Christmas cowboys photo from 1950s recalls days at Donegall Street school

John Monaghan
28 December, 2015 01:00

IT'S a snapshot of more innocent times, when Christmas presents were somewhat simpler and there was not a Playstation or designer label in sight.

A photograph, sent in by an Irish News reader, shows boys from St Patrick's Christian Brothers primary school in Belfast in early 1955 or 1956 who were asked to come to class with the outfits Santa delivered that Christmas.

While many of today's pupils will be returning to school next week with the latest smartphones or gadgets, most of these students proudly wore the cowboy outfits which reflected the boyhood obsessions of the time.

As the oldest Catholic school in Belfast, beginning life as a national school in 1828, former pupils of St Patrick's in Donegall Street include the boxer Rinty Monaghan, the first SDLP leader Gerry Fitt, comedian Frank Carson and renowned Irish News journalist James Kelly.

In the photograph, Seamus Ward is the third 'cowboy' in the second row from the bottom right, but he and his family are curious to identify as many others as possible and hear some of their stories.

St Patrick's finally closed as a school in 1982 after more than 150 years serving north Belfast.

Its decline began after the Second World War when an expanding Catholic population saw the Christian Brothers build more schools across the city.

Some of its pupils transferred to Our Lady of Lourdes, Park Lodge on the Antrim Road, and many others then headed to the newly built Edmund Rice PS on Pim Street.

In 2013, the St Patrick's name returned through the merger of Edmund Rice and Star of the Sea to form a new school on the Pim Street site.

After the Donegall Street building closed it served briefly as a parish community centre and survived until a fire caused severe damage in late 1995.

The damage was so bad that there was speculation that the structure would be demolished for public safety and to enable expansion of a car park.

However, in 1999 the historic building, one of the city's last neo-Gothic properties, was restored by the Belfast Buildings Preservation Trust, which was founded in the wake of the 1995 fire.

If you are in this photograph, or you know someone who is, you can contact Rosemary Ward by email at

28 December, 2015 01:00 News

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