Further Education

Many of those interviewed, especially the older people, finished their formal education at the age of 14 or 15 and did not go on to further education. A number, however, went on to secondary schools, for a few years at least. Ballyclare High School was the principal destination for those from the Doagh area. Derek Lorimer transferred to the High School at 11, but left at 13½ as he would rather have been at home on the farm.

Those from the Toome area generally attended the Rainey School in Magherafelt or Ballymena Academy. Brian McCann, for instance, went to the Rainey for a couple of years. In Whitehead the High School provided post-primary education for girls. Boys growing up in Whitehead might have gone to Larne Grammar School or travelled into Belfast. John Milliken, for example, attended RBAI – Belfast Inst – travelling there by train from Whitehead. He remembers cycling to Whitehead station where he caught the 8.20 to Belfast. This arrived at Yorkgate at 8.45 and he then walked around a mile to the school.

Mickey Gribbin and Gerry McCann were also educated in Belfast, both of them at St Malachy’s School. Mickey received a scholarship to go to there when he was 14. During the week he stayed with friends in Lincoln Avenue and afterwards in Belmont Church Road, and went home at weekends by bus. He remembers cycling along the Newtownards Road on his way to school and having to carefully negotiate the trams and tram lines. Roisin McLernon went to a boarding school just outside Lurgan when she was 14, staying there until she was 18. She only got home at Christmas, Easter and the summer as it was too far to travel home at weekends. Her sister went to a boarding school in Ballycastle. At the age of 11 Brian McKenna was sent as a boarder to Clongowes Wood in County Kildare. He too only got home at Christmas, Easter and the summer.

A number of those from the Doagh area went to the Tech in Ballyclare, among them Mary Moore. She spent a year at the Tech where she learned shorthand and typing. She continued to go to night classes in the Tech, in subjects such as knitting, sewing and cookery, even after she was married, enjoying the fellowship there. According to Robert McConnell, who attended Parkgate School, the principal, Mr Hall, selected the pupils who would do the examinations to decide whether they would continue their education at either the Tech or High School in Ballyclare. Robert believed that Mr Hall, whom he called ‘a brilliant teacher’, paid for these examinations out of his own pocket. Sheila Herdman’s father decided that she should do a secretarial course once she had left primary school. She, therefore, enrolled in a Gregg’s shorthand course in the Gregg private school in Wellington Place, Belfast. Leith Burgess relates that he was never asked if he wanted to go to secondary school and so never had the opportunity of doing so. In any case, with a father in his mid sixties, Leith felt he had to find a job and earn a living.

After school Billy Robson went to Greenmount College and then studied agriculture at Queen’s University. As he could not farm (the farm going to his older brother George), he wanted a farm-related career. However, while he was at Queen’s the family acquired a second farm which provided Billy with an opportunity to come home. Edmund McLarnon’s brother and sister studied at Trinity College, Dublin. Edmund himself had won a university scholarship, but felt that he should stay at home to help his parents in the family business. After leaving Whitehead High School at the age of 18, Eithne McKendry underwent teaching training at Stranmillis College in Belfast. John Milliken was able to spend some of his third level education at Ohio State University in the United States.

Wallace Fenton completed several years of post-school education as he fulfilled his calling from an early age of going into the Christian ministry. He attended night schools and then went to a college in the centre of London for two years to train as a Church Army Evangelist. After spending some years with the Church Army in England, he moved to Northern Ireland to work in Carnmoney. There the bishop suggested to him that as he was effectively working as a curate’s assistant he might as well go forward to ordination. This required further studies at Trinity College, Dublin, though because of his Church Army training he was allowed to complete his training in two years. He was ordained on 28 June 1964.

Apprenticeships were the best route for those going into a trade. After leaving school at 14 Cahal Boyd went to serve his time as a joiner with his uncle. He remembered, ‘I got half a crown every Christmas – and I was six years there.’ His uncle bought him the first suit he ever owned when he finished his apprenticeship. By this time he was a ‘fully-fledged joiner – from half a crown at Christmas to £8 a week’. After attending Larne Tech, P. J. O’Donnell served his time in a garage in Whitehead owned by Robert Auld. He earned 5 shillings a week in his first year which rose £2 10s. by the time he had finished.

South Antrim Living Memories Project wishes to acknowledge the assistance of: