Centennial celebrations at Loanends Primary School

Loanends Primary School near Nutt’s Corner has marked the Northern Ireland centenary in historic style, writes Julie Hazelton.

1921 style: Baroness Catharine Hoey of Lylehill and Rathlin, and her companion Avril Jones, were welcomed to Loanends Primary School by Principal Mrs Linda Armour; Mel Lucas and Richard McCourt, chairman of the Board of Governors.

There was a nostalgic theme to the celebrations at the Co Antrim school, with staff and pupils adorning period dress and walking to school as their ancestors would have done in 1921.

The procession was accompanied by vintage tractor enthusiast Jim White, who was driving an eighty-year-old Massey Harris tractor imported from America in 2000.

The highlight of the day was the arrival of special guest Catharine Hoey, Baroness of Lylehill and Rathlin.

Planting the commemorative tree at Loanends Primary School to mark the NI Centenary are, from left: Mel Lucas, Baroness Catharine Hoey; Principal Mrs Linda Armour; and Richard McCourt, chairman, Board of Governors.

The Baroness entered into the 1920s theme, dressing in a vintage flapper-style cocktail dress, and arriving in a beautiful horse-drawn carriage.

Baroness Hoey was greeted by school Principal Mrs Linda Armour, and Mr Richard McCourt, chairman of the board of governors at Loanends Primary School.

Addressing the gathering which included parents and members of the local community, Mr McCourt said: “We are gathered to mark the auspicious 100th anniversary of the foundation of Northern Ireland, and I am delighted to welcome Baroness Hoey of Lylehill and Rathlin.

“It’s also a pleasure to welcome former school principals Miss Jean Fisher and Mrs Deirdre Ferguson, along with former board of governors chairman, Mr George Fleming.

Baroness Hoey arrived at Loanends Primary School in a horse drawn carriage.

“Mr McCourt has been chairman of the board for 11 years, and has served as a school governor for 44 years.”

He continued: “Thanks are due to Mrs Armour, and the staff and pupils, for their preparation in advance of today’s event.

“Special thanks to Mel Lucas whose organising ability helped to bring this event together.

“Lastly, but most importantly, I would like to invite our honourable guest Baroness Catharine Hoey, to plant the commemorative tree.”

The Time Capsule was planted by Nora Stuchfield (P1), Zac Minford (P7) and Ethan Russell (P6). Included are Loanends Primary School Principal Mrs Linda Armour; and special guest Baroness Hoey of Lylehill and Rathlin.

Baroness Hoey said she was honoured to be invited to Loanends to mark the Northern Ireland Centennial.

“I was brought up in this locality, and when I’m in England, at Parliament, I like reminding people that Northern Ireland is a wonderful place live. I’m proud of our country, and it’s a great privilege to plant this special tree to mark 100 years since the formation of Northern Ireland.

“It’s important for the children to know the history of our country, and I am delighted to see that the school community has entered into the spirit of the event by dressing up to reflect the 1921 era. Congratulations to Loanends Primary School on a very enjoyable and memorable day.”

Loanends Primary School was also delighted to host the NI100 Centenary Mini. Owned by Trevor McDonald, and driven by Harry and Emma Monteith, the Mini has been touring Centennial events and iconic locations throughout Northern Ireland since May.

Cutting the 100th Anniversary cake are Mrs Linda Armour, Principal, Loanends Primary School; Mrs Ruth Erwin, Templepatrick; Baroness Hoey of Lylehill and Rathlin; and Mr Richard McCourt, Chairman, Board of Governors.

Children from P6 prepared a Time Capsule.

It was buried adjacent to the tree, by the school’s youngest and eldest pupils Nora Stuchfield (P1) and Zac Minford (P7), who were ably assisted by Ethan Russell (P6). Lydia and Anna Thompson presented Baroness Hoey with a bouquet of flowers.

The school children performed a rendition of the song ‘Belle of Belfast City’.

Following the formal proceedings guests retired to the school’s Assembly Hall for a cup of tea and a slice of the Anniversary Cake. Baked by former pupil Naomi Jones, the cake was cut by Mrs Linda Armour, Baroness Hoey, Mr Richard McCourt, and Mrs Ruth Erwin, one of the oldest past pupils of Loanends Primary School.

Mrs Erwin celebrated her 90th birthday in October, and recalls starting Loanends School in 1937.

“The old schoolhouse was situated across the road from where the school is now, and I have fond memories of teachers, Miss McAllister, George Bell, Mr Logan and Miss Creelman.

Baroness Hoey received a bouquet of flowers from Lydia and Anna Thompson.

“Miss McAllister lodged during the week at the church caretaker’s house.

“An old school photograph taken around 1941 shows 55 pupils at Loanends Primary School.”

The event was rounded off by the recital of a poem entitled ‘The Twain’ given by Matthew Warwick from the Ulster Scots Agency.

Baroness Hoey judged the NI100 Art Competition sponsored by the Ulster Scots Agency.

Loanends Primary School principal Linda Armour was delighted with the success of the event.

She said: “The weather wasn’t in our favour, but I am really pleased that we were able to go ahead with the planned programme.

“There was a lot of effort and pre-planning but it was certainly worth it.

“ These events make memories for our pupils.

“It was fantastic to see them (and staff) dressed up and full of enthusiasm for the day.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed to the success of our themed event to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the foundation of Northern Ireland.”

Loanends Primary School would like to express its gratitude to the Department of Education for providing the tree and time capsule; Loanends Presbyterian Church for the use of its facilities; Coleman’s Garden Centre; L and M Carriages, Trevor Boyd, Jim White, Ivy Lane Florist, Alden Minford and Alistair Macartney, Matthew Warwick and videographers Billy and Katie May.

A video of the event can be viewed on the school’s website www.loanendsps.com, or via its Facebook page.

Principal Mrs Linda Armour and Mr Hyde accompanied the children on their walk to school.
Back in time: Pupils from Loanends Primary School dressed in period costume and walked to school, as their ancestors would have done in 1921.