Ernie Davis began his teaching career at the Model School in 1945 when it was a primary school on the Cliftonville Road. In 1957 the school moved to the Ballysillan Road and became a secondary school for boys. The Headmaster, Normal McNeilly, and Ernie fought hard for the boys to be able to sit ‘O’ Levels and eventually ‘A’ Levels. The Boys’ Model and Orangefield led the way in opening up academic routes for their pupils.
Ernie was a prolific rugby coach and was instrumental in introducing the sport to the school. In 1971 he coached and inspired the 1st XV to victory over Ballymena Academy in the Rugby School’s Cup Final, ensuring the Model’s place in history as the only non-selective school ever to win the cup.
He was appointed Headmaster the following year, 1972, and led the school with the same enthusiasm he applied to rugby. He was charismatic, passionate, unique, a supreme motivator. He made certain that all staff “went the extra mile” to ensure each pupil achieved his potential.
Ernie led from the front and demanded high standards from everyone. The word ‘legend’ is frequently overused, but not is his case. Even after his retirement in 1988, Ernie maintained a keen interest in the academic success of the school and was a frequent visitor to the school. Especially in August, at results time, the man in the white coat was often seen coming through the gates.
The Belfast Boys’ Model School has not only maintained but improved academic standards over the years. We are sure that Ernie would whole heartily approve of this bursary fund which will help “his boys “ achieve their ambitions.