Stella Maris Secondary School, Church Road, Newtownabbey, closed in June 1993 and the building was demolished shortly thereafter. The site to-day is occupied by commercial premises and there is nothing to suggest that it ever contained a school or to be correct two schools – Stella Maris Primary School was housed in a separate building and closed one year later; it too was demolished.

This web site relates to the secondary school which opened in 1964 as two schools, a boys’ and a girls’, with two separate staffs. Declining enrolment, however, led to amalgamation in 1981. The story of the school is briefly told with the remainder of the site being devoted to a variety of photographs showing various aspects of school life.

Sadly, the pictorial record is far from complete, large gaps occur. Despite a number of inquiries few photographs could be located for the girls’ secondary and no class photographs for the 1960s or 80s. This is somewhat compensated for by a range of photographs showing aspects of school life and others showing classes in the 70s and 90s together with various sports teams.

When the school closed in 1993 an announcement was made in the various parish churches inviting past pupils who wished to possess their school records to visit the school and collect them. Over several weeks a great many did so and many photographs were also given away to those who wished to have some souvenir of their school days.

The site also contains approximately six hundred individual photographs of former pupils of the boys’ school. These were taken from ‘proof rolls’ given by various school photographers to the secretarial staff to facilitate the taking of pupil orders. Not all contained pupil names, some have been taken from memory and despite various checks mistakes regrettably may have been made.

The history of the school is also briefly recorded. Its fortunes were closely bound up with the political and social unrest of those years and the story must be told in this context. The mass exodus of Catholic families, intimidated from their homes, led eventually to the closure of the school and to tell the story without making reference to the trauma families suffered would be to further compound the hurt they experienced.

Those who were forced to leave often refer to the years spent living in Rathcoole, before the onset of the ‘troubles’, as among the happiest of their lives. Most families consisted of young couples with growing children, homes were comfortable, work was plentiful, life was fairly carefree and parents had no reason to believe that it should not remain so. Everything seemed set for a fair and prosperous future.

The onset of the troubles came as a shock to most people and many believed that peace would be restored within a few months, regrettably, it was not to be.

Past pupils are to-day widely scattered. Many emigrated and are to be found in England, the USA, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere. Some travelled to Reading, England, in search of work and are settled there to-day with families; a further group moved to Perth, Western Australia, found work in the mines, brought out their girlfriends and settled down to married life.

Best wishes are extended to all past pupils and especially to those who are away from home. To name but a few; to Vincent Stewart and family in Vancouver, Eddie McKee and Brian McKillop also in Canada, Brendan Lemon in Bexhill, East Sussex, Joe McCourt in Reading, Paddy Lillis, Gary McLaughlin, Joe Patton, Hugh McCourt and Joe McLaughlin also in England, John Cunningham in Brisbane, Joe and Tommy Johnston in Australia, Brendan Flanagan last heard of in Berlin, to Tommy, Michael and Mary King all in the Isle of Man and to those who settled in Perth; Jackie Hyland, John Taylor, Joe Doherty and wife Kathleen (McCrystal), Robert Strong and wife Theresa (Gilmore), Mickey McAleese and his wife Dolores (Hyland).

Thanks are due to Margaret McGuinness and those past pupils who organized the Stella Maris reunion in September 2008, without their help this website would not have been possible, and finally to John Walls who designed the site,

Best wishes,
Tom Cunningham

 

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