Leading lights of local education past and present assembled at the weekend to celebrate Dromore Central Primary School old and new.
They were joined at First Dromore Presbyterian church by newly appointed Stormont Education Minister Peter Weir.
The service of thanksgiving marked the end of one era and the beginning of another for Dromore Central, as it prepares to bid farewell to its 80-year home at Banbridge Road in favour of a new one at Mossvale Road.
Among those to speak on Sunday was former Dromore Central Principal Jim Cochrane, who, having battled for years to secure a much-needed new school, retired with his goal finally in sight.Also taking part was John Wilkinson, whose long drive, as principal, to rehouse Dromore High School, ran at least partly in parallel to the Central campaign and whose retirement likewise came before that ambition could be fully realised.
Their longstanding colleague in the local education community, and still principal of St Colman’s Primary School, Gerard McBrien, an established musical talent, contributed to the service in song.
A number of one-time Dromore Central teachers also attended and among the ranks of the politicians present was Lagan Valley MLA Brenda Hale, a key figure in the later stages of the Dromore Central campaign for a new home of adequate size.
Delighted, she said, to have attended the service, Mrs Hale added: “During my time as a local MLA I have built up good working relationships with our local schools and I have been actively supportive of both the Primary School and High School campaigns for their newbuilds.
“I would commend the current and previous principals of Dromore Central Primary School and their support staff for their many years of dedication.
“The Central Primary School, has been a hub of educational excellence in the local area for decades. In more recent years the school has outgrown its current site and credit must go to the previous principal, Mr Jim Cochrane, and current principal, Mrs Linda Allen, for their perseverance during a long campaign for the new school build on the Mossvale Road.
“I wish everyone associated with Dromore Central Primary School every blessing for the future and I will continue to do all I can as a local MLA in support of our local schools.”
The existing Dromore Central Primary School will close its doors at the end of this month and speaking ahead of Sunday’s service, which she hailed a celebration of everything the school had been in the community, principal, Mrs Allen, said: “It’s all very exciting but a little bitter-sweet’.
“We have many happy memories and there is a certain sadness in leaving this beautiful old building.
“However, we are all very much looking forward to the future.”