Before St. Finian’s N.S. was built most of the children in the area went to Willistown School. It was on the Drumcar Road not far from where the present school is. Willistown School was originally thatched. In 1857 they added another storey to the building and the thatch was replaced with slates. There were two fireplaces in the school, one downstairs and one upstairs. There were four classrooms, two upstairs and two downstairs and two toilets.
It was a church as well as being a school. Mass continued to be said in the school until 1862 when Dillonstown church was built.
The families on the roll book were described as small farmers, sailors and fishermen. According to the roll book then there were about 156 pupils, 87 boys and 69 girls. The average attendance was 43 boys and 30 girls. Master Boylan was the principal then. His predecessor was Master Lyons.
Sweet Annagassan that neat little village
Where some live by fishing and others by tillage,
‘Tis often I walked it and ramble all o’er,
To see the old salts as they came on the shore.
In this village, there is a large Mill, two Pubs,
A Post Office and a Lodge on the hill.
A row of small houses, well whitened with lime.
There’s fun and good trade, that’s surely no crime.
The men are good natured convivial and witty,
And there is no doubt, the girls are all pretty.
The children are plentiful, but then ’tis the rule
To wonder all day, far away from the school.
The scenes are imposing, delightful & grand.
Blackrock in its beauty appears close at hand.
The mountains of Mourne in grandure arise
And seem to the gazer, to meet with the skies.
Barmeath to the south with its green sloping hills.
It’s beautiful meadows and murmuring rills.
The beauties of nature it seems to enjoy
As it laughs at Drumcar, across the plains of Finvoy.
There’s Lisnarann Hill looking down on the Dee
With it’s green coat of verdure, delightful to see.
Smiles down on the village, as if it would say
Be merry, be joyous, be happy all day.
And such are the scenes of these wonderful places
So now my dear, folk will come to the races
at Sweet Annagassan.
Composed by Master Kane & pupils of Willistown School in the mid 1880’s. Thanks to Emer McGrane who sourced it for us.
Willistown School is now a private residence and the family living there have children have attended St. Finian’s N.S.
In 1955 Dillonstown’s new school opened. All of the pupils were transferred on the opening day when they marched from Willistown School to the new school where there was an open-air mass celebrated.
Mr. Seamus Boylan continued as the Principal until he retired in 1972. Then came Mr. Eugene Wynne who retired in 1981. His successor was Mr. Tom Higgins who retired in 1999. Then Mr. Robin Barnes spent almost three years as principal before Mr. Brendan Roche, succeeded him. In 2005 the school celebrated 50 years and the President Mrs Mary Mc Aleese visited the school and planted a tree in honour of the occasion. In September 2005 Mr Pádraig Mc Eneany took up the post of Principal. In June 2009 Mrs. Mary Markey retired and Miss Brenda Lambe was appointed to replace Mrs. Markey. Mrs Ann Quinn retired in September 2015 and was replaced by Ms. Isabel Corrigan. Ms Brenda Lambe was appointed as Vice-Principal. Other staff in the school at present are Mrs Ann Bellew and Mrs Christine Tuite who are job-sharing and are part of our very successful SEN team, Mr L. Shevlin, and Mr. Eoghan Osborne. Mrs Valerie Mc Mahon is our SNA. Our secretary is Anne Matthews, our cleaner is Moninna Callan and our caretaker is Tomás Mc Quillian.
50 years at Dillonstown
As part of the 2005 celebrations to commemorate the move to Dillonstown, handprints of the entire school body were captured in the bike shed!