School History

School History

Hollybush Primary and Nursery School – A Potted History!

In October 1891, the doors of a new primary school opened for the first time on the Culmore Road, a few hundred yards from the border at Muff. The land on which Hollybush Primary School stood was donated by a Mr. Boyle who lived on the other side of the road, and the school was built by the then Curate of Iskaheen and Upper Moville, Father James O’Kane, who would become Parish Priest in 1903. Fr. O’Kane, to his credit, had lobbied M.P.s in Westminster for the necessary funds and, such was the success of the newly opened school, its roll increased from 44 to 82 pupils in its first year! The school was basic in its construction, a school-house having been attached to the original two roomed building, with mobile classes added later as pupil numbers increased. For heat, there was a stove and an open fire but there was no electricity or running water! With no caretaker, much of the maintenance was done by the pupils; the boys scrubbed the floors and the girls washed the windows. In cold weather, the children put their bottles of tea near the fire to keep them warm for lunch. If conditions at the school were poor, then the tradition of music was most certainly rich. Mr O’Leary, Principal from 1936-1955, with the able assistance of his wife Evelyn, both noted musicians, embedded this musical tradition firmly into the life of the school and this tradition pertains to the present day. It was also in the 1930s that the children, or at least those from families who could afford it, brought two shillings a month for coal! Office accommodation was novel; an old Swilly Bus was acquired for £50 and positioned outside the school-house!

The centenary book, completed in 1991 to celebrate the school’s 100th anniversary, is replete with nostalgic accounts of life in the early days at Hollybush, written by former pupils and staff members.

In 1991, the school in its original location ceased to be and a new state-of-the-art school on the Ardan Road was opened. The Swilly bus may no longer have been required but the staff and pupils brought with them that which would become the defining characteristics of the school as we now know it; a tradition of academic excellence, a devotion to the development of music, and also, an ethos which respects traditional educational values which are in danger of disappearing in the modern system; in short, a healthy combination of the traditional and innovative! Sport has now taken up a position of importance, alongside music, and the school now boasts sporting achievements to rival those of any school in the region. The school also prides itself in its environmental endeavours, having achieved the Ashden environmental award in 2013. Where turf once heated the schoolrooms, timber now does the job and photovoltaics also provide much of the electricity required, giving the school the highest environmental rating of any school in Ireland. An outdoor reading grove, wildlife garden and peace garden also help keep our children in touch with nature.

Hollybush has certainly come a long way since its austere beginnings in 1891, but it has remained faithful to its traditional values, values which will nurture the life of the school long into what promises to be a promising future.

10 Ardan Road,
BT48 8JN,

028 7135 2202

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