Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland mum seeks a history lesson on school she now calls home

By Stewart Robson

A Lisburn woman is trying to piece together the past of the 184-year-old former schoolhouse that is now her home.

Tracy McCausland lives in the building once used by Ballymacbrennan National School, which saw pupils from Lisburn and the surrounding area walk through its doors for 90 years.

After the school closed, the building hosted events from wedding receptions to church services and public meetings to elections, but now its new owner is seeking to unearth new information about its past.

Tracy, who has been living in the house with her young sons Sam and Callum since the start of year, has issued an appeal to anyone with ties to the old school to come forward with stories or memories they may have about the listed building.

"We have worked hard over the past few months to create a beautiful home whilst trying to preserve something of the tradition and feel of the original use of the property," she said.

Ms McCausland's luxurious four-bedroom home also contains a conservatory but retains its Georgian features despite the work that has been carried out on the building.

"We really do love it," she said.

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Tracy McCausland with Sam (left) and Callum

Ballymacbrennan School was built in 1834 and for some 90 years it catered for the children of the surrounding area.

The Marquis of Downshire oversaw the committee who took charge of the building when the school closed in the 1920s.

In the following years, the building hosted Church services, wedding receptions and public meetings, including those of the Unionist Party and was used a polling station.

When the building was sold several years before its renovation in 2000, the deeds were sought by the building's committee.

The family of the Marquis, who now live in England, agreed to hand over the deeds and with the money made from the sale of the old school, a brand new building - Ballymacbrennan School Hall - was erected adjacent to it in 1999, which is still used for Church meetings as well as accommodation today.

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The exterior of the building

In the same year, the two-storey old school, which included a teacher's residence at the rear, was fully renovated.

Norman Moore is on the committee that currently oversees the maintenance of the new school hall.

"The old school principal was a dweller in the top part of the hall," he said.

"When the principal retired from the school he decided he wanted to live on in the school but the people of the countryside took him to court and the judge put him out of the house and gave it to the people in the countryside.

"And it still belongs to us."

Committee secretary Desmond Shortt has close family connections with the old building.

"My grandmother attended the school in the late 1800s," he said. "She died in 1955 when she was 75 and unfortunately I never got to meet her.

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The interior now of the former school building on the Saintfield Road on the outskirts of Lisburn

"My grandfather was also involved in the Sunday School in the 1920s and 1930s."

If you have any connections with the building or further information regarding its history, contact newseditor@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

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