Looking back over 40 years of material and memories is no mean feat. But that’s exactly what St John’s Primary School Vice Principal Deirdre Eastwood, together with principal Geraldine O’Connor, has been doing this week.
Deirdre and Geraldine and all staff and pupils have been celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Bligh’s Lane Primary School
At the heart of community life in Creggan, the school continues to pride itself on being a home from home for the pupils who attend and a hub for people in the wider locality who see the school as part of the fabric in one of Derry’s best known areas,
With their anniversary upon them, all staff in the school, whether they’ve been there for long or short periods of time, are enjoying the opportunity to take a trip down memory lane.
“It’s a good opportunity to renew old friendships,” says Deirdre.
Having been part of life in the school for over 35 years, Deirdre has seen staff and pupils stand strong through some of the best and worst of times in the Creggan community.
“The school officially opened its doors on September 2nd 1971 and during the years that followed the school community witnessed many turbulent times. The introduction of internment and Bloody Sunday had a direct impact on the families who attended our school. The army at that time was billeted on Bligh’s Lane. Therefore, rioting and the use of C.S. gas was commonplace outside the school grounds,” says Deirdre.
“Although many of our children were directly affected by “The Troubles”, the fortitude of both pupils and parents could only be admired.
“During those trying times the staff of St. John’s Primary School created a haven for the pupils where they worked tirelessly to give the children the best educational experiences. This was achieved not just academically but through the many and varied opportunities the children were given in drama, music, sport, and educational excursions.”
St John’s has always prided itself on a holistic approach to education, and as Deirdre emphasises, extra-curricular life has and continues to be at the heart of the school’s ethos. “School shows, musicals and assemblies have always been a feature of life in the school. Many teachers and pupils have participated in these productions, giving memorable performances much to the delight of audiences over the years. Parents also contributed to the success of these shows, freely giving of their time and expertise.
“In the early days, the late Michael Mason produced excellent choirs and took all classes for music lessons. Bringing home the trophies was always a cause for great celebration with everyone feeling an enormous sense of pride. The promotion of the Arts is still a major priority with a full time Arts teacher currently leading pupil participation in feiseanna and nurturing the children’s talents so that they may engage in the forthcoming events and the 2013 City of Culture celebrations.
“The opportunity to participate in a varied range of sporting activities has always been a key feature of school life. Soccer has provided endless enjoyment for many generations of our pupils, with teams participating in and winning many major competitions. One of the most memorable occasions was the winning of the Northern Ireland Cup for the first time in 1981. This tremendous achievement was then repeated in 2005. Much to the school’s credit many former pupils have progressed to play senior football for teams in the FAI and IFA leagues. Other sports which the school has promoted over the years include netball, swimming and athletics. As recently as June 2011 the netball team played in the final of the Northern Ireland League. Members of our past and current swimming teams have also been successful in many galas, with former pupils winning prestigious awards. With the appointment of new staff, athletics has once again become a further source of sporting enjoyment for our children. Success in science and art competitions, history projects, credit union quizzes and various other ventures has also helped establish St. John’s as a school of prominence in the city.” The photos from the St John’s archives show hundreds of happy students over the years taking part in the many different elements of school life over the years. Is your face one of those in the crowd?