Mortar not the first found at Academy

THE World War II practice device which sparked a bomb scare at Banbridge Academy last Tuesday was not the first such weapon to be found there.

Both British and US soldiers used the grounds around Edenderry House as a training camp during the war. Indeed Banbridge was one of the first places to be used as a base almost immediately after the war had begun.

The Academy has only been on its current site since 1950. During the war many regiments would use Edenderry House. One of the most notable in local minds was the Liverpool Scottish, who stayed at Edenderry House with Nissen huts located on what are now the playing fields at the school.

Edenderry House, which was built in 1865, was owned by the Ferguson family before being sold to the education authority for 11,000, thus becoming Banbridge Academy.

The device was found during the ongoing building work at the school when landscapers uncovered the “small mortar-type device” near the school’s new dining hall.

Disruption was kept to a bare minimum at the school after the police were alerted and Army technical officers arrived. Pupils weren’t evacuated although those sitting A-Level and GCSE exams, along with canteen staff, were moved to a different part of the building.

Banbridge Academy Principal, Raymond Pollock, said its well-documented that the area was previously used as a pre-war training base by Allied forces.

“There have been mortars found here in the past and it may be the same type of device,” he said.

“Apparently, the Academy grounds were used previously by American soldiers around the time of the Second World War. We have only been on site since 1950 and this dates back to previous use.”

Praising the efforts of the PSNI, the headmaster stressed there was never any sense of “fuss or panic” as the area concerned, currently a redevelopment site, is remote from the main school building.

The principal was contacted by the police after the building contractor raised the alarm.

Confirming that only dining hall staff were directly affected while normal classes continued, Mr Pollock said: “We rescheduled lunch and instead of providing a hot meal, the dining hall ladies provided sandwiches for our pupils and relocated the point of sale to the main school building.”

“There was a fair bit of excitement but there was no panic. People had their normal lunchtime activities and went back to normal class.

“It did not cause major inconvenience. The main thing was that pupils and members of staff were safe and there was no threat to them.”