Hundreds of people have flocked to the grounds of Long Tower church in Derry for the first view of the newly refurbished building affectionately known as the ‘Wee Nun’s’ school.
The building will now house the Saint Columba’s Heritage Centre, and marks the completion of a £1.7m restoration of the listing building, which dates from 1813.
The centre, which will open to the public in early June, will showcase the heritage and history of Saint Columba, the city’s founding father.
However, crowds flocked to a special event held at the building where the public-including former staff and pupils – got their first look inside the new look ‘Wee Nun’s’ school.
Grainne McCafferty, chairperson of the Aras Colmcille Trust, which was set up in 2002 to oversee and secure funding for the project, said that she was delighted with the response from visitors at the weekend.
“We had around 500 visitors here, and everyone was so impressed with what the architects, HMD and Woodlea Builders have done with the school,” she said.
“It’s a beautiful wee building, and we’ve managed to retain the character of the place while also restoring it for use as the heritage centre.
“We’re also delighted that we’ve been able to re-open the steps that lead down to the Bogside, which up to now had been closed due to safety concerns.”
Amongst the many visitors to the building on Saturday was Miss Angela Fiorentini, who taught in the school from the fifties.
“She’s a legend among the pupils, and you could see that from the number of people who were queuing up to talk to here,” Grainne added.
“We’ll now be opening the exhibition in early June, and the heritage centre is going to huge addition to the city’s cultural heritage.”
She added: “The Aras Colmcille Trust would like to thank our funders, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB), The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and Derry City Council.”
Pictured above having a looked around the refurbished school are, left to right, Edgar McCormick, Grainne McCafferty and Ivor Doherty.
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