AS the children of Hillsborough Primary prepare to say goodbye to their old school and move into a new state-of-the-art building on the same site, they have reflecting back over the prestigious history of the school and making plans for their farewell celebrations.
The first schools in Hillsborough were built in 1773 by Wills Hill, the first Marquis of Downshire.
When he extended the Parish Church the Marquis built two schools at the entrance gates - one for boys and one for girls and kindergarten children with a small teacher's residence.
The pupils were the children of Downshire tenants and books and slates were provided for them. The girls wore blue dresses and white pinafores, while the boys wore dark trousers and blue shirts and got the nicknames 'blue boys' and 'blue girls'. The present school uniform reflects this grand tradition.
Children from poorer families were provided with their uniforms so that no child would feel disadvantaged or be denied an education. Over 100 year later in the 18th century the schools were too small for the demand.
In 1856 a National school was built in the ground of the Presbyterian Church with the teacher's residence added later.
In 1887 the Downshire National School, with teacher's residence, was built in Ballynahinch Street for the education of Church of Ireland children.
Each school was a long room divided in two by a partition to create a senior and a junior room. There were also outside toilets in the small playground.
In 1957 the Down County Education Committee bought a field on the edge of the village and built a new Primary School, which still stands today.
The new school had five separate classrooms, running water and the luxury of inside toilets. There were also kitchen facilities, telephone and an electric bell to replace the old school hand bells.
The first principal was Mr R Maxwell and Mr Billy McQuillen was the caretaker when it opened. Since then Hillsborough Primary School has gone from strength to strength and now educates 390 pupils from the area.
The school has always prided itself on its inclusive, caring ethos and has a strong academic reputation. Hillsborough Primary has always encouraged the children to develop extra-curricular activities, including art, sport, music and drama and it is this tradition that it hopes to carry through to the new school.
The school has been holding a series of activities and on Wednesday the local community took the opportunity to have one final look around the old building at an Open Night.
On Thursday, June 23 at 10.00am pupils will be releasing balloons into the air to represent the changes that lie ahead for everyone. The balloon launch is being sponsored by the school's PTA and everyone is welcome to come along and mark the end of an era in Hillsborough.
As the bulldozers prepare to demolish the school in July to make way for a new play area, it is with a mixture of sadness and excitement the pupils leave behind their old building as they look to the future in Downshire Primary.