Jimmy O’Connor, well known and loved by many generations of the wide Columban community, retired today after 52 years of loyal and dedicated service. Ninian Falkiner, a boy here around the time when Jimmy joined the College, paid tribute to his work on the school grounds over all those years. His presence, comradeship, general bonhomie and knowledge of the College will be greatly missed. We wish him well on this special day and hope that he has a long and enjoyable retirement.

Click here for some photographs of the occasion, taken by the Chaplain.

The ‘Phil Speaks’ Debating Competition 20th /21st January

Harry Oke-Osanyintolu reports:

The Phil Speaks competition 2017 was nothing close to what we imagined; it was much better. We arrived at Trinity College, Dublin at around 9:00 am before the first round. We had to register our names and our school’s name and then came the hard part, we had to talk to other people or else we would stand out as being socially awkward individuals. This was easier for some of the members of the team because they knew some people but for me, it was harder than the debates. They announced the first topic which saved me from embarrassing myself in front of strangers which was ”  this house would abolish monarchism”. This was an unfamiliar topic to me but not for my better half, Jack Stokes who knew exactly what he was saying. There was a twist in this round because we had to go against our other team made up of Sophie Matthews and Marie-Pauline Bleyl. Both of them were capable opponents and lived up to expectation. I felt we debated this topic well by mentioning how monarchism led to patriotism and also mentioning aspects of monarchism that led to our present civilization. We mentioned the Oyo kingdom as a form of monarchism that brought music, art, architecture and other aspects of development into Nigeria and other countries in Africa.

Our opponents mentioned King Nero as a form of bad monarchism but we were able to use the fact that King Nero closed the Amphitheater for 10 years to ensure the safety of the people of Pompeii. We came second and our other team came third. This was a great first round outcome especially for our third team made up of Emily Devereux and Abraham Lozano who came out on top even though they thought they were supporting the motion while they were opposing it for the first minutes of the debate which I found outstanding.

The next round took it up a level, we were against people who were at our standard and the topic of “this house believes that  feminist icons such as Beyonce and Taylor Swift and others like them have contributed positively to the feminist movement”. The moment we saw this topic our jaws dropped and we knew we had to bring out our inner feminist to ensure our victory in supporting the motion. This was very difficult but  we used our fire and ice approach which was Jack would be calm and I would heat the place up by show of enthusiasm. We came second again but our other  teams both came fourth which was a surprise because they thought they performed  better.

As an event we were invited to, we felt it would be of a low standard but the truth is that it was far from it, We were served pizza which we all loved and also enjoyed spending time with different people who shared our love of debating. This concludes our first day.

We felt confident after our first day and our other teams were ready to rumble and our topic was that “this house believes that we should not trade with countries that have bad humanitarian records”  This was a closed debate therefore, we don’t get our results but we felt confident that our fire and ice approach worked its magic. The next round was an,other closed debate but the first  two debates on this day would dictate whether we earn a spot in the semi finals. after this round they served us nice warm crepes which were delicious and after this was the qualifying round. The topic was “this house would remove social media as a news source for younger people” We were in support of this motion but we felt we didn’t reach our fool potential but we kept our faith. We had our diner which was a burger and fries which was also great. After this was the moment we all had been waiting for, they announced the teams but when they said our college it sounded like they were saying something completely different but we did it but sadly only we made it, not our other teams. We knew that the level would be raised even higher. Our topic was that ” this house would ban politicians who don’t believe in climate change from seeking office”. We were against this and we tried our best to win it  but our best was not enough when we found out we didn’t make  the finals.

Ciara Murray reviews last Saturday’s debating final.

Saturday nights riveting Senior House Debating final ended in victory for Gwynn’s Douglas Boyd-Crotty, Henry Carroll and Ivan Moffit. Hollypark is delighted to have made it to the final and, despite being understandably disappointed with our loss, recognise that Gwynn was deserving of their win. Unlike last year’s house singing competition, we are not claiming to have been “robbed”.

Douglas’ engaging, humorous and powerful speech earned him best speaker. His teammates Henry and Ivan gave similar deliveries, ruthless in their evaluation of Obama’s presidency and bold in their statements, such as that he was the ‘worst ever American president’. While this may be true, it’s no secret that Dr Banister has a soft spot for Russia, making it likely that Gwynn’s references to the improvement in American/Russian relations may have won them a few extra points?

The Hollypark team were equally as strong in their performance, questioning the reliability of Gwynn’s sources and quick to retort to points of order. As mentioned by the Hollypark team of Ciara Gumsheimer, Courtney McKee and Ciara Dempsey, unlike Obama, Trump has the advantage of becoming president during a period of economic growth. Being an American and a loyal supporter of Barack Obama, Courtney was particularly passionate in her opposition to the motion that ‘Donald Trump will introduce better policies than Barack Obama did’.

There was a clear divide in the audience, with evident loyalty from the girls and boys houses. Points of order were heated and when questions were taken from the floor junior pupils were keen to participate; there were even a few questions strategically planted in the audience! As Hollypark’s team was composed solely of sixth years, we would encourage younger students to take part in debating next year as it is a really enjoyable and beneficial experience. Mr Brett was critical of those who read directly from their scripts, pointing out that it is essential for debaters to engage with the audience; bear this in mind future debaters!

Many congratulations to Ciara Gumsheimer who has been offered a place to read Economics at Downing College, Cambridge. Ciara sat an entrance exam and attended two interviews, before being accepted for one of the most competitive courses at Cambridge University.

The annual First Form public speaking competition took place today, and Ms Smith writes:

“We are grateful to Cathy Boobbyer who judged this year’s speeches. Eight courageous finalists spoke on topics as various as tropical animals, Syrian refugees, robots, the dangers of gaming, and the importance of failure.
There were four winners: 4th place went to Peter Taylor with his brave speech about Anxiety. In joint 2nd place were Guy Fitzgibbon and Tom Casey. Guy made an arresting address about robot invasions, and Tom Casey spoke about forms of discrimination in our world.
First place went to Emma Hinde for her engaging, carefully constructed speech about artificial intelligence (AI). She certainly made us all think. Something robots could be doing very soon… “

Term is well under way. If I am honest it is not my favourite term, because the weather is gloomy and the days are short, but things have got off to a good start.

One of my earlier blogs mentioned the need to benchmark ourselves against schools from other countries, so that we can learn from other schools that are doing things well and differently from us. As a start on that project last weekend two teachers headed off to Scotland to spend a couple of days at Loretto School in Edinburgh. Their instructions were to shamelessly plunder all the best ideas they could and bring them back here! The feedback has been very positive and the truth is that even if we just pick up one idea then it will have been worthwhile. They will be sending two teachers back in our direction. Later this term we will also welcome two teachers from a school in Denmark and I am sure that there will be a queue of teachers offering to return that visit. It can only be good for us and I will be developing those relationships as well as looking for other schools to cultivate.

Last week on Tuesday we had a poverty lunch. It works like this: all of the pupils in TY ate in the Lower Argyle but they only found out when they turned up what sort of meal they were going to get. Eight of them were on the top table and were served a three course meal with waiter service. 24 ate the normal school lunch, while the remaining half were given bread and water and had to stand or sit on the floor. We were acting out real life…the majority of people have very little to eat and it is only a small minority who sit at the top table and it is largely a matter of luck or fate as to where we end up in life. It was amusing to see the crowd hanging around the top table hoping to grab some leftovers and scraps, but that only reflects real life. By acting it out I hope that the pupils involved were made to think a little bit about how lucky they are. One of those at the top table and one from the floor will be speaking about it in assembly next week.

Next Tuesday is the last day here for a College legend, Jimmy O’Connor. Jimmy started working here on the grounds in 1964 and his 52 years of service will surely never be seen again. There will be few Old Columbans who will not recognise him and be grateful for all the he has done. We will be honouring him in assembly on Tuesday and I will try and persuade him to say a few words. It is extraordinary to think that when Warden Argyle retired in 1974 Jimmy had already done ten years work here! I would imagine that he has seen a few changes!

Mark Boobbyer, Warden.

The annual staff and pupils’ concert is by now a very pleasant fixture in the calendar, cheering dark January days with a variety of excellent music-making. As Mrs Malone-Brady said at this year’s concert, on Sunday 22nd January, it is also an opportunity for all to hear some of their music teachers performing, and show what standards they can aspire to. The opportunities are there on a plate for pupils here, while they will not be in their future lives, and they should grab these.

This year an innovation was the fine first performance by an ensemble (on its way to becoming an orchestra?) under the tight direction of Michelle O’Reilly: flute, clarinet, oboe, saxophone, piano, violin and drums were represented in ‘My heart will go on’ and the theme tune from Pirates of the Caribbean. They were followed by a variety of excellent pupil soloists, including Aurora Higgins Jennings (accompanying on piano her own version of Adele’s ‘Make you feel my love’), Nicole Dickerson (singing Handel’s ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’), Aleksandra Murphy (Handel again, this time on flute), Tania Stokes (‘Irish Lament’ on the ‘cello), and Heinrich zu Rantzau, who to the acclaim of the audience sang ‘Cockles and Muscles’. Brothers Alex and Sam Lawrence, who presumably have plenty of opportunity to practise at home, gave us their jazzy version of ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’ on piano and saxophone respectively.

The first music teacher to perform, with her characteristic expressiveness, was Anna Brady, last year’s Gala Concert star, with Bellini’s ‘Vaga Luna’. Later we had by far the longest-serving member of the music staff, Alan Grundy, with two superb renditions: ‘My Funny Valentine’ and a ‘rowdy’ (his word) flamenco piece. Another favourite local performer, Mr Swift, took to the stage to sing ‘Southern Man’ by Neil Young (as he said, one of the few popular music greats to survive 2016), and then accompanied the smoky-voiced Aisha Burke on James Bay’s ‘Let it go’. Mairéad Buicke, another former Gala Concert star, sang Ivor Novello’s ‘We’ll gather lilacs’ beautifully. Michelle O’Reilly returned to take part in the flute quartet alongside pupils Josephine Krieger, Maria Weinrautner and Aleksandra Murphy with ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’.

Back to the pupils: Mona Lamotte O’Carroll and Aifo Ebeleghe, accompanied by Alex Russell, gave a strong performance of Passenger’s ‘Let her go’. André Stokes successfully took on the beautiful and demanding Mendelssohn Violin Concerto slow movement. Two Sixth Formers and regular BSR performers rounded off the pupils’ contributions: Max Hillery singing ‘My Way’ in his own distinctive way, and Ciara Gumsheimer confidently giving us ‘Humoresque’ by the Czech composer Dussek on the piano.

As a final treat, Anna Brady and Mairéad Buicke sang the great duet from The Marriage of Figaro, ‘Sull’ Aria’, which as Mrs Malone-Brady said in her introduction many would recognise from the film The Shawshank Redemption, and an image of how music can raise our spirits and lift us from the everyday world, ‘making our hearts big’. It was an appropriate way to end yet another impressive concert in the Big Schoolroom. Many thanks to Mrs Malone-Brady on putting together the occasion, and often accompanying, as well as to the teachers and pupils who performed.

‘Getting a buzz out of history; the mysterious story of Marshal Viscount Beresford’s silver. 

A tale of courage, love, theft, and deceit across 200 years.’

While researching the military history of his relative the Marshall Viscount Beresford, Marcus Beresford (OC and fellow of the College) came across mention of a collection of magnificent silver. Marshall Viscount Beresford fought in the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century and was rewarded for his exploits by donations of silverware bearing his coat of arms. Tracing the path of this collection over the past two centuries was the topic of Marcus’ talk to the upper school last night. Of the original 176 pieces of silver donated to and stored in the British embassy in Warsaw before World War 2, only about 20 have been found or reclaimed. As recently as 2015, information has come to light giving clues as to the whereabouts of more pieces of this fabulous collection. The hunt goes on….

The latest edition of the Library magazine, The Submarine, is out, and it is a special one, since our Librarian, Mr McConville, moves to pastures new next month. His creation and editing of this excellent magazine has been one of the highlights of his time here, especially his elegant and amusing editorials. Read it via Issuu on SCC English here (click on the arrows to navigate, and again to zoom in).

The edition includes ‘A Russian Christmas’ by Anastasia Danilova,  a review of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy by Nevin McCone, another by Catherine Butt of Lauren Gruff’s Fates and Furies, an account of Olive Mooney’s recent launch of her book The Curse of Helbizia in the BSR by Avi Johnston, a short story by Daisy McKeever, a version of Isabelle Townshend’s TY House Speech on 9/11, another session of ‘What’s Reading Me’, and the major part of the production, the completion of John Somerville-Large’s series of articles on the architectural development of the College (including, of course, the Library itself, which he designed).