The last principal of St Peter’s High School in Derry has called for the school to be remembered in some way as work to clear the site progresses.
Martin Bowen said he would also like to see play, health and education facilities provided along with the hundreds of new social houses being built in the vicinity. Apex Housing has submitted plans for 127 new homes on the site, to add to the 220 already built or underway behind the school.
Mr Bowen, who was principal at the school for over two decades, made his comments after last week paying his first visit to the school since it was closed for good in the summer of 2013. Work to clear the site ahead of demolition got underway earlier this month, and the school’s rapid since its closure has been captured in stunning detail by a local artistic group called Beautiful Abandonment, and uploaded onto their Facebook page.
Mr Bowen said he found it ‘upsetting’ to have seen the school as a derelict empty shell upon his return.
“It was a sad sight. I didn’t go in, the gates were closed and the notice was up, ‘demolition in progress’. “I don’t think I’d go back after the way I felt. I would much prefer to see it when it is finished and there is life about the area.
“At the minute they are clearing out the inside, even the doors and handles, they will salvage whatever they can.”
Recalling his final days at the school, Mr Bowen said: “One of the things I was delighted about was the number of past pupils that came up over the last few weeks. A lot of them put their names up on the black boards. It was great to see them. There were a couple of guys over from America staying with friends who came as well.
“I am there 24 years as principal, a long time, one of the longest stints in Northern Ireland so it was an emotional time.”
Mr Bowen said that along with the board of governors, he had been very, very insistent when dealing with the Trustees and Apex Housing that if the site was to be used for housing, there was also a need for play, educational, health facilities in the area.
“This is an area very stripped of amenities and the people deserve it,” Mr Bowen said. “These people have been great neighbours and tremendously supportive of the school.” Mr Bowen also said he would like to see the school remembered in some way on the site.
“I would like to think that when they are naming the streets they would remember the fact that St Peter’s stood there, and remember the fact that we had some fantastic pupils like the Undertones, the Moondogs, Jem Kelly.”
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