From humble beginnings, St. Mary’s Grammar School has grown to become the outstanding school that it is today.
Founded in 1927 by Monsignor John Ward, Parish Priest of Magherafelt, the purpose of St. Mary’s was to provide secondary education for Catholic girls of the area under the direction of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux.
Sister Cassian Tracey was nominated as the first Principal of the school and, for the first month, only one pupil – namely Mollie Devane - attended St. Mary’s. Within the first year, ten girls were enrolled in the school. Sister Cassian was almost immediately succeeded by Sister Salomé Creagh who served as Principal until 1937 when Sister Philomena Cashin took on the role. Sister Philomena was replaced in 1945 by Sister Marie Thérése Harte who would shape the culture of the school until 1977.
Throughout the forties, the school continued to grow and, with its academic success, the need for more accommodation became urgent. In 1954, the first extension was added to St. Mary’s.
In 1977, Sister Immaculata O’Connor was appointed Principal and, from then until 1995, she led the school through a period of consolidation and growth. September 1978 marked a significant milestone in the history of St. Mary’s as boys enrolled for the first time. A total of 37 boys joined 587 girls. In 1984, new accommodation was once again required. Under the leadership of Sister Immaculata O'Connor, the Friends of St. Mary's was formed with the purpose of raising funds to finance the building programme. The £6 million extension was formally opened by Cardinal Daly on 8 December 1994.
In 1995, Mrs W.A. O'Kane became the first lay Principal of St. Mary’s. Between 1995 and 2004, Mrs O’Kane shaped the future of the school, enhancing its academic reputation and widening its extra-curricular portfolio.
In 2004, there was another first for St. Mary’s when Mr D.A. Lambon succeeded Mrs O’Kane to become the first male Principal to lead the school. With his vision for collaboration in the area, Mr Lambon encouraged St. Mary’s to look beyond itself. He forged strong links and working relationships with local businesses and education providers, and was instrumental in establishing the Magherafelt Learning Partnership.
In September 2011, Ms D. Gillespie began her Principalship. Mindful of the shifting educational landscape of Northern Ireland, Ms Gillespie’s vision and leadership ensure that St. Mary’s is well placed to meet the changing needs of learners in the 21st century while maintaining the school’s tradition for excellence.