Hillhall Primary School
1893 - 2007


An Historical Background
Hillhall (2) Public Elementary School

Hillhall Primary School is situated off the busy Hillhall Road at Orr's Lane on the outskirts of Lisburn. It is very much the centre of the rural community and has close links with Hillhall Presbyterian Church. We keep in touch with past pupils and members of staff.

On an early Ordinance Survey Map, the school adjoining Hillhall Presbyterian Church is marked as Hillhall School No.2. Although not mentioned on the same map School No.1 was situated on the main Hillhall Road � now known as No.285. The No.1 School was in the Parish of Drumbeg and possibly was managed by the Minister and Select Vestry of the Parish Church. It ceased to be a school around 1930 and was converted into four houses: the families attending the school at Hillhall Presbyterian Church. These houses were demolished in the early 1970's and a bungalow erected nearer the roadway.

Church records state that No.2 School was erected in 1893, the present Church being opened in 1902.

Little is known of the early years of schooling within the building. Records of the Local School Management Committee Meetings are available only from the late 1930's. The following are a few extracts taken from those meetings: -

A meeting of the newly appointed Local School Management Committee was held in the School Room on 15th March 1938.

The following were unanimously elected as Office Bearers:
Rev Duff Chairman
Mr Dick, Vice-Chairman
Mr Topping, Honorary Secretary

During the years 1938-48, much discussion took place regarding the 'condition of the school premises.

At a quarterly meeting of the Local School Management Committee held on 2nd March 1948, discussion took place with regard to the expiration of the Lease in September 1950.

The reason the Church did not wish to renew the lease was because Hillhall Presbyterian Church was growing and required the premises for Church and Sabbath School activities.

Hillhall Church Committee wrote to the Education Authority asking hem if they would be agreeable to pay a rent of �300 per annum for he use of the Church Hall as premises. This rent was to take effect from 1st September 1950.

The Education Authority agreed the payment of rent.

At a meeting of the Down County Education Committee in November 948, it was suggested that the time had come for the Local School management Committee to look around for a suitable site on which to build a school.

With this in mind, the Church Committee was requested to extend the Lease for a further period, i.e., until a school was built.

The Church Committee agreed to this request.

A meeting of the Local School Management Committee was held on 15th September 1949. Mr Allen, a Parents' Representative, took the Chair.

Mr Allen submitted a letter from the children's parents attending Hillhall Primary School. The parents were extremely anxious that the children should not be transferred to other schools and they urged the Education Authority to expedite the matter of providing a school for the district.

Mr Topping, the Honorary Secretary, was instructed to forward the request to the Director of Education � Down County Education Committee. Within two weeks of the parents' request being submitted to the DCEC, the Director of Education and three members of his Committee visited the School. During their visit they looked at sites for the proposed new school.

Mr Bell and Mr Gillespie, two local farmers, had land which the Ministry was keen to obtain, but Mr Gilliland's field, known locally as The Camp Field' (occupied by the Army during the Second World War), was suggested as the most suitable site as it already had mains water and sewage facilities.

After much consultation, Mr Gilliland's field was acquired and on 19th August 1952, Hillhall Primary School was opened for pupils.

Extracts taken from the Minutes of the Local Management Committee meetings, compiled by Mrs M Megarry, a previous member of the Board of Governors.

Hall of the Hills

In 1573 Moyses Hill arrives in Ireland as an officer under the Earl of Essex, Walter Devereux. When Walter Devereux died Moyses served under Robert Devereux who was Lord Deputy in

1598. Later Moyses Hill was made Governor of Olderfleet Castle at Larne and then in 1603 he was knighted. In 1617 he was made the first Provost Mareschale of the Province of Ulster.

In recognition of his services Sir Moyses Hill was granted 2,000 acres in County Antrim and 40,000 acres in County Down. Moyses married Alice McDonnell sister of Sorley Boye MacDonnell of Dunluce. For a time Sir Moyses lived near Carrickfergus before moving to the County Antrim side of the river Lagan at Upper Malone. He eventually took up residence near Lisburn at a fortified house called Hill Court. (See Map) He and Alice had three daughters and a son. Alice died shortly after their son Peter was born and later Sir Moyses married his second wife, Ann Grogan. On the death of Sir Moyses, Peter inherited the entire family estate, which had grown considerably owing to land having been purchased from Sir Robert McNeill by Sir Moyses in 1625.

Peter set about building a strongly fortified mansion on the site of the Hill Court. It had turrets and loopholes and the surrounding countryside was overlooked by a large number of cannons. It is said that the entrance archway was guarded by to enormous guns. This stronghold became known as Halls of the Hills and the district ultimately became known as Hillhall.

It was Peter who built the fort at Cromlyn the ancient name for the present day Hillsborough. Cromlyn had been the stronghold of the Magenis family. Peter also laid plans for the village and the church at Hillsborough.

Compiled by Mr. J. McAteer (Flowerhill 328 Review Feb. '92)
Contributed by Alan Toole, former pupil.

Hillhall Primary School prior to1952

Hillhall Primary School prior to1952
Photography Courtesy of J Kelly

Teaching Staff 1952 � 2007

Principal Teachers

Mr A Topping Retired in April 1955 after almost 28 years service in both old and new schools.
Mr R M Johnson April 1955 � August 1956
Mrs E Thompson August 1956 � December 1972
Mrs M McKeag January 1973 � December 1992
Mrs E A Moore January 1993 - August 2007


Assistant Teachers

Mrs E Thompson 1936 � 1956
Mrs Frizelle 1956 � 1961
Mrs Price 1961 � 1970
Miss Black 1971 � 1973
Miss Campbell 1973 � 1980
Mrs F Elliot 1980 � 1986
Mrs M Millar 1986 � 1997
Mrs H Young 1997 � 2007
Miss S Halliday 1999 � 2007


Part-time Teachers

Mrs J Robinson 1990 � 1998
Mrs V Kirk 1994 � 2003
Mrs L Casement 2003 � 2007


Caretakers of the School 1952 � 2007

Mrs Shirlow Mr H Ferguson Mrs E Mcllroy
Mrs M Simpson

Memories of Hillhall

Although I taught at Hillhall Primary School for a short time it has remained in my memory ever since as a place where I experienced some of the happiest times of my teaching career.

I went to Hillhall from a large Belfast School where each teacher was responsible for his/her own class only, but now I had to arrange lessons for four different groups and keep each child all day.

Right from the start I received much help from the children themselves and, of course from Mrs. Thompson, my assistant, who was a tower of strength in helping me to settle in.

The senior boys and girls (this was in the days before they had to go off to the Lisburn Secondary Schools) kept me right about "priming" the pump, keeping the heating going, cutting the grass and keeping the grounds tidy. I remember we had a corncrake quite near to the school and we took great pleasure in protecting it.

Some of the names of my pupils I remember -The Simpson Family; Josh and Jim Rush; Valerie and Hugh Crookshanks; Emily and Albert Megahey and others too numerous to mention, like the Lockhart's.

I lived in Lisburn in those days and rode a bicycle to school so that I knew the area and the local farmers very well.

Mr R M Johnson
Principal 1955 � 1956

Thoughts of Hillhall

My thoughts go back 70 years go and more to my first days in Hillhall School, then in the Presbyterian Church Hall. The village at one time supported two schools but the other was long gone and the building converted into houses.

One large room divided by a dark green curtain (rather the worse for wear) held the junior and senior classes. A smaller room at the back of the hall, euphemistically called a kitchen, was the cloakroom. Black stoves, fuelled by coke, heated all three rooms. I shudder to think what the fumes did to our lungs. Only desperation drove one to the toilet down the lane! The lane was also our playground.

Mr Topping, the Headmaster, taught the seniors aged 9 � 14 and I, the juniors. The strain of keeping the noise to an acceptable level was tremendous, but with timetables geared to each other's needs we managed.

Mr Topping's pride and joy was the school garden beside the Manse entrance gates. It must have been a huge relief for both pupils and teachers to enjoy the freedom there.

To me the most frustrating aspect of those early days was the inability to display the pupil's work and the necessity to lock everything away daily. Textbooks and stationary were at a premium and were meticulously conserved, and the arrival of a new map or teaching aid was a great occasion. When the Education Authority provided a folding, wooden partition it was the height of luxury.

The war brought about many changes, chiefly the arrival of evacuees from Belfast. Not only was there no equipment for the newcomers but also there were no seats or desks. At one time we had 120 children to look after, until finally 1 was transferred to the Orange Hall with the middle group, and an extra teacher came for the juniors. A modicum of order was restored, and with the ending of the war normal working was resumed.

The growth of the church and changing aspects of education were working for us and aiding our determination to have a new school. I would like to pay tribute to Mr Topping, for without his persistence and lobbying of Education Officials we would never have succeeded, the economic conditions in then aftermath of the war were against it. But land was acquired, plans approved and in 1952 the dream became a reality.

Moving days were hilarious. Not for us the sophistication of a removal firm. Equipment, records, stationery, books etc. were packed and trundled down the road on wheelbarrows, trolleys (lent by Mr Walker) and anything on wheels. Even the old desks had to be taken. But it was a labour of love and all was in readiness for the new term in August. A Parent Teacher Association was formed, and a tremendous `thank you' is due to the parents whose efforts provided us, not with `the icing on the cake' but the essentials, which the Education Authority thought were unnecessary. Many parents will remember the request for a piano and the absurdity of the partial cost suggested by them. The jumble sales held in the Market Hall in Lisburn were a great source of income, never mind the fun of wheeling and dealing.

To teachers and pupils alike it was a new world. The extensive grounds, freedom of movement, cloakroom facilities, space for displays and projects, suitable furniture, and above all the feeling that it was `our building' in which we could take immense pride and pleasure.

Mrs E Thompson
Assistant Teacher 1936 �1956
Principal 1956 �1972

Past Pupils of Hillhall Primary

Past Pupils of Hillhall Primary
Photography Courtesy of J Kelly