A visit to Loughry Agricultural College is well worthwhile. An historic past gives a clear insight into vocational education in rural Ireland, the present extensive programme accurately mirrors the latest trends and developments and if the optimism of those in charge is any criterion the best for Loughry – and the agricultural industry – is yet to be!
The lands and manor of Loughry – situated about three miles south of Cookstown and eight miles north of Dungannon – appear to have been granted to a family named Lindesay in the year 1611.
In the early eighteenth century Loughry was owned by Robert Lindesay, a Member of Parliament for County Tyrone and a Judge of the Common Pleas.
Dean Jonathan Swift was a frequent visitor to Loughry at that period and in his “Life of Dean Swift,” Sir Walter Scott refers to “Swift’s House”.
This is, without doubt, the summer house in which Swift wrote some of his books and which still stands in the college grounds.
The property was acquired by the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction in 1906 and after additions to the buildings was opened as the Ulster Dairy School in 1908.
A counterpart was the Munster Institute which was opened in 1904.
As present Loughry principal Mr W G Shannon pointed out: “These schools were exclusively for girls and represented a great advance in the pioneering of vocational education. Meanwhile boys were catered for by County committees, for example Ballyhayes and Greenmount.”
On January 1, 1922, the school was transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture, Northern Ireland, by whom it is now administered.
Leaping forward in time it was in September 1949 when a large scale re-organisation programme was begun that the name was changed to Loughry Agricultural College.
And 1949 will always remain an important date in the college history for another reason.
It was in this year that Mr James Young, now Permanent Secretary to the Ministry, was recalled from Ottowa, where he had been assistant agricultural attache, to become principal of Loughry.
Said Mr Shannon, who came to the college in 1950 before succeeding Mr Young as principal in 1963: “Mr Young proved the instrument of change which virtually revolutionised the whole Loughry programme.