Last week, First Form pupils created wonderful posters for the Poster Competition to help spread awareness on the Australian Bushfires. Thank you to everyone who entered and congratulations to the winners; First: Lucia Gonzales Segui, Second: Ivan Zhu, and Third: Carlotta Castagna. To see more of the posters check out @stcolumbas_art on Instagram.

This week there is another poster competition running for Second Form. It is open to all pupils and there will be prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places. More information on what candidates should include is outlined on Firefly. All posters should communicate information about reforestation in Australia and how human intervention and rehabilitation are needed in order to restore the land.

The posters will be displayed around the school to help raise awareness and also support the Beresford House charity. The winner will be announced on the Instagram page on Tuesday 4th February along with more details (including prizes): follow that page for updates, upcoming competitions and to see the art work of the pupils at St. Columba’s College.

Our English Department is organising the first ‘English Meet’ on the evening of Thursday 23rd April (Shakespeare’s birthday). This is an evening for teachers of the English Leaving Certificate course to share ideas. It will be held from 7pm to 9pm, and will feature practising classroom teachers presenting for 10 to 20 minutes each on different aspects of the course. There will also be plenty of time for discussion. It will be a convivial and, we hope, helpful event.

Several teachers from schools in and around Dublin have already signed up, and more are welcome: just email with your suggestion.

Tickets are available here.

The Transition Year Computing class has entered the FIRST Lego League competition which takes place this Saturday 25th January at St Patrick’s Campus, DCU.  They will be represented by Orrin Bradley-Brady, Eyitoresoluwa Gbenga-Ajayi and Mika Sacolax.
They are judged on three parts:
  1. Their project related to the City Shaper theme where they have to identify a problem, design a solution to the problem and share the problem and solution with others
  2. The Robot Challenge – They need to build and design a Robot that is then programmed to perform challenges.  They need to score as many points as possible in two-and-a-half minutes.
  3. Core Values – These should guide everything that the team does.
The project that the team decided to undertake involves attempting to reinstate the College obstacle course in Deer Park.
Challenge Information

The College is pleased to host for a week the exhibition Totally East: Life in East Germany, which is now on show in Whispering House (parents coming to the coffee morning on Friday 24th January can see it then).

This exhibition of posters showcasing the photography of Harald Hauswald, with texts by Stefan Wolle (both grew up in East Germany) powerfully shows everyday life in the GDR.

QR codes on the posters link to short video interviews in German on YouTube, which can also be seen here, in which Hauswald talks about the contexts of the shots.



This weekend was an important one, in the St. Columba’s Debating Calendar. Two houses, Glen and Iona came together in the House Debates Final. Tensions were high as boys’ house Glen -previously on 189 points- competed against girls’ house Iona who were twice winners of the previous rounds and on 181 points. The motion before the house was that “this house believes that, in the current era of climate change, non-violent direct action is vital”. While it was a wordy motion, adjudicators Mr Brett and Mr Canning felt that all speakers engaged in a high standard of debate. In the end, Iona were deemed House Debates Champions, “on the basis of their passion for what they argued”. Amy Cosgrove, Head of House for Iona, was awarded best speaker on the night.

Speakers on both sides included Ben Upton, Thady McKeever and Phillip Sheckleton for Glen and Amy Cosgrove, Sinead Cleary and Megan Bulbulia for Iona. A special thanks to Dmytro Kasienenko for his excellent chairing of the debate and Shannon Dent who acted as time-keeper. Third formers Amelia McKeever and Nina O’Flynn kindly set up the BSR and helped Ms Morley to coordinate the rooms.

In other debating news, Saturday was also the evening of the last round of Junior Debates. In a most engaging manner, pupils debated the motion that “this house this house believes that, in order to be allowed to vote, citizens must pass a mandatory test on politics, general knowledge and current affairs”. Points of clash included the question of inclusion, good decision making and the extent to which such a move would promote the kind of equality upon which democracies are built. Mr Swift, adjudicator for the evening, commended all speakers for their efforts, but particularly those who spoke with clarity and conviction.Winner on the night was first former Shannon Walker-Kinsella who first made her debut as winner of the second round of Junior Debates. The motion was successfully opposed. Christopher Atkins was awarded ‘best point of information from the floor’.

Speakers on both sides included Tadhg Rane O’Chianain, Lorne Walsh, Florian Zitzmann and Alex Hinde (all proposition) and Carl Krenski, Calvin She, Naoise Murray, Tyrone Shi and Shannon Walker-Kinsella (all opposition).

Best luck to Gioia Von Doenhoff, Elise Williams, Sinead Cleary and Aiyuni O’Grady who will represent the college in the second round of the UCD Leinster Senior Debates on Tuesday 21 January.

Each January on a Sunday evening in the Big Schoolroom we hear excellent music from both pupils and their teachers in the Staff and Pupils’ Concert, and yesterday night was there was a particularly fine concert. As Mrs Malone-Brady said in her introduction, this event is surely unique in Irish schools as a Sunday night treat. Our pupils are certainly fortunate to have excellent music teachers, but they are also fortunate to be able to listen to them performing, and indeed perform with them.

The concert opened with Darren Hatch’s supple playing of ‘Bright Young Things’ on the saxophone (Darren’s group the Chatham Saxophone Quartet was a great success in a BSR concert a couple of years ago). Then there was the first staff-pupil duet, with Steven Kou on ‘cello being supported by his teacher Anne Murnaghan (who plays in the National Symphony Orchestra). Mikey O’Dwyer from Second Form followed on trumpet with the theme tune from The Pink Panther, and Ellen Feely from First Form with a lovely Irish traditional tune on the fiddle: as Mrs Malone-Brady said, the concert featured pupils from First to Sixth Form. The next pupil was indeed a Sixth Former: Songyon Oh has featured a lot on stage this year already in Greaseand the Christmas Concert; this time she gave us a fine rendition from a very different form of music, the famous aria from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, “Voi che sapete cosa è amor”.

Anne Murnaghan returned on the ‘cello with two lovely pieces performed perfectly, including Fauré’s ‘Sicilienne’, followed by a duet between pupils Steven Kou (‘cello) and Tyrone Shi (guitar), a slow version of the Frank Sinatra classic ‘Fly Me to the Moon’. They were followed by singing teacher, Fearghal Curtis (pictured), who is currently putting together an album of spiritual songs as a tribute to his grandfather, and sang two of them (accompanied by a friend, David), with sustained control: ‘Shall we Gather by the River?” and “Deep River”.

Cosima Schilling has just arrived in the school, and  it was lovely to hear the clarinet played so well in ‘Fantasia’. Tania Stokes is an ‘old hand’: accompanied by Mrs Malone-Brady she played ‘Scherzo’ with fantastic skill (the first and third sections were at a dizzying pace).

Finally, Edel Shannon rounded off the concert superbly with two spectacular solos: ‘Vilja’ from Lehár’s The Merry Widow, and ‘Vissi d’arte’ from Puccini’s Tosca.

Many thanks to all who performed, and of course to Mrs Malone-Brady for putting the programme together, and herself accompanying on several occasions.

The Warden’s first blog-post of 2020 is a personal one:

16th January 2020

I want to tell you about Brian. He was a great man and he died last Sunday, so he has been on my mind all week.

Brian du Toit was the estate manager at Tiger Kloof, the school I used to run in South Africa (above the picture is of the St Columba’s expedition there in 2018). It sits on the edge of the Kalahari Desert just outside a town called Vryburg, which you never go to unless you are heading north to Botswana or west to Namibia. The missionaries built it there 120 years ago because it sits astride Cecil Rhodes’ Cape to Cairo railway, which made it accessible to the children of the Batswana elite, coming down from the north. It became one of South Africa’s greatest African schools, educating the first two presidents of Botswana and all but one of its first cabinet. Desmond Tutu’s mother was a girl there and so was Mama Ruth Mompati, Nelson Mandela’s secretary and head of the ANC women in exile. She was on the board until she died in 2015.

In 1953 the South African apartheid government passed the Bantu Education Act, making it illegal to teach academic subjects to black children. The missionaries pulled out rather than compromise and the school was passed over to the local authority, who quickly ran it into the ground. The final ignominy came when the area in which the school lies was declared ‘Whites only’ in the Group Areas Act. All non-whites were forced to leave, the school was abandoned and the buildings and land sold off to a white farmer. He was given instructions by Prime Minister Verwoerd to destroy all the buildings and he started to do so before stopping. Nevertheless the beautiful buildings, built by the missionaries from the hard rock hewn out of the quarry in the kloof (valley) below the school, were left to rot or used as store houses and barns for livestock. It remained abandoned for 35 years.

David Matthews was a headmaster in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, but he lived on the Garden Route on the southern coast of South Africa. His route north took him past Tiger Kloof and he always used to wonder at the beautiful church and dining hall that sat by the side of the road two hours from the Botswanan border. He asked questions and learned the history of the buildings, of the school that had once thrived and sent forth leaders into Botswana and into the struggle for liberation in South Africa. After Nelson Mandela was released from jail in 1990 he got together a group of Old Tigers, raised some money and set to work rebuilding and restoring the school. Before the school reopened in 1995 he moved on site into the old principal’s house to oversee the work. It was a mammoth task and he needed someone to be in charge of the daunting physical work, so he hired someone, who moved into the house with him a year or two before the school reopened. That man was Brian.

Brian knew every inch of Tiger Kloof and he personally oversaw the restoration or building of every almost building on the site. It is a work that still continues to this day. He loved a project, something to get his teeth into, and his standards of workmanship were high. He kept his large team of men up to the same standard and was tough on them when they cut corners. But he was fiercely loyal to them too and they respected him for it. He didn’t have favourites and he treated everyone the same, myself included. Occasionally he felt that I had not been fair to his crew and he was never afraid to let me know, respectfully but directly…he usually had a point! He was not looking for favours, just for fairness. I admired him greatly for it. If David Matthews was the Nehemiah, who had the vision to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls and repair the breaches, Brian was his right hand man who put words into deeds. He was not a man of speeches but rather someone who was happiest doing a job and doing it well, with his team around him.

South Africa is a country of contradictions and it is hard to understand if you haven’t lived there. As a ‘coloured’ (mixed race) South African, he had grown up with a love of rugby. However, like most non-whites, he could not bring himself to support the Springboks during the apartheid years and supported the All Blacks instead. Old habits die hard and to his dying day he could not bring himself to support the Bokke…he was even supporting England in the World Cup Final last year

By the way David Matthews, the man with the vision to reopen Tiger Kloof, did his teacher training in Dublin and spent a year doing his placement at a quaint little boarding school on the edge of the Dublin Hills, none other than St. Columba’s College.

Go well Brian. You were an example to everyone of faithfulness, dedication and loyalty. You deserve a rest. May you rest in peace and rise in glory.