Northern Regional College’s Coleraine campus recently played host to three local men who were reliving their memories of schooldays spent there in the 1960s.
Willie Aiken and Jimmy Stratton – both now 65 years old and retired – attended what was then known as Coleraine Technical College between 1965 and 1970, whilst Uel Mairs – now aged 67 and also retired – attended the College from 1962 to 1967.
Today’s students might be surprised to learn that back in the day tech students had to wear a uniform, consisting of a shirt, tie and blazer with the College crest, when they began their studies at the College at the tender age of 11. Over the next five years they would study a range of traditional subjects such as Maths, Physics, Geography and Art, as well as vocational subjects such as Metalwork, Technical Drawing and Electricity.
Although the three men have been keen to visit their old stomping ground for some time, it was Willie’s grandson Jack, currently a first-year Construction student at the College – who provided the link between his grandfather and his friends and the College.
The visitors were given a guided tour of the College by Jack’s tutor, Construction lecturer Richard King, and met with the College’s Principal and Chief Executive Professor Terri Scott. She outlined the College’s future plans for the Coleraine campus which will see the current building demolished and replaced with a new building equipped with state-of-the-art facilities by 2022.
Commenting on what it was like to be back, Willie said:
“I thoroughly enjoyed being back at the College again. It brought back so many great memories for me. On one hand, much has changed but at the same time, many things are the same. When I walked into what was our old Geography classroom, I was transported back in time.
“It’s somewhat surreal for me to think that now my grandson walks the same corridors as I did and it’s fantastic that he’s seeing the start of an exciting new era for the College.”
Willie’s long-time friend Uel concurred:
“I might not have been the highest-achieving student during my time at the College, but I made lifelong friends and I was given wonderful opportunities.
“If I could go back, I certainly think I would work a bit harder. We didn’t realise then just how lucky we were to be afforded the opportunity to learn.”
Reflecting on their morning spent reliving their memories of the College, Jimmy commented:
“I was very excited at the prospect of being able to have a look around the College again, as it’s something I’ve wanted to do for years now. I was particularly stuck with nostalgia when I saw the old staircase. During our time, the bottom of the stairs was one of our meeting places as it was just inside the then main entrance to the College – seeing the staircase again took me right back to my time here as a student.”
Principal and Chief Executive of Northern Regional College, Professor Terri Scott commented:
“We are very focussed on the new-build and the wonderful academic and holistic opportunities that it will bring for our students, but it is so important to reflect on our shared history, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet Wille, Uel and Jimmy and hear what it was like to be a student here during the ‘sixties.
“They have so many interesting and entertaining stories of their time at the College which highlighted the pivotal role the College – in all its incarnations – has played for the local community. We are excited at the prospect of developing and cementing that position in the coming years and continuing our strong tradition of providing education and opportunity in Coleraine and further afield.”
If you have memories of attending Coleraine Technical College, Northern Regional College would love to hear from you. Please get in touch at communi[email protected] with anecdotes or pictures of memories past. You can also contact the college on social media using the twitter handle @NRCCollege or on Facebook at @NorthernRegCollege.