The Schools' Competition

Vol. 7 No. 3 - 1999

The Schools' Competition

by Eric McElroy


The Craigavon Historical Society's Schools' Competition is almost as old as the society itself. For many years it was organized by the late Mr. Wilfred Cooper, for whom it was a labour of love. Mr. Cooper was principal of Waringstown Primary School and an enthusiastic local historian. The bringing together of schools and local history seemed to him to be a happy conjunction.


The aim of the competition is to stimulate in young people an interest in the history of their own locality and to make them aware that such history is of equal worth to the more general British, Irish or World history which they might study in the school curriculum. The judges have always looked for evidence of research by the pupils, for the use of oral as well as written sources, for originality and finally for good design and presentation. Entries that are purely the repetition of text-book materials have not been well regarded.

Selecting the right topic

Choosing appropriate topics has been a matter of much thought, as a topic which might be easily researched in a town school might not be so easily accessible to children in a country school and vice-versa.

An example of a particularly successful competition was "An Old School" as practically all pupils had access to some elderly person who was only too happy to relate the joys or the horrors of their own schooling. Such topics also lent themselves to the historical theme of comparing and contrasting. In this case the children were able to compare and contrast the past experiences which they had uncovered with their own present experience in schools. In this, as in all the various competitions, it was a salutary experience for the judges and the organizers to see what the children considered to be a long time ago and what to them constituted history.

For many years the prize distribution and the exhibition of entries was held at Ardress House. This was a popular venue because the prize giving could be linked with a tour of the Society's exhibition of agricultural implements on display in the barns, With an increasing attendance, due to the popularity of the competition, worries arose about large numbers standing on the upper floor of the old barn and so in recent years the prize giving and the exhibition have been held at the Argory.

The use of National Trust properties has been advantageous to both parties as our Society benefits from the exhibition space and pleasant surroundings while the National Trust benefits from large numbers of children and their parents being introduced to what the Trust has to offer.

Entry from Dickson Primary School, Lurgan
This delightful entry, which tied for third prize in the Key Stage 1 section of the 1998 Competition, came from N Hanna, J Moffitt and S Matthews at Dickson Primary School in Lurgan.

Few things remain constant, and some recent educational changes have affected the competition. The introduction of the Northern Ireland Curriculum meant that the freedom to experiment which had characterized the 1970s and 1980s no longer existed. As a consequence the themes chosen had to be capable of being included in curricular work. Innovatory work using the word processor also meant that the judges had difficulty in comparing very attractive printed entries with equally valid freehand products. A resolution to this was found in the division of each section into separate categories of handwritten and electronically printed.

A very welcome development has been the interest taken by Commander Basil Hearn in the competition. Commander Hearn's late wife was a member of the Atkinson family.

This family had resided in Portadown for many generations and had made a valuable contribution to the development of the town. The Atkinson Cup and Bequest will ensure that the family name will continue to be remembered in the Craigavon area.

1998 Schools' Competition Prize winners

A full list of all prize winners is made available at the Exhibition; we have room here only for the first prize winners in each class.

Key Stage 1 (62 entries)
Corthamlet P.S. - Amy McKee

Key Stage 2 (154 entries) Word Processor
King's Park P.S. - Ryan McClement Freehand
Dickson P.S. Melanie Wilson

Key Stage 3 (35 entries)
Clounagh J.H.S. - Victoria Brennan

National Trust Perpetual Award
Clounagh J.H.S.

Northern Ireland Tourist Board Vase
Aghavilly PS.

Atkinson Perpetual Trophy
King's Park P.S.

An entry promotes Tannaghmore Gardens

A fervent wish

Tuesday 2 June 1998 was our first prize-giving ceremony to have been virtually rained off. For the sake of all the children, parents and staff who attend we hope for a return to kinder conditions this year.


Regrettably, after having run successfully for a number of years, the schools' competition was discontinued due in part to curriculum pressures in schools. The Atkinson name continues to be commemorated in the society's annual Atkinson lecture.