by Mrs Irene McCarlie
Former Staff and Past Chair of Parents’ Association, Former Governor
John Rainey’s picture of the school.
Olderfleet School 1884 -1984
1884 29th July Olderfleet National School opened. It consisted of one large room 22’ x 35’ which was divided in half by presses. The ceiling was high and noise carried from one section to the other. A gallery 4ft high above floor level stored dining tables and contained a kitchen area.
First Larne Presbyterian Church was responsible for the school until 1923.
1923 Education (N.I.) Act
1946 December Annual prize distribution began.
1949 October Parents’ Association was formed.
1950 July First Sports Day
1950 A large wooden hut had been constructed at the top of the playground for the use of infants. From Mach 1951 this hut and main building was heated by oil fires – prior coal fires.
Notes from Management Committee Meetings
1951 Need for additional accommodation. 80 pupils; 2 teachers no partition in 1 room. 3 sites inspected – rejected, danger of traffic no council permission; too small low lying
1952 Feb 160 pupils – crowded premises.
1952 August Additional accommodation in Curran Hall.
1953 Purchased 2 vacant houses east side and 2 vacant shops west side of school – 1956
1957 Proposals for accommodating pupils during construction of new school.
1958 31st March Pupils moved to Parish and Methodist Halls
1959 4th May Report that new school was making excellent progress.
1959 December – New building completed
Central Hall 40’ x 30’ 5 classrooms 25’ x 21’ and 26’ x 24’
1960 4th January – opened as a school
1960 22nd December – Official Opening
1964 Concern for increasing school population
1968 Summer – 2 mobile classrooms
1969 Annual Prize Distribution disbanded. Cups sent to Cultra Folk Museum as a sign of a passing era.
1975 Installation of telephone
Rolls 238 (Boys 120 Girls 118)
1984 15th April – Centenary Thanksgiving Service
1884 Mr John Mathers
1/10/1885 – 16/12/1886 Mr Henry Boyd, Kilwaughter
1886 – 1922 Mr Edward Young
1922 – 1947 Mr William Yeats came from Islandmagee. In August 1915 he was appointed Choirmaster (Precentor) and later Organist of First Larne Presbyterian Church – founder of Larne Male Voice Choir. Conductor Larne Philharmonic Choir and Deputy Ulster Male Voice Choir.
1/9/1947 – 30/9/1961 Mr David Hawthorne – trained in Marlborough St. Dublin, taught in Loughbrickland Primary Mullaghmossin Primary.
1/10/61 – 31/8/1975 Mr Samuel Frame Q.U.B. and Stranmillis – previous principal of Woodburn Primary.
1/9/1975 Mr William Burns Q.U.B. and Stranmillis – taught inn Primary 1963 – 75.
Larne Times – Thursday 22nd December 1960
NEW £30,000 PRIMARY SCHOOL IS OPENED, FILLS GREAT NEED IN HARBOUR AREA.
A new primary school built at a cost of £30,000 on the site of the original Olderfleet Primary School, was opened in Larne last Friday afternoon by Mrs Kenneth A MacCormac, wife of the Director of Education for Co. Antrim.
The new building which has been in use for some time, comprises five classrooms and an assembly hall with all the usual ancillary accommodation. While the new school was being built, classes were held in various halls in the town.
The school’s flag was unfurled by Mrs M Lawson, a member of the local management committee.
Mrs MacCormac, who described the school as a beautiful building which filled a great need in the harbour area, said she hoped the pupils would benefit from the up-to-date facilities in the future.
Mr K.S. MacCormac thanked all those who had helped in the work of building the school. Some parents, he said, had at one time begun to despair of getting a school at all, but there had been great difficulties. He was delighted, however, to see the new school opened.
Mr W.J.F. Donald, Chairman of the County Education Committee, who presided, welcomed Mr & Mrs MacCormac and recalled that at one time they had lived in Larne.
A vote of thanks to Mrs MacCormac and Mrs Lawson was proposed by Mr T Gregg, a member of the management committee and seconded by Mr J. McCall. Mr Donald and the Education Committee were thanked by Mr C.E.F. Robinson,
The architect was Mr J Tomilson, Belfast and the main contractor was Samuel Hunter, Cross St Larne.
A History of Olderfleet by Mr Thomas Ewing Caretaker 1959 - 82
“We understand the committee of this school have decided to hold a bazaar next summer in order to clear the expense of building. The school has been in operation for a month and the attendance has exceeded the highest expectations. During the current week there was an average of eighty scholars. The Olderfleet has met a want for which the inhabitants of the Curran’ are grateful, and of which they are taking advantage.”
When I was asked to write something that could be included in, or used to supplement a history of Olderfleet School, I felt I could not do better than to begin with the above report, which is an extract from a copy of the old Larne Reporter, dated 13th September, 1884, which I have in my possession.
I can still remember quite clearly, the day when Nancy Hoy, a neighbour’s daughter, took me by the hand to Olderfleet School, to begin my first day as a pupil. She handed me over to the care.of that wonderful lady and excellent school teacher, Miss McMurtry, who was to spend the greater part of her lifetime at Olderfleet as a teacher at both day school and Sabbath school.
The building consisted of just one large single room. It had a high pitched, slated roof, which was supported on heavy, varnished, pitch pine rafters. The ceiling was sheeted with varnished pitch pine, tongued and grooved sheeting, as were the inner walls, to a height of about five feet from the plain, uncovered, wooden floor. The walls above the sheeting were finished in a pastel blue shade of distemper, and upon them hung many unframed colour pictures of nature study subjects, such as plants, flowers, fruit and animals, as well as maps of different parts of the world. At one corner of the room, a brass water-tap was fastened to the wall above a brown coloured sink, and beside it on a shelf, was a gas ring which was used daily to brew tea for the staff lunches. Except for the outer side of the front gable wall, which was faced with sandstone blocks, the building was of red brick construction.
A sloping gallery ran along one wall between the front and rear entrance porches, and here the infant classes were usually taught. The long pupils’ desks were of pitch pine, and had cast iron legs and a shelf underneath for books, ran the full length of the sloping top. There was only one teacher’s desk which was also of pitch pine; it was high and had a high chair with turned wooden legs and rails to match.
There were two playgrounds at the rear of the school, totally enclosed by high walls, and with toilets at the top. The girls’ toilets were separated from the boys’ by a high wall down the centre, and a coal store was also beside the girls’ toilets, where coal and kindling wood was kept
for the large round stove, which was the only form of heating. And I remember that in very cold weather, when coal stocks would run low, the children would be asked to bring a lump each to help eke out the supply.
The cane was still in use as a punishment for wrong-doers, but this was sometimes substituted by other punishments, such as being confined in the inky, black space that ran underneath the gallery f~oor, the only access to which was by a small door in the back porch, and offenders were put in here, and the door secured by the little iron bolt during the teacher’s pleasure. This was known to the children as “The Black Hole of Calcutta”. Another punishment was to be made to hold heavy, wooden, physical training clubs at arms-length for a time. However, these punishments were later abolished
Edward Young was Principal of Olderfleet “Then I began, but he retired about the year 1925, whilst I was still in the lower classes, and although I was of tender years, I still have vivid memories of him. He was of sandy complexion, and wore a moustache. He rode a bicycle to and from the school and his home at Drain’s Bay each day, and seldom, if ever, removed the steel bands from his trouser legs above the high laced, highly polished boots that he wore, and I have still got a mental picture of him as he sat on the high chair behind his desk, looking over his wire trimmed spectacles at the rows of children as he taught them. Edward Young was reputed to
have been fond of the wine of the country, but I think that perhaps this was exaggerated out of proportion by local gossip. He was loved and respected by pupils and parents alike, and certainly by his teaching staff, because I remember Mr. McCullough, Miss Nimmon, and Miss McMurtry, unashamedly wiping the tears of sorrow from their eyes with their handkerchiefs on the day of his retirement.
After his retirement, Edward Young was succeeded as Principal at Olderfleet by Mr. William Yeats, who was a native of Islandmagee. Mr. Yeats was passionately fond of music, and under his teaching, choirs from the school won honours at music festivals in the province, but after a
disagreement with one of the adjudicators, he declined to take any further part in these competitions. However, he still continued to train choirs, and they would sing occasionally at Sabbath School and other charity concerts in the town. He studied in his spare time, was successful in taking his A.R.C.O .., degree, and was appointed organist and choirmaster at First Larne Presbyterian Church, a post he held for many years after his retirement as a school teacher, and almost until his death at the age of more than ninety years
come. To my surprise, he said “Well, Tom, you are leaving us now to go out into the world!”
I replied “Yes, Sir!”
He said, “I wish you the very best of luck and I hope you will do well, and have a very happy life!”
And putting his hand in his pocket, he handed me a shilling.
The numbers at Olderfleet had steadily increased. Every morning after roll call, the numbers of children in each class and the average attendance, were shown on a small chalk board that hung on the class room wall. During my last years at the school, the average was shown to be around one hundred and seventy-five, slightly more than double the eighty recorded in the Larne Reporter when the school first began, and it was found necessary to erect two new temporary classrooms at the rear of the main school building to accommodate the increased numbers, and an additional assistant teacher, named Mrs. Beattie, was appointed. Mrs. Beattie was still at the school when I left, but was later forced to retire from the teaching profession owing to failing eyesight.
William Yeats retired in the year 1947 and was replaced by< Mr. D. A. Hawthorne, who had previously taught at Mullaghmossin School, Magheramorne. D. A. Hawthorne was a tireless worker, and during his fourteen years at Olderfleet, had campaigned vigorously to have a new
school built to replace the old building, which was out of date, and, in spite of the additional classrooms, in the playground, was overcrowded.
His efforts were rewarded, when on January 4th, 1960, he and his staff and pupils occupied a completely new five roomed school, which was centrally heated, and had many modern facilities.
Although the school had been occupied on January 4th, 1960, it was not until December 16th, almost a year later, that it was officially opened by Mrs. K. McCormac, wife of the then Director of Education for Antrim County; and the flag unfurling ceremony was performed by Mrs. M. Lawson, O.B.E., who presented the school with a painting of the new building which now hangs in a prominent place at the school entrance foyer. It was somewhat ironic that Mr. Hawthorne should have so little time left to teach in the new school, for which he had striven so hard, for at the end of September, 1961, it was time for him to retire.
However, D. A. Hawthorne’s work in the community did not go unnoticed, and in 1963, he was awarded an O.B.E. in the Queen’s honours list.
On that day when my old teacher, William Yeats, called me to the porch of the old school, I was not to know that one day in later life, fate would return me to Olderfleet again, and that in September, 1959, about five months before the building was completed, I would be appointed as its first full time caretaker, where I have remained since.
Mr. Samuel Frame, B. A., succeeded Mr. Hawthorne, and commenced on October 3rd, 1961, as principal teacher. He was a’ native of the Larne Harbour district, and had, himself, attended Olderfleet as a boy, though not for long. The reputation of Olderfleet is such, that many parents from outside the district, wish their children to have their primary education here, and in 1968, it was again found necessary to erect two new classrooms at the rear of the main building.
Mr. Frame, like D. A. Hawthorne, spent about fourteen years at Olderfleet, and retired at the end of term, June, 1975, to be succeeded by the present Mr. William Burns, B.A., who commenced on September, 4th, 1975.
It gives me great pleasure to record, that as I write, Miss M. Hunter, who has for many years, been vice-principal at Olderfleet, is on a visit to Buckingham Palace, to receive an M.B.E. from the Queen, not only for her work as a teacher, but in the furtherance of modern primary school education throughout the province as well.
The past history of Olderfleet School is one of which all those concerned, both past and present, can feel justifiably proud, and I am confident that its future history will be no less noteworthy.