History of the School
Although Coleraine Inst opened its doors in 1860, proposals for a grammar school in the town were first put forward in 1846 and then shelved during the economic crisis which accompanied the Great Irish Famine. Built between 1854 and 1860 – during which time the projected cost of £2000 had exactly doubled – the new school began operation with two masters and fourteen boys. The size of the school peaked at around 1100 boys in the 1970s, and today enrolment stands at slightly below 700.
From the front of the boarding department, today the refurbished 1860 building housing classrooms and the school museum, was 27 acres of fields from the Christie estate stretching down to the River Bann. This area today is almost totally occupied by the school’s sports facilities which include rugby and football pitches, tennis courts, an athletics track, a games hall with multigym and the school boathouse.
A four storey extension to the school was opened in 1894, known variously as “The Old Boys Wing” and “The Gods”. Due to instability the top storey was removed in 1929, but to this day it remains our most conspicuous landmark. Boarding and teaching facilities were extended in 1959 by the acquisition of the former Coleraine Model School, and in the 1960s and 1970s by a structured programme of expansion on the main campus.
Boarding, which had been a feature of the school since its foundation, reached a peak in the 1970s with over 300 boarders, including both local boys and an international community with a particularly strong Malaysian contingent. The tide turned, however, and in company with several other Ulster Grammar Schools, boarding went into inexorable decline. The boarding department closed in 1999.
Day school facilities have continued to thrive and expand, and during the past decade the entire suite of science labs has been refurbished, a Technology Centre opened, the School Library totally reconstructed and two new computer suites opened. In addition to the full range of general and specialist classrooms, there is a Sixth Form Centre with a dedicated study area.
Over the years the school has had a remarkable continuity of leadership, with just eight headmasters spanning the school’s existence of nearly 150 years. Little is known of Alex Waugh Young, the founding Principal, but his successor T.G. Houston served the school from 1870 to 1915, enjoying a long retirement in Portstewart until his death in 1939 at the age of 96.
Thomas James Beare – affectionately known as “Tommy John” – had a rather shorter tenure in office, from 1915 until his premature retirement on health grounds in 1927. He was succeeded by Major William White – “The Chief” to generations of boys who both admired and feared him - from 1927 until 1995. The major physical expansion of the school was guided by Dr. George Humphreys, Headmaster from 1955 until 1979. It was during his Headmastership that Inst became an H.M.C. school.
Dr. Robert J. Rodgers (1979 – 1984), Headmaster of Bangor Grammar School, was Headmaster until his appointment as Principal of Stranmillis Training College Belfast. He was succeeded by Stanley Forsythe of The Royal School Dungannon, whose Headmastership ran from 1984 until his retirement in 2003.
Leonard Quigg was the first in the school’s History to have been promoted “from the ranks”, having served as an assistant master, Head of English, Senior Master and finally Vice Principal before his appointment in January 2004. Mr Quigg retired in 2007 and was succeeded by the present Headmaster, Dr David Carruthers, formerly Head of Mathematics at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution.