Royal School Dungannon

Coordinates: 54°30′11″N 6°45′47″W / 54.503°N 6.763°W / 54.503; -6.763

Royal School Dungannon
Motto perserverando, meaning 'by preserving'
Established 1614
Headmaster Dr. David Burnett
Founder James I
Location Northland Row
Co. Tyrone
BT71 6EG
Northern Ireland
Staff 50
Students 650 (10,000 alumni)

The Royal School is a public mixed school located in Dungannon, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. It was one of a number of 'free schools' created by James I in 1608 to provide an education to the sons of local merchants and farmers during the plantation of Ulster. Originally set up in Mountjoy near Lough Neagh in 1614, it moved to its present location in 1636. It was founded as a boys school but became coed in 1986 when the school amalgamated with the Dungannon High School for Girls. It has four 'sister' schools, The Royal School, Armagh in Armagh, County Armagh, The Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, The Cavan Royal School in County Cavan, and The Royal and Prior School in Raphoe, County Donegal. The original intention had been to have a "Royal School" in each of Ireland's counties (James I Order in Council read, "that there shall be one Free School at least appointed in every County, for the education of youth in learning and religion." ) but only five were actually established, the schools planned for other counties never coming into being.


The Royal School, Dungannon is one of several Royal Schools ordered in 1608 by James I with the intended purpose "that there shall be one Free School at least appointed in every County, for the education of youth in learning and religion." These schools provided an English style education to the sons of landed settlers in Ireland, most of whom were of Scottish or English descent. A Royal Charter of 13 May 1614 records the appointment of John Bullingbroke as the first Headmaster. Three more headmasters were appointed by royal charters before the Archbishop of Armagh (Church of Ireland) took over the selection of Headmasters from the Crown in 1682. A later Archbishop lost interest in the school and the management was taken over by the Presbyterian Congregation in Dungannon. This was quite a turn round as in earlier years Presbyterians were not allowed to attend except on condition that they converted to Anglicanism.

Royal School, Dungannon

Mr Paul Hewitt was the twentieth Headmaster and oversaw the major change to co-education in 1986, the huge expansion and rebuilding of the campus, the development of close links with Dilworth School,New Zealand, in a vibrant exchange scheme for GAP pupils and the growth of the school to over 650 pupils including a boarding department of 46 pupils and 6 full-time staff.Mr Hewitt was Chairman of the 1608 Royal Schools of Ulster when they celebrated their Quatercentenary of the original charter in 2008 and were visited by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and the President of the Republic of Ireland, Mrs Mary McAleese. He was the fifth longest serving Headmaster of RSD when he retired after 25 years' service in 2009 and was succeeded by Dr David Burnett, previously Deputy Head of a boys' grammar school in Essex. The school has consistently figured in the top 10 grammar schools in Northern Ireland and the top 150 schools in Britain at Advanced Level.

RSD is one of 66 selective Grammar Schools in Northern Ireland and has championed the system in the face of persistent attempts by Labour Party direct rule ministers and Sinn Féin ministers of education to end academic selection in favour of a neighbourhood-based Comprehensive school system.

On 11 March 2015 His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester visited the school to join in its 400-year celebrations. The Duke unveiled a plaque, and signed the visitor book along with raising a new school flag.

Royal School for Girls

The Royal School for Girls was founded in 1889 and was housed in the Robinson (North) wing of the Royal School between 1892 and 1926. This school became Dungannon High School for Girls in a self-contained campus adjoining Royal School lands on Ranfurly Road. In 1986 the High School was re-merged with the Royal School. The last Headmistress of the High School was Miss Margaret E Macbeth who became a Vice Principal in the amalgamated school. Miss Macbeth retired in 1994.

The Royal and High School sites were joined with a covered walkway at the time of amalgamation and the High School building remained in use until 2003. Following the building of new classrooms that were sited closer to the original boys' school, the majority of the High School was demolished and redeveloped as sporting facilities.

Dilworth Scholarship

James Dilworth, a former pupil of the Royal School, left money in his will to found Dilworth School, Auckland, New Zealand in 1906. Since the 1990s links between the two schools have been cemented, with annual exchanges of students. Four Upper-Sixth formers from the Royal School, two boys and two girls, currently spend a gap year as staff members of Dilworth School before starting University. In return, three boys leaving Dilworth join RSD staff as GAP Tutors. On 7 October 2014 the Ulster History Circle unveiled a blue plaque in his memory on the main building, the "Old Grey Mother"; the joint unveilers were the Headmasters of the Royal School and the Dilworth School. 30 pupils from Dilworth attended.

Motto and colours

The school's motto is 'Perseverando', meaning 'By Persevering' and being interpreted today as 'Never Say Die'. The school's strapline, 'Excellence Through Perseverance', reflects the original intention of the motto, which was introduced in 1986, being adopted from the Girls' High School Latin motto.

The school colours (chocolate and magenta) are shared by two other well known UK schools: Fettes College in Edinburgh and the rugby colours of Bradford Grammar School.


Having outstanding sporting facilities, including three rugby pitches, two hockey pitches (one a new-generation, floodlit astroturf pitch) indoor and outdoor cricket facilities, a sports hall with treadmills and other high-tech equipment for personal and team training, the school sports are rugby and hockey in winter and athletics, and cricket are played competitively along with shooting. Tennis, swimming, table-tennis, golf, horse riding, cross-county, and netball are also available throughout the year. Many of the facilities are shared by the wider community such as Primary Schools, Youth organisations, Soccer, Hockey and Gaelic clubs.

The Old Grey Mother

'The Old Grey Mother' is an affectionate name for the school, referring to the older part of the current building, which is both very old (1789) and very grey, as the original beautiful sandstone was first cement rendered to prevent water ingress which then became stained over the 19th Century by the local industrial chimneys' smoke emissions. The Former Pupils' Association occasionally use this name in correspondence to members. The term "Old Grey Mother" was first used when the original sandstone front of the Headmaster's House was covered with a cement rendering which discoloured badly (due to industrial chimney discharges) until cleaned in the 1980s.


A house system exists to facilitate healthy sporting and academic competition. All students are assigned a house upon enrolling - where possible this is the same house as assigned to a previous relative at the school.

The current houses are named below. The names in brackets indicate the full name of each house given when the amalgamation with Dungannon High School for Girls in 1986 incorporated the High School's own house system. 1986 names follow the original, historic Royal School names.

The names of houses refer to notable past headmasters, alumni or local geography.

Notable alumni


  1. Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921 John Murray London 1926 Vol. 2 p.369
  2. Ball p.373
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