ENNISKILLEN Model Primary School is holding a special open afternoon at the end of this month as part of its 150th anniversary celebrations.

On Friday, September 29, past pupils and anyone in the local community with a connection to the ‘Model’ will be invited back to the school for a cup of tea or coffee and a chance to reminisce about the ‘good old days’.

The open afternoon, which is being held from 2pm to 6pm, will give visitors a chance to look at old photographs and memorabilia associated with the primary school, along with an opportunity to view plans for the proposed new build.

The school will be using the occasion to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support, in collaboration with the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA).

Ahead of this event, a small team of former staff has been helping the school’s current vice-principal, Anne Keys, gather up information and pictures that will be displayed on the day.

Mrs. Keys is appealing to anyone within the local community who may have anything they would like to contribute to the display to get in touch with the school by this Friday (September 15), along with some information about the item or photograph.

One of the people involved in preparations for the open afternoon is Derek Davis, who served as the school’s caretaker for nearly 30 years between 1978 to 2007.

After leaving the school, Mr. Davis, who has a deep interest in local history, co-wrote a book about the Model’s early years along with Gordon Brand, whose wife Barbara used to be head of the infant department.

Mr. Davis revealed that a national education system was up and running in Ireland by 1831, some 30 years before England.

He added that the Irish system was “fully integrated” when it was set up, adding: “A lot of people assume that integrated education is a relatively new phenomenon.”

When the Model School in Enniskillen opened its doors in September 1867, it was designed to be “completely open to everyone” and this integrated, inclusive ethos is still promoted by the present Board of Governors.

Mr. Davis said that the first headmaster of the school, Mr. Charles Morris Esq., was Catholic.

A great debate before the school opened surrounded where it would be located, with a big push to have it built up at Forthill, before a site on Dublin Road was chosen.

William Trimble, the founder of The Impartial Reporter, was a prominent supporter of the new school, which was controlled directly by the Commissioners for Education based in Dublin.

As its name suggests, it was a ‘model’ for the smaller National Schools around the country. In its early years, it was also used as a teacher training institution.

By 1880, around 80 young teachers had been educated there.
During the last 150 years, a number of well-known people have attended the school, such as the author Charles Duff, who wrote ‘The Handbook for Hangings’, a satirical look at capital punishment. He mentioned the Model in his autobiography.

Captain John Irvine, who attended the school in the 1880s, later became a senior member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and was sentenced to death for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising. However, this was subsequently commuted and he got out of prison after a few years.

Now, the only part of the original red brick building that remains is the headmaster’s residence, which also provided accommodation for the student teachers.

However, it is proposed to incorporate this listed building into the plans for the school’s new build – meaning that history will be coming full circle.