Yesterday Aquinas welcomed back five of the founding teachers, who have now either retired or moved on. The aim was to recreate a photograph that was taken, possibly in 1997 or 1998 which showed the first teachers of the school.


The ten founding teachers -21 years on!


The founding teachers c.1997/98: (L to R: M. McCool, M. McClean, P. Cunningham, S. Lambon, D. Press, F. Clarke, J. Dolan, F. McCallion, P. Evans, C. Grant)


The five Principals of Aquinas: Finbarr, McCallion (1992-99), Michael McClean (1999-2006), Diana Press (2006-10), Geraldine Gibson (2010-11), Barry Kelly (2011 to present)


Some of the first students, September 1993: Brian Gibson, Claire Gibson, Seaneen Sloan, Leontia Haldenby, Carol Taylor and Ronan Watson

The sense of occasion was wonderful and as the photoshopped photograph shows, our teachers have matured very nicely, lol! Mr Kelly, in a little speech welcoming everyone back, highlighted the sense of tradition that these teachers established in those early years of Aquinas.

AquinasDiocesanGrammar School opened the doors to its first 110 pupils in September 1993 with Mr Finbarr McCallion as Principal (second from right).

During the late eighties and early nineties, it was clear from the demographics of South Belfast that there was an ever increasing Catholic population, yet a dearth of Catholic schools to cope with the numbers. For that reason, Monsignor Thomas Bartley, on behalf of Bishop Patrick Walsh, campaigned vigorously with the Minister and Department of Education to gain permission for the building of a new CatholicGrammar School in South Belfast.

In 1992, after many meetings, letters and phone calls, the Department finally granted permission for the new school with ten teachers and 110 boys and girls with a proposed opening date of September 1994.  However, Bishop Walsh and Monsignor Bartley were determined to open in September 1993. Many remember Mr McCallion, the newly appointed Principal, speaking from every church pulpit within the catchment area, encouraging the parents of P6 and P7 pupils to consider the new Aquinas for their child’s post-primary education.

Rather than choose a ‘greenfield site’, which would have delayed the opening, the new school took possession of the derelict building that was the former St Augustine’s Boys’ Secondary School, which had amalgamated with St Monica’s Girls’ Secondary’ in June 1992, forming St Joseph’s College. On the 1 September 1993, a year earlier than planned and with the paint still wet on the walls, Mr Finbarr McCallion, Principal, Mr Michael McClean, Vice Principal and Science teacher; Mrs Diana Press, Senior Teacher and Head of English; Mrs Fionnuala Clarke, Mathematics and Science; Miss Patricia Cunningham, Art and Technology; Mrs Julia Dolan, French, German and History; Mr Paul Evans, PE, RE, English and History; Father Colin Grant, RE, Music and History; Mrs Sasha Lambon, French and German; Mrs Marie McCool, PE and Geography and 110 pupils began life in the fourth Diocesan College of the Diocese of Down and Connor.

The staff and pupils finally moved into their new building in January 2003, with Mr Michael McClean now as Principal, Mr McCallion having retired in June 1999.

The school has gone from strength to strength over the years, becoming firmly rooted in the South Eastern Belfast community with Mrs Diana Press becoming Principal from June 2006 to June 2010, Mrs Geraldine Gibson from 2010 to 2011 and from then to the present day, Mr Barry Kelly.  In this present academic year, Aquinas welcomed another 110 pupils, bringing the total educated or currently attending the school to 2574 pupils, with 55 current members of the teaching staff

To mark the twenty first anniversary, the school is holding a reunion for all past staff  and pupils in the Europa Hotel on Friday 2 May. Tickets are available from the school office, price £35.

Below are just a selection of old photographs – enjoy.