Dalriada School was founded in 1878, when it was known as “Ballymoney Intermediate School”, to provide a “good academic education for pupils between elementary education and university”. This first headmaster was J.B. Armour, renowned as an independent thinker, and for his efforts to promote the liberty of the individual. Co-educational from its inception the school drew pupils from the whole community. First held in the library of the old town hall, the school moved to the new Technical School building in Charles Street, and finally to the present site, a new building in 1937. In 1924 the school changed its name again to “Ballymoney High School”, and under the Board of Governors became a limited company.
A special pageant-play called Dalriada written and produced by the English master, Mr G.E. Gordon, later Headmaster, was the inspiration for the school’s present name. The name came from the kingdom of Dalriada, which had its royal seat in nearby Dunseverick. It was also at this time that Dr Ross, Headmaster since 1931, gave the school its motto “Labor sine cura, labor sine fructu” (work without effort is work without gain) he also re-established a Preparatory Department.
The school grew rapidly, with a building extension under Mr Edmund Gordon, Headmaster from 1948 (following the sudden death of Dr Ross). New laboratories, classrooms, refectory and the John Armstrong Assembly Hall were opened in 1969, followed by the addition of six English classrooms and an open-plan Art Department, “The Edmund Gordon Centre”. It was under Mr Gordon that the school became renowned for its annual Shakespearean plays, which he produced, and the term “the spirit of Dalriada coined at the time, came to encapsulate the liberal, inclusive and caring tradition which is still promoted in the school. Mr Gordon also composed the school song “O Dalriadan land” which is enthusiastically rendered by pupils at major formal school events.
As pupil numbers increased and the curriculum expanded, so building work continued. Mr Alan Reynolds, Headmaster from 1975 until 1987, saw the building of additional laboratories, and a new Sports Centre, to be followed in 2002, under Mr William Calvert’s headship, by a large new extension, comprising accommodation for Modern languages (6 classrooms), Religious Education (3 classrooms) and Music (2 classrooms and a large performance room). The school is now over 880 pupils strong.