Amanda’s earliest memory of acting in front of a crowd was in class at Ballougry Primary School, where her father was the principal. Ballougry is now in danger of closure because the school hasn’t reached the quota for pupil numbers but Amanda wants to highlight the importance of the school and how it enabled her to be where she is today.
She said: “Ballougry school is incredibly vibrant. Growing up there completely shaped me and who I am as a person. It gave me such space and freedom to explore and growing up in the country has always left that indelible mark on me as a great love of nature and being aware of the seasonal changes.
“It was always such a privilege to be able to grow up in the schoolhouse and to be so close to school. Our whole life there was so integral to Ballougry. It was our way of life and it was our thinking 24/7. You were aware of everything to do with the school with my father being headmaster and my mother the cook. Two of my sisters taught there so Ballougry school was a massive thing in our family for years and years. It was our life, that school.
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“I know my dad poured an awful lot into it. He was a very good teacher and he was very highly thought of. I always remember, he was thanked one day by a parent who stuck two trout through the letterbox. I loved that and I’ve never forgotten it.
“The school has such fond memories for me. It’s a lovely, lovely place to grow up in and I hope and pray that the school will flourish and continue.
“I think the pastoral care there is incredibly important and what a great place for families who would really benefit from that who live in Derry. It’s not far. It’s not miles out.
“It’s the only public building in the whole area and I believe they have great plans for it.
“It’s a community building and if that’s lost, it’s never going to be replaced.
“It’s such an important, vital part to keep. I’m very much in favour of preserving rural communities. One thing we have learned during the pandemic is how important nature is to us and for the general wellbeing of our mind.
“To lose a school in a rural area, I think is catastrophic. I don’t think it will, there’s time on this and it’s not a fait accompli in any sense. For what’s it’s worth, I really hope with my whole being that Ballougry will continue. It’s such a dear place in my heart.
“I think about my upbringing and the school and the environment there all the time.
“It’s very rare a day goes through where I don’t have a reference point that goes back to that place and that’s how important that place is to me.
“The way Ballougry has progressed over the years into being a non-segregated school and taking children from across the border is all to be applauded. I think that’s wonderful.
“I was very lucky indeed in life and that whole environment allowed me to succeed. I had a big imagination and the space to storytell and do all sorts of things.
“My father, who was the teacher there had a love for literature, geography and art and all the rest and that was very integral to what I came away from that school with. I wasn’t hugely happy to leave because it had been so wonderful!
“To parents in Derry, drive out there and see what you think. It’s all there waiting on you. They have a very strong lead in the headmaster, Damian O’Kane, and the PTA members are all very strong.
“I’m hugely impressed by those people and their vigour, enthusiasm and the energy they have for the school. I think that’s what I’ve always felt about Ballougry.”