THE WILLIAM FOOTE MEMORIAL SCHOOL
It is very important that this short history of the William Foote
Memorial school should be written. I am grateful to Mrs Pearl Reynolds for
undertaking the work involved. I am also grateful to those who shared
their school-day memories with her and to those who supplied photographs.
The William Foote School served the children of the area as their
school from 1908-1965, when the property was handed back to Seymour Street
As a school the building gave invaluable service to generations of
children. That service continued to be given through its use as a Church
Hall. Still it is in use almost every night of the week, serving people of
all ages. No doubt those with happy memories of the William Foote School
will be sad to see it go. Yet, I have no doubt that many will be glad to
know that it will be replaced with a modem suite of halls which will serve
our Church and the people of the area. I can think of no better way to
begin a New Millennium.
As the William Foote School passes into history, a new and exciting
phase of our history will begin in a suite of halls much more suited to
the great number of activities in which our Church is involved. Your
support in this marvellous new venture will be greatly appreciated
We are grateful to God for all that has been achieved in the William Foote
School. We look forward in faith to what God will do through new halls
better suited to today's needs.
Kenneth Best Superintendent Minister March 1999
A SHORT HISTORY
Mainly through the efforts of the Rev Dr Hollingsworth, Superintendent
Minister of the Lisburn Circuit, Seymour Street National School also known
as "Seymour Street Methodist" was opened in July 1886 and was held in the
hall below the Church. The first headmaster was Mr James Henry LL.D., B.L..
The school went from strength to strength and by the end of the first year
there were three assistant teachers and the following spring a fourth
assistant teacher and also several monitors were required In July 1897 Dr
Henry resigned to join the legal profession and was succeeded by Mr Alex
The school was held in very high regard, as at that time it covered an
unusually extensive course of instruction, including languages and
This was a great attraction for a large number of senior students, who
from time to time gained valuable entrance scholarships in open
competition to Campbell College, Methodist College, MacArthur Hall,
Victoria High School, and Belfast Technical Preparatory School; Pupil-teacherships
in Model Schools; Scholarships in Training; Post Office and Boy Clerk
appointments, thus gaining desirable public appointments of the time.
More than 1,600 were enrolled since the school was opened, an average
of about 83 pupils per year. The highest recorded attendance was 240
Now the hall beneath the Church was inadequate for the needs of both
teachers and pupils and only a new school could solve the problem, the
cost of which caused the leaders much anxious thought, but, through a very
generous action, the William Foote Memorial School was enabled to be
brought into being.
Who was William Foote?
The Lisburn Standard dated 2nd October 1895 gives an insight into the
life and death of this faithful member of Seymour Street Methodist Church
"Mr William Foote, one of the oldest inhabitants of Lisburn, passed
away, after a brief illness, on Sunday morning last. Up to a short time
ago he enjoyed his usual health, but some days since he contracted a
cold, which settled on his lungs, causing congestion. In the absence of Dr
St George, his medical advisor, Dr Mackenzie J.P was called in and did
everything he could for the patient, but medical aid was unavailing and Mr
Foote passed away at the time stated. The deceased, like his father before
him, was a native of Lisburn. More than half a century ago he commenced
business in Bridge Street as a family grocer and was much esteemed for his
probity and urbanity. He was a devoted member of the Methodist Church and
took a deep interest in its many schemes of usefulness. He was a liberal
contributor to its many funds. Mr Foote also subscribed liberally to many
philanthropic movements. We have been informed that his last walk up the
town was taken to procure a cheque, which was forwarded to Dr Barnardo of
London, the world renowned friend of the waifs and strays in the large
cities and towns of the United Kingdom. The deceased did not take much to
do with local political affairs, but he was a sound Unionist and his vote
could always be counted upon for the return of candidates who were in
favour of supporting the integrity of the empire. The deceased never
married. One of his sisters kept house for him, looking after his comfort
in every way. Another sister is the devoted wife of Mr Archibald McAfee,
one of the most respected members of the community"
The remains of Mr Foote were on Wednesday morning (after a short
service in the house conducted by the Rev Caleb S Laird) removed for
interment in the borough cemetery. The handsome oak coffin contained the
Died the 25th September 1897
(Among the Chief mourners was Mr Archibald McAffee and the cortege,
which was most representative, included many well-known clergy and doctors
as well as a large number of the most influential members of the community
including Mr John D Barbour D.L.)
"Arrived at the cemetery, the coffin was taken out of the hearse, and
carried to the "narrow house", where a solemn service was conducted by Rev
Mr Laird and Rev R E Sherwood. The latter Rev gentleman, having read a
portion of the burial service, also read a part of the resurrection
chapter, 15th of 1st Corinthians. The hymn, "O God our help in ages past"
(a great favourite with the deceased), having been sung, Rev Caleb S Laird
read the conclusion of the service, and delivered an impressive address,
in which he referred to the many excellent traits in the character of the
deceased, and pointed out that he relied alone for salvation on the
atonement. Mr Laird concluded by pronouncing the benediction."
Mrs Archibald McAfee
Mrs Archibald McAfee was a sister of Mr William Foote. It appears that
she was the last surviving member of the Foote family which had a long and
faithful association not only with Seymour Street congregation but indeed
with the Market Street Preaching house of previous times.
Mrs McAfee made a generous gift of �1,500 to build the school in memory of
her brother - the school to be known as "The William Foote Memorial
Extracts from the Lisburn Standard dated 7th September 1907 read as
(Please note that where the Latin word (sic) follows the word "schools"
it is used to indicate that the original copy is being faithfully
reproduced even though incorrect, as there was only one school opened and
the stone panel in the central gable bears the inscription "William Foote
"The new schools (sic) will occupy the fine site at the rear of the
Methodist Church, and will have a frontage of 100 feet to Wesley Street,
the rear will exceed 100 feet, as a considerable portion of the manse
garden will be taken in. There will be accommodation in the schools (sic)
for 250 pupils, according to the most recent requirements of the National
Board of Education - ten square feet per pupil being provided."
"The building contract has been placed with Mr James McNally, of
Lisburn, who will carry out the contract from the plans and under the
supervision of Mr St John Phillips, A.R.I.B.A., architect."
Laying the Foundation Stone
"Tuesday last was a day of special importance to the members of the
Methodist Communion in Lisburn. Not only was the Belfast Synod held here,
but the highly interesting function - interesting in no merely passing
sense to all who wish the advancement of education amongst us - was then
performed of laying the foundation stone of the fine new schools (sic),
proposed to be built by Mrs McAfee as a memorial to her late brother, Mr
William Foote........ Mrs McAfee, needless to say, is a lady who has
always been held in very high esteem in Lisburn for her charitable,
amiable and benevolent attributes...... Her munificence is highly
appreciated by the people of Lisburn generally, irrespective of class or
creed, but in particular, of course, by the Methodist clergy and
congregations in the Lisburn Circuit, and, indeed, of the Belfast Synod,
who were present at the ceremony on Tuesday which took place in the
playground of the present commodious and popular Methodist National
Schools (sic) in Seymour Street. In the unavoidable absence of the
esteemed donor, through indifferent health - which was sincerely felt to
be the cause of much regret - the laying of the stone was gracefully
performed by Mrs Egan, the esteemed wife of the Rev Alexander Egan,
minister of the Seymour Street Church."
At last the dream of opening the new Schools (sic) was realised and
quotations taken from The Lisburn Standard, Saturday April 18, 1908 give
an insight into the events of this historic day.
"The important and interesting event of opening the very fine schools
(sic) which have been erected out ofthe munificence ofMrs McAfee in
connection with the Methodist Church in Lisburn, took place on Wednesday
afternoon, at the close of a meeting which was addressed by several
important speakers on the education question, in the old school room. The
formal ceremonial of opening and declaring the schools (sic) open was
performed by Mrs Harold Barbour, with her accustomed grace and
beneficence, and all the attendant circumstances were a happy augury for
the future of the schools (sic), and indeed for the advancement of
education in Lisburn. The school, in which successive generations of
scholars had been prepared for their part in life, was tastefully
decorated for the occasion, on which the work so long carried on there was
about to be transferred to the more commodious new suite of classrooms in
the very fine building adjoining; and perhaps the largest, most
influential and representative assembly that had ever met there was
present to participate in and add distinction to the very important
Writing of the structure of the schools (sic) the Lisburn Standard
continues. "The buildings are of brick, with stone dressings to barges,
parapets and gables.
The stone panel in the central gable bears the inscription - `William
Foote Memorial Schools' (sic). A private porch or teachers' entrance, is
placed near the front, the pupils having entrances by doors from the
playgrounds. Separate entrances are provided for boys and girls..... Five
classrooms accommodate the pupils graded from seniors to infants. (One
room is fitted as a science room, with a proper demonstration bench and
laboratory sink, in the girls' department a cooking class may be held.
Ample book presses are provided in each room and a museum case is placed
in the science room. Three of the rooms have galleries of easy gradient to
give each pupil a full view of the demonstration boards."
The committee decided to adopt open fireplaces for the heating of the
"The Rev Alexander Egan, minister of the Methodist Church, occupied the
chair and in his opening address said - "Ladies and Gentlemen, I think the
occasion that draws us together in this schoolroom this afternoon is as
pleasant a one as ever unites a company in a public meeting. We are met to
spend a few moments in a room where for over 21 years the work of
education has been successfully carried on, to listen to some well-known
experts in education, speaking on the great subject of education, and then
to pass to the new schools (sic), which will be opened for as by Mrs
Harold Barbour. I regret very much that Mrs McAfee, the generous giver of
the new schools (sic), is unable to be with us this afternoon on account
of the inevitable infirmities of old age. She desires me to express her
gladness and gratitude in this meeting at the consummation today of a long
cherished desire in her heart to help the children of her native town."
Mr Egan also remarked that Mrs McAfee, in order to carry out her plan
to build the school, had selected three representatives from the Methodist
Church to act as a building committee - himself, Dr Jefferson and Mr
Other speakers on this occasion were Rev Dr Evans, a commissioner of
Irish Education, Rev G R Wedgwood, Chairman of Belfast Methodist Synod,
Professor A C Dixon FRS., Queen's College, Belfast, and Mr J E Pelan,
Chairman of the Urban Council.
Mrs Barbour declared the school open and was presented with a silver
key, in a case, by Miss Marjory Green as a souvenir of the occasion. Mrs
Barbour also apologised for the unavoidable absence of Mr Harold Barbour.
Sadly Mrs Archibald McAfee died a few months later in August 1908 at the
age of 86 and it is said that the boys of the William Foote Memorial
School attended her funeral and that this was one of the last local
funerals to have a four-horse hearse. Mrs McAfee was a member of the
Presbyterian Church - probably since her marriage.
The school grew in numbers and academic achievement - a credit to the
memory of the name it bore.
Following the 1923 Education Act the Regional Education Committees took
over accountability for the former National Schools. At this time The
William Foote Memorial School was handed over and became the
responsibility of the Lisburn and Belfast Regional Education Committee and
was now known as The William Foote Public Elementary School.