Northern Ireland

Scraghey school is given new lease of life as community centre

BBC archive footage grabs of the school in 1950s showing pupils and the exterior
Image caption The school had a long history in the area, it's pictured here in the 1950s

A primary school that was once the focal point for a remote, rural community in County Tyrone has been given a new lease of life.

St Davog's Primary School in Scraghey shut its doors in 2012 as a result of falling pupil numbers, ending 164 years of education in the area.

The building is near the border of counties Tyrone, Fermanagh and Donegal.

It is also six miles to the nearest towns of Castlederg, Ederney, Drumquin and Pettigo.

People in the area were determined to overcome the loss and the old school has now been transformed into a new community centre.

Image caption St Davog's school in Scraghey has been transformed into a community centre.

Brenda Hegarty from Scraghy and District Community Development Association said the closure of the school had a devastating impact.

"It was the only space available, so it was a meeting place for all of the community so when it closed we were all devastated and it was important then that we tried to protect the rural identity and the sense of community," she said.

Local people wanted to revive the old tradition of the Ceili, a social gathering involving storytelling, music or dancing.

Image caption Ex-pupil Colm Gallon recallled the long walk to the school and being caned if you were late

Former Pupil Colm Gallon reminisced about his time at the school.

"Years ago, the way we entertained each other in this part of the country, I went to your house to Ceili tonight, tomorrow night you'd come to our house, and then people went to some other house," he said.

"We'd play cards, the odd country dance as well. We would like to have music sessions and that type of thing here because you can't walk into anyone's house today, you might not be welcome.

"There were no televisions in those days so we'd hope to make this a place for people who want to come, young and old."

Image caption The school has been transformed into a hub for the local community

The community received £350,000 from the Big Lottery-funded Space and Place Programme to turn the classrooms into a large community hall, a cosy room with a stove, a new kitchen and a meeting room.

Brenda Hegarty is delighted with the transformation and said the centre will become a new focal point for all sections of the community.

Image caption Brenda Hegarty from the District Community Development Association spoke about the rennovation

"We hope to give opportunities to socialise, for health and well-being, fitness and also playing cards, some of the old traditions, social dances and many events as well as opportunities for younger people, sports and crafts and activities for them," she said.

The Space and Place programme co-ordinator, Michael Hughes, said: "There is no doubt this new facility will contribute towards reinvigorating the Scraghey area as well as enhancing the physical and mental well-being of people living in the community.

"Given that this new facility is a new shared space in the Castlederg area, the project fits perfectly with the ethos of the Space and Place programme which is to help communities transform underused or neglected spaces, in turn helping to tackle issues such as social isolation."

More on this story