Mourne Grange School was first of its kind
Tuesday, 29 November 2016
MOURNE Grange Preparatory School was set up in 1900 by Allen Sausmarez Carey.
Originally from Guernsey, A.S. Carey was the tutor to Francis Needham, the future 4th Earl of Kilmorey and was offered Dromindoney House on the Kilmorey estate at Mourne Park, near Kilkeel, in which to open a preparatory school.
The first of its kind in Ireland, the purpose of the school was to prepare boys between eight and 13 years of age for public school.
Although the school opened with only four pupils and three teachers, the early years saw expansion in terms of pupil and staff numbers, schools buildings and curriculum. By 1908 classrooms and dormitories had been added to the original house and the school uniform of a royal blue blazer with white edging and dark blue cap with the badge of the Carey family was being worn.
Subjects taught included Mathematics, French, History, Latin and Greek. English Language and Literature were bolstered by Mrs Carey's readings of novels to the boys on Sunday evenings, a tradition maintained by Mrs Carey until her death in 1960.
Sport also played a vital part in the school curriculum. A cricket pitch was laid out in 1903 and other games included rugby, football and athletics. In 1915, the school was divided into two houses - Greeks and Trojans - to create rivalry and competition in sport.
'Education expeditions' to local places of interest were also introduced and over the years there were annual excursions to destinations and notable events in Britain and Europe.
By 1927 there were 92 boys, nine masters and three mistresses at Mourne Grange and these numbers remained much the same for the next ten years. In 1933, Patrick Carey, the Headmaster's son, joined the staff. Known as 'Mr Patrick', his main contribution was amateur dramatics which were a major part of school life up until the 1960s, often undertaken in association with the Newpoint Players from Newry. Patrick Carey became Headmaster when his father died in 1954.
Circumstances began to change at Mourne Grange during the 1960s. A tougher economic climate, competition from other preparatory schools in Ireland, greater improvements in state education in the post-war years and a changing attitude towards sending young children away to boarding school, led to a gradual decline in pupil numbers. The school eventually closed in June 1971 and is now the home of Camphill Community Mourne Grange for adults with special needs.
You can learn more about education in the local area by visiting Newry and Mourne Museum's new temporary exhibition - Education in Newry and Mourne: an Historical Prespective. This exhibition, which continues until 3rd September 2017, contains nearly one hundred objects, photographs and documents, and will bring back memories for many people while showing today's school children what school life was like in the past.
Newry and Mourne Museum is open to the public seven days a week with admission free of charge. For opening hours, information on events and exhibitions, other services and bookings please phone 028 3031 3178 or visit www.bagenalscastle.com.
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