Boom Hall, big oaks and ghosts

Pupils from Groarty Integrated PS pictured at Boom Hall on Thursday morning as part of a historical/educational trip. At back are Mrs. Karen Brown, teacher and Ms. Helen Doherty, Classroom Assistant. DER4513JM040
Pupils from Groarty Integrated PS pictured at Boom Hall on Thursday morning as part of a historical/educational trip. At back are Mrs. Karen Brown, teacher and Ms. Helen Doherty, Classroom Assistant. DER4513JM040
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Red baseball caps and high visibility jackets bobbed about in the wind near Boom Hall on Thursday.

Children from St. Paul’s P.S. Junior Wardens programme and pupils from Groarty Integrated P.S. were accompanied by community horticulturist, Gareth Austin on a guided tour of Boom Hall and the surrounding area.

Pupils from St. Paul's PS, Slievemore, pictured at Boom Hall on Thursday morning as part of a historical/educational trip. At back are Patrick Duddy, Social Education Officer, Gareth Austin, Community Horticulturalist, Gerald McGill, Historian, and Mr. Fleming, teacher. DER4513JM041

Pupils from St. Paul's PS, Slievemore, pictured at Boom Hall on Thursday morning as part of a historical/educational trip. At back are Patrick Duddy, Social Education Officer, Gareth Austin, Community Horticulturalist, Gerald McGill, Historian, and Mr. Fleming, teacher. DER4513JM041

The children were given a talk by local historian Gerald McGill and Gareth was able to point out a nearby oak tree which is as old as Derry’s historic Walls - 400 years.

“It’s been an amazing day, we have learnt how to measure the age of a tree and we even heard a few ghost stories about Boom Hall,” said 10 year-old P7 pupil and Housing Executive Junior Warden, Caleb Williamson.

Caleb, along with the rest of his year group, are all Junior Wardens and they have been working with Housing Executive Social Education Officer, Patrick Duddy.

“A lot of the work that I have been doing with the children is to do with the environment and their local communities.

Groarty Integrated PS pupils Evelyn Conlon, Lainey Parkhouse and Ethan McFadden pictured at Boom Hall on Thursday with local historian Gerald McGill and teacher, Karen Brown. DER4513JM043

Groarty Integrated PS pupils Evelyn Conlon, Lainey Parkhouse and Ethan McFadden pictured at Boom Hall on Thursday with local historian Gerald McGill and teacher, Karen Brown. DER4513JM043

“Thankfully, Gareth asked us to come along today. This is an amazing spot and I had no idea about the history of Boom Hall. The children are having a great time and that’s the most important thing.”

Ten year-old Ethan McGinley from Groarty Integrated P.S. and a few of his school mates joined Gareth and the others on the guided tour of the area.

“This is a great day out - it might be really cold outside but we are having so much fun.

“I learned all about how the size of a tree’s roots can be estimated by just looking at the size of it above the ground.

Local historian Gerald McGill pictured with pupils from Groarty PS at Boom Hall on Thursday morning. Included at back are Tina Keys and Stacey Gill, teachers. DER4513JM042

Local historian Gerald McGill pictured with pupils from Groarty PS at Boom Hall on Thursday morning. Included at back are Tina Keys and Stacey Gill, teachers. DER4513JM042

“I think Gareth said it was called the root to shoot ratio - we found an oak tree that’s around 400 years old,” revealed Nathan.

Groarty Integrated P.S. acting principal Miss Tina Keys said she was delighted that the school was invited to take part in the event and said she was unaware of the history of Boom Hall.

“I drive past it every time I go across the Foyle Bridge and I never knew the place had so much history,” she said.

“It’s not until you are actually standing outside the building that you can actually imagine what it might have been like a hundred or so years ago.

“We’ve been working with Gareth Austin for quite a while now. Gareth shares our school’s passion for educating the children on the environment and on their local surroundings.

“We are a small local school but we are always on the look out for new enrolments so if anyone reading this wants to come along and see the school for themselves all they have to do is give us a call and we’ll do our best to arrange something for them,” she said.

Megan Ferguson is ten years-old, a Junior Warden and a St. Paul’s P.S. pupil.

With her hand on her red cap to stop it blowing away in the wind, Megan said she enjoyed learning about Boom Hall and hinted that they might have spotted a ghost in a photo taken by one of their teachers!

“It’s been a great day so far and I really listening to the stories about the ghosts and the history of Boom Hall.

“One of our teachers took a photo of Boom Hall and a few of us think we can spot a little girl looking out of the window in it,” she said.

Gareth Austin, said the event was designed to help the local school children become more aware of the local environment.

“I’ve had great feedback from all of the teachers and the children.

“It might have been really cold outside but fair play to all of the children and teachers - they were really excited.

“We went on a bit of a tour of Boom Hall where Gerald McGill told the school children all about the history and then I explained to them about all of the trees down here.

“It’s so important that school children understand the environment and are able to buy into preservation etc. Hopefully there are more days like this to come in the not too distant future,” he said.