The William Foote School

A Short History and School-day Reminiscences

Compiled by
Pearl Reynolds 1999


There are very few events recorded in the years to follow, yet every pupil is a testimony to the influence and worth of The William Foote Memorial School and each young life a page in its unwritten history.

The following reminiscences give an insight into the school days of that period.

Howard Stevenson was born on 17 February 1902 in Portadown. His grandparents lived in Lisburn and he remembers around 1908 when he came to visit them, being taken by his aunt, Miss Florence Neill, to the William Foote Memorial School where she was a teacher. Mr Mayes was Principal at that time.

In 1928 as an adult he came to live in Lisburn and became a member of Seymour Street Methodist Church where he was a very highly respected and much-loved personality over the years.

Mr Stevenson held the office of Trust Steward and was Congregational Representative for a long period. In the course of his duties he took a keen interest in The William Foote School and his opinions and wisdom were always held in very high regard.

James Megarry came to the William Foote School in the year 1918 just after World War I. He was about 12 years old then and went straight into 4th Class where he was taught by Miss Berta Ritchie. The whole family were sent to the School because of their parents' high regard for Miss Ritchie who was a Sunday School teacher in Broomhedge Methodist Sunday School. Her sister married Mr E T Green, the miller, who also taught in Broomhedge Sunday School. The Ritchie family were devout Methodists.

Other members of the Megarry family who attended The William Foote Memorial School were Molly, Ben, Frank, Betty, Willie, Bernie and Berta. The family also held Mr Mayes, who was Principal at that time, in great esteem.

Betty was a monitor in the William Foote School in 1920. She was one of the first students to enter Stranmillis Training College when it opened. Ben became a doctor, Frank a farmer, James a director in the timber trade and Bernie a teacher.

Our next reminiscence strikes a sad note as we record the death and funeral of Miss Dorothy Allen, sister of the late Mr Charles Allen, a much-loved member of Seymour Street Church. The death took place on 19 March 1918 and extracts from her obituary which appeared in the Lisburn Standard are as follows:

"Very deep and sincere sympathy is felt for Mr Thompson Allen and Mrs Allen, off Llewellyn Avenue and Market Square, Lisburn, on the death of their only daughter Dorothy, which took place in the Co Antrim Infirmary on Tuesday, following a second operation necessitated by appendicitis. Deceased, who was only fourteen years and nine months, was a charming little girl, and was beloved by all who knew her, and by none will she be missed so much outside her own home than by her schoolfellows in the William Foote Memorial and the Lisburn Intermediate Schools......

Although a wish had been expressed that there should be no flowers, several friends of the deceased could not restrain themselves, and beautiful wreaths were sent by the pupils and teachers of the Intermediate School, Christian Endeavour and pupils of Day School (William Foote Memorial School)......

In the course of a beautiful address at the graveside, Rev Mr Martin spoke of his association with the deceased during his ministry in Lisburn. There were three things that would always stand out prominently before him:- Her connection with the Bible Class held every Friday evening, of which she was a devoted member; her regular attendance in the Sanctuary - she seemed to love the means of grace; and her welcome when he paid a pastoral visit at her home. They had called her Dorothy, which signified "the gift of God". God had now taken back His gift. The light of her presence in the home had been quenched; the music of her voice had been silenced. There were many mysteries of life which we could never understand, and this was one of them. It was hard to understand the providence of God that had cut such a beautiful and promising life short, but it was a comfort to know that God made no mistakes. He had taken her to Himself for a wise purpose."

Happy memories of the William Foote Memorial Public Elementary School come from Wesley Campbell.

"Just over 80 years ago, at the age of 5, I commenced William Foote Memorial School. There was no means of transport, so I had to walk the 2 miles along with my two older brothers, Freddie aged 9 and Alfie aged 12, from our home at the Lisburn Water Works at Pond Park.

Miss Sally McCahey was in charge of the beginners who were divided into three stages, i.e. Babies, Middle Infants and Senior Infants. Miss McCahey was Vice Principal, but was particularly fond of the little ones in her care, and after a few days I settled into my new experience of mixing with so many children around my own age.

For a little while I was obliged to remain in School after the infants got out in order to have company home with my brothers. Then fairly soon I had the company of three other children, including Johnnie Maze, the latter becoming a very good friend of mine, a friendship which lasted throughout our school life, and continued until Johnnie sadly passed away suddenly some 10 years ago (1988).

Together we passed through each Standard until we did our "Higher Grade Examination", then at 15 years of age we both commenced business. There were many interesting things happened during our school years, but one stands out most clearly in my memory.

Mr David Leinster was our Music and Singing teacher, as well as being the organist in the Methodist Church. He had discovered that I was interested in music, so he asked me if I would like to spend a few hours at the Pipe Organ and be freed from school lessons. I was delighted to do so, and went along happily to sit on the organ stool, while the organ tuner gave me instructions from behind the organ. I had to play one note at a time, while he brought each one to the correct pitch. However, what I had eagerly looked forward to with great anticipation, had unfortunately turned out to be a most monotonous exercise lasting several hours. The only compensation was that I've often been able to tell folk that I played that beautiful organ when I was only 10 years of age.

My favourite teachers were Miss McCahey, Miss Tate, who later became Mrs Ludlow, and of course the Principal Mr Francis O'Kane who gave me a reference which if I had ever required it would have been of tremendous importance and help in finding employment.

My final word is one of gratitude to all the team of teachers and I'm for ever grateful for the privilege of being educated at "William Foote'."

Marcus Ward attended the William Foote Memorial School in 1920. The teachers who left an impression on him were Miss McCahey who taught Infants, Miss Ritchie, teacher of 3rd Class, Miss Thompson who taught 5th Class and Mr David Leinster.

Mr Francis O'Kane was the Principal and he had recently succeeded Mr Alexander Mayes.

Marcus remembers the Megarry family travelling to school by pony and trap. The pony was stabled at the Robin's Nest. He with the Hinds children and many others travelled by train from the Maze station.

Bernie Megarry remembers travelling in the pony and trap to school. His eldest sister Berry, a monitor, was the oldest inhabitant in the trap and consequently the `boss'. Willie was the driver. A monitor in another school in Lisburn cycled into town regularly. When they were passing the cyclist Willie would receive a kick on the shins. "What did I get that for?" he would ask "For not touching your hat," he would be told. "But I didn't see her," he would insist. "Well you should have," would be his sister's answer. "That," says Bernie "was how manners were taught in the 1920s."

He remembers too going home from the Robin's Nest in the pony and trap. The pony invariably "rusted" at what was known at that time as R & D Thompson's corner and insisted in doing a left turn to go up what was then known as the Dublin Road. This was very hard for the children to handle until a grown man showed the animal the error of its ways.

Quite often they walked to the Maze station, some three miles from their home, came by train into Lisburn, and walked from the Lisburn station through Wallace Park to the school - quite a journey but this was not out of the ordinary for 10-13 year olds in those days.

Bob McCrea, now a retired Minister of the United Church of Canada writes:

"The year was 1922 when I experienced my first day at the William Foote Memorial School. I was just four years of age and I spent my first year in the Nursery Class before being moved into Class One. Miss Sally McCahey was my first teacher. She told me that she had taught my father when he was four. It was quite a pleasure for me some years later, when conducting a Service of Worship in Seymour Street, my home church, to recognise her in the congregation and to acknowledge her with great delight.

Through my years at the school the principal was Mr O'Kane, who also taught Class 8. He seemed to be true to his name for he used the cane frequently! As a result of my mischief in class, part of my lifestyle in those early days, he called me out one day to receive four `slaps' as we called them. On the third slap the cane broke. He took a sixpenny piece from his pocket and sent me to the shop to purchase another one. `Buy a good one' he said `or I'll send you back with it.' On my return he tested the cane well, and I received my fourth slap!

Personally I give great credit to those teachers who taught me:- Mr O'Kane, Mr Leinster, Miss Tate, Miss Thompson, Miss Price, Miss Ritchie, Miss Sally McCahey and Miss Uprichard. They all have left their mark on my life, as well as on my fingers!"

Desmond Wylie started school around 1925 in Miss McCaheys "Infant" class. She was very good with small children and he held her in high regard.

There were open fireplaces in each classroom, but he does not remember the fires ever being lighted. There was, however, a furnace fuelled by coke in one of the classrooms which provided the heating by means of radiators throughout the school.

Desmond remembers special events to advertise Lisburn goods promoted by the Council. In 1929 there was a "Shopping Week" which changed in 1930 to a "Civic Week". A prize was awarded for the most attractive shop window.

Children from the local schools, carrying small Union Jacks and led by Lisburn Silver Band, paraded to the Castle Gardens. Opposite to the Castle Gardens there was a platform where local dignitaries made speeches. After the speeches, the children, again led by Lisburn Silver Band, marched to "The Picture House where they were entertained.

John Johnston became a pupil of "The William Foote" in the 1920s.

Of all the teachers who taught him he particularly remembers Mr Leinster who had many musical commitments but was deeply involved with The Ulster Operatic Society as well as being organist of Seymour Street Methodist Church. During music lessons in school, pupils who could not sing were dismissed from class for the half hour allocated to this subject. Mr Leinster was a perfectionist where music was concerned!

Many years later John was to serve on the committee of the PTA of the School for 17 years and around the 1960s he remembers amongst his associates Andy Maze, Albert Stevenson and Mrs Sarah Crothers who represented the Lisburn Council on the Association.

Sophie Rogers (now Mrs Sophie Gilmore) also remembers her school-days in the late 1920s - 1930s. She recalls a two minutes' silence being observed on 11 November each year at 11.00 am. This was known as Armistice Day, the anniversary of the day when the hostilities of the First World War ceased. Other special times for Sophie were the School concerts on the last day before the annual summer holidays; sliding in the playground on frosty mornings until it was salted by Miss McCahey; the yearly visit to the school from the doctor and nurse - Dr Erskine and Nurse Anderson; and the pleasure of receiving a present of sixpence from the teacher, Miss Uprichard, at Christmas. She remembers the excitement of being allowed out to cheer the Prince of Wales (Duke of Windsor) as he drove down the Low Road to visit Barbour Mill; parading with the school through Lisburn to the Wallace Park when the children were each given a Silver Jubilee mug and had lemonade and buns. (This was to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary, 1910-1935). Sophie still has her mug.
Another outstanding occasion for her was an evening outing to the Orange Hall when the children attended the dress rehearsal of the Lisburn Choral Society.

Sophie also enjoyed going to the Technical College for cookery one afternoon each week.

The Maze family is a very well-known and highly respected Methodist family in Lisburn and for two generations the children and grandchildren of Mr and Mrs Andrew Maze (Senior) attended the William Foote Memorial School. During the 1920s - 1930s the first generation to become pupils were Jimmy, Johnny, Andy, Lily, Kitty, Samuel and Hubert (twins) and Ross.

Kitty remembers her school-days in the 1930s.

"Education being common to all schools and not this one in particular I bypass the Three Rs and mention only a few trivial or amusing incidents which at the time seemed memorable.

My earliest recollections of the William Foote Memorial Elementary School (as was then its title) are as a five-year-old being handed over by my older brothers and sister, Jimmy, Johnny, Andy and Lily, to Miss McCahey, the lifelong infants teacher. I suppose I was in a privileged position for a time, Jimmy being a monitor. Later he decided against a teaching career and left the school. As a 'Junior Infant' I was one of 20 or more of similar age who sat, arms folded, on long bench seats at the back of the classroom. Silence had to be maintained, therefore talking was deserving of a slap and walking had to be on tiptoe. In the course of time it was some honour indeed to progress to `Senior Infant' and sit at a proper desk at the front of the room. By the time I arrived slates and slate pencils were on their way out. Vere Foster copy books were in, each page headed with a line of `perfect' handwriting but I fear Vere Foster didn't do much for me as I laboriously and unsuccessfully tried to copy his handwriting into the blue and red lines lower down the page. To write `backhanded' was a sin worthy of punishment. I have one recollection which has nothing to do with the history of the school but demonstrates the care of the teacher. As an infant I was too young to walk alone along the 2 miles of country road to Magheralave, and had to wait until an older brother or sister finished class. On one occasion it was Andy's turn to escort me home but he forgot he had a little sister patiently waiting. Unaware that the school had cleared I sat at the back of the classroom, and well remember the look on Miss McCahey's face when, as she was about to go home, she spied this abandoned `Junior Infant' still waiting. She very kindly saw to it that I reached home in safety.

Punishment by the Principal is mentioned elsewhere, but he had ideas other than slapping (caning) to bring his pupils to order. One young lady was found to have chalked on the school wall and as punishment she was told to bring a bucket of water and scrubbing brush next day to wash the wall. It is unlikely that the order was carried out in full but the idea of carrying the water two miles was enough to ensure there was no repetition.

The same pupil, who was small of stature, was challenged to box the tallest boy at a school concert. She took up the challenge and left him flat on the floor to the merriment of the other pupils and no comeback from teachers. That girl was my sister, Lily Maze.

The Girls' and Boys' playgrounds were separated by a high wall and in the main each kept to their own territory and played their own games at lunch time. Ball games were always popular with the girls whose playground bordered with the manse property into which the ball bounced with amazing regularity. I have vivid recollections of clusters of youngsters standing by the manse wall screaming 'Ball please, ball please....' in hopes that the offending ball would be returned. What patience the Methodist ministers and their wives must have had, but with hindsight it is surprising that the children never thought of invading the manse territory to effect recovery.

One memorable punishment administered to myself was when a boy reported to the teacher that I had been pretending to pick cherries from the back of her dress. For that I had the weight of her cane across my hand."

Olive Crone (now Mrs Olive Gould) was a little girl who attended the `William Foote' during the 1930s. One of her main memories is how pupils learnt tables, towns and counties by repetition.

Olive was naturally left-handed and was punished by her sewing teacher because she could not sew with her right hand. After the humiliating experience, her teacher remarked that her own best friend was left-handed and was a marvellous dressmaker! How teaching methods today have changed for the better!

Mr Wells was Principal during Olive's time at school and she remembers him as "strict but an excellent teacher".

Some interesting pre-war information has been forwarded by Samuel Maze.

"I have been asked to put together some memories of my days at William Foote Memorial School, Lisburn, and especially during Mr Carson's time as teacher there.

Mr Carson commenced the horticultural studies during my time. These classes were of great interest to myself and others - eventually a garden plot was set up in Wallace Park not far from school and the plot was situated on a flat portion of ground just below the duck pond. Our studies were various, from learning about rock formation and knowing about soil and not forgetting the clouds and their use. I had the job of weather man, keeping an eye on rainfall and daily temperatures, measuring rainfall per day and noting the temperature each day. (The weather equipment was set up in the garden at my home, which included a catch point, a measuring jug and a double tubed thermometer with a slide bar which was adjusted every day by a small magnet.)

Mr Carson encouraged many of us to think of further studies along this line with the aim of entering horticultural college. The garden tools were purchased from Redmond Jefferson Limited, Bow Street, Lisburn, as were the vegetable seeds and seed potatoes.

Mr Carson, I understand, went to Germany to help sort out the refugees and displaced persons and sadly was shot by a German sniper."

Joe Fisher has kindly forwarded a photograph taken during 1936/37 of the William Foote Football Team coached by Mr Carson. Included in the team with Joe are R Johnston, J Dougherty, B McCormick, B Moore, F Kidd, J Lyness, B Gilmour, F Coburn, H Shields, B Kidd, S McKee and D Savage.

Distinction was brought to the School when Joe himself was selected to captain the Northern Ireland International Schoolboys' Football Team against England, Scotland and Wales in the years 1938/39. This was an excellent accomplishment and a very great honour! Mr James Wells, who was Principal of the school at that time, must have been very gratified, as indeed must Mr Carson, Joe's coach.

Margery Hull (now Mrs Margery Wilson) attended the school during the 1930s - 1940s and forwards the following poem:

William Foote Memorial
See the school and class rooms
See the children sitting there
See the toilets in the yard
See the corridors cold and bare.

Miss McCahey taught the infants
Miss Price how to darn a sock
Miss Uprichard taught us fractions
And algebra until three o'clock.

Mr Leinster was the favourite
Music brought us lots of joy
Mr Wells was principal
In charge of every girl and boy.

See the pensioner with the pen
Writing all these memories down
Many school friends have sadly died.
William Foote, my school in town.

Joan Dunwoody (now Mrs Joan Clarke) recollects: "I attended William Foote during the war-time years and had to carry my gas mask over my shoulder on my way to and from school.

The one highlight that I recall was the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth together with the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret to Barbour Threads at Hilden and we children were allowed to cheer them as they passed." Joan remembers that there was great excitement before and after their visit and continues; "At the end of the war school children were given a small bottle of milk at break time. This was paid for by the Education Authority. On one afternoon each week 6th formers went to Lisburn Technical College. The boys were taught woodwork and the girls cookery."

Another pupil to remember attending "The William Foote Memorial" during wartime is May McCrea who also remembers faithfully bringing her gas mask to school each day. Thankfully it never had to be used! May has happy memories of her singing lessons and repetition of the songs she learnt then still comes easily to her memory.

May is the youngest of the McCrea family. The other members are Jim, Nell, Willie, Margaret, Bob (Rev Bob) and Ruth. Her favourite teachers were Miss McCahey, Miss Price and Mr Wells.

In the year 1945 World War II ended, sirens were silent, gas masks were finally cast aside, air-raid shelters waited to be demolished and children looked forward to a new era of peace.

Post War Years

Jim Emery's love of football grew from matches being played by the boys at the William Foote Memorial at milk-break and lunch time. The soccer pitch was `the wee yard' beside the school entrance gate and the `football' was a stone.

Sport and football were strongly encouraged at the school. Mr Andrew Norris was the soccer coach. "Andy" as he was affectionately known to the pupils was a well-liked and enthusiastic figure. Three of his proteges made it into the Lisburn and District Team and the Schoolboys' International squad. Neville Fisher played at International level in 1947, Harry Off in 1950 and Jim Emery in 1953. Harry Off was later to play for Distillery and Sheffield.

Jim Emery later entered the professional ranks playing for Distillery, Walsall and Exeter City. He is now (in the year 1999) Irish Representative for Everton and is Chief Scout for Linfield.

Another pupil to become a famous sportsman is Uel Graham who attended the `William Foote' during the 1960s. He was a very talented young cricketer who went on to captain Lisburn Cricket Club and has played for Ireland on many occasions.

Uel was also a useful soccer goalkeeper who played a full season for Distillery in the Irish League before concentrating on Cricket.

These pupils of distinction have certainly brought credit to their school through their achievements in the world of sport.

Dr Ian Wells, an Educational Psychologist, writes the following.

"To some people the premises to be demolished are more than the Church Halls. In former years, these rooms housed the William Foote Memorial Public Elementary School. If the Church now sees the halls as dilapidated, how did we see them then?

Those school-rooms were dark by today's standards. In those post-war years, the teachers were mostly old. A few memories of them remain. Their methods were traditional and effective.

In Miss Price's infants room we were made to behave. Miss Price was a thin spinster who looked like a great-grandmother. Some boys enjoyed their toilet trips so much that there was an enuresis epidemic. It ended when Miss Price drew a Thing on the board. Drips came from the Thing on to a roll of honour. There, the names of the weak-bladdered were written. We were surprised that Miss Price was a brilliant artist and amazed by her knowledge of little boys' anatomy. Trips stopped and learning began.

In the middle of the school we met Miss Uprichard. Miss Uprichard wasn't so old, as she only looked like a grandmother. Miss Uprichard believed in tables and repetition and homeworks. She had a deep voice and she was a spinster of generous proportions. Miss Uprichard never raised her voice, and she never squished anybody. But she taught us an important lesson. We learned that Miss Uprichard cared about us, and about education. We began to learn because we enjoyed it.

The top class was taken by my father, who was the Principal. In that former church school, prayers were answered - his and mine. I didn't want him to teach me and, before I reached Primary Seven he became a non-teaching principal. On his part, he told me not to worry about the newfangled qualifying examination. I did as he wished I thought that my father was doing enough worrying for us both, and I let him get on with it.

It was that kind of school. The teachers wanted the best for us. We did as they commanded. We left `the William Foote' knowing a little of the three Rs and a little about people. If the church pulls down the buildings, I hope that it is for a good reason. Blessing will come as it did then - by the use people make of the new buildings, and by the love they put unto using them."

Miss Rosanne Litster was teacher of the P3 class in 1961/62. Children entered the class at age 6 and passed out again at the age of 7 years. She recalls with pleasure the annual Religious Instruction Examinations followed by tea, cakes and buns for ministers and staff.

Miss Litster recalls that at least once a week the Methodist Minister came into the school. The Rev Desmond Morris was minister at that time and was held by her in very high regard.

Then there was the meningitis scare when one little girl was terribly ill. She recalls the Health Authorities being called in and pupils and teachers being given injections - the teachers had their injections first! Sadly reports unconnected with either Mr Norris or Miss Litster claim that the little girl did not recover.

Helen Dumigan (n�e Maze) looks back on her school-days and remembers one occasion when "for homework we were supposed to learn a verse of a hymn, but obviously no-one bothered. I was fifth or sixth to be questioned To the teacher's pleasure or relief I was able to recite the first verse of "For the beauty of the earth", but to my despair I was brought out to teach the class. My sister, Dorothy, who was in the same class, couldn't understand how I knew it as I hadn't learned it at home, but I had probably sung it in Sunday School and I had picked it up as Miss Uprichard repeated it while questioning the ones before me.

Four pupils made the tea for Miss Uprichard at lunchtime and, privileged, sat in the back corner instead of going to the playground and shared her pot of tea to accompany our sandwiches. Of course we had to wash the dishes afterwards!

The government supplied pint bottles of milk to be drunk at breaktime. Many times we wondered was it ice-lollies we had or milk, as it was so frozen by the elements. Certainly no need for refrigeration!

During a geography lesson Mr Leinster (Headmaster), who lived at Kingsway, Dunmurry, explained to the class the route and layout of the new big M1 motorway and how he was going to lose a piece of his garden to accommodate this. He explained that none of this would ever happen in our day!

I remember my class being brought round the corner of the school playground to the manse driveway to be shown the force of nature - a dandelion had pushed itself up through the tarmac.

One of my sisters remembers being consulted by another sister's teacher on one occasion to verify a signature as belonging to our parent. Of course, sibling loyalty being what it is, she didn't own up either that it had been a joint masterpiece done behind the living room couch the night before!"

In the 1950/60s the second generation of the Maze family became pupils of the `William Foote. These were the children of Mr & Mrs Andrew (Andy) Maze.

Margaret had the honour of being awarded a certificate by The Antrim County Education Committee certifying that "Margaret Catherine Maze of William Foote Memorial has not missed a single day's attendance at school from 1st August 1955 to 31st July 1960. In acknowledgement of this excellent record the Committee awards this certificate and the accompanying medal." The Rev H Irvine presented the certificate to Margaret and congratulated her on her excellent achievement.

Mr Norris remembers the Maze children as a very clever family. There were five girls - Helen who became a nurse, Dorothy also chose a nursing career, Myrtle became a teacher, Margaret a radiographer and Joan's career was teaching.

The last of the family and an only son was little Andrew. He was under school age, but, in order to follow in his father's footsteps, as a pupil he was enrolled and attended the `William Foote' for two months before the school dosed. Andrew must have been the last child to become a new pupil. His only memory of the school is of running round a corner and bumping into another boy who split his lip! Andrew now carries on the family's tradition of farming.


After leaving the Royal Air Force, Mr Arthur Norris trained to be a teacher and joined the staff of the William Foote Memorial School in September 1947. Indeed he eventually became Vice-Principal of the school - a post he held until its closure.

Mr James Wells was Headmaster at that time. Mr Norris recalls that one of the two cloakrooms was eventually divided to make the Principal's office. Mr Wells was the first Principal to have an office.

He remembers the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952 when the William Foote and other schools of Lisburn and surrounding areas joined together and marched to the Wallace Park for celebrations.

Mr Norris recalls that what is now {the year 1999) the church car park was the school garden. He was given charge of the garden and taught horticulture in addition to his other subjects.

Numbers expanded in the early 1960s to such an extent that the senior class was taught by Mr Norris in Wallace Park cricket pavilion.

The William Foote School joined annually with other local schools for sports in the Barbour Playing Fields. The school had a very good football team which competed in the Lisburn Schools' League. Mr Norris formed the postwar football team when he joined the staff and was its coach until the school was closed.

The school day began with Religious Instruction at 9.00 am which lasted until 9.30 am when lessons began.

During Mr Leinster's time as Principal there was a meningitis scare at the school. Some parents refused to allow their children to come to school and stood around outside the railings but the school was only closed for a very short period at this time.

When the school closed, Mr Norris continued as Vice-Principal of Fort Hill Primary School for one year before succeeding Mr Leinster who retired in 1966. Mr Norris held the post of Principal for 13 years.


The school now know as "The William Foote Memorial Primary School" continued to be used by the Antrim County Education Committee until 1965 when the new Fort Hill Primary School was opened and, as there was then no further need for "The William Foote", it was returned to its original owners, Seymour Street Methodist Church.

Referring to the return of the school properties to the Church Mr William Beckett states: "A former classroom of the school was one of the rooms in the Church Hall and this was returned to the Church during the ministry of the late Rev H Irvine. I think the year may have been 1961. It was converted to an up-to-date kitchen at a cost of a little over �2000. I think I am correct in saying that the cost was cleared around the time the Reverend R D Morris arrived in 1963.

With the return of the school to the Church, much thought was given as to its use. It was the unanimous decision of the Leaders' Meeting that it should be greatly renovated for the use of the youth organisations and other departments of the Church's outreach. The building was extended in length by 14 feet and the enlarged hall was named the Buchanan Room in memory of a devoted servant of the Church (Mr David Buchanan). Two smaller classrooms were made into one room and named the Wheel-House Room. This was a popular youth centre. Another room was refurbished and called "The Quiet Room". It was used for Prayer Meetings, Leaders' Meetings etc.

The new school, Fort Hill Primary, succeeded the William Foote School and opened in 1965. The first Chaplain to the new school was Rev R D Morris.

On a personal note I became Senior Circuit Steward at the meeting of the Quarterly Board at Priesthill in June 1965 and the question of the return of the William Foote School arose but was directed to the Seymour Street Leaders' Board for attention. At the close of the meeting the late Mr J Walker, Mr Howard Stevenson and myself carried out a preliminary examination of the school premises and Mr Stevenson was, in his capacity as Trust Steward, directed to take up with the Antrim County Education Committee the question of wear and tear of the property."

The work was completed in 1968 at a cost of about �6000 and the new building, which was to prove a great asset in facilitating the Church's work amongst young people, was re-opened and dedicated on Sunday 22 September of that year at a special ceremony.

The late Mrs Jean McKinstry, a pupil when the school was first opened and a member of a family. well known in Methodism in Lisburn for several generations, formally opened the building and Mr Charles M Allen, a highly respected member of Seymour Street Leaders' Board and former Circuit Steward, gave a short history of the "William Foote Memorial School" in which he took a very special interest.

Members of The Girls' Brigade and The Boys' Brigade formed a guard of honour on this memorable occasion.


In November 1997 the Seymour Street Leaders' Board, under the Chairmanship of their minister the Reverend Kenneth Best, came to the conclusion that it was no longer feasible to continue with the William Foote School in its present condition. The school had become a constant drain on the financial resources of the Society and to keep pouring vast sums of money into repair after repair was uneconomical and of no avail.

The Leaders had two choices - to refurbish or to rebuild. The situation was urgent, but the raising of money for either scheme gave much cause for concern. In the Property Fund there was �20,000. After carefully, and prayerfully, weighing up the pros and cons, the decision was made in faith by the Leaders to go for a new Church Hall.

A heavy task now rested on the willing and competent shoulders of the two Society Stewards, Mr James Dumigan and Mr Lester Wood, who began immediate consultations with architects to discuss construction, design and relevant costings. The architects subsequently appointed were McCready and Company of Lisburn.

The responsibility for all property matters was undertaken by Mr James Dumigan, whilst all matters relating to finance were referred to Mr Lester Wood.

They were an excellent team and all credit must be given to them for the dedication and precision with which they carried out their duties. This contributed in no small way to the harmony with which the plans for the new halls were brought to an exciting conclusion.

The Society Stewards reported:

"Around this time the Peace and Reconciliation Fund offered a �50,000 grant. The congregation was informed of this through a presentation at a morning service in February 1998 and was asked to confirm this decision by giving their support in a tangible way to the project.

On 13 November 1998, at a Special Leaders' Meeting to discuss the architect's plans, a historic decision was taken to proceed with the erection of the new building. We were delighted to be so dose to having raised the 50% of the �500,000 required to start building. This reflected the amount of commitment and enthusiasm of the Seymour Street congregation. The Church's governing body will give permission to begin the work when 50% of the total cost has been received. (A generous grant from the Rank Trust is included).

Our plan is to erect a part two storey building, linked directly to the Church at both ground and first floor levels, starting in summer 1999.

Accommodation will include a large hall, kitchen, coffee bar, creche, minor hall, offices, viewing gallery at the back of the large hall, small rooms, toilets and disabled facilities including a lift which will make all parts of the building accessible to everyone.

At present the plans are being prepared for the various planning authorities including the Methodist Church in Ireland Building and Plans Committee."


To many pupils the William Foote Memorial School was not just a building of bricks and mortar but an important part of their childhood where lessons were learned, discipline accepted and in many cases life-long friendships made. It was a place which knew their early dreams and, as their young minds developed, so did their visions and future hopes.

It was a sad day when in spring 1999 the demolition contractors lowered to the ground the old building which throughout the decades had stood firm for what was noble and good. Contractors were engaged to salvage the bricks, the slates and some of the flooring.

Yet the memory of the William Foote Memorial School will remain for many years to come.

The new halls will take shape offering exciting opportunities for service and so a greater work will be carried on for future generations, to the glory of God and the extension of Christ's Kingdom among the young and old alike.


School Principals The success of any school is due in no small measure to the quality and dedication of its Headmasters and The William Foote Memorial School was fortunate to have had the guidance of the following Principal teachers throughout the years:

1908-1917 Mr Alexander S Mayes BA
1917-1937 Mr Francis O'Kane
1937-1956 Mr James Wells
1956-1966 Mr David G Leinster
Miss Sally McCahey

Miss Sally McCahey, a very highly respected member of Seymour Street Methodist Church, was also Vice-Principal of The William Foote Memorial School where she was the much loved teacher of the infant classes.

Until the time of the school's demolition a plaque above the door where she taught marked "The Sally McCahey Room".

Miss McCahey was a very long serving member of staff: A Generous Gesture

When the William Foote Memorial School was being built the Barbour family of Lisburn provided the furnishings for two of the classrooms.


Sincere thanks are due to:

Circuit Steward, Mr Adrian Nesbitt, for his help and encouragement and for his layout on the computer.
Mrs Adrienne Stewart for so willingly undertaking the typing of the manuscript.
Mr George Off for permission to glean information from his book "Lisburn Methodism".
Mr John Walsh, Headmaster of Fort Hill Primary School and his staff.
The Lisburn Public Library and SEELB Library Headquarters, Ballynahinch for supplying material from The Lisburn Standard.
Mr William Beckett for his useful contribution.
Mr Mervyn Mawhinney, a former pupil, who painted the cover picture: to mark the closure of the building.
Mrs Kathleen Irwin, Desmond Wylie and Cecil Wylie, who supplied names for people on some of the photographs.
Those who took the trouble to forward photographs and reminiscences and to all who helped in any way.

This short booklet was compiled in 1999 to mark the removal of the old William Foote School building, prior to the erection of a new suite of halls better suited to our work in the new Millennium. We hope that it may bring back happy memories for those ex-pupils and for all those who have used it over the years between 1908 and 1999