St. Mary's Primary School, Dunamore, with a current enrolment of 180 pupils, is a rural school serving a large catchment area in the Parish of Kildress (meaning Church of the Brambles). The school is situated at the foothills of the Sperrin Mountains (an environmentally sensitive area) 12 kilometres from the historic town of Cookstown. Beside the school stands St Mary’s Church an impressive, historic building (currently being restored) with its beautiful view and intricate architecture.

Over the past 50 years the school has experienced many changes from a three classroom school (built in 1963) to a seven classroom school (in 2012). Extensions in 1984 and more extensions and refurbishments in the last five years have  updated and modernised the school to include a new mobile classroom, a Hygiene Room, Principal’s Office, General Office, Computer Suite, a refurbished staffroom and  increased car parking facilities within the school grounds. The Principal of St Mary’s Primary School is Miss Sheila Devlin who was appointed to the position in 2007. 

All around the grounds of the school trees have been planted. There is an enclosed paved area in the grounds where pupils can reflect and relax.  A tree, won by a past pupil in an Esso Wild Life Competition, was planted near this area. Don Connery, the artist, presented this tree to the school. The paved area and tree are in memory of a caretaker, Frankie Mc Veigh, who died suddenly in May 2005.

Going for a leisurely stroll on the ‘Dunamore Walk’ the evidence of our past history and cultural heritage is all around. Heading out through the school gates and turning left one passes by Diarmuid and Grainne’s grave. Irish folklore suggests that Diarmuid and Grainne had a resting place in the field beside the school.

The Dunamore Creamery (now St Mary’s Hall) is at the foot of Colton’s Hill. The Dispensary (now a restored house) is opposite and beside it, River Vale Nursing Home (once known as the Barracks).

The Ballinderry River meanders nearby the school.  In the past a tributary of the Ballinderry River was used to power the water wheel of the corn mill of which the ruins still remain. The actual wheel can be seen in the Mill Wheel Bar and Restaurant.

Near to the school there is the ancient site of Beaghmore Stone Circles and dotted throughout the countryside there are standing stones all evidence of an historic past.

With the current recession there has been a revival of turf cutting. There are many bog and peat lands around the school district where people have cut turf for generations. Turf cutting has experienced technological change from the manual work of the spade to the work of a machine. In order to preserve the bog lands and its flora and fauna there have been restrictions imposed on where cutting turf by machine can be done.

Farming also depends more and more nowadays on scientific know how. As we are situated in a rural community farms are worked all around us. This gives us an insight into the cycle of a farmer's year and how he uses the land, rears animals and grows crops.

The community itself is growing and changing. New homes and developments are being built with new materials and modern structures.  The school itself, nestled amidst this growing community, bodes well for future generations where education and lifelong learning will remain an integral part of this community.

Courtesy of Marie Quinn    September 2012