1934 Opening Day

On 11th August 1934, Miss Elise Barbour, a member of the linen thread manufacturing family, opened Finaghy Public Elementary School.

11th August 1934

We are most grateful to Lisburn Linen Museum staff who have recently unearthed a photograph of Miss Elise Barbour on Opening Day at Finaghy School. Taken from the Belfast Newsletter of 13 August 1934, Miss Barbour is pictured with her mother Anna who unfurled a flag, and her father Harold, who presided over the event. At that time, Harold Barbour was Chair of the Lisburn & Belfast Education Committee.

(Click on images to enlarge)


Elise Barbour‘s uncle was Sir John Milne Barbour, Chairman of Barbour Linen Thread Mill in Lisburn, which was once the largest manufacturing company of its type in the world. Sir John’s sister Helen (Elise’s aunt) married Sir Thomas Andrews, designer of RMS Titanic, who perished on the ship in 1912. Later she married Henry Harland of Harland & Wolff. The Barbour family invested fortunes in the City of Belfast and set up the Barbour Fund, still administered today via the Belfast Charitable Society, based in  Clifton House – originally Belfast’s ‘Poor House‘.  Sir John himself visited the school in 1945 for the Empire and Victory Day celebrations (see newspaper clip below.)

The Charley family, who donated funds to purchase some of the land still occupied by the school, (see plaque below), had close links with the Barbour family through the Linen industry. Their original family house (Finaghy House, which is now Faith House – a residential home) was purchased by the Charley family in the early 1700’s. In the 1800’s their estate extended to some 400 acres, including their mansion at Seymour Hill. In 1852, they built Conway House in Dunmurry, which passed from the Charley Family to the Barbour family in 1892. Conway House eventually became a hotel, and was fairly recently demolished to make way for the Redwood housing development. Charley Memorial Primary School was endowed by the family in 1897. When it closed in 2007, a number of the remaining pupils, rather fittingly, transferred to Finaghy Primary School.



1934 A gift of £1000 was used to purchase the field, as described above.


Above: apart from the spire on the clock tower, the building looked virtually the same until it was taken down in 2004

Above: visit from Sir John Milne Barbour in 1945

The architect of the original building was Mr Reginald Wilshere. Large numbers of Public Elementary Schools were being built in this era and the Wilshere style is evident in many of them to this day: Strandtown PS, Elmgrove PS, Rosetta PS, Botanic PS to name but a few. In total, he was responsible for 26 schools built in Northern Ireland between the two great wars.

Reginald Sharman Wilshere (1888–1961) MC, F.R.I.B.A., P.A.S.I.

Above: full account of the opening ceremony from the Ballymena Weekly Telegraph. 

The school cost £6,600 to build in 1934, planned to accommodate 250 pupils.

On opening day there were 161 pupils on the roll. Just 5 months later, the first inspection was conducted with it being noted that ‘Standard V could be working a little more energetically!  The first Principal of the school was Mr Maxwell Gillespie.
We still have the original inspectors’ ledger in school, hand-written in fountain pen. (See separate tab: ‘Inspectors Ledger‘)
(Click to enlarge)