Arts Alumni

In the course of its one hundred and seventy years’ history, St. Columba’s has produced many fine artists in a variety of disciplines, especially painting.

In the last fifty years, Oisin Kelly and Chris Vis were prominent among the art teachers who inspired generations of their pupils. In other areas, especially music, writing, stage and film, talents nurtured at the College have led to conspicuous success for many Old Columbans.

There follows a sample of well-established and more recent Old Columbans who have excelled in their chosen arts.

William Trevor - Author

William Trevor was one of the most distinguished writers in the English-speaking world. In the course of a long and highly productive career, he wrote fifteen much-acclaimed novels. However, his achievements in short-story writing may be even greater, and it could be claimed without exaggeration that he is one of the two or three greatest writers in the form in the last 100 years. Born in 1928, he attended the College from 1944 to 1946 (under his real surname, Cox). These years obviously had a profound influence on him as he frequently returned to the experience in his writing, from fiction such as Fools of Fortune to memoir in Excursions in the Real World.

Trevor received an extraordinary array of prizes for his work, including in 2008 the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award in Irish Literature. Every now and then he was mentioned as a possible Nobel Laureate, though the nature of his writing – unpolitical, subtle, beautifully nuanced – made this unlikely. In any case, novels such as The Story of Lucy Gault (which is sometimes studied in English classes at the College), Felicia’s Journey and The Old Boys put William Trevor at the front rank of modern literature.

On the occasion of his 80th birthday in 2008, the College’s English Department celebrated with an exhibition of his books, and a public lecture on his work. Since then William Trevor presented us with copies of first editions of many of his books, which are now on display in the Library.

Trevor William Cox died in November 2016. On Thursday 23rd March 2017 the College marked his achievements in an event which included a reading and discussion by the novelist Joseph O’Connor, and a talk about Trevor’s connections with and writings about the College by the Head of the English Department, Julian Girdham, which you can read here.

Adam Clayton - Musician

Adam Clayton is a member of U2 who, in his own words on visiting the College in 2008, ‘conquered the world and have been on a remarkable journey’. With a discography stretching from Boy (1980) to No Line on the Horizon (2009) they have become established as a worldwide musical phenomenon. Adam’s distinctive bass sound and style have been the spine and pulse of U2’s work throughout.

Selina Guinness - Author

Selina Guinness lectures in English Literature in the Department of Humanities at the Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT), Dun Laoghaire.  She is the author of The Crocodile by the Door (Penguin Ireland, 2012), a memoir exploring her complex attachment to Tibradden, the family farm in the Dublin mountains where she now lives with her husband, Colin Graham, and their two sons.  This book has been nominated for the Costa Book Awards (Biography section) and the Irish Book of the Year (Newcomer section).

Selina has also edited an anthology of contemporary Irish poetry, The New Irish Poets, (Bloodaxe 2004) and, with Jared Curtis, co-edited W.B. Yeats’s manuscripts of his play, The Resurrection, (Cornell University Press, 2011).  She continues to enjoy a varied and busy existence: teaching at third level, writing, and farming sheep with her family.

Reviews of The Crocodile by the Door:

 ‘Guinness’s first book, while rich in charm, is also poised, moving and – by the end of a heart-wrenching journey – surprisingly triumphant… the author turns the story into something close to a small masterpiece’ The Telegraph

 ‘a memoir so exceptional that it deserves to be ranked as the Irish Book of the Year, regardless of category… a multi-layered story that is breathtaking in its scope…This book has more to say about what the crash has done to us than all the economists put together, and the story told here with such empathy is the story of the country in miniature. As if all that were not enough, it is also beautifully written, with prose that is at times poetic or pastoral and at other times shocking with candid observation.’ Irish Independent ‘

Guinness has a poet’s eye for detail, from the beautiful to the banal… The Crocodile by the Door, shortlisted for the 2012 Costa biography award, is an appealing book for several reasons. It is a surprisingly entertaining primer on the travails of farming today, from ungovernable sheep to unfathomable bureaucracy; a fascinating glimpse of what had become of the Anglo-Irish by the late 20th century and into the 21st; an elegant modern pastoral and, at the same time, an astute dismantling of that genre; and a meditation on the meaning of labour, and on how hard work shapes identity as well as achievement…. Out of the complexities of attachment, and out of a knowledge, hard-won, of what true dereliction is, Guinness has written a remarkable book.’ The Guardian

‘strikingly beautiful language, without milking emotion.. told with dazzling honesty and self-scrutiny’ The Irish Times

Emily Archer - Painter

Emily is currently practising as a visual artist and art facilitator in Dublin. Her work is in public collections including the Office of Public Works and Lloyds TSB. She studied Fine Art in the National College of Art & Design, specialising in printmaking.

Emily uses a variety of reclaimed and recycled materials to convey a message of change and regeneration. She also works in drawing, installation and moving images. Current projects include ‘Shoal’, a large-scale installation in The Ark of a shoal of fish made from tin cans to highlight the problem of overfishing. Her most recent solo show ‘The Ouroborus Experiment’ in Barcelona was the result of a residency with Homesession Studio. At home, as artist in residence at Waterford Healing Arts Trust, she delivered The Post Room Project – a collaborative community project with the staff and patients of Waterford Regional Hospital.

Emily has lived in Kenya which influences the imagery in her work: often animals or objects symbolise a human experience. She lived in Italy in 2008 where she studied Anatomical Drawing under Lolli Alberto in The Academia di Belle Arti, Bologna. Her ‘Moving Drawings’ (animated pieces) in which information is reclaimed and reinvented from memory, have been exhibited in the 2010 Cross-talk video festival in Budapest and at Projected Weekends at the Digital Hub. In 2011 she was commissioned by the Open Window Project for St Raphael’s Hospital, Celbridge, to create an animated piece for permanent display in an area of the hospital for patients with autism.

Mark Armstrong - Musician

Mark Armstrong is currently Director of the Defence Forces School of Music with responsibility for the three military bands of the Irish Defence Forces. Over a thirty year career as a professional musician he has been active as a conductor of orchestras, bands and choirs, as an arranger/orchestrator and as a record producer. It was in St. Columba’s College that his love of choral music developed as a member of chapel choir and the madrigal group. This close association with choirs continued with positions as conductor of College Singers and Musica Sacra while in Trinity College Dublin following on to Dún Laoghaire Choral Society and to his current position as music director of Tallaght Choral Society. Guest conducting engagements have included work with RTE National Symphony Orchestra, RTE Concert Orchestra, Irish Youth Wind Ensemble, RTE Philharmonic Choir, RTE Cór na nÓg and the National Chamber Choir. As an arranger and orchestrator Mark has worked on many film and TV scores and Irish productions such as Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. He has adjudicated at festivals and competitions throughout the country and has recently been appointed a board member of the Association of Irish Choirs. Mark remembers with great fondness his time in St. Columba’s and in particular the inspirational teaching of David Milne whose love of all things musical encouraged and gave great confidence to those of his pupils who were later to embark on a career in music, a precarious business at the best of times!

Colm Carey - Musician

Colm Carey enjoys a career as both concert organist and choral director, and is widely acknowledged as a characterful and inspiring performer.

As a concert organist his solo and concerto performances throughout Europe, as well as in Australia, Canada and the USA, have carved out his reputation as an original, exciting and distinctive musician. His performances – live and recorded – have been broadcast in many countries and he has recorded several critically acclaimed CDs, including his acclaimed interpretation of Bach’s The Art of Fugue. From 2004 – 2016 he held the post of Belfast City Organist where he performed regularly on the famous ‘Mulholland Grand Organ’.

In addition to his career as an organist, Colm Carey is Master of Music of the Chapels Royal, HM Tower of London. Under his direction the choir provides music for weekly services and special events in the two ancient Chapels Royal.  He has toured with the choir to South Africa, Italy and Ireland as well as releasing a CD of music inspired by the Psalms of David. In 2014 Colm formed his own group – The Odyssean Ensemble – to explore, through innovative projects and collaborations, the notion of music being a journey – a journey that challenges the listener and stimulates the mind, body and senses.

In October 2016 Colm performed in the College Chapel in the Reverend Bertram Walsh Memorial Concert with Angela Hicks (soprano) and the College Choir.

Follow Colm’s activities @colmcareymusic / odysseanensemble.com

Victoria Smurfit - Actress

Victoria Smurfit lives in Dublin and has enjoyed a hugely successful television and movie career. Her film credits include About a Boy, The Leading Man, Bulletproof Monk, The Beach, So This is Romance? and The Last Great Wilderness .

Her best loved roles on TV were in the major BBC series Cold Feet , as Jane and as Orla in Ballykissangel. On Irish TV screens, Victoria has most recently appeared as Dr. Edel Swift in The Clinic for Parallel Films and RTE.

She has performed on stage in the UK at the Bristol Old Vic and Tricycle Theatre in London. Victoria most recently appeared on stage in Ireland for the first time as Carole in the hugely successful new play October by Fiona Looney at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin and Cork Opera House.

Stephen Darcy - Actor

Stephen Darcy, who was Stephen Murphy before he became a professional actor, studied Drama at the Beckett Centre for the Performing Arts at Trinity College, Dublin. He was awarded a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London where he graduated in 2001. Since then he has appeared in theatres in Ireland and Britain, including The Abbey in Dublin and The Bush and Arcola theatres in London. He was a long-running member of the cast of the TG4 soap opera Ros na Run, playing Rory Murtagh. He has also appeared in the American television series The Tudors and Silent Witness on BBC.

Paki Smith - Artist / Film Maker

Paki Smith attended the College from 1978-1982. He went on to study fine art at NCAD in Dublin, graduating in 1987. While he was painting full-time between 1987 and 1999, he continued to have an interest in theatre and film which had developed during the period at St. Columba’s when he was involved in the construction of stage sets, encouraged by art teacher, Chris Vis. This meant that by the late 1990s he was working on many short films, features and commercials. In 1997 he was production designer on a feature film called Sweety Barrett and recently was set decorator on John Carter and The Dark Knight Rises. In 2009 he had a solo exhibition at the Douglas Hyde Gallery in Dublin, which included paintings, notebooks and films. He is currently working on a feature film called The Long Way Home which he is directing early in 2013.

Sarah Davis-Goff - Publisher

After graduating from St Columba’s College Sarah studied for four years at St John’s College, Santa Fe in the US before she received an Ma in Publishing from Oxford Brookes University in 2009.  She gained experience in a variety of publishing environments, including Penguin in London and Continuum in New York before returning to Dublin to work for Dalkey Archive Press in 2012. From there she moved to The Lilliput Press in Arbour Hill, where she was credited with discovering Irish literary talent Donal Ryan, and where she met Lisa Coen, with whom she set up Tramp Press. Their first title, Flight by Oona Frawley, was launched in April 2014. Since the company has been formed it and its authors has won and been shortlisted for many prizes and awards including the Irish Book Awards, the David Manley Awards, the Warwick Prize and the Guardian First Book Award. She lives in Dublin.

Kildare Dobbs - Author

Kildare Dobbs was a pupil at the College from 1937 to 1941. Though born in India and educated in Ireland, his greatest fame has been in Canada, where in 2000 he was awarded the Order of Ontario. He received another distinguished Canadian award – the Governor General’s Literary Award – in 1962 for his autobiography Running to Paradise. Since then he has published many works, including poetry and short stories, and another memoir, Running the Rapids: a writer’s life (Lilliput Press, Dublin, 2005). Another connection with the College is that his sister Sally lived here for many years as wife of Warden David Gibbs. He published many books up to his death in 2013.

Bridget Flinn - Artist

Bridget Flinn attended St. Columba’s College from 1977 to 1979. She studied in the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, and the Royal College of Art, London. Bridget worked as an illustrator for a number of years, before taking up painting full time. She has exhibited in the Royal Hibernian Academy and the Royal Ulster Academy annual exhibitions. Bridget has shown her paintings in gallerys throughout Ireland and is currently with the Jorgensen Fine Art gallery. She paints landscape, still life and has a particular interest in life drawing.

Rebecca Hickey - Actress / Director

On leaving St. Columba’s, Rebecca studied for three years at The Arts Educational School in London on the Musical Theatre Degree Programme and graduated with a BA Honours Degree in Musical Theatre.

Rebecca then directed “HAIR, The Musical” in Dublin’s Helix Theatre. The show was nominated for two awards at the AIMS Awards 2010 and won “The Spirit of AIMS Award”.

After that, Rebecca was cast as “June” in the short film “Unspoken” and then voiced the character of “DeeDee” in the pilot episode of “The Rockateens” Cartoon. Rebecca then played “Rodney” in “My Big Gay Italian Wedding”. This was the European Premiere of the hit show and had an extended run in London and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The show was shortlisted for the “Off-West End Awards”.

Rebecca was involved in several other productions including a dark “Tim Burton- esque” musical called “Nevermore”, based on the life and loves of Edgar Allen Poe.

More recently, Rebecca appeared in the new Bond film “Skyfall” but only time will tell whether she will be on screen or the cutting room floor!

Rebecca also appeared in a short comedy production on behalf of Amnesty International.

Currently she is working on a new production and on 27th July will be in the cast for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London.

Rebecca is pleased with the progress that she has made in the two years since she left College, and will continue along her ‘yellow brick road’.

Richard Mosse - Artist / Photographer

Richard Mosse’s (b. Ireland 1980) work has been exhibited at the Akademie der K’nste, Berlin; Barbican Art Gallery, London; Bass Museum, Miami; Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City; Kunsthaus Munich; Mus’e des beaux-arts de Montr’al; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Open Eye Liverpool; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).

Mosse is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Performing and Visual Arts and a Visual Arts Bursary from the Irish Arts Council. He was recently a resident at the K’nstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin. Mosse holds an MFA in photography from Yale University and a postgraduate diploma in fine art from Goldsmiths College, London. He also holds a first-class BA in English literature from King’s College London and an MA in cultural studies from the London Consortium (ICA, AA, Tate, Birkbeck). Aperture Foundation and Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting co-published his first monograph, Infra.

In 2013 Richard represented Ireland with The Enclave, a major multi-media installation at the 55th International Venice Biennale Art Exhibition. In 2017 he won the Prix Pictet, a prestigious international photography award His work can be seen at richardmosse.com.

Benjamin Russell - Baritone

Benjamin Russell is a member of the ensemble of the Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden, Germany. He studied at the International Opera Studio of the Zurich Opera House, Switzerland after having received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin in 2011 and 2012 respectively. There he studied singing with Sylvia O’Regan and coach Brenda Hurley.

This year he performs, among others, the roles of Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Maximilian in Candide and Schaunard in La Bohème in Wiesbaden. He is also scheduled to sing the roles of Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro and Papageno in Die Zauberflote among others for the 2016/17 season.

Previous to this he performed various parts on the main stage of the Zurich Opera House while part of the International Opera Studio, among them Abraham Gray in the premier of Die Schatzinsel by Frank Schwemmer and the Jazz Trio in Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti. He also performed the role of Antippo in the IOS production of Telemann’s Der Geduldige Sokrates.

In June 2011 he sang Junius in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia at the Aldeburgh Festival which was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and, in January 2012, Athamus in the RIAM production of Handel’s Semele.

He has also performed in many concerts, both at home and abroad, including Lunchtime concerts in the National Concert Hall, Dublin, recitals of Schumann’s Dichterliebe and Liederkreis Op.39 in the City Hall, Hong Kong and several concerts in The Netherlands organised by the IVC.

Competition successes include finalist in the Veronica Dunne International Singing competition 2010, where he also received the Joan Sutherland prize for ‘Most Promising Singer’. He was a semifinalist and prizewinner in the 2010 International Vocal Competition in s’Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands. He was also winner of the RIAM Irené Sandford Award for Singers and winner of numerous prizes in the national Feis Ceoil, Dublin.

He has sung in masterclass with Thomas Allen, Ann Murray, Graham Johnson, Elly Ameling, Rudolf Jansen, Brigitte Fassbender, Christoph Pregardien, Malcolm Martineau, Dawn Upshaw, Kayo Iwama, Wolfgang Holzmair, Luana de Vol, Robert White, Ian Partridge, Michael Elaison and Umberto Chiummo among others.

He was a member of the Opera Theatre Company Young Associate Artists’ Programme 2010-11 and a student on various courses of the Britten-Pears Young Artists Programme as part of the Aldebugh Festival, Suffolk. In July 2008, he participated in the international Opera Plus singing course in Estoril and the next year was invited to the Montalto Musica summer course where he worked on and sang Malatesta in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale.

Holly Somerville - Artist

Holly Somerville (n’e Nixon) was in Beresford from 1981 to 1984.She has an MA in Botany from Somerville College, Oxford, and a BA in Visual Communication from Edinburgh College of Art, where she specialised in illustration and photography.

Her career as a botanical artist began with illustrating the 7th edition of Webb’s An Irish Flora, and for several years she was based in the herbarium of Trinity College, Dublin, doing dissection drawings for scientific research papers.

For the past ten years she has been raising three daughters, but is now painting again almost full-time.Her main work is commissions, but in 2012 she also started teaching botanical watercolour in her new studio and gallery at Mount Slaney in the Glen of Imaal, West Wicklow.

Holly has exhibited in many group shows, including the Royal Hibernian Academy and the Royal Ulster Academy, and has held several successful solo exhibitions in Ireland. Visit www.hollysomerville.com for more information.

Ronan Summers - Actor

Ronan Summers left the College in 2002, having immersed himself in several acting roles whilst a pupil at St. Columba’s – most notably his portrayal of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice . He has been a busy, London-based actor in the intervening years with roles in Oliver Stone’s W and the box office smash, The Dark Knight . He has also worked in television and in many theatre productions both in the West End and around the UK. Another successful aspect of his career is in the area of vocal work and voiceovers which he has recorded for both radio, TV and advertising in a myriad of accents.

Sophie Darlington - Filmmaker

Sophie Darlington is an BAFTA award winning UK based Filmmaker & Cinematographer specialising in natural history. She has worked on feature films for Disney Nature, BBC Earth and The Discovery Channel and television series for The BBC, CBS, Discovery Channel, PBS and National Geographic amongst others. In recent years Sophie has shot sequences for The BBC’s ‘The Hunt” & ‘Planet Earth Two.’

Sophie has worked happily in extreme and remote locations throughout Africa, The Americas, Antarctica and Asia on a wide variety of cameras and formats. Currently Sophie is busy filming for a new Netflix landmark series, a feature film for Disney Nature as well as the BBC’s ‘Dynasty’ series, all scheduled for release in 2019.

Patrick Scott - Artist

Patrick Scott died in February 2014 at the age of 93. He came to St Columba’s  from his native Cork in 1935. Having trained as an architect, he turned to painting full-time and represented Ireland at the XXX Venice Biennale in 1960. In 2007 President Mary McAleese presided at a ceremony to mark his election as Saoi in Aosdana, the highest honour that can be bestowed on an Irish artist. In 2010 he presented to the College a gift of one of his magnificent gold leaf paintings which now hangs in the Drawing Room.

Nigel Mooney - Musician

Nigel Mooney is an internationally renowned singer and jazz guitarist. His first blues band was formed while attending the college (from 1977 to 1981) and included precentor David Milne on piano and organ and Mark Armstrong (see profile) on bass. In 1984, he formed The Gripewater Blues Band and over the following decade backed many blues artists including Lowell Fulson, Louisiana Red and Larry Garner, as well as opening for B.B King on numerous occasions in Dublin’s National Stadium. Mooney’s band was the first and last to play Dublin’s legendary jazz venue J.J. Smyth’s, from 1986 to 2017.

In 1994, he was hired by Dublin bandleader Earl Gill and occupied the guitar chair over the next couple of years before leaving to pursue a career as a jazz musician, working mainly with a quartet, occasionally with septet, and also with organ trio. In 2004 he released his first album, “All My Love’s In Vain”, and in 2013 his second album, “The Bohemian Mooney” (featuring Georgie Fame and Louis Stewart) was awarded Irish Times Jazz Album of the year.

In recent years, Mooney has toured with jazz guitarist Jim Mullen and ex-Art Blakey’s Jazz Messenger Jean Toussaint and played with the late Larry Coryell in one of the last gigs in J.J.’s. He is currently working on a Christmas album, due for release before Christmas 2017 (and probably 2018, 2019…) and a fourth album, “Mooney’s Blues”, is due for completion in mid-2018 – see www.nigelmooney.com for details.

Conrad Frankel - Artist

Conrad Frankle is known mainly as a painter of landscapes and still lives. “I paint quite small pictures, and I try to make them as quiet as I can”.

He attended the College from 1991- 1997 and graduated in 20015 with a Masters in City and Guilds Art School London

For the last four summers 2014-17, Conrad  has  been based in Italy in a small town called Civita Castellana, about 30k north of Rome working with the Jerusalem Studio School, which is headed by Israel Hershberg, one of the world’s great living masters.

Conrad has exhibited in Dublin, London and New York. A full list of his exhibitions to date, along with some of his recent paintings can be seen www.conradfrankel.com