Saturday, July 13, 2024
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    AT the weekend St Joseph’s Primary School, Ballycruttle, celebrated 183 years of making an invaluable contribution to local community life.

    The event on Saturday brought together pupils and teachers from past and present to enjoy a walk down memory lane at the school. The school is due to close at the end of the current school year and all those involved wanted to focus on all that has been achieved in its long history.

    Helen Turley is the acting principal for the school in its final year. She believes that the school’s memory will continue to live on. “I don’t think anyone who has been to school here will ever forget it. It has really been a magical place. It has been wonderful. “There have been high flying academic people coming through the school but not only that, there have been great friendship and memories. “It is important to focus on the positives because we have had so many lovely children through the school.” Helen said that the legacy that the school leaves behind is one of great friendships. “A lot of those that came on Saturday were with friends that they met ten to 15 years ago. “They had kept in touch. It was lovely to see them come back all grown up to see us. Relationships are at the heart of this school.” Helen has a strong connection with the school. Her mother, Martha Hannity, taught for 30 years in Ballycruttle. Helen attended the school in the late ‘80s, and has been a teacher at Ballycruttle for 20 years.

    She said: “I just love this school. It is the reason why I wanted to go into teaching. It is a really special place. “It really is a part of me. It is a part of all of the staff. Lesley has been here 20 years teaching. Irene has been a classroom assistant for 20 years. “Their kids all came to this school. Fiona (classroom assistant) was a pupil here at the same time as me. “She came back as a classroom assistant and all her children went here. So there is a real multi-generational-ness to the school. “It doesn’t matter if they move away, they gravitate back to the school. “You will find many people who went here, their children will come back to the school. “One good thing about our school is that it has a great sense of community. We have a great group of parents and a supportive board of governors. “There is a great a sense of connection and belonging to this school.”

    There has been a school in the parish since 1840, 183 years. They moved to their current building in the 1930s. Helen said that the school’s ethos and persona has remained constant in that time. “There is a strong ethos of putting the children first and the children are at the heart of every decision that was made. It has the same feeling now. “We say our slogan is ‘the small school with the big heart’. We have great chats with the children and they get a lot of air time and their own wee personalities get a chance to shine. “A lot of the children come from a rural background. I suppose it is a bit like a family. We know each other very well. “The confidence comes from the ethos of the school and that the children were put at the heart of every decision that was made in the school.”

    The school’s celebration day was held on Saturday and saw a great turnout. Past pupils returned and got a chance to look at the photo exhibition that had images dating back to 1917. They read the old registration books and inspection reports and enjoyed a lovely family experience, with ice cream and bouncy castles and much more. Helen said: “It was a great day to get together and we were keen for this to be a day of celebration rather than doom and gloom. “There has been so many wonderful years spent in the school. “It is lovely that everyone was so keen to come back to the school. They loved going round the classrooms. “It has shown how much St Joseph’s has meant to people over the years that they want come back and support us and chat to us. It wasn’t that they just left and that was it. The school will always carry a special place in people’s hearts.”

    While there was much to see, what Helen noticed was that the day saw so many people drawing upon their happy memories of the time at the school. “People just ended up walking around talking to each other. They were reminiscing over different memories. “When I came into the school this morning one man in his 60s wrote on my board his name and the dates that he had been here. Another man in his 50s had done the same. It was lovely for them to come back and relive a few memories.” While the school’s life span will come to an end after this term, the memories will live on. Helen said: “There is genuine sadness that the school is closing but people have great memories of the school life. “I hope that the kids go on with a love for learning and a feeling and confidence that they can do anything. I know that from previous children who have went on to secondary school, their teachers have approached us and said that they can always spot a child who has come from Ballycruttle because they have great confidence and they are able to talk to adults and interact with them.

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