Sullivan Upper School

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Sullivan Upper School
Motto Lamh Foisdineach An Uachtar (With the Gentle Hand Foremost)
Established 1877
Head Mr C J W Peel, M.A., B.Sc., Dip.A.S.Ed.
Board DENI - Department of Education Northern Ireland
Location Belfast Road
County Down
BT18 9EP
Northern Ireland
Coordinates: 54°38′06″N 5°50′13″W / 54.635°N 5.837°W / 54.635; -5.837
Students 1,100
Colours Black & Green
Type Voluntary Grammar
Website Sullivan Upper School

Sullivan Upper School is a mixed cross-denominational voluntary grammar school in Holywood, Northern Ireland, and has approximately 1,100 enrolled pupils. The school motto, printed on all the school blazers, is Lamh Foisdineach An Uachtar, Irish for "with the gentle hand foremost".[1]


Sullivan Lower School (equivalent to a primary school in modern terminology) was founded in 1862 by Robert Sullivan. After Sullivan's death in 1868, part of his estate was used to establish the upper school. Originally the two schools were based in Holywood's High Street, The lower school has been moved to a site beside the upper school and is now called Sullivan Prep which is a private school and the upper school has moved to a site on the edge of the town. The original building is now occupied by the town's public library.

The 1994 attack[edit]

On 17 June 1994, Garnet Bell, a former pupil, entered the School Hall during an A Level exam carrying an improvised flame thrower, containing petrol and paraffin. Bell discharged the device, burning six pupils, three of them seriously. He was subsequently found guilty of three cases of attempted murder and three of grievous bodily harm, receiving six life sentences.[2] Bell died in prison of cancer in 1997.[3]

Costello reforms[edit]

The school is opposed to the government's plans for the reform of education based on the Costello Report.[clarification needed] These reforms will[when?] remove academic selection in Northern Ireland, which some observers think will effectively destroy the country's grammar schools. In opinion polls over 60 percent of parents in Northern Ireland are opposed to the changes.

A letter recently[when?] went out to Pupils in every year, directly from the headmaster, Mr Stevenson, raising the issue that the ethos and academic achievement of Sullivan would be changed irreparably by the post primary selection changes.

In the 2007–2008 Board of Governors' report it is stated that the school will use Common Entrance Assessments as academic selection for admission to year 8 in 2010.

The future role of academic selection in the educational system is also controversial given that there has been no agreement at Assembly or Executive level about the way forward. In managing this disturbing situation the Board of Governors has decided that Sullivan Upper will use Common Entrance Assessments as developed by the Association for Quality Education for admission to year 8 in 2010.

2007-2008 Board of Governors' Report


Sullivan Upper participates in various sports, including rugby, hockey, golf, volleyball, badminton, tennis, and chess.

The school won the rugby Medallion Shield in 2001[4] and 2011,[5] and the 2nd XV cup in 2009, beating Royal School, Armagh 14-12. Notable former players include David Erskine, a former senior Ireland international lock, and current Ulster and Ireland centre Darren Cave.

In hockey, Sullivan won the 1993 Burney Cup, beating Banbridge Academy after sudden death penalty strokes. In 2006 they reached the final again, losing 4–2.[6] Former team members include Irish senior international player Mark Raphael. In 2009 they also reached the McCullough Cup final for the first time in the school's history.[7] In 2010, the team reached the semi-final of the Burney Cup but lost to Campbell College. Chris Archibald accidentally scored a goal for the enigmatic 2nd XI team of the same year. The team, composed of pragmatic mavericks and vagabonds, was known not just for its talent, but lack of effort on the pitch.

In cricket, the school reached the Schools Cup final for the first time in their history in 2009, but ended up losing by nine wickets to Foyle and Londonderry College.[8][9] One notable player was Mark Adair

Sullivan have a golf team competing in various competitions. One notable previous member is Rory McIlroy.[10]


The school involves a wide range of musical talent which is represented in the many musical groups held throughout the week. These include Orchestra, Jazz band, Junior Choir, Traditional group, Brass band and Sullivan Singers. there are also several small groups of musicians playing at many events inside and outside school, these include a jazz quartet "Jazz Inc.", string quartets, wind ensembles and pop bands, including the rock and roll band Velvet Brick.

The house system[edit]

The school is divided into four houses: Praeger (red), Grant (green), McAlester (blue), Speers (yellow). Two of the houses, Grant and Speers, were named after ex-headmasters of the school, whereas Praeger was named after the sculptress Rosamond Praeger and her brother Robert. McAlester was named after the Rev. McAlester who sat on the Committee of Sullivan Schools in the 1800s when the school was founded. The school's Preparatory Department, however, only contains three of the four houses - Grant house, which was established in the 1974-75 school year, only exists in the main body of the school. Regular inter-house competitions are held to cultivate house pride, including the House Photography Competition, House Music Competition and Sports Day.

Notable alumni[edit]

In 2016, the school launched an alumni directory program to establish a database of past pupils, staff, and governors to allow former pupils and personnel to reconnect.[11]


Arts and media[edit]




Notable former staff[edit]


  1. ^ Simpson, Mark (6 March 2014). "Sullivan Upper Boys Become Holywood Heroes". Northern Ireland. BBC News. Archived from the original on 27 March 2014. 
  2. ^ Flamethrower maniac prayed on deathbed The News Letter, 19 December 1997
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ "2002 Medallion Shield". BBC Sport. 22 March 2002. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  5. ^ "Heartache for teenagers". Londonderry Sentinel. 23 March 2011. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  6. ^ "Banbridge boys retain Burney Cup". BBC Sport. 22 March 2006. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  7. ^ "Cookstown clinch McCullough Cup". BBC Sport. 10 December 2008. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  8. ^ "Sullivan reach first cup final". Northern Cricket Union. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  9. ^ "Foyle retain Schools Cricket Cup". Northern Cricket Union. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  10. ^ "Rory McIlroy vows to learn from Masters experience". BBC News. 11 April 2011. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  11. ^ "Alumni Database". 
  12. ^ "Double first for star student". University of Dundee. Archived from the original on October 19, 2009. Retrieved 19 October 2009. 

External links[edit]