Foyle’s story is Derry’s story

FOYLE HISTORY. . . .Ken Thatcher, business manager, Sean McMahon, editor, Dr. Robert Montgomery, archivist, and William Lynn, project manager, busy at work on the Foyle College history project. [1304JM100]

FOYLE HISTORY. . . .Ken Thatcher, business manager, Sean McMahon, editor, Dr. Robert Montgomery, archivist, and William Lynn, project manager, busy at work on the Foyle College history project. [1304JM100]

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With its 400th anniversary looming, Foyle College is to produce a new book celebrating its “rich and sumptuous” history.

The high-quality publication - entitled “A View the Foyle Commanding” - will trace the history of the school from the establishment of the Free School in 1617 right through to the present day.

Dr. Robert Montgomery, archivist, pictured with the first school magazine published by Foyle College. 1304JM08

Dr. Robert Montgomery, archivist, pictured with the first school magazine published by Foyle College. 1304JM08

An editorial team has drawn on the substantial and detailed records of all predecessor schools to provide a vibrant illustrated portrait of the school’s educational legacy.

In addition to this rich historical archive, first-hand pupil accounts of “lived experiences” from the early 20th century to the present will be a key feature of the new book which will be published by the Third Millennium Information Group.

The final editorial touches are currently being put to the volume which will be launched at a gala ceremony in the city next year. It’s hoped that many of the school’s famous alumni - including actresses Amanda Burton and Eva Birthistle and musician Neil Hannon - will attend the event which will, of course, coincide with the City of Culture 2013 celebrations.

William Lynn, teacher and project manager, revealed that “A View the Foyle Commanding” will cover all aspects of educational provision in the city from the founding of the Free School within the Walled City by Mathias Springham (1617), through the years as the Diocesan School, the emergence of Foyle College at Lawrence Hill in 1814, to the founding of the Academical Institution and its subsequent amalgamation with Foyle.

It will, he says, also include a detailed history of girls’ education from the founding of Strand House in 1860 through the Collegiate School, Victoria High School, St Lurach’s (1900) and Londonderry High School (1928-1976) to its amalgamation with Foyle in 1976 - the city’s first ever co-educational grammar school.

William Lynn says the new book - which will be illustrated in full colour throughout - will be a volume to “treasure” for anyone with memories of their schooldays.

Sean McMahon, the book’s editor, describes it as a “sumptuous” addition to the city’s “rich literary canon.”

“It’s a long overdue history of a school, its people and its place and role in local society and further afield,” said Mr. McMahon, himself a former teacher at St Columb’s College.

“The school’s archive is a living history in that, in many instances, you can turn to it to pinpoint what was happening at a particular time. Its value is remarkable in that it gives you a unique insight into aspects of life over the past four centuries.”

School archivist Dr. Robert Montgomery agrees that the new book will be a “valuable memento” in years to come.

“In a very real sense, it is the story of a school and its contribution to enriching the world with knowledge,” he says.

The hardback book will retail at £40 but former pupils will have the opportunity to purchase in advance at a preferential rate of £29.95. Indeed, those who purchase in advance will have both their name and the years they spent at the school published in the book.

Publishers Third Millennium Information have an established reputation for top quality publication for some of the most prestigious colleges and public schools in Britain including Harrow, Eton, and Repton. It has recently published a book tracing the history of Blackrock College, Dublin, its first Irish publication.

Indeed, “A View the Foyle Commanding” will be their first ever book in Northern Ireland.

William Lynn says that, by contributing to advance purchase, overall publication costs to the school will be substantially reduced. “The more copies sold in advance, the less the final cost to the school,” he explained.

Retiring school principal Jack Magill says Foyle College “encapsulates not only the collective spirit of its former pupils but also reflects the strength of the city in which it is to be found.”

“The history of Foyle is the history of Londonderry,” he says. “And the character of Derry has been shaped by the existence of Foyle.” He says the “essence of the school” can be found in the pages of the new history.