Schools In the early 1930s there were three primary schools in the immediate vicinity of Doagh – Doagh, Kilbride and Cogry. Replacing an earlier school, Cogry Mills Memorial School which was built in the aftermath of the First World War and named in memory of those men from the area who had died in that conflict. Isabell Cooper relates that there were three rooms in this school which were occupied by Mrs McDowell, Miss Houston and the principal, Mr Logan.

The old school at Kilbride stood alongside the Presbyterian Church and graveyard. In 1937 a new school was built on the Moyra Road – Kilbride Central – which replaced the schools at Kilbride and Cogry. Isabell recalls this school being built. Her father cut the grass in the school grounds which was his source of hay for the few cattle that he kept. He had the cutting of the grass here before the school was built and was allowed to continue after the education board took over the site.

In some ways the school in Doagh can be seen as the descendant of the Sunday school established there by William Galt in the late eighteenth century, the earliest Sunday school in Ireland, according to the inscription on Galt’s own headstone in Kilbride graveyard. It was rebuilt in 1959. Although Leith Burgess had already left the school by this time, he recalls that while the new school was being built classes were held in a variety of different places, including the Orange Hall and the Torrens Memorial Hall. There was no school in the village of Toome at the time the interviewees were of school age. Those interviewed from this area attended a number of different schools – Gortgill, Moneynick, Duneane, Staffordstown, Carlane, Millquarter, Anahorish and Auchterclooney. Mary Ann Higgins went to what she calls the ‘greatest school in Ireland! Gortgill.’ Edmund O’Donnell from Cloghogue began his education at Gortgill and later transferred to Anahorish which had a good reputation as a school. There were two primary schools in Whitehead – Whitehead Primary School and Lourdes Primary School – both of which were located in Victoria Avenue. With Whitehead High School also in Victoria Avenue, it was known locally as the ‘School Hill’. Today there are no schools left in ‘School Hill’. Some of the schools were quite small. For instance, there was only one teacher at Staffordstown school, Mrs Dale, though a temporary second teacher was later appointed. In such situations the senior girls would have taken the infants for reading.

The source of heating in many of the schools was an open fire. Willie Stevenson remembers that in Doagh School there was a big fire in each room and the youngest children got to sit closest to it. Bessie Quinn attended Auchterclooney school where the pupils took turns to set the fire in winter. John Cushinan mentioned that there were two fires in Moneynick School, but nowhere to store the coal which had to be brought from a local farm. As John pointed out, ‘it was a job for two carrying a big bucket of coal up … each day’. John recalls an incident in his school that occurred one day that the regular teacher, Miss McMullan, was away. She had placed one of the senior girls in charge to keep order. At that time there were two open fires in the school. In imitation of Miss McMullan this girl stood in front of the fire in their classroom to keep warm – ‘and if she didn’t go on fire’, though fortunately without any serious harm coming to her. Edmund McLarnon remembers that there was a large boiler in one of the schoolrooms at Duneane which was coal and wood fired.

The curriculum was mainly based around the ‘3 Rs’. Annie Hill remembers learning her times tables. She also recalls writing on a slate with chalk, before moving on to pencils and writing books. Brian McKenna remembers standing in a line for spelling and moving up or down the line depending on how well he had memorised the words. Cahal Boyd noted that when Master Murray came to Gortgill he taught dancing. Leith Burgess commented that James Blair, principal of Doagh School was interested in music and drama. A teacher at Mullaghdubh School, attended by John Milliken, was also very keen on drama, and John remembers going to festivals in Ballymoney and Carrickfergus.

The most popular playground games included football, rounders, skipping and tig. At Doagh School, Annie Hill recalls that boys and girls played separately. Cahal Boyd recalls that ‘a wheen of the bigger boys played what they called wrestling, but it was pure murder’. In some instances there was no playground. At Staffordstown Robert Chesney played football either in a field behind the school or in the road in front of it. Sports were rarely organised at primary school, though Mary Ann Higgins recalls a sports day in Toome. At secondary school, sports such as rugby, cricket and hockey were played.

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