A CAMPAIGN against the dropping of the word 'Londonderry' from the name of Foyle and Londonderry College has begun in earnest.
In September, the Sentinel revealed the Governors of Foyle and Londonderry College were considering a 're-branding' of the school's name to "Foyle College, Londonderry" in order to coincide with the institution's 400th anniversary in 2017.
Whilst the legal name will continue to be Foyle and Londonderry College, it is understood the Board of Governors has agreed to reconsider renaming the historic school, with "Foyle College, Londonderry", as favourite to become the most likely new name.
The name Foyle and Londonderry College became as such in 1976 when the male only Foyle College merged with the female only Londonderry High School-giving the newly formed institution the right to include the word Londonderry via the statutory Foyle and Londonderry College Act of 1976.
However, deep seated objections with regard to the potential tinkering with the name are beginning to emerge from the Londonderry High School Old Girls Associations. The women claim that to change the name amounts to a jettisoning of the link from the former all girls school and also claim that the mooted move has been taken without any real consultation with them.
Whilst Foyle College can trace its origins to 1617 and the establishment of the Free Grammar School in Londonderry by Mathias Springham of the Merchant Taylor's Company of London, the city was also a pioneering place for the education of women.
Londonderry High School itself owes its birth to the amalgamation of previously independent institutions stretching back to Strand House in 1860.
In 1877, two sisters, the McKillips, pioneers for women's education in Ireland, formed the Ladies Collegiate College at Queen Street. Two further moves saw a renamed Victoria High School located at Crawford Square and the Northlands School of Housewifery (1908) was linked to it. In 1900, Miss J Kerr opened St Lurach's College at Lawrence Hill.
When Strand House closed during WWI the students mostly transferred to Victoria High school and St Lurach's. And, in 1922, Victoria High School and St Lurach's to form Londonderry High School.
One former student of the High School, Dr Kanchu McAllister (ne Chada) is a long-term member of the London Branch of the Londonderry High School Old Girls Association.
Speaking to the Londonderry Sentinel, Dr McAllister said: "The main problem is that we were never consulted. This represents the abandonment of the link to the High School and the eminent women who helped pioneer female education and form one of the first female schools in Ireland. The name Foyle College, Londonderry, has nothing to with the girls."
In September, head of Foyle and Londonderry's Board of Governors, Mr Robin Young confirmed that 'Foyle and Londonderry College' would remain the school's legal title and said: "As a legal entity it isn't going to change. The Governors felt that coming up to the 400th anniversary it was time to consider a re-brand, as anybody considers re-branding."
Mr Young also said that he had spoken to local politicians and civic leaders about the issue before it had been approved and claimed that the response had been highly positive.
However the Sentinel has received five pages of emails from members of the London Branch of the Londonderry High School Old Girls Association, in opposition to the name change.
Some of the emails sent to this newspaper reveal a very strong depth of feeling. One states: "I feel it is a blatant insult to the girls and staff, past and present, of L.H.S (Londonderry High School) and signifies a takeover rather than an integration."