Prize day 2017

26 September 2017

IMG 5828 1The annual Prize Day was held on Friday 22 September in the Upper Hall and was attended by hundreds of prize winners, parents and friends of the school.

The guest of honour this year was Mr Nigel Eccles who is the founder and CEO of Fanduel.  Fanduel is a web based fantasy sports company which he founded with his wife.  He built it from modest beginnings with five employees to today employing over 300 people in Europe and the USA with in excess of six million registered users. Mr Eccles was a pupil of the High School from 1987 to 1994.  In addition to addressing the prize winners and their families he presented the awards.  The proceedings were chaired by Mrs Lynne Dripps, Chairman of the Board of Governors. 

Mr Eccles flew in from New York for the event and firstly joined staff, governors, senior prefects and special guests at lunch in the senior dining hall before proceeding to the Upper Hall for the prize giving ceremony which started at 2pm. The academic procession of staff and governors was accompanied by Emma Ferguson playing ‘Highland Cathedral’ on the bagpipes.

Prayers were said by Rev Dr I Thompson, a member of the Board of Governors. In her speech Mrs Dripps conveyed good wishes to members of staff who were leaving after years of service to school and welcomed new colleagues who were joining the staff.  In her speech she focussed on the hard and important work of governors and the importance of parental engagement with school in order to strengthen the community. She drew particular attention to the school’s academic performance as well as the extensive provision it offered in extracurricular activities and through its support for individual pupils.  She praised teachers for the commitment and hard work they show.

The audience was entertained by the Chamber Choir which sang ‘A Clare Benediction’ and by Ewan Brown who played ‘I giorni’ by Ludovico Einaudi on the piano.  The hymns were ‘Crown Him with many crowns’ and ‘In Christ Alone’. 

Before distributing awards Mr Eccles unveiled a plaque in memory of Rev. Thomas Millar Senior who founded Cookstown Academy in 1806 and remained as headmaster until 1840.  Cookstown Academy eventually evolved into Cookstown High School and the Upper Hall will now be called the Millar Hall in his honour. 

Prize Day 2017 saw the introduction of a new prize: the Katrina Johnston Award for high achievement in GCSE geography was donated by the geography department in memory of our former head of geography Katrina Johnston who died tragically in September 2012. The first presentation was made by Mrs Hagan the current Head of Department and the first recipient was John Boden. The school was very pleased to have Mrs Johnston’s sons Ryan and Ross and their father Niall at the ceremony.

After the distribution of awards, a vote of thanks and presentation to Mr Eccles and his mother, who was also present, were made by Deputy Head Boy James Marks and Head Girl Sarah Hammond.  The ceremony concluded with the singing of the School Anthem.  The recessional music was ‘The arrival of the Queen of Sheba’.  Tea was served in the Junior Dining Hall after the ceremony.

Mr Eccles’ speech was engaging and inspiring.  After reflecting on what an honour it was for him to be back at this old school he told a little of his story as an entrepreneur.  In a humorous speech he offered advice to pupils thinking of starting their own business, some of which he said would be useful whatever they chose to do.  He told them not to feel rushed into deciding what they want to be and how through his A Levels and time at St Andrews university he still didn’t know.  He pressed them on the importance of networking, being flexible with plans and showing resilience.  He spoke of the challenges of being an entrepreneur and bringing something new to market and he entertained the audience by recounting the story of the near collapse of his business and the challenges of an FBI investigation which he said, “isn’t nearly as exciting as it looks on television”.

Mr Montgomery’s speech reflected on the excellent academic achievement of 2017 with top grades at the High School being ahead of the Northern Ireland average at GCSE and fourteen percent ahead at A Level.   He congratulated the Year 12 on their attainment where over ten percent of those who did GCSEs achieved at least 9 straight As.

Mr Montgomery based his remarks around the theme of school as a place which draws upon the past for all the virtue it has to offer but which constantly reaches out to embrace the challenges of the future. He looked back at highlights of the year gone by including the visit by Lady Heather McClay to name the McClay Hall, a tour by the minister for education Mr Peter Weir MLA; a total of £43,894 raised by the school community for charities, sporting success for teams and individuals and a large range of trips and extracurricular activities participated in by hundreds of pupils.  He praised the local businesses who had given the school support, particularly at the Innovation Breakfast and also spoke of the exciting new ICT outreach project supported by Karro foods which will enable the school to work with local primary schools in mobile app development. 

He concluded, “And so in our two hundred and twelfth year this school stands here today committed as ever to the future of this community.  Looking back at our past with pride – inspired by the vision of our founder, our history, our achievements and our common values, and reaching out to and excited by the future we will have together”

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