Thornhill College

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Coordinates: 55°02′06″N7°17′02″W / 55.035°N 7.284°W / 55.035; -7.284


Thornhill College
Coláiste Chnoc na nDealg [1]
Thornhill College
Culmore Road

BT48 8JF

Type Grammar School
MottoAdveniat Regnum Tuum (Thy Kingdom come)
Religious affiliation(s) Roman Catholic
Local authority Education Authority (Western)
PrincipalSharon Mallett, BSSc PGDFHE MSc PQM
Age11to 18

Thornhill College is a Roman Catholic grammar school for girls. It is located in Derry, Northern Ireland. It has a student population of approximately 1500 and a staff of 100 teachers.


The nucleus of the present Thornhill College commenced shortly after the Sisters of Mercy came to Derry in 1848. The Sisters started a private school for girls in Pump Street. The school started in Artillery Street, Derry in 1887 as the Ard Scoil na Maighdine Mhuire - Convent of Our Lady of Mercy School. [2] Its first Scheme of Government under the then Ministry of Education was drawn up in February 1925. When Watt's Distillery closed in Derry, and the Estate at Thornhill, on the outskirts of Derry, became available for sale, the Sisters, with the kind assistance of Robert Boyle, a builder in Derry, completed the purchase of the property in 1929. The house was adapted to the needs of the nuns and of the boarders. The Sisters involved moved to Thornhill Convent along with the boarders, and the Convent of Our Lady of Mercy School was officially transferred and opened on 8 September 1932 with an intake of 120 pupils, and a staff of about seven Sisters and three lay teachers.

After the Education Act, Northern Ireland in 1947, the number of pupils had increased rapidly as grammar school education became available to more and more children through the eleven plus examination. The school also had a change of name to Thornhill College, Convent of Mercy Voluntary Maintained Grammar School and various new buildings completed but these were insufficient. After many years of much effort, the present building was approved and opened in 2002 across the road form the old site in the new Thornhill College. At that time, the Sisters of Mercy withdrew from trusteeship, and gave it over to the Bishop and the Diocese of Derry. [3]


The school motto is the Latin phrase "Adveniat Regnum Tuum", which translates as "Thy Kingdom come".


In 2009 Thornhill College became a Specialist School in Mathematics and Physics. [4] The Specialist Schools Programme helps schools, in partnership with private sector sponsors and supported by additional Government funding, to establish distinctive identities through their chosen specialisms and achieve their targets to raise standards.

In 2018 Thornhill College was ranked 17th out of 192 schools in Northern Ireland in terms of its A-level performance. A total of 84.3% of its students entered for A-Levels achieved a grade of A* – C. [5]

In 2018, 97.4% of its entrants achieved five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C, including the core subjects English and Maths and the college was ranked 28th out of 191 schools in Northern Ireland. [6]

In 2017 the college took first place in the Northern Ireland Schools' Analyst Competition which is organised by the local Analytical Division of the Royal Society of Chemistry and involved 12 schools from right across Northern Ireland. [7]


Thornhill College has a Senior Debating Society, established in 1954. The team were runners-up in the final of the Northern Ireland Schools Debating Competition in 2007, and is known throughout the school for wearing the gold stripe around the lapel of the debating blazer. Thornhill had two teams in the semi-finals of this competition who debated against each other on 30 March 2007 in Belfast. In 2017 the society had two teams in the final of the Queen's Literific Society Debating Competition one of which was the outright winner. [8] The society meets regularly to debate topical subjects and research up and coming competitions. The school also has an established Junior Debating Society who meet after school as part of the homework club. A member from the senior debating society made the national debating team and competed in the 2018 and 2019 World Schools Competition.


The college has a very active choir. In 2018 it won the School Choir of the Year at the International Choral Festival in Derry. The following year it won the BBC Northern Ireland School Choir of the Year. [9]


On the "teardrop" at the front of the school there is a piece of sculpture called 'Stepping Out'. The piece was designed by the school's Head of Art and Design, Mr Eamon McAteer and constructed by Maurice Harron and the final sculpture was officially unveiled in 2008. It comprises three abstract figures which represent pupils of the school dancing.

Notable former pupils

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  1. "Seachtain na Gaeilge 2017". Thornhill College. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  2. "THORNHILL COLLEGE YEARBOOK 2018/19" (PDF). Thornhill College. Retrieved 16 August 2021.
  3. "Sister Emmanuel's years at the heart of Thornhill College" . Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  4. Education Minister announces nine new specialist schools Northern Ireland Executive, 4 June 2008, Retrieved 31 July 2012
  5. "A-Level: Northern Ireland School League Table 2018" . Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  6. "Belfast Telegraph GCSE 2018" . Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  7. "Thornhill College takes first place" . Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  8. "Queen's Literific Society Debating Competition" . Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  9. "Thornhill College Yearbook 2018/19" (PDF). Thornhill College. Retrieved 16 August 2021.
  10. "Sheila McClean's vibrant personality" . Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  11. McClements, Freya. "Real-life Derry Girls: 'The nuns are gone but the pupils are the same'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 14 April 2019.