END of an era; it's a much used phrase, but for Mrs. Isabel McDowell there is no other to adequately sum up her feelings about the imminent closure of Tullymacarette Primary School, a school with which she personally has been associated for more than 50 years.
Isabel lives a few hundred yards from the school in an area she has called home all her life and her family’s ongoing connections to Tullymacarette pre-date the opening of the existing school in 1939.
Tullymacarette as it stands today long ago incorporated Mullafernaghan and Mount Ida schools when they were closed; now it is to share their fate.
Isabel’s grandfather Adam attended the older Tullymacarette school; her dad, Ted Poots, was also schooled at Tullymacarette in the time of Canon Frizzell.
Isabel’s aunts and uncles were Tullymacarette pupils, so too her brothers and sisters, her brother’s two children and of course Isabel herself attended the school, where the headmaster of the day was Mr. Jack Gier and her first teacher was Miss Margaret Johnston, later Mrs. Margaret Potts.
Mrs. Potts was to spend her entire career teaching at Tullymacarette, where among her later pupils were Isabel’s daughters, Karen, Elaine, Lynsey and Joanne; the eldest, now Mrs. Karen Wells, was to return to the school as a supply teacher.
Had the school remained open, Isabel’s grandson Brandon would have become the fourth generation of the family to attend the current school.
During Mr. Arthur Gibson’s time as principal, Isabel too returned to the school in that she served as chairperson of the Parent/Teachers Association, and her husband John is a former chairman of the Board of Governors.
“Tullymacarette,” said Isabel, “is very much a community school and in these days of integrated education it’s worth mentioning that when I went to that school, everyone in the community went to it; integration was nothing new when I was at school.”
Isabel noted that during World War II Tullymacarette also played host to refugees.
Of her own time at the school she has many fond memories; one in particular sticks out in that it too marked a closure of sorts.
“I remember the last train going by the school,” she said. “Mr. Grier took us all out and lined us up to watch the last train going to Belfast.
“Tullymacarette closing is the complete end of an era for me as a person.”