logoMemories of PORTADOWN COLLEGE (1967- 1974) by Mervyn Magee


These are my thoughts on Portadown College. I came to this school from the other side of town with two other young fellows called Jeffrey Gibson and Paul Morrison. It was very frightening for us because it was such a big school and I as had come from Church Street Primary School it seemed to look bigger than it actually was.

My class in those days was 1C. Some close friends' names that spring to mind are Glen Moore, Ann Johnston, Valerie Walker and another that comes to mind is Samuel Ruddell who went on to become Head Boy. Sam Glen and I were great friends and spent our first holiday away from parents at Douglas on the Isle of Man.

One of the great characters in the school, was Jackie Mulligan, who is still down there in the P.E. Department. Jackie was the guiding light in leading me to my chosen career as a P.E. teacher and I owe a lot to him. I attended some of the Special P.E. classes organised by Mr. Mulligan and Mr. Woodman, along with other pupils like Janet Cardwell, Carolyn Armstrong and Sam Neill. There were four of us who went on to become P .E. teachers.

As well as attending some of the special P.E. classes I also played rugby, serum-half for the third fifteen along with Niall Sloan, Kenny Morton and Trevor Black. In my upper sixth year the school's first fifteen lifted the Subsidiary Shield in the first year of this competition which was a great achievement for the school. One player who stands out in my memory is John McGonigle. He played full back and kicked the conversions. Sadly John is no longer with us.
One of the other great highlights of my school years was a trip to Italy organised by Mr. McIvor and Mrs. Hewitt. It took place at Easter which meant that we actually saw the Pope giving his Easter address in St. Peter's Square. it still has great memories and something that I would not have wanted to miss. Some other members of staff I recall - Mrs. Lewis, Messrs Garfield England, Navan Graham, Dessie Johnston, Ray Stewart and Raymond Purdy. These are just a few of the ones I remember best.

The social calendar of the school was always full especially around Christmas with the highlight being the Christmas Disco. We also had traditional dances and I always got the best partners, one of which was Jeanette Turkington. The star of these parties and stealing the show was the headmaster Mr. Woodman. For the older pupils there were the Discos and annual events run by Kenny Turner, the headmaster of the Primary School.

I remember the school getting the idea to raise money to send two ambulances to India. Jackie Mulligan, Alistair Uprichard and Paul Burrows were the main teachers behind this effort along with the help of some of the senior pupils. The school raised the money for these ambulances and they were driven by members of staff and some of the senior boys to India. I can remember being quite envious at these boys getting such a chance to go on a trip to India.

As well as playing rugby for the college I also was cajoled into joining the school choir along with my friend Kenny Morton by Miss Knox the music teacher. Being in the choir meant singing at speech day which was held in the old Regal Cinema. On the day the staff wore their robes led by Mr. Woodman. It was a nerve racking time for the Head Boy and Girl who had to make full speeches. The choir stood up at the front and sang, we sang so well that the B.B.C. actually asked us to take part in Songs of Praise from Armagh Presbyterian Church.

During my years at Portadown College from 1967 to 1974 the thing that stands out the most was the influence of the Headmaster Donald Woodman. A better man or school you couldn't have found. He learnt every single person's name, this was some achievement as there was a thousand pupils at the school in that year. Words cannot describe the influence that he had on everybody and directed me towards my career. His memory will always remain in the school where a portrait of him is hanging. My memory is one that a lot of people will share, Donald Woodman cycling to school with the blue enormous suitcase balanced on the bar and handlebars of the bicycle. The suitcase was his Bible and what came out of the suitcase from him to us was so valuable in those days. A tremendous loss to the school and the town when he died, but the wonderful memories of the man will never die.

In my last year we had a new Headmaster when Mr. Woodman retired, Mr. Thomas Armstrong took over and is still there. That is my lasting memory of Portadown College and the direction it gave to me in my life and in my work, those were seven great years from 67 to 74. People from a country school are very close and it is always nice to see people from Portadown College because they were good memories.


With thanks for permission to include this chapter from the book
'The Memories We Shared' by Jimmy Jennings and friends.