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75 Years Old and Still Looking Immaculate

The outgoing Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, Rt. Rev Dr Frank Sellar, has very kindly donated his mother’s Stranmillis blazer to the College.

Yes, university students wore uniforms back then!  Miss Roberta Turtle, as she was then, was a student at Stranmillis during the Second World War years, when the College and its student body were temporarily relocated from Belfast to the ‘luxuries’ of Fawcett’s Hotel in Portrush!

Speaking about his mother, The Rev Sellar recounted: “My mother was the sixth out of eight children born on a farm in Rathkenny. There she had to play her part in digging and sacking potatoes and gathering flax. Her first school was Killygore, which she attended until she was nine. Then she moved to Ballymena Model which she enjoyed. At the age of 13, she got a scholarship to Ballymena Academy and from there won a pupil teachership to Stranmillis College, where she studied from 1942-45. Since the College was evacuated from Belfast during the war, the students were resident in Fawcett’s Hotel in Portrush. They were jealous of the boys from Campbell College who were located across the road in the Northern Counties Hotel, since they had a swimming pool!”

Her first job was in a two teacher school at Ballyrashane, with a coal stove in the middle of the classroom. She cycled out from her digs in Coleraine every day, in all weathers, but refused to go to the outside toilet at school for fear of seeing a rat. One day a handsome art advisor from the Co. Londonderry Education Committee visited the school and that led to romance with Robert G Sellar, ARUA, the famous artist and lino cutter. They got married on 12th April 1955 and set up home in Coleraine. Mum continued to teach first at The Hon. The Irish Society School where Mr Rea was the Principal and then with Miss Morrison who became the first Headmistress of DH Christie Memorial School. She loved bringing the best out of her pupils and particularly training them in elocution and entry into the Coleraine speech and music festival, gaining the letters LLCM after her name.”

Robert and Roberta had two sons: Peter William, who became an ophthalmic surgeon and Francis Paul, who became Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in 2016. Our sincere thanks go to Rev Sellar for donating the blazer, which will be encased and displayed in Stranmillis House as an ongoing reminder of our history.

Time to bring back uniforms for students at Stran?

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