The Royal School, Armagh

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The Royal School, Armagh is a co-educational voluntary grammar school, founded in the 17th century, in the city of Armagh in Northern Ireland. It has a boarding department with an international intake. It is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference.[1]


One of a number of free schools created in 1608 by King James I of England & Ireland, the school was to educate the sons of local Protestant merchants and farmers during the plantation of Ulster. It has four "sister" schools: Royal School Dungannon in Dungannon, Enniskillen Royal Grammar School in Enniskillen, the Royal School Cavan in Cavan, and the Royal and Prior School in Raphoe. In November 2013 the school was placed 78th in The Sunday Times Top 200 UK Schools Guide for results at A level and GCSE combined. In May 2014, an inspection by the Education and Training Inspectorate found the leadership and management of the school to be 'outstanding'.[citation needed]

Originally intended to be sited at Mountnorris, the turbulent situation in Ulster at the time led to a move to the relative safety of Armagh city. Despite this, an early headmaster of the school, John Starkey, and his family, were drowned by insurgents during the 1641 Rebellion.[2] The school arrived at its current 27-acre (110,000 m2) site on College Hill in the 1770s.[3] A boys' school from its inception, the school was amalgamated with Armagh Girls' High School in 1986 to become co-educational.[4]

Each pupil is assigned to a house – Darcy, Rokeby, Beresford or Armstrong – which are named after former Church of Ireland archbishops. Successive archbishops have chaired the board of governors for over four centuries. In 2008, the school celebrated its quatercentenary along with the four other 1608 Royal Schools. To mark the occasion, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, visited the school. A history of the 1608 Royal Schools was produced in the same year by former headmaster, Thomas Duncan.[citation needed]

Royal sport[edit]

The school was the inaugural winner of the rugby union Ulster Schools Cup, beating Royal Belfast Academical Institution after three replays. They won it again the next year and continued to dominate the early years of the competition, winning it seven times in the first ten years. Fortunes waned after this, with only three finals contested between the victories in 1885 and 1977, none of which was won by the school. However, the school did not compete in the competition for around fifty years following the death of a pupil during a match in 1928.[citation needed]

The school won the Schools Cup in 2004, beating Campbell College in the final.[5] John McCall, the captain of that team, died 10 days after the final while playing for the Ireland U19 rugby team in the IRB U19 World Championship in South Africa.[6] He had been told of his selection for this team on the day of the Schools Cup final. A few months later, a second member of the squad, Todd Graham, was killed in a road accident while visiting his parents at their home in Zambia.[7] These tragedies brought perspective to what had been an otherwise successful year, with the school becoming the first school since Methodist College Belfast in 1936 – and only the second school ever – simultaneously to hold the schools cups for rugby and girls' hockey. The cricket 1st XI were beaten semi-finalists in their equivalent competition. The girls' hockey team won the Kate Russell all-Ireland hockey trophy on the day that John McCall died.[citation needed]

The girls' hockey team won the Schools Cup in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010, and were beaten finalists in 2005. They also obtained the title of the best youth hockey team in Europe in 2008. In 2004/2005, the school was described in The Irish Times as the "girls hockey school of the decade".[citation needed]


The Old Armachians is a social organisation consisting of former pupils of the Royal School. Although at one time the Royal School educated politicians and novelists, its most recent notable exports have been rugby players.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "The Royal School Armagh". Archived from the original on 8 October 2019. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  2. ^ "Royal School Armagh". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  3. ^ "History of the Royal School, Armagh". Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  4. ^ "INFORMATION FOR PARENTS – 2011–2012 SECONDARY DEPARTMENT". Archived from the original on 28 July 2014.
  5. ^ "Armagh win the Schools' Cup". BBC Sport. 17 March 2004. Archived from the original on 27 November 2005. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  6. ^ "Young Irish star dies". BBC Sport. 27 March 2004. Archived from the original on 27 May 2006. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  7. ^ "Second tragedy hits Royal School in Armagh". The Irish Emigrant. 1 August 2004. Archived from the original on 12 March 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  8. ^ Bew, John (2011). Castlereagh: Enlightenment, War and Tyranny. London: Quercus. ISBN 978-0-85738-186-6. At the age of eight Robert was sent to the Royal School Armagh, a well-known Anglican grammar school ...
  9. ^ Ulster Medical Journal Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed 12 March 2017.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°21′07″N 6°38′53″W / 54.352°N 6.648°W / 54.352; -6.648