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The End of an Era

Major work is being undertaken to improve facilities at Assumption Grammar School, Ballnahinch but at what cost?

By Erina McAdam

Assumption Grammar  School, Ballynahinch  (1990s)

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For anyone passing through Ballynahinch recently the demolition of Assumption Grammar School's building will have been hard to miss.

The graceful buildings that once looked down almost serenely on the town have been reduced to rubble.

Assumption Grammar School  undergoes demolition (2004)
  Assumption Grammar School during refurbishment in 2004

I decided to return to the school where I was once a pupil to discover the reasons for the drastic overhaul and what it means.

Mrs Crae, the school's headmistress also attended the school as a pupil and seemed an ideal person to ask regarding the school's future. Mrs Crae informed me that the Department of Education and the trustees of the school made the decision to reconstruct the building.

“ better facilities are needed to keep up to date with the demands of the curriculum, the growing numbers of pupils and the quality of the building.”

Practically speaking then the major work being done to Assumption seems to make sense. However it is not without some degree of sadness as Mr Leonard, an established teacher and one who taught myself, expresses.

“ There’s a sadness in the demise of the physical building and at the same time excitement and hope at the prospect of a new building, for a new era and a new generation.”

The Loss of The Convent

By far the saddest part of this evolution Assumption is undergoing is the demolition of the convent. The school and the convent have gone hand in hand since its opening in 1933.

It was a sister of the Assumption Order who founded the whole school, hence its name. The Assumption Sisters began their mission in South Africa in 1849 and one of the members who became the General Superior was actually from outside Ballynahinch. Sister Mary Baptist felt that there was a need for a really good school for the girls of the area.

Sister Mary had a dual purpose in mind when she founded the school, which further emphasises how the Convent and the school have always been intertwined. Firstly she aimed to provide a good education for the young women of the locality and also with the hope that it would instil a missionary spirit among them. A spirit that would encourage the pupils to help the Assumption sisters with their work in Africa and a spirit to generally help the underprivileged of our society.
I interviewed Sister Maureen who was the headmistress of the school when I went there and who was actually there when the school was built in 1970. Although Sister Maureen is sad at the demolition of the Convent in particular she recognises it as necessary to the continued development and progress of Assumption as a whole.

She had this to say:
“ I’ve been so involved in the education side of Assumption that I could see and I knew it was for the progress of the school and for the development of the whole education facility. So from that point of view I supported it 100% and I know it is to provide something better for the pupils.”

The Sisters of the Assumption moved out a month ago to a new home on the Crossgar Road, Ballynahinch but they are still the trustees of the school and ultimately responsible for what the school does.

In Sister Maureen's words:
“ We say we’ve moved house but we haven’t moved away from Assumption."

The Renewal will be Positive

So it appears that everyone is in agreement over the fact that the redevelopment of Assumption will be a positive thing. However there is one outstanding issue to be resolved. Assumption will not be the same school without a new chapel and yet the education authority will not be financing one.

It is now up to the school and the Assumption Sisters as trustees of the school to raise the money required to build a new chapel and to ensure that both important elements of an education from Assumption are maintained. An excellence in education certainly but a missionary spirit that is very much needed in the world we live in today.

If anyone would like to donate money towards the worthwhile construction of a new chapel at Assumption they should contact Sister Maureen at their new home on the Crossgar Road or contact the school itself. Any help will be gratefully received.

YOUR RESPONSES

Louise - June '08
I am currently a 4th year pupil at Assumption Grammar and I am very pleased to say that the main building and the gym have been renovated. They look much smarter and it has made a huge difference to the atmosphere inside the school community. Everyone has been very excited and teachers and pupils alike are enjoying the changes. Even though Mrs Crea is retiring I'm sure our new Headmaster Mr McBride will provide us girls with all the support and help Mrs Crea has.

Anon - Feb '08
mrs crea is such an inspiration 2 me-she works so hard 2 get us a new school which she can't afford and yet she works her fingers 2 the bone 2 make sure we get the best start in life!!!wat a great woman sheshud b awarded...such an incredible woman and she should be applauded 4 her kind heartedness and decencyJ

jenny - Feb '08
I am a first year at the school now and i love it but i find it hard enough finding my way round now a new school to get lost in lol

Marie Campbell, California
I attended Assumption 1964-70, and was pleased to hear that the school is being remodeled. The old school was a warren of small dark rooms and narrow corridors and and the new science/art building, built I believe in 1966, was bright and modern by contrast. When I attended, there were only around 330 students and I believe that is nearer 1000 today. Sister Jarleth was Head during those days, a fomidable lady with a quick temper. I am Director of a private school in California and when sometimes when I am looking for direction, I often draw on the sensibilty and simplicity of my formal education in Ballynaninch.

Orla - Oct 05
currently I am a 2nd year student attending the school and am pleased that the school is undergoing this much needed rebuilding. Although it is a great thing that is happening it has some down sides such as in the past couple of weeks there have been spottings of rats and mice (eeeewwwwww), and of course the church has been knocked down but currantly the school is planning a christmas fair to raise money for the school as well as cariing on the old traditions of 'The Christmas Charities' and 'The Shoe boxes' which will be sent to Romania. Before i leave i would like to say thank you to Mrs Crea and the english department for recently organising the annual 'Drama Festival'. It is a brilliant school and deserves all the funding it can get.

Hayley - June '05
I agree wholeheartedly with Nina. I too am a very recent past pupil and cannot be live that after years of willing a new and improved school it is only when i leave that my dream become a reality. However, i have realised that it was not the building that made the school but the pupils and teachers who always gave the school such an amazing spirit.

Assumption provided me with a great education true friends and many many happy memories. The spirit and attitude within those walls helped make me the person i am and I will always be very grateful for this. So whilst i may be sad and somewhat jealous of the pupils who will benefit fro this new school I understand that the only thing that should remain intact is the schools spirit. I therefore wish all those who walk the halls of this new school to embrace it while they can and keep up the assumption way.

Charlotte Bryce - June '05
I am very sad to see the old convent now reduced to rubble...I spent many happy days there from 1958 to 1965...I would like to get in touch with any girls from that era.

Revd Wendy Jackson - May 05
I was a pupil at Assumption Convent in Woodlands in Durban SA (Wendy Jacobs) I now live in England am a Priest in the Church of England and wonder if there are any Sisters in UK who may remember me? (I did know a A Sr Maureen in Durban- is this the same person?) and I'd so love to be in contact with them again. Best wishes on the new development, Wendy Jackson

Laura - May 05
As a current pupil in the assumption, i can't wait until the school is done! It should look well, and be a lot safer for us pupils.

 

Pauline - May '05
I've been reading the article about the school and noticed that somebody named Brenda had commented, i had a friend in first year who had to move down south and im wondering if its her? if you can, please contact me on my email, (through YPAM ) it'd be great to hear from you, its been ages! oh and i think the proposal for the new school is great, although i wont be here to see it! im leaving soon.

Brenda - April 05
I am a past pupil of the assumption and i have great memories of it i only got to go for a year in first year and then i moved downsouth i am now in my last year of school but i still remember the days i spend there as if it was yesterday but i think its really cool that its getting rebuilt cause for a while it was a danger o walk up the stairs.

Nina - December - '04
As a past pupil of Assumption, I was quite saddened to hear of the destruction of the school, however also rather envious, I have only left recently and recall deeming the school a 'deathtrap' with my friends. So of course I was very jealous to hear that despite attending the school for seven years and making hundreds of disparaging remarks about the state of the grounds each year it is only now that the school is being rebuilt.
Despite this my years at Assumption were fantastic and I am pleased to hear that the school is finally getting the appropriate facilities it deserves. My biggest hope is that future pupils and teachers alike make as many happy memories in this new school as I have from the old.

Paula Mullan
N obody has commented on this site in ages, i just left the school in june 2007. i hated it while i was there. i always thought it was too strict and they worked us too hard, but i see t all differently now! im away at uni now and i mis it sssooo badly. they really were the best years, the teachers were amazing nd so down to earth! its being remodelled now but im sure assumption will never loose the spirit and atmosphere it had when i was there 2000-2007!
xxx



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