The Old Grey Mother

RSD began life as one of 5 Royal Schools set up by James I to educate sons of English and Scottish planters in Ulster .  In 1614 a school was founded at Mountjoy on the shores of Lough Neagh , however after 22 years , in 1636 , it moved to Dungannon - probably Union Place . The school was damaged and temporarily closed because of war and rebellion in 1614 and 1689 but re -opened each time .Eventually, in 1789 (the year of the French Revolution ) it was relocated to its present situation in Northland Row . The building then consisted of the present Headmaster’s House and was built from sandstone .  This 1789 building acquired the nickname of “ The Old Grey Mother “ after the sandstone with which it was built was rendered with cement sometime in the 19th Century . New windows and doors were required , the Board of Governors had insufficient funds for sandstone blocks and instead used hand made brick . To preserve a unified appearance the building was covered with cement . The new Ranfurly Building may reflect the original appearance more accurately . 

School Colours

Records of school 'colours' go back 300 years. In 1674 the boys were described as playing football in “ yellow … jerkins and black breeches “.  In the 19th century cricket colours of violet, yellow and red were worn as a ribbon around a bowler hat !  The present colours of chocolate and magenta for rugby and for school uniform were adopted in 1870 . The School badge, originally -the castle and the crown- was altered at amalgamation in 1986 and a motto added from the former Dungannon High School for Girls . Unlike most great schools , RSD was without a motto until it became co–educational in 1986.  The current coat of arms was redesigned at the request of Mr. Hewitt for the Millennial Year of 2000,by Mrs. Kathleen Hobson , a former Chairman of the Board, who had also been Head Girl of Dungannon High School for Girls .  Mrs. Hobson also re-created the beautiful framed extracts from the 1614 Charter with letters and colours faithfully copied from Jacobean times . 

School Houses

      BERESFORD .   John George Beresford was one of two brothers who each became Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland .  In 1850 the Archbishop gave RSD a substantial sum of money, this was used to build the Cloister (see the plaque above the door leading to the Robinson Wing ), the gymnasium and two classrooms.  This gym is now the Marshall Library.  In memory of Beresford’s generosity , the “ blue “ House is now named after him .       BULLINGBROOK .   In 1614 James, angry that there had been a six year delay since he had ordered the building of a “ free school “ for Co .Tyrone , demanded that the Archbishop of Armagh take immediate action . A Headmaster, John Bullingbrook  was appointed in May 1614 .  The school was then on the shores of Lough Neagh at Mountjoy .  The area is still called “College Lands “ although just fields now .  In 1636 the Royal School was moved to Dungannon .  Five years later in 1641 this new school was attacked and destroyed by Irish rebels . Bullingbrook and his son were forced to flee and sought refuge in the great forest of Glenconkeyne on the western shores of Lough Neagh . They both sadly died of hunger and exposure . In nearly 400 years there have only been 20 Headmasters of RSD .  The shortest serving Headmaster lasted less than a day , another less than a year .  The longest serving was the great Dr. Frederick Ringwood , who was Headmaster  for 42 years from 1850-1892 .        MOUNTJOY .   400 years ago Ulster was the most Gaelic part of Ireland and resolutely defied English attempts to extend control over the Province .  Hugh O’Neill had his headquarters in Dungannon and led the Ulster resistance .  O’Neill fought off a series of English armies. A new commander, Lord Mountjoy fought a ruthless and determined campaign against O’Neill until the great Irish chieftain surrendered in 1603.  In the years following, English and Scottish planters made Ulster their home and RSD was registered as one of the schools for the planters’ children . Without Mountjoy there would have been no Ulster plantation and no Royal School , thus his name is commemorated in one of RSD’s houses       NICHOLSON.  General Sir John Nicholson was a pupil of RSD in the 19th Century .  He went on to achieve fame as a soldier , dying a hero’s death during the Siege of Delhi in the Indian Mutiny of 1857 .  A statue of Nicholson stood beside the Delhi Gate until Indian independence , when it was removed .  It eventually found its way to Dungannon in 1960 and was erected in front of the school . It was then unveiled in the year 1967 by Lord Mountbatten , late uncle of Prince Philip . Nicholson House was the last of the four RSD houses to be founded ,  .  Nicholson was most famous in the Northwest Frontier of India .  He was amazingly brave , administered strict justice and had an awesome appearance .  In India he was regarded by some as being virtually a God .  Professor R. L. Marshall wrote a poem in a school magazine of the 1930‘s in which he described a dream of the Nicholson Statue standing, not in Delhi, but in front of RSD .  This came to pass some 30 years later. Post Amalgamation Houses were renamed to incorporate Dungannon H.S. House names,colours remained the same Beresford became Beresford/Charlemont, Bullingbrook  became Bullingbrook/Tyrone, Mountjoy became Mountjoy/Ranfurly, Nicholson became Nicholson/Dungannon RSD and World War I   The names of those RSD Old Boys who died in the great war of 1914-18 are inscribed on the left hand Memorial Board in the Dining Hall .  In R1 there is a World War I stained glass memorial window depicting a procession of soldiers watched by the Angel of Death and overlooked by the figure of the crucified Christ.  It reads : “ In memory of many boys of the Royal School,Dungannon who gave their lives in the Great War “ .  It was designed and made by a former Head of Art in RSD At every Remembrance Day Service at the War Memorial in the Market Square Dungannon , a wreath is laid on behalf of the school by the Head Boy and Head Girl and another is presented by the Former Pupils’ Association in honour of all those pupils of RSD who in the World Wars or since have given their lives in the service of their country . A beautiful clock , situated in the Cloisters area was presented in 1997 by the Former Pupils’ Association in honour of RSD pupils who had suffered or been killed during the troubles in Northern Ireland .  A plaque beneath this high clock is suitably inscribed to remind all pupils of the sacrifice by their predecessors . Evacuation (1940-42)  Nowadays, Belfast “Inst” is among our keenest sporting rivals , but during World War II rivalries were suspended for a number of years .  RBAI then had a Boarding Department, but after two major air raids on Belfast in the spring of 1941,  it was no longer considered safe for boarders to stay in the centre of the city. They were evacuated (by train) to Dungannon.  150 were lodged with the families of RSD pupils and 100 were lodged in Northland Row at a large hostel opposite the school , they became pupils of RSD for the duration .  Of those who were evacuated , the Hostel boys stayed longest and were taught partly by RBAI staff and partly by RSD staff . Games were played frequently between RSD and RBAI boys in Dungannon at a time when travel was restricted due to the war . In 1991, 50 years on , many of the Inst. boys came back to Dungannon to attend the RSD Old Boys Dinner and relive those historic times .  Great camaraderie and respect still exists between these two fine schools .  A photograph of the evacuation is in the RSD School Museum showing the Inst. Boys on the platform of the Great Northern Railway , which was just beside where the Europa Hotel is today .

School History

R.Irvine © 2017
The Prep House The Armstrong Field was formerly known as the Prep Pitch , after the Prep House , which once stood on the touchline beside the Convent School .  Originally a sanatorium , built in 1850 to isolate boarders with infectious diseases , it later housed the Preparatory Department , finally becoming , under Mr. Edgar , a Boarding House for senior boys .  The Prep House lay vacant for a number of years until demolished in 1988 .  The first mention of the Preparatory Department being in existence was in the December 1940 issue of the School Magazine , it closed in 1999 after 59 years of outstanding work . The School Scout ” Cubs “ Group was founded in 1938-39 with the Scouts continuing until its closure and merging with local Church Groups in 1981 .  At the Preparatory Department peak in the 1990’s there were three teachers and nearly 70 pupils .  They took part in the school concerts and Carol services every year , put on a Christmas nativity play or pantomime , ran a Sports Day , went on trips to Scotland and London and helped run a stall at the Annual Funfair .  The idea of a Preparatory Department was simply to prepare primary aged pupils better for a Grammar School education .  It was situated during its last 30 years in the classrooms underneath the Flyover and Headmaster’s Study .  The Prep. Pupils had the front lawns and later, a fine timber climbing frame to play on .  Rounders and Croquet were popular in the Spring and Summer Terms .  The excellent preparatory teachers were : Miss Marjorie McMillan , Mr. David Kirkwood , Mrs. Laura Swaile , Miss Carol Calvert and Mrs. Yvonne Stevenson .
The Armstrong Field The old prep pitch was formally renamed in 1998 as the Armstrong Field , in honour of Mr. Ken Armstrong , who taught in RSD from 1962 to 1991 .  Ken was a gifted athlete who played at out–half for Ireland , represented Ulster at basketball and was on Leicester City’s books while a student at Loughborough .  His great contribution to sport in RSD was as the 1st XV coach between 1962 and 1983 .  His teams were known then for their attacking, free running style and came close to winning the School’s Cup in 1975 , when RSD lost to Methody at a packed Ravenhill final .  Mr. Armstrong was the first proper coach to the senior Ulster rugby team in the 1960’s and was one of several RSD staff to have coached Ulster .  The others being Mr. Jimmy Davidson and Mr. David McMaster , who were on the staff of RSD in the 1970‘s and 1990’s respectively .  Another member of staff , Mr. Keith Patton has been one of the most successful Ulster and Irish Schools’ Coaches , recording wins over New Zealand, South Africa and Australia schools in the 1990’s .  Mr. John Wilson , Vice -Principal and Deputy Head in RSD in the 1990’s , also coached Junior Ulster at a time when RSD boasted the Senior Schools’ and Junior Ulster coaches . 
The Bingham Gates The Bingham Gates are so called in memory of Mr. R.W. Bingham , headmaster for 20 years from 1911 to 1931 .  During his time RSD was the first Irish school to go on a continental trip ( to the Vosges in 1913) , the School Magazine was begun , and RSD won the Medallion Shield in two successive years .  The Bingham Gates were inaugurated in 1957 , before this the main Northland Row entrance was at the junction of Perry Street and Northland Row, beside the present mini-roundabout . Today , traffic restrictions would not permit a main gate on the corner of a busy intersection but in 1789 there would only have been light horse and cart traffic .  The old gates were removed in the 1940’s to help in the war effort by being melted down and used for building tanks and ships .  It is however believed that the beautiful old gates were never actually used for this purpose as the war ended before it could happen . The “New” main entrance was opened at the Gate Lodge in the 1970’s and today only Staff , Boarding and deliveries use the Northland Row gates .  All gates and railings are due to be replaced
The Marshall Library Built in 1850 , this was formerly the Gymnasium and Assembly Hall , it was used for its original purpose until the late 1960’s when it was converted into a Library. It is named after two Marshalls  both old boys of RSD.  One is  W.F. Marshall, a Presbyterian minister who wrote many poems including “ Mary Ann” , “ I’m Livin’ in Drumlister “ and the school song “ Hurrah, hurrah , Dungannon wears the crown “… The other Marshall is Rev. Professor R.L. Marshall , an author , clergyman and academic ,  for 20 years Professor of History and English at Magee College, Londonderry .  The Library was redesigned in the early 1980’s , the Headmaster had the idea of the stairs and podium which now leads into the Hutcheson Fiction Library.  This was  previously a Modern Language classroom.  The Marshall Library was dedicated solely to an academic book collection.  Computers and a computerized library system were introduced to the library in the 1990’s . Interesting portraits in the library include Leebody, an Old Boy who became Sub - editor of The Times , John Mark , Earl of Ranfurly, who owned the land currently occupied by the Gate Lodge and Memorial Field ( although not an old boy of RSD ) .  He went as Governor General to New Zealand in the early part of the 20th Century.  There is also an imposing set of photographs of Chairmen of the Board,
The Cloister A Cloister is defined as “a covered walk or arcade connected with a monastery or college , often running around the open court of a quadrangle “ .  RSD’s Cloister , however, has only one side instead of four , and faces outwards from the court of the headmasters garden rather than inwards .  It was built with money donated by Beresford,  the Archbishop of Armagh, in 1850 .  Above the door at the north end of the Cloister is a plaque commemorating the donor and the date of construction .  The Cloister floor slabs are still the original ones.  The step at the north end is also original although deep indentations from many years of feet have been filled in with cement . The cloister used to be the setting for PE classes and some whole school Assemblies.  A huge iron gate once linked the Robinson Wing with the ball alley .  Behind the Cloister is the walled garden of the Headmasters’ House .  In the early nineteenth century this was the scene of many garden parties .  From this garden the grounds once sloped down to the “ bowl “ field which was a boggy and smelly rugby pitch , originally where the Assembly Hall now stands .  Eastwards the ground rose to a field which grew vegetables and fruit to feed the boarding pupils , this was converted into a rugby pitch , later reconstructed  in the 1960’s and eventually becoming  the Armstrong Field .  Beyond the Armstrong Field , a rough shrub area was converted into a rugby pitch known as the Arnold Field in 1989 .  It was named after former pupil and governor , Arthur Arnold , himself a former Head of History in Rainey Endowed School , Magherafelt .  Arthur presented a trophy –The Arnold Shield – now played for in matches between the two schools at junior level . 
The Ball Alley The structure which stands at the north end of the Cloisters playground was a ball alley used for the game of handball, a game similar to squash but played with a closed fist rather than a racket .  The game is still played in parts of Ireland .  The new Robinson Link and the new cloister form a back wall to the ball alley enabling it to be used for the break and lunchtime practice of soccer, tennis and other ball sports.   The High School Dungannon High School for Girls was founded in 1925 .  It was first based in the Robinson Wing of RSD before moving to what is now the Lower Campus in 1935.  The plaque on the outside wall at the Lower Campus main entrance commemorates the opening by Lady Charlemont .  In 1986 the High School was amalgamated with the Royal School and the 620 pupils of the new school made up the first co-educational Grammar School in Dungannon .  The first Headmistress in 1925 was Miss McDermott .  She was succeeded by Miss Morton in 1935 ?  Miss Leith , a highly regarded and much loved Headmistress took charge from 1948 to 1968 .  Miss MacBeth became Headmistress in 1968  and ontinued until 1986 .  After amalgamation,  she became a Deputy Head along with Mr. R.D.Stewart .  Miss MacBeth has been a member of the Board of Governors .  The High School also had a Preparatory School which took some boys for many years .It eventually closed in the 1970‘s merging with the RSD Preparatory Department .  At amalgamation in 1986 RSD took the High School motto “ Perseverando “. Unusually for an old school , RSD did not have one of its own .  The motto is formulated to mean “ never say die “ – keep on trying if you wish to succeed . 
Most of the information on this page is from a short booklet of Assembly talks for RSD pupils produced by former Head of History Ivor Edgar who has kindly allowed us to use it . We would be interested in receiving other interesting historical information for this page .  Detailed information on the history of RSD may be obtained from the following publications  : "Tyrone Precinct" by W R Hutchinson "The Castle and the Crown" was written for the school by Dr James Kincade (Former Headmaster) ,Mr Jimmy Davidson and Dr Jonathan Bardon of Queen’s University
Former Pupils Association
John George Beresford
Lord Mountjoy
Present School Badge
       James I at 22
Stained glass memorial window.
Bingham Gates
The Cloister
N.end of cloister
The ball alley
The beautiful stained glass skylight from former ‘Girls High School’
Mountjoy Castle-may have been the first R.S.D.....
...and Bellville House,not far away,dating from 1600 also claims RSD
...somehow it looks more like a school!
Polly Dilworth(recently deceased), Wilfred’s wife, had a great-grandfather who attended RSD [ 'R.K.K.' or Robert Kyle Knox]. RKK was at various times, an engineer(who assisted the famous Sir Charles Lanyon) , a banker and a member of the Board of the Belfast ? Bank), he was also a lawyer with a legal practice in Coleraine. He attended RSD early in Ringwood's era, but was not very complimentary about  the school. For example, in his reminiscences, which we hold, he wrote [p129] 'My first 3 months was a purgatory, beyond conception terrible....' There was one good thing there viz the teaching......' etc. etc . Ringwood had some theory about making us 'hardy' so we hadn't enough clothes on our beds and the dormitories had no hot water pipes or any luxuries of that sort. The playground was like a  jail-yard, with a 14 foot wall all around it, which has since been pulled down. In fact, from what I hear, I was there at the worst time, and there has been a steady amelioration there ever since…….
An observation from around
1870?