ON the morning of New Year’s Day 1963, Albert McIntosh made his way to Tandragee Junior High School on his bicycle, writes Graeme Cousins. It was the opening day of the new school, an opening day which was greeted by snowfall.
The former Mullavilly Primary School pupil cast his mind back to the early days of the junior high school which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
He told the Times, “I remember the school opened on January 1, 1963 which nowadays is a bank holiday. I was living at Ballylisk and cycled to school on my bicycle. I remember it snowed at some point during that day.
“Pupils at Tandragee Junior High School came from primary schools in Tandragee, Mullavilly, Clare, Cabra, Poyntzpass, Scarva and Craigavon Primary School in Gilford.
“I had been a pupil at Mullavilly Primary School. The new school was totally different to what I’d been used to.
“I was in the fourth year class. There were only four classes in the school from what I recall - one for each year.
“I came from a small country primary school to this new school. We were used to sitting in the same classroom with the same teacher all day. In the new school we moved classrooms every period. I suppose the good thing about that was, if you didn’t like a subject you weren’t there for too long.”
Albert, a former member of Tandragee Junior High School board of governors and presently on the board of governors at Craigavon Senior High School, added, “There was approximately 25 pupils in my class and between 100 and 150 pupils in the new school.
“Some of the teachers I remember were the principal Mr Kenny, the vice-principal Mr Forsythe. Some of the other teachers were Mr McCreary, Mr Parr, Miss McClay, Mrs Gillespie and the secretary was Miss Somerville.
“The first head boy was Desmond Balmer and the first head girl was Elizabeth Vennard. They were both ex-pupils of Mullavilly. The following year Elizabeth continued as head girl and Nigel Edgar, another former pupil of Mullavilly, became head boy.”
Of the school itself he said, “It was a new build and everything in the school was brand new. There was an artroom, a woodwork room, a metalwork room and a music room, the walls of which were soundproofed.
“There was a gymnasium and, outside, we had a football pitch, hockey pitch and athletics track.
“These facilities were all new. I remember there was a forge in the metalwork room. It was heated with coal and you had to wear gloves and protective glasses when using it.
“School dinners were always good. At Mullavilly Primary School the dinners were delivered in containers. At Tandragee they were cooked fresh on the premises. School dinner would have cost 1 / 6d which was about seven and a half pence.”
Albert remarked how pupils who attend Tandragee are used to getting up earlier than most other schoolchildren.
He said, “Tandragee has traditionally started with assembly at 8.30am. The reason for the early start is because the buses had to get other pupils into schools in Portadown for a 9am start. The school finished at 3pm.”
Albert, whose four children all attended Tandragee Junior High, said: “I have very fond memories of the school.”
One of Albert’s lasting memories of the school occurred in the woodwork room.
He said, “I remember one of the teachers was drilling a hole in the wall in the woodwork room and he hit an electrical cable and he was thrown back across the classroom. He was okay. He picked himself up and dusted himself off. It’s something everyone in the woodwork room that day will always remember.”