at a cost of 15 14s. 10d. a work-shop with a lathe was built for the boys. Greek and Roman History appeared on the time-table, and English Literature quietly took its place alongside the time-honoured English Grammar.

On the boarding side there were unheard of improvements, though in detailing them we must acknowledge that the committee were well aware before his arrival of the need for such modernisation - 'the accommodation for boys to wash has long been complained of, being very deficient in what is necessary ; it is wished to draw the attention of the Committee thereto and advise what is best to do' (Minute of the Superintending Committee 3:12:49). Mary Waterfall, following her father's notes, catalogues the changes

William Groom persuaded the Committee to instal the first warm baths and to build a new and larger wash-room for the boys. An old scholar of this time writes that now each boy had his own basin and towel, that hair-brushes and lookingglasses were no longer forbidden, and that even a little business was done in hair-oil and pomade ! A clock was hung in the large schoolroom where, previously, the boys were wont to waste much of their time trying to reckon by the shadows thrown by the sun on the window frames how long it was till the next meal ...... and last but not least of William Groom's achievements, he introduced a new game, cricket, into the school. The children were taken for many rambles and excursions by their master, Colin Glen, Castle Robin, the Derriaghy caves, and White Mountain being all common resorts.

He did not change everything. One of Joseph Radley's notes records that

The religious teaching is said to have been largely negative and suppressive, and the plain language and the plain garb were very much in evidence. The stand-up collars of the boys, their broad-brimmed hats, and the peculiar bonnets of the girls caused continual amusement in the town, where the cries of `Quack, quack', from Street Urchins as the boys and girls went to and fro to meetings were a source of much annoyance and mortification to the unhappy little wearers of uniform.

No doubt the discipline was strict, but it is recorded that severe punishment was not necessary owing to the kind and wise treatment of those in authority.

Mary Waterfall agrees in a good paragraph which gives the flavour of these years

On the whole I think life went happily under William Groom. One reads of picnics to Lough Neagh, the farm carts which had been washed thoroughly for the occasion packed with big baskets of food and happy children ; of Quarterly Meeting days when the children were given free afternoons, and teas with lots of currant bread and cake, with fruit to follow and then games until bedtime.

But like any young teacher William Groom had ambitions, and Lisburn, with its poor salary and guarded education, was not the place to further them. In September 1852 he asked and was granted a 10 per annum increase in salary, though the Committee minuted that it found things `difficult with limited funds'. A year later both William Groom and Mary Gooch gave notice. It appears that he left to get married - it is not clear whether he married the governess.

Yet again the difficulty of getting suitable staff greatly exercised the superintending committee. By December 1853 there is `no master for the boys but a trial apprentice'; the housekeeper has also left, though a friend was given the job, also on trial. In April 1854 it was decided to offer appointments to any future `officers of the institution' on a basis of three months (not six months) notice, but even this had still brought no master in June, by which time the apprentice had left-he was `not likely to answer', the committee noted. The only other detail about this confused period, when there were many changes in housekeeper as well as in master, is that whoever was struggling with the boys in September 1855 was `spoken to on the subject of the boys' poor examination'. In fact, between George Greer and Joseph Radley, a period of thirty-seven years, the pattern of masters was drearily repeated over and over again bewilderingly frequent changes punctuated now and then by all-too brief episodes when first-rate and inventive teachers came, only to 49 leave almost as soon as they had made their mark. There were two such spells now.

John Ward

The first was the four-year mastership of John Ward, about whom Mary Waterfall, quoting her father and one of his pupils, has some good paragraphs

John Ward came to Lisburn from Ackworth, but he had been trained under George Dixon at Ayton, and it is said that no man had ever infused more life and loving interest into the work of the boys at Prospect Hill.

Before his time it was considered enough that school hours should be well and usefully occupied while organised games were in their infancy, and regular occupations for children during out-of-school hours were not thought about at all. John Ward was an enthusiastic naturalist, a born teacher, and a man of inexhaustible energy. One of his pupils says : `Now everything was changed. We were encouraged to take an interest in out-of-school pursuits, and without any compulsion we went with enthusiasm into carpentering, wood-turning and land surveying ; when we had measured all the fields of the school farm over and over again, we measured for the neighbouring farmers. We made collections of plants, mosses, and land and fresh water shells, so that our time was fully occupied. I have known many of the boys so interested in these pursuits that they often got up on a summer's morning at four or five o'clock to finish some piece of work on hand.

All this may not seem much, and our achievements appear but small to the present generation of scholars, but at the time it was an innovation and a decided step in advance, and formed an oasis in the school history.

Apart from the healthy interest all this was for the boys, it was possibly more useful still in putting an end to bullying, of which there seems to have been a great deal when John Ward came to the school, as indeed is almost inevitable when a number of boys of very different ages are shut up together without enough to occupy them.

It was a great pity that John Ward was allowed to leave after four years, but he wanted to marry charming Agnes Pelan and was offered a post in the south of Ireland where that was possible. Later on he also gave up teaching to go into business, as so many clever and capable teachers used to do in the last century, driven by the need of a living wage.
During the time John Ward was master, he had an assistant William Hobson, who later started a private school in England. William Green was superintendent at the same time.

The minutes of the superintending committee record that John Ward started in 1856 at 60 per annum, which was increased to 70 the following year and to 80 in 1858. On 3rd June 1860 he was given notice `for being engaged to a non-Friend'. As for William Green, it used greatly to amuse John Douglas that a note dated 24th September 1861 reads `William Green going to America'. It was a difficult time, because for all John Ward's good work, the . domestic end was very unsettled-the housekeeper was given notice for being `not economical enough', there was a fuss about how often `stirabout' (porridge) should be served, and there was much very proper concern about bringing the building up to date. So the necessary but harassing changes were made, as gas was laid on, the cottage was rebuilt for occupation by John Ward, and the children's beds were remodelled as single ones with mattresses in place of the old double, possibly even triple, straw beds. It was therefore, John Douglas would say, an excellent time to go to America out of the way of the Committee, and he would entertain himself and others by composing imaginary letters to an unknown American address `Friend William Green, where art thou ? Is it not time for thee to return to thy post at Lisburn ?' Not long after he did return, he resigned to take charge of Brookfield School for a short but fruitful period. James N. Richardson recalls him in Reminiscences of Friends in Ulster

He dressed very rigidly in the Quaker garb, and thought every member of the Society should do likewise. Owing, I imagine, to a tendency to deafness, which deafness became complete as he grew older, his voice, naturally strong, became very loud ... He paid three, if not four, religious visits to America, and attained the rare age of 92.

Although the loss of so able a master as John Ward was serious, the school was able to maintain direction because William Hobson returned the following year from his training at Flounders and agreed to stay for five years. He had Joseph Haydock as apprentice, and introduced two hours per week of both French and Latin, as well as the first book of Euclid. At this time the papers and periodicals taken for the pupils were `The British Workman', `The Band of Hope Children's Friend', and `The Illustrated London News'. The inevitable troubles of the family continued (`There has been a difference between Samuel Evans and other members of the household and he has resigned') but not at the expense of continuing modernisation : a new main entrance gate was erected with `proper pillars', and more important, the committee decided that `each girl should have a chair beside her bed', likewise the boys, who were also to have what the girls presumably already enjoyed, a common washbasin.

Frank and Sophia Dymond

Then in 1864 (not 1868, as Mary Waterfall has it), with the coming of Frank and Sophia Dymond there was the final brief settled interlude before Joseph Radley's long reign. Frank Dymond acted as both master and superintendent, while his wife was housekeeper. It was a good time for the school. Its numbers had dropped as low as nineteen in 1861, rising steadily into the thirties by 1865 and then reaching forty-five in 1869. The new couple not only continued John Ward's and William Hobson's improvements, but also began innovations in a quite new direction - they made inroads on the purely guarded education that had been Lisburn's raison d'etre ever since its foundation. Thus in November 1865 the committee granted the children leave to visit the exhibition in Dublin and in 1867 William J. Turtle suggested admitting non-members to the school, presumably with the Dymonds' approval. The school `being full', the request was refused (there were then forty pupils). Meanwhile the accommodation improvements continued : a new bath for the boys and for the girls, a new drying loft for the laundry costing 50 raised by subscription, and twenty-four new iron bedsteads in place of the old - wooden ones. The only trouble was that Frank Dymond had poor health. At first he lived in the cottage, but then concluded that it was the cause of an illness he suffered in the early part of 1866. He received 110 per annum and Sophia 50, but their request for an additional 10 a year for a nurse for the children was refused. In 1869 he was again seriously ill but his wife carried on with help from William F. Harvey, a local Friend. But Frank Dymond's breakdown in health became total and most unfortunately he and his wife had to leave, to be replaced by Thomas and Mary Hobson from Huddersfield. W. Alfred Halliday left his reminiscences of those days

I was twelve years old when I went to `Friends Provincial School Lisburn' (to give its then full title) in 1867. The premises it was rumoured had formerly been a convent. The building with many windows and large airy rooms made the rumour probable enough.

A much larger space was then (in 1867) in front, between the garden and the school buildings ; one side to the left had a very large high Ball Alley. A wall divided the Boys' from the Girls' playground.

On Sunday afternoons the Garden was opened to boys and girls who had cousins, to meet and walk round the paths. Once a year, at a treat given by Catherine Allen of Dublin did all meet socially and had games and charades. The rooms were lavishly decorted for the occasion.

The teachers were then Frank Dymond and Sophia Dymond was Matron and very popular she was. The Junior Boys' teacher was Joseph Haydock. Harriet Green and Sophia Moss were the Girl teachers. The teaching was good, I should say, but restricted. Frank (as we all called him) was an excellent reader himself. In the evening when we all assembled together he read a portion of the Bible and a number of devotional verses in `Sudbury Leaflets' by Jane Crewdson. I think they must have been often repeated as I remember them to this day. We rose early (6.30 I think) and after a quiet time for reading the Bible had breakfast of dry bread and milk. The evening meal was the same except on Sundays when we had tea. On Sundays we spent an hour reading good books, mostly Friends' biographies. I remember reading `Josephus and the Wars of the Jews'. There was every weekday a good dinner. The library was small but well chosen- Prescott's Histories. I read them all with great interest. We were brought up to (the then) date. I remember still the names of nearly all the Chancellors of the different European Nations. Sometimes the reading lesson was taken from a newspaper ; a boy placed with a paper at the farthest end of the room had to make himself heard by all present-it seems a good practice. I should say that before I left, F & S Dymond were succeeded by Thomas and Mary Hobson of Huddersfield. They came from Ackworth and were often quoting it. As Second Class teacher John William Thorpe (also from England) took Joseph Haydock's place. The time I was at school seems to me to have been a transition time, particularly as regards the Society of Friends. `The old order changeth, yielding place to new'. The collarless coat and Friends bonnet were still worn by some, but neither was worn at school. The boys every year were each provided with a new suit of clothes, of a dark colour rather like an Eton suit. Also a cap with a small peak, but that was only worn when out of the school premises. Generally we went about bare-headed. Instead of the Friends Bonnet, each girl wore a straw bonnet with purple strings, rather becoming. Every Sunday morning all the pupils formed into two processions, clad in these uniforms, and marched down the hill to the town. When they reached the meeting house street, the boys turned to the path on the left and the girls to the path on the right. The teachers walked behind. The distance was not great but there were `town boys' who were delighted with the show and used to call `Quack, Quack, Quack'. The `town boys' knowing that the school premises were deserted, came up, got into the garden, and helped themselves to the apples. One of the teachers volunteered to stay at home one Sunday and concealed himself in the yew tree summer house and when the boys appeared, darted out and managed to collar two of them. When the school returned from Meeting, they saw the two boys being dragged up to the school. What happened to them, I don't know, but I think the cure was complete.

The meeting for worship was not a large one but there was a good deal of speaking, some of which was suitable for young people. I may say here that the teaching of selected portions of scripture and the memorising of them was carried out well, and personally I have often felt thankful for having them now embedded in my memory. Learning by rote has its limitations but it certainly had also its uses.

On the whole I look back with pleasure to the time I spent at Lisburn school. The food will seem to some rather meagre. The absence of butter is hard to account for as there was a farm then attached to the school with a steward, ensuring a plentiful supply of good milk. For breakfast and supper it was probably better than tea. The health of the pupils was quite good when I was there. There was an epidemic of scarlatina (indeed only three of us remained in the boys school to take lessons) and I remember an epidemic of mumps, but these were exceptional. In conclusion I must mention the high regard for truth that prevailed among the boys. The relations between teacher and taught were good.

It is strange how the indignity of the locals' mockery of Quaker uniform rankled with so many boarders -and it was by no means ended with yet. And it is good to read what would have greatly pleased John Hancock and John Gough a century ago, that there was a high regard for truth among pupils.

Brookfield School

It was with difficulty, then, that the school struggled on to its first century in 1874. What, apart from continued existence, had it achieved ? Such a question can be answered only by those who have at different times been part of the community, and even they might not be able to formulate any very clear answer. But we can say that it had won its own independently awarded credentials in the modest praise of official commission reports emanating from Dublin in 1835-6 and 1855-58 ; and it could also claim after 100 years to be a recognised feature of Lisburn life, even if it was still an exclusively Quaker and therefore slightly mysterious institution just outside the town proper. Necessarily, it was best known in the Society of Friends. Whether that body knew it or not, its standing within it had been subtly altered by the founding in 1836 of Brookfield Agricultural School, Moira.

That another Friends School should be opened so near to Lisburn is at first sight very surprising, but less so when it is understood that it was meant for a particular kind of pupil - for the children of those not in membership of the Society, and this at a time when those marrying non-members were still automatically disowned. Its purpose was different too. Established (it scarcely needs saying) to `train young people up in religious life and conversation', it also taught practical and agricultural skills, all of which it did with good effect until it closed in 1922. This limitation of its aims left the way open for the Lisburn school to fit into the Province's pattern of secondary education when the time came. And because Ulster Provincial School, which continued increasingly to deal with academic subjects, was soon to attract graduates, it needed to charge dearer fees than Brook field. This in turn invested John Hancock's school with an aura of respectability which had not been the intention of its founder, but was clearly recognised from the time in 1875 when, in the words of the Committee of Management's "History of Brookfield" (1890), "Improvements having taken place in Ulster Provincial School, Lisburn, about this time, it was made suitable for the accommodation of a different class of pupils, rather than for the poorer members of our Society".

Brookfield was very much the creation of the large and wealthy Richardson family who were already doing so much to help the finances of the Lisburn school. Soon after it was established, a Meeting House and later a Day School were built next to it. The friction over this development resulted from the singing of hymns in both Day School and Mission, and from a feeling that all was too much the work of one moneyed family. Edward Bell, a stern critic of the Mission, complained strongly in his pamphlet `Some Account of the Rise and Progress of Brookfield Meeting', that when a vacancy occurred on school committees, it was filled by someone known to approve of those weighty Friends already on it. Thus the variety of opinion throughout the Quarterly Meeting was in the main unconsulted, a complaint very similar to that made at the time of the death of John Gough about John Hancock's original trustees.

Commenting on the special position of Quakers in Ulster business, E. R. Green writes (`Ulster since 1800' p. 115)

The greatest of the Quaker families was the Richardsons, who had already come to hold a leading position in the linen industry in the eighteenth century. James N. Richardson of Glenmore near Lisburn, who died in 1842, had seven sons who controlled bleach works, spinning mills, and factories in three countries, and importing and shipping businesses in Liverpool, Philadelphia and New York.

One of the sons, John Grubb Richardson, conceived and built the village of Bessbrook for his work people. He was a man of the highest principles and when the Inman shipping line of which he was a partner became involved in the Crimean War, he withdrew from it. The family was known throughout Ulster for its deep interest in those less fortunate than themselves, and both the Northern Quaker schools owed the Richardsons a great deal. Even so, there were dangers in this dependence on so influential a family. Consider, for example, these words of James N. Richardson (grandson of the firm's founder) in his preface to "Reminiscences of Friends in Ulster" :

There is nothing to be said against reverent research, but it would have been amusing had it not been so awfully serious, to hear a rather juvenile-looking person called Wood, at the Summer School at Monkstown a year or two since, giving it as his pronouncement forsooth, that Critics had not yet quite decided as to the authenticity of this and that incident and saying of Scripture, which to some of us there were like fibres woven into the very fabric of our being.

The certainty and deep faith of these words which look back to the 1859 Revival are in their own way impressive. The patronising tone towards Herbert G. Wood, who along with J. Rendel Harris achieved international fame as a Quaker Biblical scholar, is less so. There should be room in a school for different attitudes, and though a guarded education was in some ways a strength, it was in others a restriction, particularly as the twentieth century drew nearer. Another remark of James N. Richardson's is similarly revealing. 'Brookfield', he wrote of his Uncle Jonathan Richardson of Springfield, `was his pet recreation, the affairs of which he was instrumental in bringing to a high pitch of perfection'. There is no need to cavil at `pet recreation' which is presented as a family joke, but the idea of `bringing a school's affairs to perfection' will sound odd to practising boarding school teachers who struggle daily with the ever-present problems presented by the community of which they are part. Yet to say this is perhaps only to point out that to us today the certainties of non-conformist Victorian Ulster, which were an important part of the story of the Provincial School, are a long way off. It was simply not possible for the school to be boldly experimental ; its existence was too precarious. It is unlikely that it would have survived at all had it not been for the long-continued support of the Richardson family.

Changing Lisburn

Beyond the bounds of Prospect Hill, however, a new age was on the move. It is difficult to appreciate this, so distant are some aspects of the Lisburn of the 1850's - Hugh Conn delivering all the town's letters once, and even sometimes twice daily, and still having time to follow his own business at a local damask factory ; the town bell-man, blind John Reid, loaning out his 4d newspaper for a penny an hour ; and the single house that was the only building on Bachelor's Walk. To us such a world suggests gentle leisure; it is perhaps full of people graciously weaving muslin. The truth was quite otherwise. Lisburn's prominence in the linen industry had long made it a thriving market town. By 1831 the linen thread manufacture that Barber had brought to the town in 1784 gave work in Hilden for one and a half thousand people. In 1839 there were scenes of extreme enthusiasm when the first train arrived from Belfast. That great and still-growing sea-port, whose population in 1700 had been slightly less than that of Lisburn, was now within easy reach, so that Lisburn was near the centre of the main trade outlet in the north. For all that in the 1850's cows still strayed in its streets at night, things were on the move. Before the end of the century the population was to double, exceeding ten thousand. Belfast with thirty-five thousand people, and horse trams in 1870, was even more bustling, it was true, but in Lisburn, too, the bad old days were being left behind. There were no 56
more cholera epidemics after 1830, the Workhouse was opened in 1841, and after 1861 there was no need to pump water, save in Ulster Provincial School at the top of the hill. By 1862 the pace of life seemed so hot that there was concern in the town because the soda carts were being driven at reckless speeds up and down the streets. And when on Friday 14th February 1873 Richard Wallace made a triumphal entry into Lisburn to take possession of the Irish Estates left him by the 4th Marquess of Hertford, the district's splendid future seemed assured. The events fulfilled the promise, as Lisburn gained a park, a Courthouse, the Assembly Rooms (which were a modernisation of the old Market House), the Intermediate School, and a wider Union Bridge, to mention only some of his many benefactions. Such was the town that had for 100 years been overlooked by the Quaker School which had kept itself so much to itself that local people hardly knew whether it had moved with the times or not. On the whole, they must have thought not.