Royal Belfast Academical Institution
The Royal Belfast Academical Institution is an Independent grammar school in Belfast, Northern Ireland. With the support of Belfast's leading reformers, it opened its doors in 1814. Until 1849, when it was superseded by what today is Queens University, the institution pioneered Belfast's first programme of collegiate education. Locally referred to as Inst, the modern school educates boys from ages 11 to 18. It is one of the eight Northern Irish schools represented on the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. The school occupies an 18-acre site in the centre of the city on which its first buildings were erected.
|Royal Belfast Academical Institution|
College Square East
|Type||Voluntary Grammar School|
(To Seek the Truth)
|Chairman of the Board of Governors||Colin Gowdy|
|Age||11 to 18|
|Number of students||1060 (approx.)|
|Houses|| Dill |
|Colour(s)||Black and Gold|
"This town has from some years been in possession of an excellent plan of school education for which it is indebted to the Belfast Academy funded in 1786", wrote Dr. William Bruce in 1806 in denunciation of "visionary notions" to establish an Academical Institution. What was to become "Inst" was not the first visionary notion of William Drennan to be opposed by Dr. Bruce, the principal of the Belfast Academy. In the 1790s, Drennan and his Society of United Irishmen had called for complete, and immediate, Catholic Emancipation, and for a radical, democratic, reform of the Irish Parliament.
For Drennan, the new institution was an expression his resolve, in the wake of the 1798 rebellion, to "be content to get the substance of reform more slowly" and with "proper preparation of manners or principles"." Leading a group of Belfast merchants, and professional gentlemen, including the banker and former United Irishman, William Tennant, Drennan persuaded a town meeting n 1807 "to facilitate and render less expensive the means of acquiring education; to give access to the walks of literature to the middle and lower classes of society; to make provision for the instruction of both sexes... "
The scheme was ambitious, combining the functions of a school with those of a college for further education and of a venue for popular lectures on scientific subjects. In 1808, it was further proposed that facilities should be provided for Professors of Divinity responsible to their respective denominations, so that the Institution could become a seminary for the training of ministers. As might have been anticipated, the Presbyterian Church, which had no such facility in Ireland (their candidates for ordination had to train in Glasgow), alone took up the offer. Lord Castlereagh perceived "a deep laid scheme again to bring the Presbyterian Synod within the ranks of democracy". Arthur Wellesley (the future Duke of Wellington) concurred. The entire project was "democratical"--pervaded by "the republican spirit of the Presbyterians".
Dr William Bruce and his friends mocked the proposed system of governance, comparing it to revolutionary French constitutions that had so excited debate in Belfast in 1790s. It was a "machine", they suggested, "so full of checks that it will not move". The sovereign body of the institution was as an annual general meeting of subscribers. They elected both boards of managers and visitors, but with a complicated system of rotation "to preclude the possibility of the management falling into the hands of a few individuals". The proposal for the institution, nonetheless, received sufficient establishment to secure a charter in 1810.
William Stuart, Anglican Primate Archbishop of Ireland, enrolled as a first class subscriber, and George Augustus Chichester, 2nd Marquess of Donegall, the town's landlord, leased the land to the Institution and, on 3 July 18190, laid its foundation stone. The eminent English architect John Soane, who designed the new Bank of England in 1788, prepared drawings free of charge. Subscriptions raised, largely from rich merchants and businessmen able to nominate in return one boy to receive free education, however, sufficed to erect only one, comparatively plain brown-brick, section of Soane's intended stucco and Doric-column quadrangle. The Institution was formally opened on 1 February 1814.
In his address at the opening on 1 February 1814, Drennan promised that "the mysterious veil that makes one knowledge for the learned and another for the vulgar... would be torn down". Admission would be "perfectly unbiased by religious distinctions", fees held "as low as possible", and, perhaps most startling for the times, that discipline would rely on "example" rather than on "manual correction of corporal punishment".
At a St. Patrick's Day dinner in 1816 board members did not disguise their broader political sympathies. They led one another, and staff, in a series of radical toasts: to the French and South American Revolutions, to Catholic Emancipation and Parliamentary Reform, and, most controversially, to "The exiles of Erin" under "the wing of the republican eagle" in the United States. Despite the resignation of all the board members present, it was five years before the government was persuaded to restore the annual £1,500 it had granted, reluctantly, for the seminary functions of the college.
The Collegiate Department and the "Arian" ControversyEdit
By 1831 the government was sufficiently reassured for King William IV to grant the Institution the title "Royal". Yet further controversy followed. Conservative Presbyterian clergy, led by Henry Cooke, believed the teaching staff combined theological laxity--their refusal to subscribe to Westminster Confession of Faith with its reference to the Pope as the "Antichrist", and affirmation of the Holy Trinity--with political error--their support for Catholic Emancipation and for the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland (privileged in relation to Presbyterians but, in Cooke's view, a bulwark of the Protestant interest in Ireland).
Cooke did not succeed in removing either of the principal objects of his ire: those he accused of anti-trinitarian "Arian" or "Socinian heresy, Henry Montgomery, head of the English department, and the junior William Bruce (who had departed his father's orthodoxy), Professor of Latin and Greek. But the controversy contributed to the establishment in 1853 of Assembly College, a seminary under the direct control of the Presbyterian Synod.
On 1 November 1855, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Carlisle, unveiled a statue in front of the Institution on College Square East of the popular Frederick Richard, Earl of Belfast, son of the Marquis of Donegall, patron of, among other causes in Belfast, the Working Class Association for the Promotion of General Improvement. After Henry Cooke died in 1868, great significance was attached to his bronze likeness displacing that of the young liberal aristocrat, and that it should stand with its back to the Institution Cooke so distrusted.
Between 1835 and 1849, Collegiate Department provided Ulster with its first medical school in Ulster. It had its own teaching hospital, the Royal Institution Hospital in Barrack Street, sometimes known as the College Hospital. In 1847 the school and college building themselves served as a fever hospital. In Belfast, Typhus, a deadly companion of the hunger driving country people into the town, struck one in every five residents.
The Collegiate Department was to leave the town an important enlightenment legacy in the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society. Formed by staff and scholars in 1821, the Society is the origin of both the Botanical Gardens and what is now the Ulster Museum.
Among the early graduates of the Institution was William Tennent's nephew, Robert Tennent, who in 1820s was a member of John Stuart Mill's London Debating Society. Together with his friend James Emerson (Belfast Academy), he joined Byron in the Greek War of Independence. On return to Belfast they stood against one another in the 1832 election, Tennent the Whig losing to Emerson, the Tory, a result that marked the ebb-tide of political liberalism in Belfast.
In mid century, General Certificates from the Collegiate Department were common to several Presbyterian ministers who, in the wake of the Great Famine, became passionately involved in the tenants rights movement. Cooke denounced them for undermining, not only property, but also the Union by sharing platforms with Catholics intent on restoring a parliament in Dublin. His worst fears were realised in David Bell (General Certificate 1838) who, forced to resign his ministry and despairing of constitutional methods, was sworn into Irish Republican Brotherhood by Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa.
Several campaigning newspaper editors were also students of the Institution: James Simms, editor of the Northern Whig; James MacNeight, editor of the Londonderry Standard and of the Belfast-based Banner of Ulster; and Gavan Duffy, of the Young Ireland paper, The Nation. Duffy, a Roman Catholic from Monaghan, enrolled in the Collegiate school of logic, rhetoric and belles-lettres in the early 1840s.
Duffy was also to contribute to the Belfast-based Northern Herald, edited between 1834 and 1835 by the "Old Instonian" Thomas O'Hagan. O'Hagan would go on to become the first Catholic Lord Chancellor of Ireland (1868–1874 and 1880–1881).
The limits of Non-DenominationalismEdit
When O'Hagan was at Inst in the 1820s, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography records him as being the school's only Catholic pupil.
In the 1830s Henry Cooke and other leading Protestant evangelicals had been instrumental in defeating the prospects for integrated education. When the Dublin Castle administration sought to provide Ireland, "in advance of anything available at that time in England", a system of grant-aided non-denominational education. Cooke, at once scented danger in the freedom that would have been granted priests to enter schools and instruct their "own" students in religion. The concept of educating Catholics and Protestants together was dealt a further blow when in the 1840s the Catholic bishops objected to the "Godless" Queen's Colleges, loudly seconded—despite the pleas of Duffy's fellow Young Irelander, Thomas Davis that "the reasons for separate education are reasons for separate life"—by Daniel O'Connell.
When in 1849 a Queen's College (now Queen's University) opened in Belfast, the Collegiate Department closed. Inst continued as a school for boys, with both day and boarding pupils. There was no standard course as such. Boys’ parents paid only for the subjects their sons took. Mathematics, English and Writing were the most popular subjects, Classics and French less so.
The three hundred boys attending were largely, but not exclusively, Presbyterian in what remained a largely Presbyterian town. Those taking the Anglican communion (in the established Church of Ireland), had, from the seventeenth century, attended The Royal School, Armagh and Portora Royal School, and in Belfast favoured the older Belfast—now also "Royal"—Academy. From 1774 the Quakers had had Friends' School, Lisburn; and from 1865 Wesleyans attended Methodist College Belfast. Co-educational "Methody" was to emerge in the 20th century as Inst's closest rival and competitor.
Industry and EmpireEdit
A study sample of 96 members of the Belfast's mid-nineteenth-century civic elite—leading figures in trade, industry and the professions—found a plurality, a third, had attended Inst. The school clearly held "a proud place in Belfast society".
In industrial Belfast, the path to civic prominence did necessarily lead through further education. In the 1860s two boys left the school, age 15, to begin apprenticeships in Belfast's engineering giant, Harland and Wolff. William Pirrie rose to become the shipbuilder's chairman, and Alexander Carlisle the yard manager. In 1889, they were joined by another Instonian, Thomas Andrews, who became head of the draughting department. All the were involved in the design and construction of what in their day were the largest ships afloat, the Oceanic II in 1899, and Olympic in 1911 and its sister ship the Titanic, with which Andrews went down on its lll-fated maiden voyage in 1912.
Beginning in the 1840s, the Indian Civil Service examination (administered in its last years by the Collegiate Department) opened the imperial service to Irish school graduates, both Catholic and Protestant. Service in India and in the broader British Empire was a common career path for Instonians over the coming century. Having applied to the Indian Civil Service at the end of this era in 1940, Noel Larmour (1934) had the task, and beginning with Burma, of helping wind up the Empire in several of its territories.
The Modern SchoolEdit
Until the end of the nineteenth century, Inst did not have a Principal or a Headmaster. In line with its radical-democratic origins, the academic and administrative direction of the school was in the hands of a group of senior teachers (the Headmasters) who sat on the Board of Masters. The first Principal, Robert Dods, Headmaster of Modern Languages, was appointed in 1898. Since then Inst has had eight Principals, R. M. Jones (1898–1925), G. Garrod (1925–1939), J. C. A. Brierley (1939–1940), J. H. Grummitt (1940–1959), S. V. Peskett (1959–1978), T. J. Garrett (1978–1990), R. M. Ridley (1990–2006). The current Principal, Miss J. A. Williamson was appointed in January 2007 and is the first female to hold the post.
At the end of the nineteenth century, improving transport services into Belfast and, more importantly, the need to provide additional classroom space to accommodate the greatly increasing numbers of pupils seeking enrolment persuaded the governors to end boarding. Since 1902 the school has been for day pupils only.
Between 1864 and 1898 Inst had a small Preparatory School on the main site in College Square, situated in the North Wing. In 1917, the Board of Governors opened a new Preparatory School, with a small boarding department, Inchmarlo, in south Belfast, in Marlborough Park North. In 1935, Inchmarlo transferred from Marlborough Park to its present site at Mount Randal in Cranmore Park. The Preparatory School is an integral part of The Royal Belfast Academical Institution.
In the 1920s, in the period of Geoffrey Garrod's principalship, the House system was founded, and a school uniform, including the ubiquitous yellow and black quartered cap, was worn for the first time.
In the Second World War, one hundred and six Old Instonians fell in the conflict. During the war, younger pupils attended ‘branch’ schools at The Royal School, Dungannon, and at the house known as Fairy Hill in Osborne Gardens. Air-raid shelters were built on the rear quad and a barrage balloon was anchored to the middle of the front lawn.
The serious civil disorder affecting Belfast in the 1970s and 1980s was a considerable challenge to Inst as a city centre school. The Europa, close to the school, was reputedly "the most bombed hotel in the world", having been hit 36 times. Inst had regular bomb alerts, causing the entire school to evacuate and assemble on the front lawn, but in the course of the Troubles not one day of school was lost.
Since the 1980s, Inst has benefited from a number of major infrastructure investments: the Jack McDowell Pavilion at Osborne Park, the purpose-built Sixth Form Centre, a multi-function Sports Centre and Fitness Suite, the Christ Church Centre of Excellence, the new pavilion at Bladon Park, a water-based synthetic hockey pitch at Shaw's Bridge and the Centre of Innovation in the Technology Department.
Inst currently has over one thousand pupils on the main site and over two hundred pupils in the Preparatory Department, Inchmarlo. About one hundred and fifty new pupils enter every year.
For the first three years, boys normally follow a common curriculum: in the fourth year the curriculum is still general but certain options are introduced, and at the end of the fifth, boys sit the examination for the Northern Ireland GCSE. Subjects studied at AS/A2 level in the sixth form include English, Modern History, Geography, Economics, French, German, Spanish, Greek, Latin, Physical Education, Business Studies, Technology, Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics, Politics, Chemistry, Biology, Music and Art.
Sports and societiesEdit
There are numerous clubs and societies, a School Orchestra, Choir and Band, a contingent of the Combined Cadet Force, Scouts and Explorer Scouts (74th) and a Community Service Group.
The school offers a wide selection of sports, with rugby union being the most dominant. Inst have won the Ulster Schools Cup outright 32 times along with 4 shared titles, winning the cup most recently in 2017 against Methodist College Belfast. Rugby football and hockey are played in the winter; athletics, cricket (played at Osborne Park) and lawn tennis occupy the summer months; Badminton, fencing, rowing, squash and swimming (including water polo and life-saving) take place throughout the year. Teams representing the School take part not only in matches and activities within the Province, but also in events open to all Schools in the United Kingdom.
The school hockey teams have achieved many successes. The 1st XI consistently feature in the finals of all three competitions they enter (The Irish Schools Tournament, The McCullough Cup and the Burney Cup). In 2016 four Instonians played Olympic hockey, three for Ireland and one for Great Britain. In recent times other school sports have also been more frequently making headlines. Inst is one of only four schools in Northern Ireland to participate in competitive rowing. In 2005 the first ever Inst crew travelled to the Henley Royal Regatta in England. It regularly participates in various regattas throughout Ireland and abroad.
In swimming the school teams regularly go to competitions within Ireland and abroad. In 2005, 3 of the team qualified for the Irish International Schools Squad. In the same year the Senior team came 3rd in the Bath Cup competition held in London. Recently the team picked up a number of medals in the Irish Schools, held in the NAC in Dublin on the 4 February 2006. Again one swimmer qualified for the International Schools Squad, while the Senior Relay Team became Irish champions in both the medley and freestyle relays, breaking both Irish Schools records in the process. On 12 May 2006 the senior team again won the prestigious Bath Cup competition, in a new record time. In February 2007, the team again performed well in the Irish Schools, gaining numerous medals and retaining both senior relay titles. The team narrowly missed out on the 2007 Bath Cup title, being beaten by 0.4 seconds in a thrilling race which was down to the wire. However, the team did shave a huge 3 seconds off the record that they themselves had set the year before, and also took the Otter title and record for the 4x50 medley relay.
In March 2008, they won the Bath Cup again, in a new record time. They also broke the Otter Medley title, with two members winning both titles for a second time. Water polo teams have competed in various events and tours. The most recent to the Netherlands in 2006. In January 2007 the team came runners up in the Irish Schools Water Polo Championships. Numerous players have gone on to gain representative and international honours. Football (soccer) is played at Inst with 3 senior teams regularly competing in league and cup competitions, although it is not played below 5th Form. The school hosts a number of students who represent their country in various sports. Also since 2010 the Swimming Team has continued to excel winning the Bath Cup three times, the Otter Medley Cup twice and the Otter Challenge Cup four times, the most recent being a clean sweep of all three trophies in 2017.
Musical groups include the choir, which won the UTV Choir of the Year competition in 1999, the orchestra, the jazz band led by past pupil David Howell, and the string group. Other notable figures in the music department are:
- Mrs Ann Reid, a distinguished Violin Performer and Concert Pianist, who tutors both of these instruments in the school. She holds qualifications from the Royal Academy of Music, London. She accompanies much of the Music performances on the piano.
- Mrs Antoinette McMichael, part-time teacher at Inchmarlo Preparatory school. She is the director of music in the preparatory department.
The music performed is of all varieties and styles. In one concert, a listener could be treated to choral, jazz, gospel, classical, death metal, modern classical, rock and alternative in the space of two hours. Among public performances and television recordings, the music department have two major concerts a year in November and March, along with the annual Carol Service. In 2010, the Easter concert took place on 29 April in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast, to mark the 200th anniversary of the school. In the bicentenary year, Philip Bolton chose to compose a new arrangement of the school song which was much more instrumental, to a largely positive response.
The school sponsors 74th Belfast (RBAI) Scout Group which opened on 12 February 1926. The first Group Scoutmaster was Mr William (Billy) Greer who led the Group for 38 years. One of the first Patrol Leaders, Mr Wilfred M Brennan, became Chief Commissioner for Northern Ireland. In 1929, the Group was so large it contained three Troops.
War time saw a former Assistant Scoutmaster, Mr John Haire, killed when his Hurricane Fighter was shot down on May 6, 1940. His family donated an annual prize for Scouting activity. By 1945, 205 out of 430 former members had served in the armed forces or in the merchant navy. A memorial cairn was built on Bessy Bell near Baronscourt in Co Tyrone to commemorate the 18 old boys who had made the supreme sacrifice. There is a memorial plaque in Baronscourt Parish Church to this day.
In 1940, Mr JH Grummit became school Principal and later became the Group's first County Commissioner. In 1947, three Sea Scout Patrols were formed. The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme was started in the early 1960s.
Mr Ronnie Hiscocks led the Group from 1965 to 1992. September 1970 saw the formation of the new Venture Unit for boys aged 16+. In 1987, the 100th Gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award was presented to a member of 74th with many of these Scouts going on to claim the Queen's Scout Award. The sea and land sections combined in 1971. That same year saw the Group travel to the continent for the first time, to Kandersteg in Switzerland.
In 1992, Mr Martin Keane took over the Group and the boys got to experience Martin's love for mountaineering at home and abroad. 1995 saw a long record of consecutive summer camps come to an end.
In 1997, Mr David Scott became only the Group's fourth Group Scout Leader. 2005 saw the Group travel outside Europe for the first time (to Canada). In 2008, the Group partnered with Habitat for Humanity NI to go to Argentina to build homes for the poor. Trips to Mozambique, Cambodia and Ethiopia followed. In 2011, a number of Scouts met HRH Prince Edward and Mr Scott became Belfast County Commissioner. In 2012, a contingent of Scouts attended President Obama's visit to Belfast's Waterfront Hall. 2015 saw the Group become a registered charity. 2016 saw a number of 90th anniversary celebrations.
The Group continued to maintain high participation with 85 young people in the Scout Troop (ages 10.5 to 14), the Explorer Unit (14 to 18) and the Scout Network (18 to 25) in 2017.
The school's debating society, more properly known as the Royal Academical Debating Society, is the oldest continuously extant body of its kind in Ireland and is currently overseen by Lynn Gordon and Chris Leathley. The society meets regularly at both junior and senior level and aims to develop initiative, confidence, and an appreciation of the culture of both debate and civilised argument. Debates are lively, sometimes controversial, and provide a platform for social, political and cultural debate articulated in a considered and eloquent manner. Two internal competitions are run within Inst. There is an Inter-House Debating Competition (current champions are Larmor) and the Gawin Orr Public Speaking Competition which are both held annually. The Royal Academical Debating Society also holds an annual dinner at which members celebrate past successes and wish leaving members well.
The inaugural RBAI Invitational Debating Tournament was held in 2007 and has continued on an annual basis since then. Inst have won this tournament on three occasions (2007, 2009 & 2010) whilst St Malachy's were the victors in 2008. In 2008, an Inst team won the first Debating Matters Competition to be held in Northern Ireland and the following year, Michael Frazer won Best Individual Speaker. School debating teams have recently been some of the most successful in the province, reaching the final of the Northern Ireland Schools Debating Championship on five occasions (1998, 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2014), and have won the prestigious competition twice, defeating Thornhill College, Derry in 2007 and Bangor Grammar School in 2011 in the final at Parliament Buildings, Stormont.
Royal Belfast Academical Institution has successfully competed in many European Debating Competitions. In 2009, the Inst team won the NI European Youth Parliament Competition and went on to represent Northern Ireland in the UK Finals held in Durham. In March 2010, Inst also participated in the All-Ireland European Council Debates held annually at Dublin Castle. Representing Germany, the RBAI team were awarded 2nd place out of the 28 teams from across Ireland who competed, with RBAI also winning the TE Utley Memorial Award with an essay on the future of Britain in geopolitics. Inst also regularly participate in the European Council Debates held in Stormont.
Combined Cadet ForceEdit
The Combined Cadet Force (CCF) is overseen by Major Wallace having both RAF and Army sections. The Army-section is the current holder of the Northern Ireland Cadet Military skills Trophy for Team and individual skills.
The school has an "old boys" club known casually as Instonians and formally as the Belfast Old Instonians Association (BOIA). At present the Rugby, Golf and Cricket section of the club are open for all to join, whilst the Hockey club is still open to past members of the school only. Originally set up as an "old boys" only club, the sports club was opened up to the public in response to the notable flow of Instonians to Great Britain for further education, many of whom did not return to Northern Ireland. This led to fears that the club would die out as current members grew older but were replaced by less and less 'new blood', owing to the dwindling number of Instonians choosing to remain in Northern Ireland. The association also functions as a means for ex-pupils to find old school friends, or get in contact with other Old Instonians in their area if they move abroad. The association provides this by producing a directory of all members on a regular basis. There are annual Instonians dinners held by the association, in Belfast, London and New York City, which aim to further the feeling of brotherhood in the shared experiences of the school's sons.
Royal Belfast Academical Institution has a preparatory department called Inchmarlo, founded in 1907 and now set in a 6-acre (24,000 m2) site on Cranmore Park, off the Malone Road in South Belfast. Inchmarlo House was the former home of Sir William Crawford, a Director of the York Street Flax Spinning Mill. It employs 11 full-time staff and caters for boys aged between 4 and 11 whose standard uniform consists of traditional school-caps, shorts, knee-high socks, school-blazers and leather satchels. It constantly attains impressive results in the 'eleven-plus exam11-plus' examination with 75% of pupils gaining an 'A' grade. Of those, approximately 99% (around 40) transfer to the main school every year. The Headmaster of Inchmarlo Preparatory School is Mr Andy Smyth, and his Vice Principal is Andrea Morwood.
- Thomas Andrews (1813-1885) chemist and physicist.
- J. C. Beckett (1912-1996), Irish historian (The Making of Modern Ireland).
- George Benn (1801-1882) Belfast historian, one of the original alumni of the collegiate department, 1819.
- Francis Joseph Bigger MRIA FRSA, (1863-1926) antiquarian, architect, Gaelic revivalist, author, editor of the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, grandson of original Inst governors David Bigger.
- William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, (1824-1907) physicist. (The school's Kelvin house is named after him)
- Sir Joseph Larmor, (1857-1942) Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, Cambridge University, 1903–33 (the school's Larmor house is named after him)
- John T. Lewis (1932 – 2004) Welsh mathematical physicist, Director of the School of Theoretical Physics, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS).
- Stephen Livingstone (1961 – 2004) Professor of Human Rights Law and head of School of Law, Queen's University Belfast; Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.
- James McAdam (1801 – 1861) naturalist and geologist, President of the Belfast Natural History Society and one of the founders of Belfast Botanic Gardens.
- R. B. McDowell, (1913-2011) fellow of Trinity College Dublin, historian of 18th-century Ireland
- Martin McKee, (1956- ) Professor of Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
- William D. Richardson, Director of the UCL Wolfson Institute
Arts and literature
- William Allingham, (1824-1889) poet, diarist and editor.
- Wesley Burrowes, (1930-2015) playwright and screenwriter
- Alexander Faris (1921 – 2015) composer, conductor and writer.
- Sir Samuel Ferguson, (1810-1886) Irish poet, antiquarian, President of the Royal Irish Academy, founder of the Young Ireland-aligned Protestant Repeal Association.
- Paul Henry (1876-1958) Irish landscape painter.
- Michael Longley, (1939- ) poet
- Robert Wilson Lynd, (1879-1949) writer, London literary host, Sinn Féin activist.
- Bowman Malcolm (1854-1933), railway civil and mechanical engineer
- Denis MacEoin, (1949- ) Middle-East analyst, novelist.
- Derek Mahon, (1941-2020) poet, journalist, screenwriter.
- Kenneth Montgomery, (1943- ) orchestral conductor.
- Forrest Reid,(1875-1947) Ulster novelist and literary critic
- Christopher Rowden Hill, (1946- ) landscape photographer
- Ian Shuttleworth, (1963- ) theatre critic
Business and industry
- Thomas Andrews, (1873-1912) (great grandson of the founder William Drennan) chief naval architect at Harland and Wolff shipyards, went down with RMS Titanic.
- Sir Donald Currie, (1825 – 1909) Scottish shipowner, politician and philanthropist.
- Henry Musgrave, (1827 – 1922), businessman and philanthropist
- William Pirrie, Viscount Pirrie, (1847-1924) chairman of Harland and Wolff. (Pirrie House is named in his memory)
- Mark Pollock, blind international rower, entrepreneur and explorer
- Paul Rankin, television chef, chain restauranteur.
- Leonard Steinberg, Baron Steinberg, (1936-2009) businessman and Conservative life peer.
Government and Politics
- John Miller Andrews, (1871-1956) second Prime Minister of Northern Ireland
- James Armour, (1841-1928) Liberal Home Ruler, tenant-right campaigner, Presbyterian minister,.
- David Bell,(1818-1890) Irish Republican Brotherhood, Executive Council; founding member of the Tenant League; Presbyterian minister.
- Sir Kenneth Percy Bloomfield (1931- ) Head of Northern Ireland Civil Service, NI Victims Commissioner.
- Sir Samuel Knox Cunningham, QC (1909 – 1976), Unionist MP, Parliamentary Private Secretary to Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.
- Roy Bradford (1920-1988) NI Parliament MP and Government minister; minister in the 1974 "Sunningdale" Executive; journalist, novelist.
- Sir Francis Hincks, (1807-1885), Co-Premier, Province of Canada; Minister of Finance, Confederation of Canada.
- Denis Ireland, (1894-1974) Clann na Poblachta member of Seanad Éireann (the Irish Senate), writer, journalist, broadcaster.
- John Kinnear, (1824-1909), Liberal MP for Donegal, tenant-right campaigner.
- Lord Laird, (1944-2018) Ulster Unionist life peer.
- Brian Mawhinney, (1940- ) Chairman of the Conservative Party, English Member of Parliament, Cabinet minister.
- Robert James Tennent (1803-1880) Whig MP for Belfast, veteran of Greek War of Independence.
- Lembit Öpik, (1965- ) MP, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
- Lord Carswell of Killeen, (1934- ) Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Law Lord.*
- William Huston Dodd, (1844-1930) Irish Liberal MP and High Court Justice
- Joseph R. Fisher, (1855-1939) barrister, editor of the Belfast Newsletter, author, and Unionist commissioner on the Irish Boundary Commission.
- Maurice Gibson, (1913-1987) Northern Ireland Lord Justice of Appeal. Assassinated by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA).
- Lord Lowry, (1919-1999) Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Law Lord, President of RBAI (1996-99).
- Lord Thomas O'Hagan, (1812-1885) first Roman Catholic Lord Chancellor of Ireland.
- Christopher Salmon Patterson (1823–1893), judge of the Supreme Court of Canada
- Peter Barron, editor of BBC Newsnight, Google's head of external relations for Europe, Middle East and Africa
- James Winder Good (1877-1930) Northern Whig, later Freeman's Journal/Irish Independent, lead writer; author and playwright.
- Ian Knox, political cartoonist
- Jim Neilly, BBC boxing and rugby commentator
- Stephen Nolan, (1973- ) BBC radio and television presenter
- Philip Caves (1940–1978) Irish pioneer cardiothoracic surgeon.
- Sir Henry Kenneth Cowan, physician and dietary expert, Chief Medical Officer of Health to Scotland
- Sir Ian Fraser, President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, President of the British Medical Association, founding Chairman of the Northern Ireland Police Authority.
- Hugh Allen Oliver Hill FRSC FRS (1937- ), Emeritus Professor of Bioinorganic Chemistry at the University of Oxford
- Colonel Tim Collins, Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment in Iraq during Operation Telic (2001)
- Maj Gen Jeremy Rowan CB, OBE, QHS, FRCP, (1957- ) Director General Army Medical Services
- Brigadier John Alexander Sinton VC, OBE, FRS, MB, DL (1884–1956), doctor, malariologist and recipient of the Victoria Cross
- General Sir James Stuart Steele GCB, KBE, DSO, MC (1894-1975) Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) and High Commissioner in Austria in 1946.
- Air Vice Marshal Sir William Tyrrell, rugby union international, Principal Medical Officer Middle East, honorary surgeon to King George VI of the United Kingdom
- Colonel Philip James Woods (1880-1961), led the Karelian Regiment ("Irish Karelians"), Allied Intervention North Russia; General Staff Lithuanian Army, Independent NI MP West Belfast.
- John Edgar (1798 – 1866) Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, oringator of the Temperance movement, Gaelic revivalist.
- James Haire (1946- ), Australian theologian, president of the National Council of Churches in Australia
- James McCann (1897 – 1983) Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland
- James Shannon (1799–1859) American pro-slavery evangelist, President of the University of Missouri.
- Ryan Caldwell, Irish rugby international, Ulster Rugby player
- David Hewitt (rugby union, born 1939), British & Irish Lions, Ireland & Ulster Rugby Player
- Dermott Monteith, the Ireland Cricket Team's all-time leading wicket taker
- Sammy Nelson, former Arsenal and Northern Ireland footballer
- Dawson Stelfox, the leader of the 1993 Irish Expedition to Mount Everest and the first Northern Irishman to reach the summit
- Albert Stewart, Irish rugby international who died in World War I
- Ian Stewart, Northern Ireland International Footballer
- Robin Thompson, captain British and Irish Lions rugby team 1955, South Africa
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