Big thank you from

The Raggety-Bap where shining shoes was a treat

Lisburn's old Free National School in Longstone StreetThe demolition of Lisburn's old Free National School in Longstone Street last year marked the end of an entire era in the history of education in the borough.

The school building represented the very foundations of the growth of education for everyone in the borough, giving to the poor especially, a chance to learn for the first time.

It was first erected in 1870, as the result of the generosity of the late Mr. Jonathan Richardson and a few friends, and handed over to trustees for the specific benefit of the poorer inhabitants of Lisburn.

In 1921, the school was taken over by the Northern Ireland Ministry of Education and was renamed the Lisburn Free Public Elementary School.

The building, old and inadequate, closed in 1958 from which time it was used as a special care centre for handicapped children under the auspices of the Hospitals Authority.

After a few years when a new centre was built the school became vacant once more and was used by various clubs and organisations for the staging of their regular meetings.

In those early days the school represented a chance for the survival of many of the lower classes, who in a time of social and economic change, could otherwise have been left in ignorance and neglect.

Although the building has now gone, in the hearts of many locals whose childhood's were spent in the school room, the cherished memories of the ,old school life' will always remain.

This week a past pupil of the school told what life at one of Lisburn's first centres of education was like.

The school is perhaps better known to most people in the town as 'The Raggety-Bap' - a name it acquired from its very early days when it provided a daily meal of a quarter of a bap and a cup of milk to its pupils.

Our past pupil remembers two boys being sent each morning to Millar and Stevenson's old bakery in Market Square with two old large coal sacks slung over their shoulders to fetch the baps and bring them back to school. They were then each broken into quarters and distributed to the children along with a cup of milk in an old enamel mug, which was cold in the summer and warmed in the winter months.

Miss Menown was the principal in charge of the school. She was generally liked by most of the pupils in the three classrooms who always regarded her with a certain amount of respect.

Although our past pupil cannot remember the name of her teacher she vividly recalls the treat which she gave those pupils who were well-behaved.

All pupils were invited to bring a handkerchief into school with them. The one she felt had behaved the best would be given the privilege of shining her black patent shoes-something which every child longed to have the opportunity to do- and a treat which children nowadays would probably regard more as a punishment for bad behaviour.


Christmas will no doubt also be vividly remembered by past pupils of the Raggety-Bap.

At this time the richer folk and business people of the town would treat the pupils to a new item of clothing. Mostly the girls were the recipients of a new woolly vest or long black woolly tights while the boys got new boots.

The greatest memory of the old school, however, is the atmosphere of friendliness within. Like one big happy family boys and girls, Catholics and Protestants lived and worked in harmony with one another, until they reached the age of 12 and had to leave and find a job.

If anyone has memories of their old school days or life in the earlier part of the century, we would be pleased to print them on our Old Lisburn feature page.

Write to us at 12a, Bow Street or telephone Lisburn 79111.

Ulster Star Date unknown