Last week was the senior drama play, the Antigone. It was low key in some ways, because the cast was not huge, the set was very basic and the costumes were not flashy. However the production was outstanding, with some very good performances…and one or two really powerful ones. Theatre at its best has the power to challenge and no one could have left without being stirred, even if they did not have a nice warm glow. Greek tragedy doesn’t do that…it’s modern man who has invented the happy ending.

As a classics teacher myself I love the fact that a play written 2500 years ago is still so relevant and topical. The Greek tragedians, in this case Sophocles, used to take familiar stories and themes and give them a twist. The audience, familiar with the traditional telling of the story, would understand the author’s twist far better than we can. The underlying theme of all tragedy was always the belief that there are certain standards of right and wrong, eternal values dear to the gods…and we break them at our peril. Although everything we do is dictated by fate it does not absolve us from personal responsibility for our actions and there is always some flaw in the character of the tragic figure that causes the tragedy to come to pass. Put simply, it is a variation on the theme, ‘pride comes before a fall.’

In the Antigone Creon breaks a law of the gods in his desire to be seen as the strong ruler, while his niece Antigone defies him. After stubbornly refusing to see reason, and hurling abuse at all those around him, Creon finally backs down and rushes off to make amends for his actions. The audience breathe a sigh of relief in the expectation that the pending crises have been averted. However he is too late and before the play ends three of his family have killed themselves. Creon remains alive, broken by his own pride, shattered by his own ‘hubris’ (breaking the law of the gods) and in total despair. In good Greek style we leave the theatre challenged to look at ourselves and ensure that our own pride does not bring us into conflict with those eternal values of mercy and humility.

I can’t help feeling that the message of this 2500 year old play could not be more relevant than it is now and that is why those ancient plays are still put on year after year and have never been surpassed…they will always be in fashion because they deal with eternal conflicts in human nature. Leaders and rulers are still committing hubris, still setting themselves up as being above the law and the consequences are always tragic, for themselves and those around them, including the innocent.

In assembly on Monday I spoke to the school about leadership and how I could see so many potential leaders among them, particularly if they remember that leadership is about service and not about throwing their weight around. It is possible to be a leader even in the primary year, because leadership is about standing up for what is right even if it is unpopular. It is also about bringing the best out of the people around you, just as the captain of a team makes those around him look good, but doesn’t draw attention to himself or herself. I emphasised that the class bully or the noisiest boy in the playground is not the best leader, but sadly we live in a world where the class bully and the noisiest boy has just been elected as the most powerful man in the world. Sophocles would have been sharpening his quill. Hubris is inevitable.

I only ever directed one play, back in 2001. It was hard work and very stressful and I vowed never to do it again. And which play was it? The Antigone.

Mark Boobbyer

 

[photo: Anthony Brouwer]

The second round of the Senior House Debating Competition took place on Saturday night, 12th November.  The motion for debate was ‘this house believes that the refugee crisis is eroding Europe’s humanitarian values’. There were some very strong performances on the evening; speeches which were well researched and confidently delivered, but in the end there had to be some winners and runners up.

Glen’s Julius Reblin, Ryan Gumsheimer and Jack Stokes lost out to Hollypark’s Ciara Murray, Sophie Matthews and Catherine Butt. Stackalllan’s Henry zu Rantzau, Casper von Schulenburg and Sebastian Fitzgibbon were defeated by Beresford & Tibradden ‘s Daniel Koethe, Helena von Brauchitsch  and Eleonore Mueller. Gwynn’s Ross Magill, Toby Green and Joel Taylor were able to oust Iona’s Anna Laurenceau, Nicole Dickerson and Helen Crampton. This means that Hollypark and Gwynn, each with two wins under their belts, go forward to the final.

Awards for best speakers went to Ross Magill, Ciara Murray and Daniel Koethe. Well done to all those who participated. We look forward to the final in January.

A special word of thanks from Ms Duggan to Dr Bannister and Mr Brett for joining her to judge the debates.

Not to be outdone by their elders, the Juniors also got together on Saturday evening to debate the motion ‘this House would restrict advertising aimed at children’.

Matt Keavney, Ailbhe Matthews and Raphaela Ihuoma proposed and

Eile Ni Chainain, Emma Hinde, Ellen Homan opposed.  The best speaker spot was shared by Eile Ni Chanain and Ailbhe Matthews but there was much potential on display on Saturday.

Both the JCT and SCT Rugby teams played their first round cup matches this week. On Monday, the JCT took on St. Conleth’s at Wanders RFC in the first round of the Duff Cup. St. Conleth’s had lost out to SCC after a replay last year – two fantastic games – and revenge was on the cards and, as they say, it’s best served cold.

St. Conleth’s started the game with intent and soon were on the scoreboard. Their outside centre was a pacey and elusive runner and he bamboozled the SCC defence. He sailed past some despairing Columba’s tackling, outrunning them on the outside, and then converted his own try – there was barely a minute on the clock. To their credit St. Columba’s regrouped and resorted to keeping the game tight – their pack on the ascendancy. The pressure told and St. Columba’s were soon on the scoreboard through Jose Fominaya. Captain Thady McKeever couldn’t convert the try but it mattered little (or so we thought) as Jose dotted down again shortly afterwards for SCC’s second score. This time Thady added the extras and they were leading 12-7 at half time.

St. Conleths changed their tack in the second half, also keeping it tight, and soon their forwards were rewarded with a try of their own. It wasn’t converted and the game was on a knife edge at 12-12. But St. Columba’s regrouped again and soon started the dominate up front again. Sam Lawrence finished off some good forward work smashing over the line to score. Unfortunately, Thady couldn’t add the vital extras and the game was still up for grabs. After the try St. Columba’s remained dominant and were camped firmly in Conleth’s half as the end of the match approached. All they needed to do was hold on to possession and the game was theirs. Sadly, Conleth’s turned the ball over with a minute on the clock and it made it’s way to their outside centre who simply had too much gas. He was not going to be stopped. With the game at 17-17 and the clock up, St. Conleth’s had an easy conversion to win the game. They scored it and celebrated. St. Columba’s were left dejected. The JCT will now enter the plate competition with a chance of silverware still on the cards.

The SCT Squad after their cup match, with their coaches Corey McCarthy and Andrew Mitchell.

The SCT Squad travelled to Gorey RFC on Wednesday to take on Coláiste Bríd from Carnew  – a team SCC had never faced before in a competitive fixture. With confidence high after a relatively good start to the season (and despite a recent drubbing by Wilson’s Hospital) the squad left SCC in a determined mood. It has been a number of years since St. Columba’s have managed to win a McMullen Cup fixture and this group of players, led by Max Hillary, were eager to end that losing run.

With the wind at their backs St. Columba’s began intent on keeping the ball in hand and backing their skills. However, they tried to play too much rugby in their own half, never really playing the possession game well throughout, and basic errors allowed Carnew easy and continuous possession in opposition territory. A penalty from Carnew pushed them to a slim 3-0 lead before Captain Max Hillery suffered a knee injury just before the half time whistle. It was a big blow and  forced the game to be moved to another pitch. The second half continued along similar lines as the first with St. Columba’s still pitched in their own half. They really struggled to string phases together and adapt to the referee. Eventually Carnew’s pressure told and they scored an opportunistic try from a basic defensive error at a line out. They failed to convert. The score was 8-0. SCC lost Freddie Johnson to a shoulder injury and all seemed lost. But finally, with 10 minutes left on the clock, St. Columba’s began to play territory, kicking the ball behind the Carnew defence and putting themselves in field positions to attack. Sustained possession and pressure told and St. Columba’s were awarded a kickable penalty – Hector Wright slotting it over to bring it to 8-3. With 5 minutes to go the momentum had swung in SCC’s favour and they were camped in Carnew’s 22 for this period. However, a lack of composure and some basic errors let them down and they never got over the line. Carnew won a relieving penalty close to their try line (for “squeeze ball” – an offence punished a number of times for both teams throughout the game – we should have adapted) and held out to win.

St. Columba’s returned home licking their wounds and wondering what happened. They too enter a plate competition next term but will need to learn to show composure in big knock out games if they are to progress.

Two narrow losses but lots of potential. Cup rugby never fails to deliver drama.

Three pupils from St Columba’s, Catherine Butt, Jiwoo Park and Harry Oke-Osanyintolu participated in the Leinster trials for the Irish World Schools Debating Team in University College Dublin last weekend. While they didn’t get through to the next stage of the competition, they performed extremely well and enjoyed some excellent coaching in argumentation, analysis, critical thinking, research, oratory, and rhetoric.  Well done Catherine, Jiwoo and Harry!

Before the shock election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States St Columba’ s College held its own mock election on Tuesday the 8th of November. In stark contrast to the actual presidential election the school voted in favour of Hillary Clinton to take residence in the White House. She got 67% of the vote. The controversial businessman, Donald Trump, received 29% of the vote.

Given that the school’s population is much smaller than that of the United States, we opted for a ‘one man, one vote’ or first past the post electoral system, rather than the Electoral College system used in the United States. This obviously had a major impact on the outcome. Another key factor in people’s decisions were the two candidates speeches in school assembly. Fifth formers Joseph Gernon and Tiernan Mullane explained Clinton’s and Trump’s policies to the whole school.

I enjoyed taking part in this mock election because the whole school community has taken a keen interest in this Presidential Election and it was an interesting insight into what people in the school thought of each candidate. There have been many animated political discussions since! Many thanks for Ms Duggan for organising.

Hector Wright

Yesterday on Remembrance Sunday, the Chaplain, Rev Daniel Owen led the service broadcast from the RTE studios. The Chapel choir, directed by Mrs Malone Brady, played a major part singing Hewson’s ‘Let us now praise famous men’, Bach’s ‘Sheep may safely graze’ and Hutchings’ ‘We will remember them‘ plus several hymns. The service may be seen on RTE player here.

I am always moved by remembrance week, but my emotions are mixed. There is obviously the feeling of pride as I remember members of my family who died in the First World War and there is the sense of gratitude towards all of my countrymen who made the ultimate sacrifice. Here at St. Columba’s we will honour in particular the sons of the College who lost their lives, but I am also aware that we are not just remembering those who died in the world wars, but all who die in wars, wherever they be from, and that makes things a little more complicated.

Last March in South Africa I found myself addressing the school I was running at the end of an anti-racism week and I felt very uncomfortable. How could I, a white Englishman, talk to a church full of black children and teachers, whose lives are still affected by the after-effects of a cruel racist system, and a few white teachers, who were Afrikaans, about the evils of racism. After a few attempts to put together a talk I threw them all out and instead decided on a different tack. In the assembly I started by turning to the black people present, the vast majority, and apologising for the arrogance of my people in the way that we had treated them, causing untold amounts of suffering and humiliation. Then I turned to the Afrikaans teachers and apologised to them too, because we had caused a pointless war (the Boer War 1899-1902) in our greed for land containing gold and diamonds, to which we had no justifiable claim at all. And because the Afrikaans people put up an annoying display of resistance, we rounded up their women and children and stuffed them into concentration camps, where thousands died of disease and starvation. Memories are long and the Afrikaaners still remember those injustices. There was no point in pretending that I understood their suffering because that would be untrue and patronising. My people may not have invented racism but we are more guilty than most. Cecil Rhodes, the arch-colonialist, said that to be born British was to win first prize in the lottery of life. I love my country but an attitude like that led to us imposing British rule on half the countries of the world, thinking that we were doing them a favour and pitying anyone who was not ‘one of us.’

In April I visited Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, two famous sites of the Zulu Wars of 1879 and also Spion Kop, site of a major British defeat in the Boer War. I couldn’t help asking myself what on earth the British were doing there, so far from home, trying to annex someone else’s land in the name of the Great White Queen. Thousands of Welshmen from the town near where my family home is died at Isandlwana. Why? I have great admiration for those who died, in many cases very heroically, but that does not mean that I need to respect the desire for world domination that brought them there.

I am, of course, not decrying the role of my countrymen in numerous conflicts around the world, some of which were undoubtedly motivated by a desire to defend basic freedoms and stand up to tyranny. However it is good for me personally to remind myself that my own people have often been the cause of conflict. There is no room for anyone to be self-righteous when it comes to remembering the fallen. And just as I could not preach to black or white South Africans about racism, I need to be very careful speaking about my country’s heroic defence of freedom in the last century…not everyone may see it that way! Love of country is a fine thing, but it does not mean that one should be blind to its faults and failings.

We are now a very multi-racial school and all the better for it, because we are preparing our young people for a multi-racial society, in which they will rub shoulders with people of different beliefs, cultures and languages. We remember with great pride the young men from the College who fell on the battlefields of France and elsewhere in the world in the last hundred years, but we do so in order to look forward to a world where such conflicts are only in the history books. We at the College in 2016 need to pledge ourselves to promoting understanding and appreciation of our differences, so that we can play our part in that process.

 

Mark Boobbyer, November 8th 2016.