One of only four seventeenth century schools in Northern Ireland will make an historic move from Londonderry’s cityside to the opposite bank of the River Foyle on Monday.
Foyle College, a predominantly Protestant but nondenominational grammar school, will move to a newly constructed campus in the city’s Waterside, marking the first time in its 400-year history it will have left the mostly Catholic west bank of the Foyle.
Dating back to 1617 when it opened at Society Street within the city walls — a remarkable 71 years before the Great Siege of Derry — it is the third oldest school in Northern Ireland.
Originally known as the Free Grammar School, it later became ‘Foyle College’ before taking the name ‘Foyle and Londonderry College’ following an amalgamation with Londonderry High School in 1976.
In 2011, amid some controversy, the school decided to drop ‘Londonderry’ from its title and revert back to the old name of Foyle College.
DUP MLA Gary Middleton said the move to the new Waterside campus was a good one for pupils and staff, but admitted that he felt somewhat sad that the school has been forced to leave the cityside after four centuries.
“We know Foyle has been around for a long time and unfortunately the buildings had deteriorated over the years,” he said.
“I have heard past pupils and parents saying that it will be a sad sight that the famous crimson uniforms which are so identifiable will no longer be seen in the cityside.”
He continued: “I am saying that not to be critical of the move, only for the history of the institution.
“I do feel that it is a move for the better, mainly on the basis that it is going to be a brand new school and that it is going to be on the same site as the new build for Ebrington Primary School, so there is a good opportunity for the schools to feed off one another.
“Ultimately it is about giving the pupils access to state-of-the-art facilities and the best way that the Department of Education saw fit to do that was to have a shared campus for Foyle and for Ebrington, who both needed new facilities.”
He added: “The whole city now has opened up with the Peace Bridge and the development of Ebrington Square so, in a way, that whole area has become almost a part of the city centre.
“The whole city has opened up in that way and Foyle will very much see this as an opportunity to be part of that. I don’t see it as anything to be concerned about. It is a welcome move.”