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Past pupil aged 75 helps to celebrate school’s 75th year

One of the oldest past pupils of a Belfast primary has visited pupils and staff to hear about their plans to celebrate the school’s 75th anniversary.

Dougie Adams (75) attended Finaghy Primary School from 1938 until 1946. One of 12 children, he grew up in a small house in Lille Park where his mum and dad slept in the kitchen.

His older sister Marjorie, who now lives in Australia, was by virtue of her surname the first pupil in the first roll book when the school opened in 1934.

Dougie’s connection to the school was renewed when his wife Jean became the school secretary in 1982 and remained in post for 16 years. Dougie will be guest of honour at the school’s 75th anniversary celebration at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast on May 23.

In 2004 the school that Dougie and Jean knew so well was demolished to make way for a state-of-the-art high-tech facility.

The new school building was the launch-pad for Finaghy Campus — a range of new community services based in the school’s grounds including a breakfast club, daycare centre, community sports facility and a public library.

As a result of the transformation the campus has become a thriving hub for primary education, life-long learning and community services.

Dougie and Jean recently toured the school and it stirred many memories of his education during the war years.

Dougie said: “In those days things were a bit more harsh. If you stepped out of line you would have suffered the cane, or maybe even a slap! The boys and girls came into school by separate entrances. In the classrooms, rows of silent children faced the front and a seat close to the cast-iron radiators was coveted.

“The war years were strange times for a child at school. There was a siren attached to the tower of the local church which was tested every Saturday and it scared the life out of us. There was an air-raid shelter in the grounds of the school and I look back with anxiety to the months of black-outs, rationing and the eventual Blitz.

“I remember working with our teacher Miss McDougall on a Japanese display which was hastily cancelled when news came through of Pearl Harbour.”

During their tour, Dougie and Jean saw children enjoying school, learning through play and at ease with laptop computers and interactive whiteboards.

The school’s principal Alastair Mackay said: “We are really looking forward to our celebration event to mark 75 years of contribution to the Finaghy community. There is even a group of past staff who have been meeting for the past 30 years, who call themselves the FOGs — Finaghy Old Geezers — who will be along in full force!

“At the event there will be a champagne reception, memorabilia on display, entertainment by the James Huish Swing Band and, most importantly, the chance to renew old aquaintances with friends, fellow pupils, staff, parents and grandparents. It will certainly be an event to remember.”

Past pupils, staff, governors and associates are invited to join the celebrations in May. For tickets and inquiries phone Eleanor on (028) 90612623.

If you have any old photographs or memorabilia dating to the war, or pre-war years, you can contact the school by email at fpsbt10@yahoo.co.uk

Belfast Telegraph