Staff and pupils celebrate 50 years on the current school site
WITH plans for a new state-of-the-art primary school on the site of the former Clooney Barracks, the staff and pupils of Ebrington Primary this week celebrate 50 fabulous years of education at their current site.
On Friday morning, together with selected guests, they will re-enact 'the walk' which took place half a century ago on December 5, that saw the staff and pupils make their way from Ebrington Church, where they had been taught, to the current primary school site which has been their 'home' every since.
It is a proud occasion for the whole school, which has been an oasis of calm and security for the pupils through the best and worst years of the Troubles, and far from being an occasion for sad reflection, the Ebrington 'Golden Jubilee' is to be marked with a myriad of colourful events, including a celebratory religious service, photo montages, refreshments, an open day, balloon release and other delights as well as the celebratory procession.
Present Principal, Nigel Doughtery, is looking forward to the festivities: "There are two main things planned to celebrate our 50 years on this site. We hope to celebrate the exact date, which was December 5, 1960, when the boys and girls and staff moved form May Street, which was the church and moved up here to the site at Ulsterville Avenue. We have been here ever since and we want to celebrate that in two ways. So, we are having a church service on the nearest date, which is Friday, and we have invited all our past pupils and parents and staff, and we have put adverts in the paper and hopefully people have seen those ads and will join us. We are re-enacting the walk immediately after to the school, and when we get here there will be an array of photographs in the main hall and there will be tea and coffee and people will be able to take a walk down Memory Lane. The school will remain open until 4pm on Friday for any visitors that want to come and see round the school.
"The other thing we hope to do is gather in all the old photographs from 1960 to 2010 and quite simply put them together in a Waterside 'Voices' type publication with little writing. We want it to be more like a photographic journey through the decades and that, hopefully, will be out around Term Three - or May of next year. It will also coincide with the school's official birthday, which will be 110 years old in April 20100. In between times, the teachers will be doing balloon releases, time capsules, planting of trees and bulbs to mark the anniversary and that will all happen throughout the year."
Describing the anniversary as 'a 50-year birthday' on the site, Nigel said the big birthday next year would be the 110th anniversary of the school, but it was too important an anniversary in its own right to miss out.
He also revealed that after the anniversary walk every child would be presented with a balloon on their return to the school building and, weather depending, the children will be led out onto the playground and we will all release our balloons to signify our anniversary," said Nigel.
The staff have not yet decided whether or not to stage a balloon race.
"We have not yet decided what we will do. We might just put little messages on the balloons rather than a competition to see which balloon goes the furthest. We tried that before and I think the furthest the balloon went was Tullyally!" he says laughing.
"Whereas we did once put letters in a bottle, and we went out in a boat at the turn of the tide and believe it or not, we got replies to about five of those bottles from the islands off the west coast of Scotland. That was unbelievable. Because the weather is unpredictable if it is too wet or there is no wind the balloons won't travel, so we may look at something else," he said.
Unless readers have a close affinity with Ebrington Primary, they may not realise that Nigel was a past pupil of the school, and after teacher training he came back to his alma mater, and did a stint in Drumahoe Primary School.
"I think I started as a pupil here in 1961. My mother tells me she brought me in and I cried for a long number of days because I had this fear of never finding my peg for my coat, and I remember saying to her if I had have found my peg would I have been walking to school on my own, and she said yes. In those days she would have sent me to school, probably with my older brother, who was three years older, because we lived in Bonds Street. We would have walked up together, so it shows you how times of changed.
"I have great memories. My first teacher was Miss McGonigle, and I just loved her to bits, she was absolutely fantastic. She had white permed hair and she was a lovely P1 teacher and I then was taught by Mrs Hamilton in P2 and Miss Simpson in P3, and a Mrs Galbraith in P4, who is now Mrs Ruby Miller. Little did I know then that many years later I would first of all return as vice-principal in 1989 and Ruby and I were two vice-principles together working with Roy Wright the principal, and then returned here as principal.
"I have very good memories, that include playing in the school football team, that was a highlight every week, and I also loved running and I was the fastest sprinter in P7," he recalled, adding: "I just could not wait to get my homework done and get outside."
His love of outdoors has been built into the curriculum.