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St. Anne's Primary School, Donaghadee

History of St Anne's

St. Anne's PS & St. Comgall's church
St. Anne's PS & St. Comgall's church


In 1930, Father Kennedy who was Parish Priest of Newtownards, and whose area of responsibility included Donaghadee, was keen that Catholic school should be established in the town. He tried, without success, throughout England and Ireland to secure the services of a religious teaching order. Then his curate, Father McKeown, suggested trying the Convent of Mercy in Downpatrick.

After much deliberation, Reverend Mother Mary Benignus agreed to send sisters to Donaghadee if suitable accommodation could be found. In July 1931, a large four-storey building in the town centre consisting of a shop, dwelling house and out-buildings came on the market. Spacious, and in good condition, it was considered by the sisters to be suitable for use as a school and convent, and so on July 21, 1931, 49 High Street, Donaghadee became the property of the Sisters of Mercy. The sisters took possession of the building on September 25, of that same year and work began on getting it ready for its first pupils. Land at 9 and 11 Millisle Road was also purchased at this time.

Some changes were required to convert the former shop and make it suitable for use as a school, including the installation of electricity which was paid for by a generous benefactor from Holywood.

On January 4, 1932, Mother Mary Ethna, Superior of the Donaghadee convent, welcomed the first pupils and their parents to the newly established St. Anne's Public Elementary School. Sister Mary Dympna was appointed as the first principal and teacher of the juniors with Sister Mary Columba as assistant teacher.



The original school was housed on the ground floor, converted from the previous shop by a partition dividing it into the junior and senior classrooms. Dining facilities were located in "the loft", a two-storey outbuilding in the large rear garden. The school served the educational needs of the pupils well for 30 years. However, increasing pupil numbers and the need for more modern facilities necessitated a move to new premises on the Millisle Road in 1963.

Following the move, the convent remained in High Street, with the former school being used for as a time as an antique shop, and then as a temporary church, before eventually being sold in 1982. The upstairs convent was converted into flats, and the downstairs divided into two units, one now housing a home interiors shop and the other an ice-cream shop.

The site on which the present school sits was acquired in the 1930s along with 9 Millisle Road, an imposing detached house known as "Shandon" which became the local priest's residence. The purchase of the land proved to be a far-sighted move, as the site was readily available for the construction of the new school.

Opened in May, 1963, the new building was bright and spacious with two good sized classrooms as well as a general purpose room which served as a dining and assembly hall. In 1991, the school was extended to provide an additional classroom as well as cloakroom, office and store rooms. Further growth saw the provision of a mobile classroom in 2001.

And although "Shandon" and some of the original land bought in 1931 has since been sold for housing development, St. Anne's Primary School remains a vibrant, growing school surrounded by open and spacious grounds for the pupils to enjoy.

On December 8, 2021, the parents voted overwhelmingly by 96% to Transform St. Anne's into an Integrated Primary School. And so our history begins...