Belmont celebrates 50 years

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The pupils and staff at Belmont School are celebrating five decades of special education delivery this month.

This morning the school assembly hall hosts a birthday party with a difference, as pupils and teachers take to the stage for a variety concert.

Other celebrations include a thanksgiving service in St. Patrick’s Church, Pennyburn on May 19 at 11am, a past pupils’ association dance at Pitcher’s Restaurant on May 27, while on May 20 there is a past pupil open morning at the Belmont House Campus from 10am - 12noon.

The school staff have also compiled a 50th anniversary booklet detailing the history not only of the school but of Belmont House itself. It will be available soon.

School principal, Nuala Begley, said: “Fifty years is a wonderful achievement and I am delighted to be part of the celebrations.”

Mrs. Begley has been a member of the Belmont teaching staff for the last 36 years, little wonder there is a family ambience on campus. The school boasts no fewer than five teachers who have gone on to become principals. They are Michael Dobbins of Foyleview, Brian McLaughlin at Rossmar Limavady, Bill Haddick, Killard House, Newtownards, Sean McLaughlin of St. Columba’s, Newbuildings and of course Mrs. Begley herself.

The school was opened in the grounds of Belmont House which was built in 1696, it remained a family home until 1820. The building has had various uses since, including the army being stationed there. That was until May 9, 1961 when Belmont House was opened as a residential Special School for girls. Boys attended as day pupils. “Fifty years ago this was an innovation,” said Mrs. Begley. “By the end of the first year it had 36 pupils, today it has over 200. The original staff consisted of principal, Tom Roulston and assistant teacher, the late Mrs. Lucy Logan. Mr Roulston retired after serving the school for 25 years. “Despite the changing challenges the needs of our pupils remain our first priority,” said Mrs. Begley.

For more on Belmont’s Golden Anniversary see Friday’s Journal.