Recent statistics tell us that if you do an Arts degree you will end up earning considerably less in your lifetime than those who have done degrees in Science or Economics and those who have done a degree in the performing arts are right at the bottom of the ladder. So that means that an Arts degree is a mistake and a waste of money. Pupils should be advised to choose only those degrees that will maximise their lifetime earnings and they should be steered away from fluffy degrees in music, art, literature, languages and history, which will disadvantage them. Right?

Wrong! I did a classics degree, so you can work out where my sympathies lie. I had the privilege of studying some of the greatest literature of the western world, poets such as Sophocles, Virgil and Horace, historians like Herodotus and Tacitus; I dabbled in Plato and Socrates (not very successfully), two of the greatest philosophers of any age and I immersed myself in Latin and Greek, the languages that give us 50% of all words in English, the language that is now the most widely spoken and influential language in the world, the language of Shakespeare, of the King James Bible, of Austen, Dickens, Byron, Keats, Yeats, Joyce…I could go on and on and you can will be able to add your own names to the list.

I remember talking to some parents of a boy in my boarding house (who shall remain unidentifiable), who asked me what degree I had done. Classics, I replied. With a look of derision they replied that their son was going to do Business, ‘a proper degree!’

Is it the job of a school to maximise its pupils future earnings or to educate them? Western education has always given great weight to the study of the Arts in general, disciplines that train the mind, feed the spirit and help to give life meaning. Reading great literature, for example, gives one an empathy for the human condition and an understanding of love, despair, heroism, folly…and creates a sense of wonder and adventure. History gives us a context and helps us to understand our place in a much bigger context. It is also absolutely fascinating. Sir Seretse Khama, the first President of Botswana, said ‘a country without a history is a country without a soul.’

The Irish system, like the International Baccalaureate, insists on the need to keep studying a broad range of subjects right through school. The scientist has to study literature, the artist has to study calculus, the economist has to learn a language. I like that. It is a better system than the A Level, the system that I was brought up on and in which, in my last two years at school, I studied only three languages, no Science or Maths or Economics.

How can it be a mistake to develop a love for the great Renaissance painters or the great classical composers, or the modern artists and musicians who still explore the frontiers of creativity. Such people are rich indeed.

Of course I have no issue with Science or Maths or Business degrees…that would be silly. But let’s not pretend that the value of a discipline can be reduced to its earning potential. As far as I am concerned I pity you if you do not know the foundation myths of Greek civilisation and you cannot scan the elegiac couplets of Virgil’s Aeneid. You are much the poorer for it.

This week the College held its final 175th anniversary celebration events of 2018 in Germany. After the many events that marked this important moment in our history in the College itself, it was time to go to Berlin and Bavaria to connect with our extensive community in Germany. A group of staff and former staff travelled from Dublin.

On Wednesday 21st November there was a gathering of parents and Old Columbans at the International Club in Berlin. The Irish Ambassador to Germany, His Excellency Michael Collins, and Mrs Collins, attended. The Ambassador spoke about how delighted he was to be present at this special occasion, referring to German Old Columbans as what he called the ‘affinity diaspora’.

Fellow of the College, Veronica Atkins (née Preysing), welcomed all to supper. During this, Old Columban Tanit Koch, journalist and until recently Editor-in-Chief of Bild newspaper, talked about her time at the College, ‘more than just a school’. Later the Warden gave a presentation on recent and planned developments.

The following event, we moved to Schloss Kronwinkl, near Munich, the home of the Preysing Family, to whom many thanks are due. After welcomes by Caspar Preysing and Veronica Atkins, this time the Old Columban speaker was Wieland Sommer, who left the College 20 years ago, qualified as a consultant radiologist, and has now moved into medical ‘start-ups’, including Smart Radiology. He also spoke with great affection about his time at St Columba’s. The Warden repeated his presentation about developments.

Both occasions showed strongly the warmth so many families from Germany have for the College.

Shannon Dent reports on the most recent round of the Senior Debating Competiton. Motion: This house believes individual apathy is the greatest threat to our climate

Climate change, a very difficult topic to debate indeed. It is one of the main concerns circulating around the globe, so how could we be able to give solutions and answers? Well, we can’t but we can try, and this is exactly what some of St. Columbas’s pupils have done last Saturday activities.

The debates were really well done and I’m sure everyone enjoyed them. Some of the main questions that were discussed during the debates were: What will happen to people that live off of places that are negatively contributing to the environment? What about employees in big companies that would have to be fired if these companies were shut down? Are we too late? Is there nothing we can do? Debating in the Cadogan was Stackallan vs. Iona, a very good and thought-provoking debate indeed with Stackallan as the winners. Debating for Stackallan: Euan Dunlop, Oscar Yan and Juhyun Kim.  Debating for Iona: Kate Maylor, Raphaela and Laeticia Schoenberg. In the Lower Argyle, Hollypark vs. Gwynn, this was a wonderful debate with a lot of good debaters. Debating for Hollypark, who left victoriously, Aiyuni O’Grady, Elise Williams and Ailbhe Matthews. Debating for Gwynn, Daniel Swift, Kaspar Twietmeyer and Fintan Walsh. Finally debating in the BSR, Tibradden and Beresford vs. Glen, there was a very active debate with very passionate audience members and debaters. Debating for Tibradden and Beresford, Songyon Oh, Abigail O’Brien and Noah Leach. Debating for Glen, the winners of this debate, David White, Frank Babajide and Harry Oke.

These were all very entertaining debates and the decision was very difficult to make as the winners of these debates will go on to participate in the final. As for the rest, there is always next year, but if you’re not willing to wait for that long there are lots of opportunities to debate throughout the year so don’t worry.

Thank you for all of those who debated, the people that judged them. Being able to debate is a very useful skill to have and it is also very fun. So get involved! You won’t regret it.

On Thursday last the College hosted the a Boarding Schools Association conference for all boarding schools in Ireland and Northern Ireland. To mark the event, the College planted a fruit tree and joined the BSA’s ‘Boarding Orchard’. The Boarding Orchard was launched in 2014, and aims to be largest orchard by distance in the UK & Ireland. It involves boarding schools joining the orchard by planting fruit trees in their grounds. The trees symbolise the ‘tree of knowledge’ and demonstrate each school’s commitment to growth and caring for the environment. The Boarding Orchard is spread right around the UK, Ireland, Switzerland and even the US. For more information on the Boarding Orchard to see which schools are involved click here.


Details for parents of the Examination period, which is followed by the November/December Exodus:-

Parents can see the examination timetable on the Firefly Parent Portal here (requires log-in; the same place you will receive end-of-term reports).

Thursday 22nd November

  • Examinations start for Sixth, Fifth, Fourth and Third Forms (study day for Second and First Forms).
  • Throughout the examination period, there will be ‘Summer Timetable’.

Thursday 29th November

  • Examinations finish mid-morning, after which pupils leave for the Exodus.

Monday 3rd December

  • Exodus finishes between 6.30pm and 8.30pm, with roll-call in House at 8.30pm for all boarders.
  • Teachers will be having a whole-day Junior Cycle training session on ‘Wellbeing’.

Tuesday 4th December

  • Day boys and girls return by 8.10am.
  • Normal classes resume, with Winter Timetable resuming for afternoon classes.


The performances of this year’s Senior Play, The Nose, take place on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week in the BSR, starting every evening at 7pm. The Nose is a satirical short story by Nikolai Gogol written during his time living in St. Petersburg. During this period, Gogol’s works were primarily focused on surrealism and the grotesque, with a romantic twist. Written between 1835 and 1836, The Nose tells the story of a St. Petersburg official whose nose leaves his face and develops a life of its own…this version was adapted for stage by Tom Swift and first staged in Dublin in 2008. This year’s play is directed by Ronan Swift.


  • Major Kovalyov – Caoimhe Cleary
  • The Nose/Smirnov – Daniel Ayoade
  • Father – Eile Ni Chianain
  • Podtochina – Oda Michel
  • Olga, her daughter – Charlotte Moffitt
  • Governor Rachkin – Maybelle Rainey
  • Katerina, his daughter – Dimitro Kasianenko
  • Ivan, the barber – Avouka Assebian
  • Praskovya, his wife – Sveva Ciofani
  • Policeman – Elise Williams
  • Small Ads Clerk – Margot Aleixandre
  • Reporter – Aiyuni O’Grady
  • Surgeon – Sinead Cleary
  • Theatre Nurse – Raphaela Ihuoma

Amy Cosgrove, Form V, reports on her experience of the recent trip to South Africa.

On October 26th, eighteen Form IV and V pupils started on a 28 hour journey from the door of St Columba’s College, Dublin to the door of Tiger Kloof, in the north of South Africa. And while, after 28 hours, it seemed like it wasn’t going to be worth it, little did we know the extraordinary trip that lay ahead of us.

We had been travelling in a combie (minibus) with no air conditioning for nearly 6 hours and had not yet reached Tiger Kloof when our first ‘experience’ of South Africa took place. Windows down, wind in our hair, Katherine watching Riverdale, living the dream really. When all of a sudden a man reached in through the window, grabbed the phone out of Katherine’s hand and made a run for it. And that was when we realised we were in South Africa.

On Sunday we had a tour of the school and attended a church service which was definitely nothing like Sunday Morning chapel. It was lively and their hymns were much better than our Jubilate. We got to see the hostels (dorms) and the girls danced and sang spontaneously all in perfect rhythm and harmony. It’s safe to say, we are not as musical as we thought. We quickly learned how kind and energetic the Tigers are.

On Monday we got the privilege to work alongside an inspiring woman named Maggie, who has been running a soup kitchen for 40 years now. While preparing the food and playing with the kids was all fun and games, going into the township itself to serve the food was something else entirely. It was striking to see how they lived in what were basically tin cans. This was the first of the striking moments that were to come. The drive back from Maggie’s was what shocked me the most. On the left of the road was a township and on the right of the road were houses. Houses just the same as you would see in Dublin. That was the talk of the combie for the drive back, nobody could get their head around why there was such a contrast with only a road separating it.

On Tuesday we visited Thusanang Disabled Centre in the township of Huhudi, which was definitely what pushed everybody out of their comfort zones. The ages ranged from 5-50 years and you could immediately see how underfunded it was. When you did the math on the grants they receive, it equated to less than €1 a day. It was truly heartbreaking to see these mentally / physically disabled people not get the treatments they need, some of whom didn’t need to be there. It was just the best option in a bad situation.

Working in The Hem soup kitchen, which is ran by Tiger Kloof, really opened our eyes and mind to the world that we don’t experience. Watching these children smiling and running to get their food not only warmed our hearts but showed us how we take things for granted and that we are so fortunate to have 3 meals on our table every day.

Later on we visited a lion farm and it was truly mesmerizing to be able to get so close to these beautiful animals with just a fence between us. Having lions in a farm was in fact safer for them, to keep them from poachers, but unfortunately this fence that was between us meant they had been bred in captivity. We also visited another farm in Vryburg where we got to gallop around at sunset in South Africa, living the dream once again. But where the sun shines, there’s always a shadow. The family who owned the farm were lovely, welcoming people but after asking a few questions we got answers that we wouldn’t usually hear. They had different views and mindsets to all of us and it helped us understand why there is such a contrast on either side of the road sometimes. The aftermath of apartheid is still very much visible in the South Africa today.

Our trip to Tiger Kloof was an extraordinary, mind blowing and a once in a lifetime experience. To be able to work in the soup kitchens and go into the townships had a massive impact on our views and education. It was a privilege to meet such inspiring people and the Tigers and Maggie are only naming a few. It was a trip that won’t be forgotten by any of us.

Today marks the beginning of Bullying Awareness Week in the College and, as per usual, there is a wide range of activities planned for the next seven days. There was a Prefect-led assembly this morning (Monday), around the theme of RESPECT, which kick-started the programme of events. On Tuesday the College welcomes Pat McKenna from Childwatch Ireland who will speak with senior pupils about online bullying and safety. On Wednesday the dram group Humourfit bring their excellent one-man show The Mighty Bully Brady for junior boys. Pupil are also encouraged to wear odd socks on Wednesday to recognise the diversity amongst us all. On Thursday we welcome Dianne Morris to speak with Junior Forms about the value of friendship and on Friday, another play, Hero Starts With Her, will be performed for Junior Girls. Next Monday Form V pupils will visit the Abbey Theatre in Dublin to see a performance of Asking for It. There are also a series of movies in the evenings, a special chapel theme for the week, an anti-bullying logo competition, a display of related books in the Library and a special programme for SPHE lessons has been developed. Look out for photos and updates on our Twitter and Facebook pages – the album below will be updated throughout the week also.

The College marked the centenary of the end of the First World War in a variety of ways this weekend.

On Saturday, there was a special service in Chapel, which included choral performances, and the calling out of the names of those Columbans who died in the War (these can be seen on the memorial plaque, opposite the plaque of the names of the dead of the Second World War), with their portraits held up by pupils. That afternoon, the Warden, Mr Redmond and two German prefects went to the German cemetery in Glencree to lay a wreath.

On Sunday, we had an expanded version of the annual Chapel Square parade and wreath-laying. Another special service, with music, readings and a reflective sermon by the Chaplain (see below) was followed by the school assembling on the square, the laying of a wreath at the 1921 War Memorial cross by the Senior and Second Prefects, and by the Old Columban Society President Dr Ian Fraser, as well as the Last Post and Reveille played on the trumpet by Konstantin Kuehne either side of the tw0-minute silence.

Below the text of the Chaplain’s sermon are some pictures from the weekend, and of Columbans who died in the First World War, as well as the sheet for the service in June 1919 referred to by the Chaplain.

Remembrance Sunday 2018. John 15:9-17

On the 9th June 1919, the College Community marked St. Columba’s Day. There was a Chapel Service at 10.30 am, but it was not the usual joyous occasion: how could it have been? The College, along with many other communities, was still very much in a state of shock as they tried to absorb the enormity of what had happened during what was then called ‘The Great War’. Young men who had sat in the seats where you sit now had gone to fight and many were now dead. As the early summer light shone in through these windows, you can picture the scene, could there have been a dry eye amongst any of them as the bell was rung, as the names were called out and as the hymns were sung? As the Archbishop of Dublin, John Bernard, spoke that day, what words did he manage to find to bring comfort and light and peace to his broken congregation? His own son, Robert, had been killed at Gallipoli in 1915. It must have been one of the most difficult sermons he had ever preached; as he gripped the stone of this pulpit, it must have felt particularly cold and hard that day.

One hundred years later, we are removed from the pain and sense of loss that those assembled here on that day would have felt, but during our services yesterday and today, inspired by that service in 1919, it is a time for us to remember those of our community and beyond who gave their lives. It is a time for us to thank God for the ending of hostilities and also to resolve within ourselves that whatever avenues of life we embark upon, that we will, by the grace of God be peacemakers.

In the reading from St. John’s Gospel, read a moment ago by the Sub-Warden, there is a line which reads:

“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

In the aftermath of World War I, this was a popular verse amongst many that were quoted from the Bible, as people tried to make sense of the horror of what had happened. It was a sentiment shared by many of the soldiers on all sides of the conflict. The political and poetical rhetoric talked about dying for one’s country and fighting for freedom, but for those in the trenches it was much more simple than that: they fought for their friends around them, their comrades in arms, they fought so that they could get back home to their loved ones, they fought so that their descent into hell would one day be over and that they could get on with their lives again. 

When Jesus spoke those words to His disciples, He was talking about His own love for them and for all who would become His followers in the ages ahead. His love was and is so great that He willingly laid down His life for them and for us. In the rest of this section of the Bible, Jesus is talking about love and friendship and showing, by His own example what a friend should be like.

A friend is always there for us.  A friend is someone who listens to us when we need someone to talk to, they enjoy spending time with us, we have things in common, similar likes and dislikes.  But friends truly come into their own during times of crisis (that’s when we find out who our friends really are).  Real friends stick by us no matter what and if we are a real friend to someone we will still be standing by their side even when everyone else has melted away. The Lord Jesus, both then and now is the perfect personification of friendship and his nail-pierced Hand is extended to us all…  

I don’t know what the Archbishop spoke about that day (perhaps a copy of his sermon notes exists in an archive somewhere); we don’t know. But I like to think that he was able to find it deep within himself to speak some words of comfort and hope, a shard of light to pierce the gloom of collective grief that had descended upon this community. Just 21 days after he preached here that day, the Archbishop resigned from office. We don’t know why, perhaps it was just all too much. Perhaps if he and the congregation assembled here that day could have known that 100 years later we would be here in solidarity with them, in the same pews, in the same Chapel and in the same College, they would have been greatly comforted and encouraged to hear us also speak the same words that fell from their salty lips, ‘We will remember them’.





The Parents’ Association & the National Association of COMPASS would like to extend an invitation to all parents to a presentation on “Your Parental Wellbeing and its’ Impact on your Children” on Saturday 17th November, 2018 at 10.30 a.m at Midleton College, Co. Cork. Full details are available here or visit the COMPASS website here.

Following a competition run by the College Art Department, we are delighted to introduce a fourth Christmas card to the St. Columba’s Christmas card collection, in aid of the Old Columban Society Bursary Fund.

Designed by Fifth Former Tania Stokes the new card is entitled Christmas Carol Service, and it is now available to purchase along with the other scenes in our range: Chapel in the Snow, Cloisters in the Snow, and The Father Pat Window. You can see all four designs here (and at the bottom of this page). The cards are sold in packs of 5 (card + envelope) at €7.50 per pack, or at a discount of €20 for 3 packs or €25 for 4 packs. They are available for collection from the school, from Reception or from Sonia in the Development Office (01 4956919).

The first stage of construction has begun on the new ‘College Hub’ –  an exciting project that will convert Whispering House into a vibrant social space for pupils and staff. The expected completion time is nine months so, all going well, the new building will be open at the beginning of the next academic year.

We have installed a live camera that will film the project over the next nine months and we hope to create a time-lapse video once the construction is complete.

From the Warden, 6th November 2018 (see below post for photographs of the Tiger Kloof expedition).

I have just returned from a week in South Africa, together my wife, Sean Duffy (Head of Geography), and 18 pupils from the 4thand 5th Forms. It was my first return to Tiger Kloof, where we spent four amazing years, and it was wonderful to see old friends. South Africa is a troubled country and it is a land of huge contrasts, with the worst and the best of everything: great wealth and great poverty, often side by side; great hope for the future and great fear of the future; increasing corruption and huge personal sacrifice and generosity.

The main purpose of the visit was to expose the Columbans to a side of life which they have probably never seen and to spend time working on service projects in the informal settlements which are the closest neighbours of Tiger Kloof and from where many of the children come. We spent three days in the soup kitchens, cooking and serving meals, as well as taking food out into the shacks. We also ran activities in the disabled centre in the township and taught in the primary school. But it is not fair to visit a country and see only the problems and the ugly side of life, so we also spent time on a farm, we visited a small game lodge and we went to the African market in Johannesburg. We also went to the Apartheid Museum, albeit too briefly, which is a very sobering experience.

On most evenings we spent time debriefing and talking through our reactions to what we had seen and I was so impressed to hear the pupils talk at some depth and with real mature response to what they had seen and experienced. It is that response that is actually the most important thing and the real reason for taking such a trip. There is always a possibility going on a service trip to a disadvantaged community that one can be accused of voyeurism, of making oneself feel good without making any difference to anyone. So were we just ticking the box so that we can move back into our cosy lives with a slightly clearer conscience? I hope not.

I also used to say to the schools that came to visit Tiger Kloof from around the world that service is not a week on a project, ‘doing Africa’, or wherever it may be, but service is actually a way of life and should permeate everything that one does. I said that their week at Tiger Kloof should not be the end of their service experience but the start of it and that they should inculcate and maintain that sense of service throughout their lives, in whatever profession they find themselves. It is the same for me…having spent four years out there it is tempting to pat myself on the back and say that I have done my bit, but how do I hold on to that spirit of service in the hustle of this relatively privileged existence?

I have written about service before and about the challenge of inculcating a service ethos in a school that is so busy. Where do we find the time? Well I guess that if we think it is important then we need to make time for it, but being a servant need not start in Africa or in an old age home or homeless shelter in Dublin…it can start right where we are now in our jobs, in our boarding houses and in our relationships. That is where to start and to build muscle, but I know that many of the pupils here have servant hearts and would thrive on the chance to get their hands dirty in a more practical way. Let’s see where we go from here. Tiger Kloof is a school known for its spirit of service. Wouldn’t it be nice for St. Columba’s to have a similar reputation?