Bangor Grammar School

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Coordinates: 54°39′54″N 5°39′36″W / 54.665°N 5.660°W / 54.665; -5.660

Bangor Grammar School
Bangor Grammar School Crest.png
Mottoes "Justitiae tenax"
(Maintain Justice or justice is tenacious)
"Excellence, Community, Opportunity"
Established 1856
Type Voluntary school
Principal Mrs Elizabeth P Huddleson
Chaplains Revd Nigel Parker, BSc
Revd Willis Cordner, BTh
Chairman of the Board Mr J. Adrain, B.Sc (Econ), FCA
Founder Col, The Hon. Robert Ward PC MP(Ireland)
Location Gransha Road
BT19 7QU
United Kingdom
Local authority SEELB
Students Approx 1000
Gender Boys
Ages 11–18
Houses Crosby, Dufferin, School, Ward

Royal Blue, Yellow

Publication The Gryphon and Gryphitti
Former pupils Grammarians
Chair of the Grammarians Mr Trevor Gray

Bangor Grammar School (The Grammar or B.G.S.), is an all-boys, voluntary grammar school situated in Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland. It was founded in 1856 by the Conservative politician and Bangor man, Col The Hon. Robert Ward PC MP(Ireland) who lived at Castle Ward.[1] The school, until June 2011, comprised two parts, Connor House, a preparatory school for pupils aged 4–11 and a secondary school for pupils aged 12–18. Connor House closed at the end of the 2011–12 academic year.

Traditionally, Bangor Grammar has a strong record of educating boys, and pupils perform well in academic examinations. In the 2009/2010 academic year, 96% of boys sitting GCSE examinations gained seven passes at grade C or higher and 70% of boys sitting A2 examinations achieved three passes at grade C or higher.

The Headmaster of the school is a member of The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. Since 2014, the position has been held by Mrs Elizabeth P Huddleson.

The school has played a central part in the life of the town of Bangor for many years due to its location and influence. Old boys of Bangor Grammar School are known as Grammarians.


Bangor Grammar School Sites
Bank of Ireland Building
Original site on Main Street (1856–1901), now site of a Bank of Ireland building.
Crosby House
College Avenue site (1905–2012), building in foreground is Crosby House.

Endowment for the school came from the will of local gentleman and politician Col The Hon. Robert Ward PC of Castle Ward. The Hon. Ward was the fourth son of 1st Viscount Bangor and grandson of Michael Ward MP. The Hon. Ward bequeathed £1,000 to be, "…expended in building and endowing a School-house for the education of boys in Mathematics, Astronomy and Navigation…", in his family home town and parliamentary constituency.

Initially established as Bangor Endowed School, the school was originally situated on the site of the modern day Bank of Ireland building on the corner of Main Street and Central Avenue. By the turn of the 20th century the school had changed its name to Bangor Grammar School and because of a growth in school population moved from site to site over a number of years. With the help of Mr W.K. Crosby, the school moved to a new site on College Avenue, in the northeast of Bangor in 1906. The facade visible from College Avenue is a combination of two buildings: Crosby House (known as the Crosby Buildings), which dates back to 1905 and was named after the school's benefactor; and a later extension to the north, which was added as a Headmaster's residence around the time of the outbreak of The Great War (1914–1918).

Despite Northern Ireland not being subject to conscription like the rest of the United Kingdom, a significant number of Grammarians volunteered for the British Armed Forces and fought in both World Wars, in particular the Second World War (1939–1945). The school population was comparatively small at this time, reaching just 200 pupils in 1930 as opposed to 936 pupils in 2008.[2]

Two commemorative plaques are erected in the school assembly hall listing the names off all ex-pupils that died whilst serving in the British Armed Forces during both World Wars. The school's Debating Society minutes present a record of motions brought to the house concerning key events of the times, including a motion concerning the Munich Agreement and the veracity of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's assertion that it would secure, "…peace for our time."

Future site plans[edit]

A three-year campaign to gain funding from the Department of Education for a new school building for Bangor Grammar School came to a successful end on 1 March 2006, when funding was granted. The new location of the school building will be outside the town centre, on the current Bangor Academy site on the Gransha Road. It is estimated that the new school will take at least five years to complete. Following an announcement from the school on 5 February 2010 the development has had to be put on hold due to the current economic climate which has resulted in a cut in the Department of Education's budget for the next financial year. Delays meant that building started in 2011, and the School finally moved to the new Gransha Road site for the term beginning January 2013.

Associations with other schools[edit]

As is the case for many single-sex schools Bangor Grammar maintains close links with its sister single sex school in Bangor, Glenlola Collegiate. The two schools regularly participate in joint activities, most notably the Combined Cadet Force, which meets in an MoD-funded, purpose-built site on The Grammar's campus; the two Scripture Union Societies which hold joint meetings and activities; and the two drama departments, which collaborate on student productions.

Indicative of the close relationships between the two schools was the agreement between the two schools during the 1980s. According to this agreement, students wanting to study A-level subjects which were unavailable at Glenlola but offered at The Grammar were able to attend the boys' school for those classes[citation needed]. Together with Glenlola Collegiate, Bangor Grammar is a member of the Bangor Learning Partnership, which includes Bangor Academy and Sixth Form College and St Columbanus' College[citation needed].

Clubs and societies[edit]


School Playing Fields.
Former School Playing Fields at Ballymacormack, near Groomsport.

Bangor Grammar has won the rugby Ulster Schools Cup on five occasions and has appeared in nine finals.[3] The school is therefore ranked as seventh in terms of overall success in the competition.[4] The late 1980s saw a particularly successful period for the school, appearing in four finals from 1985 to 1988 and winning three of them.[3]

Members of the school's 1st XV capped at international level include Don Whittle, Mark McCall, Jan Cunningham, Kieron Dawson, Kenny Hooks, Dick Milliken (Ireland and British and Irish Lions) and Roger Clegg.[5][6][6][7][8] Players who have played at professional level include Bryn Cunningham and Paul McKenzie.[9][10]

Bangor Grammar have won Ulster (Burney Cup and McCullough Cup) and All Ireland schools titles in hockey. The most notable hockey player from the school include Olympic Gold medalist (Seoul 1988) and bronze medalist (1984 Los Angeles) Stephen Martin.

In 2005, a badminton double was achieved in the Ulster Finals of the Minors Division 2 and the Seniors Ulster Cup. The Minors beat RBAI in the League Final 4–2 and the Seniors won 4–2. The Seniors were also in the Division 2 final but were beaten by Belfast Royal Academy, a Division 1 team.

Former Northern Ireland International football player Keith Gillespie attended Bangor Grammar.


The Debating Society is Bangor Grammar's oldest society, having been established in 1927 by A.L. Hawtin. Providing an insight into past pupil's opinions are the minutes of the society, which have been maintained since its inception. The Senior Debating Team defeated Abbey Christian Brothers from Newry in the final of the Northern Ireland Schools Debating Competition on 22 April 2016. This was the fourth time the school had won the country's schools cup. The Senior Debating Team on 24 April 2009 defeated Our Lady's and St Patrick's of Knock in the final of the Northern Ireland Schools Debating Competition, won Schools Cup in 2004, the Best Speaker's Shield in 2006, and has been a finalist a record eleven times. The Senior Debating Society is currently run by Mr. S. J. Wolfenden. The Junior Debating society is presided over by Mr M Dickson.


Bangor Grammar School employed Mr Ian Hunter, BA, MSc, CertEd, LTCL, LGSM as its first Director of Music in 1969. It was a post that he held for 32 years before retiring in 2001. Mr Hunter's replacement was Mr Jonathan Rea, MA; PGCE, LTCL, a graduate of Girton and Homerton Colleges, Cambridge. Mr Rea resigned in summer 2012 in order to pursue a freelance career, both as a director and composer/arranger. In 2015 a permanent successor, Mr Paul O'Reilly, B.Mus, PGCE, LRSM, was appointed Head of Department.

The school has a long musical history with its concert band playing at many events throughout the year including Speech Day, the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols (1969-) and the Spring Concert (1970-). The concert band also plays annually at Bloomfields shopping centre in Bangor, raising money for charitable causes. Past charities include MacMillan Cancer Care and Abaana.

A recording entitled 'Christmas Music from Bangor Grammar School' featured the Gryphon Consort, the school orchestra, and the brass ensemble performing various congregational carols was made in 1990 under the direction of Mr. Hunter.

The department has recorded and produced two CDs: A String of Pearls (2004) and The Christmas Album (2005), both under the musical direction of Mr. Rea.

During the 2006/2007 academic year, the school celebrated its sesquicentennial anniversary (150th) with a gala concert held in Belfast's Waterfront Hall on 14 October 2006.


The school has a bridge club in recent years run by Mr Chris Harte, up until his retirement in 2009. It is now run by Mr Andrew Walker. The school bridge club has won numerous events in both Ulster and All Ireland competitions. Winning The All Ireland Teams competition in 1994, 2007, 2009 and 2011 in addition to winning the Pairs competition in 2010. The current 1st team consists of Philip McKeown, Graham Dickson, Matthew Smyth and Adam Smyth.

Notable past pupils[edit]


Media and society[edit]



The School Song[edit]

Bangor Grammar School has a Latin school song. It was written in 1950 by Miss Elsie Patton and set to music by Dr Emery, the school's music teacher. It is sung on major school occasions, competitive events and Scripture Union weekends. It has also become customary for it to be sung at the conclusion of Senior Debating Society meetings.


  1. ^ Great Britain Parliament; House of Commons (1889). Reports From Commissioners, Inspectors and Others: Thirty Volumes -U- Education (Ireland). XXX. London: HMSO.  From the Harvard University Collection. See notes 2972-3081
  2. ^ Northern Ireland Assembly – Department of Education Interior Correspondence [1] See Page 7, Under the list of SEELB voluntary schools. Retrieved 26 August 2010 .
  3. ^ a b "Ulster School's Cup Previous Winners". Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  4. ^ "Ulster School's Cup Rankings". Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  5. ^ Ward, Tony; Rooney, Kieran; Kelly, David (2006-01-25). "Where are they now? Kenny Hooks (Markethill 1/1/60)". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2010-12-20. 
  6. ^ a b "Bangor Grammar School - News Sesquicentenary Sports Weekend". 2007-05-28. Retrieved 2010-12-20. 
  7. ^ Brian, Meek (12 April 1993). "The school of hard knocks – Herald Scotland". Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  8. ^ "Ulster Rugby : News Archive - An Exile Returns Home". Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  9. ^ "Ulster Rugby Player Has Decided to Retire". Retrieved 2010-12-20. 
  10. ^ "Ulster Rugby News U21 World Cup". Retrieved 2010-12-20. 

External links[edit]