James Dilworth plaque unveiling

A distance of 11,000 miles separated the two school headmasters but as part of the 400th anniversary celebrations of the Royal School, Dungannon,  the principal of the Dilworth School in Auckland, New Zealand, travelled to meet with Dr. David Burnett, the Headmaster of the Royal School where a young James Dilworth attended from I826-I832

James Dilworth was born in Donaghmore, Co. Tyrone on I5th August I8I5, and in the late I830’s he emigrated to Australia before moving to New Zealand. This final move was to create a lasting link with his homeland,  especially Dungannon.

James became a very successful businessman but his love of education was never far from his thoughts, and when he died in I894, he left a substantial sum of money (£I50,000) to set up a school in Auckland, to take in and educate boys living in straitened circumstances. In I906, the Dilworth School opened, and the strong links with Dungannon remain as strong today.

To commemorate the man who founded the Dilworth School, the two headmasters and invited guests, many of whom were ‘old boys’ of the Royal School, gathered on the campus in front of the building known as ‘the Old Grey Mother’. After a warm welcome from Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle who said that the Circle were delighted to have been asked to be involved in the 400th anniversary with the unveiling 

of a Blue Plaque to James Dilworth, guests listened to speeches from the headmaster of the Royal School, Dr. David Burnett, the principal of the Dilworth School, Donald McLean and the Mayor of Dungannon, Councillor Roger Burton.

As the two Headmasters jointly unveiled the plaque, the boys of the Dilworth rugby team who had travelled with Principal Donald McLean, surprised the assembled guests with the epic Haka. The rugby team was due to play the Royal School’s XV during the anniversary celebrations. Guests were then invited into the School Library for further tributes to James Dilworth, and refreshments. 

Photographs from plaque unveiling event – left to right

  1. Dr. D.A. Burnett, Headmaster, Royal School, Dungannon.
  2. Donal MacLean, Principal, Dilworth School, Auckland, New Zealand.
  3. Mayor of Dungannon, Roger Burton, addresses the Guests.
  4. Dr. D. A. Burnett and Donald MacLean unveil the Blue Plaque on the building known as The Old Grey Mother.
  5. The Dilworth School Rugby Team and the Haka.
  6. Dr. D.A. Burnett with Chris Spurr, Chairman, Ulster History Circle and the Head Boy and Head Girl, Royal School.
  7. Richard Froggatt and Sir Peter Froggatt, Ulster History Circle.