Form IV pupil Aeladh Bradley Brady reports on the recent art expedition to the National Botanic Gardens.

On Friday the 16th of September the Form IV art pupils went on an outing to the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin to see the art exhibition, Sculpture in Context. The purpose of this trip was to get inspiration for our own artwork and exhibition based on the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Once we arrived we were separated into two groups and each group was accompanied by a tour guide to show us around and tell us about the individual pieces. The tour guides were very interesting and had extensive knowledge of all the pieces we visited. This made the trip thoroughly enjoyable.  

Some of the art work was intricately made, such as a shark piece that was made out of recycled seaglass. A mother and son collected the seaglass over eight months and created the piece during lockdown. 

After the tour of the outside area we were led by our guide into a separate room. Large transparent plastic sheets hung from the ceiling almost in the format of a maze. The transparent plastic created a distorted view which represented the media and how everything is not always as it seems. This piece felt quite ominous and yet the idea was so simple. It really goes to show when you really look into a piece many deeper meanings can appear. 

This outing really helped us develop new ideas and concepts for our own pieces that we will be able to make soon. It was an eye opening experience to see that with the simplest of recycled resources you can create art.

Thank you very much to Ms. Murphy and Ms. Cullen for organizing and supervising such an enjoyable art trip.

The thing about great literature is that it is timeless. I read a lot but I rarely reread a book… in fact the only novel I can think of that I have reread purely for pleasure is A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, with that awesome opening, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…’ Is that the greatest opening to any novel? Find it and read the first paragraph. Recently I mentioned to someone that one of my favourite novels, certainly in my top 5, is Resurrection by Tolstoy…then I found myself in town and I decided to go into Hodges and Figgis and buy a copy and reread it. I must have read it 25 years ago at least and I remember it having a profound effect on me, so I bought it, came home and tucked into it…and immediately the extraordinary and haunting story, that grabbed me all those years ago, came back. But what struck me even more was how very topical the story is. The setting is 19th century…the theme is 2022. What did I say about great literature?

The story tells of a Russian landowner who is a decent sort at the start of the book. He has a teenage romance with a maidservant at his aunt’s house when still young and it is delightfully portrayed. Their innocence and naivety is touching. He then doesn’t see her for three years and in that time he joins the army, becomes tough and worldly, starts drinking hard, and becomes a womaniser and a pleasure-seeker. Then he happens to visit his aunt again and the girl is still there, still innocent and overjoyed to see him. He is also excited but by now he has a different use for girls like her and he forces himself on her, despite her protestations. The next day he gives her some money and rides away.

Ten years later he has become a big figure in his neighbourhood. One day he is called up to do jury service and the first case of the day is a murder trial and, to his horror, he recognises the woman on trial as the girl he raped. Her life had gone downhill from the moment he last saw her…she became pregnant, got dismissed, had to beg for food and started to drink to escape her dismal reality. Eventually she turns to prostitution and when the landowner sees her she is being accused of the seedy murder of an abusive client. When he realises what has happened to this lovely innocent girl, and how it all started with his callous abuse of her, he is so horrified by the consequences of his behaviour that he vows to spend the rest of his life seeking redemption.

Resurrection was written 120 years ago, but it speaks to us in a way that is so relevant today. Is it not addressing what we would call ‘rape culture’ and consent, issues which we face today and perhaps in a far more deep-seated way? The sadness in the novel is that the protagonist changes from an innocent and decent young man, who looks out for others and loves the innocence of the girl, into someone who uses others to satisfy his own pleasure, regardless of the cost to the other person. In his case it was army life that changed him, with the need to fit in with his peers, the desire not to be different, not to stand out, to prove himself a man. Few young people go into the army now, so what is it in our culture that teaches young men to think it is okay to abuse girls, to demand what they want regardless of the feelings of others and assume that there will be no consequences?

Is it perhaps the fast-food diet of pornography and, with it, the normalisation of violent and abusive behaviour? The young man in Resurrection is between the ages of 19 and 22 when he starts to head down the wrong road, but I fear that many now are far younger than that when they have the same loss of innocence, at an age when they are ill-equipped to handle it. It is a hugely serious issue in my mind, but few people want to talk about it. Let’s face it, a generation of young people who don’t know what is appropriate behaviour in relationships has not appeared out of nowhere.

As for the effect of abuse on the victim, that is another whole narrative. So much dysfunction can be traced back to a trauma such as the one that Tolstoy portrays.

How did I get from Tolstoy to rape culture and pornography? Well, I said that great literature is timeless, because it tackles the real issues of the human condition. Tolstoy tackled it at the end of the 19th century and his writing was controversial, as you would imagine. But when you read the novel now, it addresses an issue that is surely even more real in our world and I am not aware of any great writer now who deals with it as powerfully and courageously as he did back then.

The ancient Greeks saw their poets as prophets, who called out the abuses prevalent in their world and called people back to the ‘old ways.’ Tolstoy too was a sort of prophet in the same mould, calling out the abuses that he saw in his Russian world 120 years ago. Are there any prophets out there who will do the same in our time?

On Friday we are officially launching the new Foundation of St. Columba’s College, with a look to the future development of the College. This is a fresh start, with a fresh emphasis and a new direction.

Development is usually seen as building: a new set of classrooms, new boarding houses, a new Astro, or, as recently, a new social centre. I could not be more happy about the way that Whispering House has turned out and I cannot now imagine St. Columba’s without that fantastic space in the middle of the College.

But what is next? What new project are we planning? It has actually been quite a challenge to work out the direction of our development as we go forward and we have spent a considerable amount of time batting around ideas, many of which have seemed initially to be just what we needed, only for enthusiasm to wane. I confess that it was frustrating that we could not fix on the big plan or the big idea as quickly as I would have liked, a project that seemed to fit in terms of the needs of the College and the finances that we could realistically raise or borrow. However, perhaps that period of reflection was necessary as, through that process, we moved towards a plan that now does seem to make sense.

So this is where we are now, as we plan for the future. The main thrust of where we want to head in the next few years is towards a much more sustainable campus, one where we are much less reliant, or not at all dependent, on fossil fuels. It would be great to be carbon-neutral and able to create much of our own energy and that is why we want to invest in an energy system that is run on wood chip and solar power, decommissioning our old gas-powered boilers. We plan to install a new heating system near the Sports Hall and lay new pipes throughout the College, while we also have plans to put solar panels on the roof of the Sports Hall and in the field behind.

Not only does it seem the right thing to do, but it is also something that the pupils themselves feel very strongly about. And understandably so. This is a move that will make a difference to the College for generations to come and I hope that future Columbans and parents, and even future Wardens, will look back and be grateful that we decided, at this time, to invest in the future sustainability of the College rather than launch into some magnificent new building project.

It may be an investment in the future, but I believe that we will start to see a return very soon from the savings that we will make, through the reduction of our use of fossil fuels. And there is also a spin-off that will be more concrete, for, by recommissioning our main boiler, we will be able to create a new classroom space in the middle of the College, next to Whispering House. That will be entirely carbon neutral and, once that has been done, we will be able to remove the old pottery shed in the lower yard and put more classrooms there too. In other words, the mission to make the school far more sustainable has a direct benefit for our teaching and learning. It is much better to be reusing old buildings than to be building from scratch on a new site and I am sure that the new teaching area has the ability to be an iconic space near the heart of the College.

There are other elements to our Foundation too, mainly to do with widening access to the College through raising more money for bursaries, but, whether through bursaries or through doing our duty to reduce our energy usage, sustainability and investment in the future is the driver behind the vision that we have. I hope it strikes a chord with you. It is certainly a direction with which we feel very comfortable and one which will leave a legacy for the future of the College.

The St. Columba’s College Foundation was officially launched on Friday, September 23rd 2022 at an event in Whispering House. The Foundation is the new body, with a broad mission to engage the wider Columban community and help secure the future of the College. To do so, they aim to make the College more accessible, more sustainable, to improve its teaching & learning facilities and enhance its campus.

The Foundation’s mission is founded on four distinct but interlinked pillars:

Sustainability: the desire to transform our energy usage and make the College far more environmentally focused.

Classrooms: there is a need for some new classroom development and this will be able to take place as a direct result of our mission to become more sustainable and the subsequent reattribution of space in the middle of the College.

Bursaries: these will broaden access to the College for families who cannot currently afford to send their children here.

Campus enhancement: we need to enhance the entrance and the approach to the College, as well as upgrade certain areas within the campus.

For more information on the ST. Columba’s College Foundation visit our dedicated webpage or download the Foundation launch brochure here.

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Notice concerning the admission process to St. Columba’s College, for entry in 2023

Please be advised that, according to the admissions policy of the College, drawn up according to Department of  Education guidelines, the timeline is as follows:

● The school will commence accepting applications for day places on October 1st 2022.

● The school will allow three weeks for applications to be received, the last date being October 22nd. 

● Parents will be notified of the result of their application in the week beginning November 6th. 

● Parents of children who have received offers will have three weeks to accept the place.

Full details on the admissions process & current admission status can be found here.

Please find the College’s Admissions Policy here.

Admissions Notice:

Please find the application form here.

One of the highlights of 2019 was the College’s hosting of the first-ever researchED conference in Ireland on October 5th of that year. 350 educators from around Ireland and the world came to hear a top-class line-up of academics and classroom teachers talk about best practice. Of course, it was not possible to repeat the experience in 2020 or 2021, but now we are getting close to the second event, on Saturday 24th September (when the pupils are on Exodus).

Again, all tickets were long-ago sold out, and again there are some extraordinary speakers, including the keynote presenters Professor Barbara Oakley (from the US) and Professor Paul Kirschner (from the Netherlands).

The timetable will be released before long, but for the moment here are the session details, in alphabetical order.

We’ll have more here in the next couple of weeks: meanwhile, here is a report on the 2019 event.

We are delighted that we can, for the first time since 2019, have a full and unrestricted Open Day. This takes place on the morning of Saturday 1st October 2022, and all prospective pupils and their parents (for entry any year) are welcome. It starts at 10.00am and ends at 1.00pm, and visitors are welcome at any time, though we advise not arriving after 12pm, since there is not then enough time for a tour.

Just drive into the school, and you will be met at the car parks by Transition Year pupils, who will greet you and then guide you to the reception point, Whispering House. Small groups of visitors will then be shown around the campus, seeing facilities like the Chapel, Library and Science Block, and seeing activities taking place like choir practice, House speech practice, art work, science experiments and sports sessions. Staff will be available to answer questions.

No booking is required, but any advance queries about admissions to the College should go to our Admissions Officer, Mrs Amanda Morris.