The College thanks sincerely Siobhán Tulloch, who has sent us a highly evocative collection of photographs from 1922-24. They feature her uncle John David Gwynn, and there are also letters to do with her great-uncles Lucius and Arthur Gwynn who were pupils at the College in the 1880s. They were great sportsmen in cricket and rugby, especially Lucius, but unfortunately both died in their twenties.

Click here for a transcription of the relevant part of a letter (seen in the images below) from Lucius Gwynn to his aunt, about a disciplinary incident at the school.

Another document is a Foot-Races programme from 1862. One of the athletes, R.D. O’Brien,was the uncle of Lucius Gwynn and great-uncle of John David Gwynn.

The photographs, now almost 100 years ago, show a selection of sporting and other activities and can seen below with some captions.

Well done to the young sailing crew of Tim Norwood, Denis Cully and Max Goodbody, who took to the water on Sunday for the All Ireland Inter-Schools Sailing Event at Sutton Dinghy Club. This was the first time St. Columba’s had entered a team for the event so there was considerable excitement amongst the crew. Each member of the crew were at the helm of their own sailing dinghy and competing in the mixed fleet event – the main event of the race. The boys did really well – Tim finished second in his class while Max and Denis finished 10th and 11th respectively in theirs. The team scores were an accumulation of their individual place in the event, with the goal of securing as few points as possible, and the boys managed to finish 6th out of 22 teams competing – a great result for such a young team in their first competition for the school and in difficult low-wind conditions.

For more information and a full report from Sutton Dinghy Club, as well as detailed results, click here. See a collection of photos from the event below. Well done again boys.

A large crowd of 120 people gathered at the College Chapel yesterday evening for a guided tour of the College – our contribution to the nationwide series of events to mark Culture Night 2017. On a beautiful, crisp autumn evening our Sub-Warden, Julian Girdham, led an extremely interesting tour of the campus’s many beautiful and architecturally significant buildings. The tour began at the William Butterfield designed College Chapel, where Julian outlined when, where and why the College took residence at its current site. The tour then moved onto Chapel Square (to admire the view) then to the Big School Room (or BSR) where Julian spoke of the fire than nearly destroyed the College (but for “an act of God”) in the late 19th century. The tour then moved through the main thoroughfare of the College, passing the library (designed by John Somerville-Large), towards the modernist Robin Walker-designed Science Building. This building was refurbished only last year and the visitors were extremely impressed with the bright, modern and unique laboratories. The tour then moved back to the main College building, Hollypark House – a Georgian building dating from the late 18th century – where the tour concluded to generous applause for the guide.

It was a wonderful evening and we were delighted to welcome so many guests, most of whom were visiting the College for the first time. Some of these first time visitors had extremely interesting links to the College’s history while one couple were visiting from Mexico. Many thanks to all who contributed to a wonderful evening and especially to the organiser and tour guide Mr. Julian Girdham.

Below are some photos from the event from our Flickr page.

Earlier this week we hosted a small team from the Boarding Schools Association, a British based but international network, who oversee the standard of boarding provision in a huge number of schools. As an Irish school we do not sit under their jurisdiction in the sense that they cannot pass or fail what we do, but they are the best people to advise on boarding and that is why I invited them in to give us the once over. As I have made clear before I don’t want to benchmark ourselves against other Irish schools but rather against the very best anywhere. There is no boarding inspectorate in Ireland and that could be a dangerous thing, so we need to be proactive in seeking out the best practice.

I am still awaiting a full report but the initial feedback has been very positive. While there are known weaknesses in some of our provision of facilities, which will be addressed by our development plan over the next few years, it was obvious to them, just as it is to me, that we are blessed with some outstanding pastoral leaders in the school and the team were very impressed by the obvious dedication and care that is provided in our houses. I will feed back more in due course, when I have received a fuller report, but please be assured that our pastoral provision is excellent already and I hope to make it even better as we go forward.

It has made me think about the benefits of boarding and to try to verbalise what we mean when we talk about a ‘full boarding experience’. I think we in the College know what it means because we live it, but for an outsider, someone unfamiliar with boarding schools and who has perhaps never contemplated sending their child to one, it is probably not at all obvious. In Ireland there are few boarding schools and many of those that do exist are five day a week boarding, with a very limited weekend programme for those few who remain in. When we at St. Columba’s talk about a full boarding experience we are talking about something that we offer that is unique in Ireland and therefore is not easy to sell to people since they don’t see it elsewhere. Let me try and explain what I mean by it and why I think it is of value.

In my mind boarding gives young people the experience of learning to live alongside other people. In that environment they learn to appreciate those who are very different from themselves, people who may not share their interests, even people whom they may not naturally like. That is a great lesson for life, because in the future they will not always work or live with those they find easy or who are like themselves. And in that situation it so often happens that young people learn to find value in others, to respect their differences and ultimately to enjoy those differences. The rugby player appreciates the musician, the serious academic learns that others don’t find things as easy as she does, the gregarious extrovert comes to see that there is value in the quiet one. Friendships are formed and – and this is undoubtedly true and borne out by my experience and that of many others – they often last a lifetime. They will be at each other’s weddings, be godparents to their children and continue a lifelong journey together. A recent reunion of Columbans who left 20 years ago was very well attended by a large percentage of those who left in 1997. Say no more.

Our boarding is very full time and cannot be compared to the boarding provided by most Irish schools that have a relatively small number of boarders. That means that our boarders do not go out much, they have six days of school, six days of sport, they have things to do on a Saturday evening and often on a Sunday too, quite apart from chapel. And you can add to that something else that is unique to St. Columba’s in the Irish context, that the majority of our staff live on site, not just the boarding staff. That means that they are around in the evenings and at weekends, that they are seen with their wives and husbands and their children and their dogs. So the College is not just a school but a home for many, and that creates a very different atmosphere. There is a great African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ and I think that that is what is great about boarding at its best. I also believe that the village atmosphere provides a very different experience for our day pupils too, as they absorb many of the same things that the boarders do. I think that the creation of a deep sense of community is what is special about what we do here and why we will remain committed to the full boarding experience, even in changing times and whatever other schools may choose to do.

St. Columba’s College, being a seven day boarding school, organises a wide range of Saturday evening and Sunday events for their boarders (and indeed day pupils) and last weekend was no exception. On Saturday the College welcomed Old Columbans who left the College in 1997, for their 20 year reunion. It was great to see so many familiar faces back in the College. On the games field the Senior Boys Development Rugby XV took on Wesley’s equivalent, in their first game of the season. All members of the squad played during the fixture but, alas, the visiting Wesley side took the win 29-20, after two tries apiece from Max Hopkins & Hector Wright. Later that evening classical guitarist Pat Coldrick performed an excellent concert for pupils and staff in the Big School Room (BSR). It was a wonderful event, with the BSR’s excellent acoustics making Pat’s music sound wonderful.

On Sunday morning a small but dedicated group of Transition Year pupils joined Mr. O’Shaughnessy and Mr. Coldrick for an early morning walk to the Hell Fire Club – an infamous ruin at the top of Moutpelier Hill in the Dublin Mountains. Normally walkers are treated to a stunning view of Dublin City but, unfortunately, early morning fog ruined the view but did add to the eery feeling in one of Dublin’s most famous haunted houses. Later that afternoon over twenty Transition Year pupils (pictured above) joined Ms. Hennessy for the annual ‘An Taisce Clean Coasts‘ beach clean, on sunny Seapoint Strand in South Dublin. The pupils picked up and recorded the litter on the beach while enjoying the mid-day sun.

Many thanks to all the pupils and staff who contributed to a great weekend of activities. For some more photographs of the weekend’s activities visit the College’s Facebook page.

Congratulations to all our pupils who received their Junior Certificate results on Wednesday. The overall results were excellent, including a set of straight A’s from one of our pupils. In all, 84% of all examination papers were taken at Higher Level with just under 20% of all exam results an A at Higher Level. 50% of all grades were either an A or B at Higher Level with a total of 72% of all papers sat achieving an A, B or C at Higher Level – tremendous results.

This was also the first year the JCSA (the successor to the Junior Certificate) was examined, albeit only in one subject so far, English. The grading is completely different to the Junior Certificate, and so cannot be compared. 88% of our candidates took the exam at Higher Level, and 89% of them achieved one of the three highest grades, ‘Distinction’, ‘Higher Merit’ and ‘Merit’. They also undertook (as all pupils will eventually do) Classroom-Based Assessments (CBAs) in oral presentations and a writing portfolio, and the results of these will be presented on the Student Profile of Achievement. Other subjects, starting here with Science and Irish, are now moving onto this system, with the dual-system ending by 2022.

The pupils celebrated their success with a full class trip to Causey Farm in Co. Meath, where they got to trudge through the mud, milk cows, bake traditional Irish soda bread, had a céilí (an Irish dancing session) and much more.

See some photos from the trip below.

Well done to the team from Dependable Productions in Yorkshire, who have had two films selected for the London Drone Film Festival, one of which is the drone film they created for the College in May 2016.

The festival is on Monday 25th September at the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) in London.

A feature on the website of design company Red Dog gives a good account, complete with photographs, of the process of creating our lovely new prospectus. Many of the photographs in the brochure have since been used on this site.

The prospectus is only available in paper form (a conscious decision) and can be order by prospective parents from Mrs Amanda Morris, Admissions Officer, by filling in the request form at the bottom of this page.

In the words of Red Dog, “With the help of photographer Finn Richards (art directed by us) we spent time on campus capturing daily student life at St. Columba’s. This resulted in a rich bank of photography encompassing all aspects of the school – from the creativity in the art centre, to the contemporary science block and traditional dining hall.

This bank of photography was then used in a distinctive brochure featuring a green cover – alluding to St. Columba’s colours – with the school crest appearing in a matt silver foil. We created two photographic dust jackets with timelines, printed on a contrasting gloss paper, to wrap around the cover.

The interior includes inserts featuring endorsements from alumni – testimony of the unique educational opportunity offered to students at St. Columba’s College.”

Last Friday, September 8th 2017, saw the inaugural All-Ireland Senior Prefect Leadership Conference at St Columba’s. The College welcomed forty three pupils from fourteen schools across Ireland, both the north and south.  This is a first in Ireland. The response from attendees was tremendous. By the end of the day a network of senior prefects across Ireland had been set up and there were requests for a follow up conference at some point during the year. “The Unreasonables”, a group of inspirational young men and women from the UK with a passion for entrepreneurial leadership, facilitated the day.

We were also joined by Rosy Temple, an Old Columban and former St. Columba’s College Senior Prefect (now Irish Sales Manager for Rebel Kitchen) challenged the attendees to be their own person and to step outside of the box. Pupils were encouraged in their understanding of themselves and what holds them back, in personal branding – how the world views you as opposed to how you want to be viewed – and in public speaking – all essential skills for quality in leadership. We look forward to the year ahead and all that these empowered young people have to offer in their schools.

The superb College Library opened on two sides of the Warden’s Garden in 1994, as a result of the Development Appeal in 1993 for the College’s 150th anniversary. Now we are approaching our 175th (in 2018), and the Library continues to be central (literally) to the life of the school. Designed by Old Columban John Somerville-Large, its design has held up superbly, and it still looks as good as new.

Our new full-time professional Librarian, Ms Kent-Sutton, has been busy since she arrived early this year, and indeed over the summer.

Two fine developments as we start the academic year have taken place. The room through the back of the Junior Reading Room, traditionally called ‘The Submarine’, has been completed cleared of piles of old books and detritus, and is now ready for use as a seminar and meeting room (it will also hold the archives, which will be held in special new shelving).

Secondly, the catalogue and borrowing system has moved online to ‘Oliver’, a vital development which allows the Library to reach out beyond the confines of its walls. Pupils and staff can access this here and via the internal Firefly Learning system. It also enables staff to direct pupils to books and other resources in a much more sophisticated and wide-ranging way. Furthermore, all will now have access to the e-book service ‘Leabharlann’.

As we head into that 175th anniversary, the Library is in good shape.


[originally posted on SCC English]

A new year, new plans, new expectations, new teachers…lots to look forward to. I always look forward to a new school year and this one is full of promise. It is our 175th anniversary, we are hoping to start a new building project and the school is bulging. And we have a handful of new, eager young teachers who will bring fresh ideas and energy.

There are many topics I could choose to look at in my first ‘Warden’s Blog’ of the year, but the one most on my mind right now is student leadership, because this coming Friday we are hosting an all-Ireland senior prefects’ conference, for schools north and south of the border. It is the first such conference to be held so I am very keen for it to have an impact and be seen as worthwhile by all those who come. About 45 delegates will be coming to discuss what it means to be a leader at school, what it means to take on responsibility and how to face some of the inevitable challenges that they will undoubtedly face. I will welcome them all and then disappear along with any other adults who may be hanging around and for the rest of the day they will be on their own, facilitated by an external team. After all what they don’t need is a principal or a crowd of well-meaning teachers telling them how to be good prefects. Apart from anything else it would be very dull.

It seems to me that heads like me choose fine young people to act as senior prefects each year but they get precious little training or preparation in how to fulfil the role. Then when they are disappointing or let us down we complain that they are not as good as they should be. The question ought to be asked ‘what tools were they given to carry out what can be a difficult and confusing role?’ Let’s hope that at the very least Friday’s conference will help them to think things through and perhaps find a support network of other students who are undertaking similar positions in other schools.

So what is leadership at that level? Is it just making a fine speech on the odd occasion, organising the lunch queue and sitting in the seats of honour in chapel. No, it has to be more than that. It is surely about being the right sort of role model for the younger children in the school, exemplifying the values of the school, looking out for those who are weak and struggling and bringing various issues to the attention of the school management. I would never expect a senior prefect to be seen as a sort of snitch, looking out for trouble and immediately reporting it to me. On the other hand there are bound to be occasions when the office-holder could be caught in a dilemma, expected to act in a certain way by the management and yet not wanting to isolate themselves from their friends and peers. And yes, there could be tough and brave decisions to make from time to time…and that is not easy. What I don’t expect is perfection and if mistakes are made then I can deal with that, as long as there is not a deliberate attempt to undermine the values of the school or turn a blind eye to things that are blatantly unacceptable.

I believe strongly that school is a crucible for creating leaders, at least in embryo. It is the time of life when one develops character, which is formed by making tough personal choices and standing up strongly for the things that one believes to be right. We are often made to think that young people are irresponsible and that we should not expect anything sensible out of them until they have wasted their time their teenage years in frivolities. I don’t believe that at all. On the contrary I think they are full of idealism and respond eagerly to a challenge, even a difficult one. I have a book on my shelf called ‘Do Hard Things,’ a decent title in itself, but it has a better subtitle: ‘a teenage rebellion against low expectations.’ I love that and it is also a challenge to me and other school leaders not to set the bar too low. Far from being mere window-dressing for the schools they come from I am sure that the young leaders who are coming on Friday are capable of extraordinary things and showing genuine leadership.