A Brief History of and Background to St. Andrew’s N.S.
St. Andrew’s N.S. was founded in 1888 under the patronage of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. As early as 1888 the need for a Presbyterian school in Bray was recognised. To address this need, a site was purchased and a fund was opened. Generous contributions were made from the local church community with a subsequent appeal being made to the wider community.
The foundation stone was laid by the Earl of Meath on 20th August 1887 and the school was opened in January 1888. The trowel used in this original ceremony is in our possession and is on display in our school’s foyer, having been rescued in a London auction room, purely by chance. The same trowel was used by Her Excellency President Mary Robinson in laying the foundation stone of our new school in 1991.
Back in 1888, there was still an outstanding debt on the school building. At the suggestion of his congregation, the then Presbyterian Minister, Doctor Irwin, went on a lecturing tour of America and Canada, raising £400 – a huge sum in those days.
In 1889 there were ninety-seven pupils enrolled in St. Andrew’s.
In the 1940s the main part of the school was destroyed by fire and was rebuilt thanks to the generosity of the Presbyterian community of Bray and particularly the late Mr Sam Hegan. Sam remained as treasurer until his death in the middle 1980s and his dedication to and work on behalf of our school is affirmed by those of us who fondly remember him.
In the late 60s and early 70s the then Department of Education closed St. Paul’s Church of Ireland School and it was amalgamated with St. Andrew’s. St. Paul’s had been opened in 1907 and consisted of an Infant School, a Boys’ School and a Girls’ School. It even had a science laboratory and facilities for Home Economics.
The wish of the Department of Education, at that time, to maintain St. Andrew’s as a two-teacher school was strongly resisted and thwarted by the strength of will of the late Reverend Alec Reid (Presbyterian Minister in Bray) and also the late Reverend Richard Large (Church of Ireland Rector of Christ Church Bray). Both men ‘convinced’ the then Minister of Education to agree to enlarge St. Andrew’s to accommodate the two teachers and pupils from St. Pauls. Our Large Hall in the present school is named in memory of Reverend Large and our recently refurbished school library is named in memory of the late Rev Alec Reid.
The patronage of the school was then shared between the Church of Ireland and Presbyterian churches. This arrangement worked amicably for about fifteen years.
On my appointment as Principal of St. Andrew’s in October 1981, it was evident that the school’s accommodation was totally inadequate and sub-standard due to the huge increase in pupil numbers and the great changes taking place in education (even in those days)! Having closely scrutinised all of the alternatives open to us, it was decided that our only course of action was to purchase a site and build a new school.
By coincidence, two factors enabled us to do this.
Firstly, a large influx of children of members of Bray Methodist Church prompted a move within our school’s Board of Management to further strengthen the ties with that church. Following a period of discussion, the Methodist Church was appointed as one of our trustees along with the Church of Ireland and Presbyterian churches. The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin assumed the role of school patron. We were the first school in Ireland (and still are the only school) to be shared by three churches. This arrangement has worked well and is mutually beneficial with all three churches playing an active role in the life of the school.
Secondly, Sunbeam House Special National School Bray was also looking to relocate their school on a new site. Fortunately Reverend Large was the manager of both schools at the time and along with Mr.A.R.G. (John) Giles (former director of Sunbeam House) planted the ‘mustard seed’ which has grown into our current schools, St. Andrew’s and New Court Schools which share the same school site and facilities.
A design team was set up to source a site and build two schools, one for St. Andrew’s and the other for Sunbeam House (now New Court School). This team became known as St Andrew’s and Sunbeam House ( S.A.S.H. Ltd now called S.A.S.H.), which owns and manages the building on behalf of the Trustees of St. Andrew’s N.S. and the Governors of Sunbeam House.
Our school is where it is now because of the selfless work, skill and enthusiasm of all of the ministers and rectors of our trustee churches and their congregations, our friends from Sunbeam House (now New Court School) and the many parents, teachers and pupils who fundraised for our new school over the past 36 years and more. It is impossible to mention everyone who was involved as it really was a community effort. It is thus incumbent on us all to continue the good work and leave an even better school for future generations as those in the past did for the current school population. Change and improvement do not happen of their own volition: we, as a community of learners, make this happen.
Peter McCrodden N.T., B.A. MSc. H.dip. Ed. Dips. Froebel MLD.Ed.Admin.