Early pics wanted for St Joe’s 50th

Bishop of Derry, Dr. Seamus Hegarty and Damien Harkin, Principal, St. Joseph's Boys, Westway, Derry, address Year 14 pupils on Tuesday during the Bishop's visit to the Creggan school. 0104JM32
Bishop of Derry, Dr. Seamus Hegarty and Damien Harkin, Principal, St. Joseph's Boys, Westway, Derry, address Year 14 pupils on Tuesday during the Bishop's visit to the Creggan school. 0104JM32

Former pupils of St Joseph’s in Creggan are putting together a book to mark the 50th anniversary of the school’s opening.

The 50th anniversary is in 2013 and former pupil Eamon Sweeney is looking for photographs dating right back to the sixtties.

“We have plenty of photos available from the 1990s, but we need a lot more from the 60s, 70s and 80s,” said Eamonn, a reporter with the Sentinel.

“The book is just part of the 50th anniversary celebrations and there are a whole series of events planned.

“We are appealing for assistance from any past pupil or teacher who in particular may have old photographs or memorabilia relating to the school, particularly from the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s, that may be of use when compiling the book.

“If there are any stories behind the photographs we would particularly like to hear those too.

The first principal at the school was Mr WJ Maultsaid with Mr Ted Armstrong as his vice principal. Initially there was a teaching staff of 44.

Mr Maultsaid had originally taught at St Columb’s College and when St Colman’s High School in Strabane was about to open, he was personally asked by the then Bishop of Derry, Dr Neil Farren to become principal.

“Having made a success of the Strabane School, five years later he was asked to take charge of the new St Joseph’s at Westway in Creggan. As he had done at St Colman’s, Mr Maultsaid brought Ted Armstrong back to Derry with him as his second in command,” explained Eamon.

“The school was constructed to handle 750 pupils.

“But, such was the demand for places that the initial intake was 850, drawing students from Rosemount, Long Tower and St Eugene’s primary schools.

“The ‘privilege’ of competing for public examinations in that era remained firmly within the grasp of the country’s grammar schools. But, Willie John Maultsaid it appeared had other ideas and with the help of four Belfast secondary school principals campaigned and successfully secured the right of these schools to take public examinations.


“It was this type of forward thinking that allowed St Joseph’s to cater for both the vocational training path and for those academically inclined. “This campaign too blended in well with the post-war shake-up in education that would in the 1960’s see working-class kids enter universities en masse for the first time.

“Mr Maultsaid retired in 1972 and was replaced by his vice principal, Ted Armstrong, who still holds the record for being the longest serving headmaster (1972-1986).

“In the 1970’s and 1980’s the school found itself in the midst of a lot the violence of the era.

“Whilst this was hardly an atmosphere conducive to concentration on educational excellence, some,how classes went on, lessons were learned, apprentice tradesmen turned out, exams passed, football teams organised and choirs and musicians rehearsed and competed.

“This came about as a result of a programme of pastoral care initiated by Mr Armstrong in that era-an ethos which is now at the very core of the school. Following on in the illustrious footsteps of his predecessor, Ted Armstrong took the provision of higher examinations another step forward.

“Until this period school offered a range of C.S.E and G.C.E O Level examinations, but those who wanted to take the step up to A Level had to transfer either to St Columb’s College or the ‘Tech’.

“The first 15 A Level students at St Joseph’s began their courses in 1977 and started the now-established tradition of St Joe’s boys going off to university.

“Notable additions to the range of subjects on offer have been made down the years.

“In the late 80’s, under the direction of new headteacher, Dr Niall McCafferty, the school pioneered the introduction of the social sciences, including A Level’s in Politics, Psychology and Communication Studies. This was a subject range later copied heavily by the city’s grammar schools.

“Also established by Niall Mc Cafferty was a link-up with the two female secondary schools in the area, St Mary’s and St Cecilia’s, at A Level, allowing an even wider range of subjects.

“Almost 40 years after St Joseph’s opened its doors for the first time it became obvious that the 1960’s construction, that had withstood a lot of physical turmoil, was becoming increasingly unfit for purpose.

“The Board of Governors and its chairman James Doherty campaigned with the principal and the Bishop to secure a new build.

“And in 2003, the new St Joseph’s Boys School opened its doors for the first time and welcomed students into a state-of-the-art facility.”

To get in contact with regard to any old pictures you would like to see featured in the book or any other information you may have please contact odonnelly67@C2kni.net or by calling the school on 02871262923.