Unfortunately this year we were unable to hold our annual Christmas Carol Service but music is very much alive and well within the College community. Over the past few weeks, the various choirs and musical groups within the community have been practising diligently and we are delighted to present this short film of carols (sung with the appropriate ‘distance’) and lessons.

The Chaplain’s opening blessing is followed by Once in Royal David’s City, sung by the Chapel Choir with an opening solo by Isabel Warnock, Form IV. Felix Jellett, Form I, reads the first of two lessons and this is followed by Sine Nomine singing Ding Dong Merrily on High. Our newly formed quartet perform a beautiful rendition of The Snowman before a choir of staff and pupils sing the German hymn Es ist ein Ros entsprungen. Senior Prefect Éile Ní Chíanáin then reads the second lesson which is followed by a small Transition Year choir performing Infant Lowly, Infant Holy. Emily McCarthy sings a haunting solo performance of the Irish carol Don Oiche Úd i mBeithil before the Chaplain’s final blessing. The video concludes with organist Patrice Keegan playing Bach’s In Dulci Jubilo. 

Many thanks to the pupils and staff who helped coordinate the video. We hope you enjoy it and we wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

We would like to thank all pupils and teachers for embracing Science Week Nov 8th – 14th. We managed to incorporate an extensive variety of activities with plenty of fun and competitiveness.

Paper Airplane Challenge
Hugo Laurenceau won both Junior competitions with a distance of 23.45m and longest time in the air of 6.34 seconds. While Bruno Marti won the senior competition.

Junior Science Class Rocket Building Winners
A number of classes participate in the Film Canister rocket challenge, despite the weather we had numerous successful launches (and unsuccessful!). Notable rocketeers include Ivan Zhu and Harry Powell (2C), Elliot Warnock, Keelin Bradley-Brady and George Priestley (2B), Aeladh Bradley-Brady, Bella Fennell and Iona McCausland (2A), Sam Hayes, David Chukwueke, Ryan Ovenden (1A) and Matthew Houlihan and Oscar Liu (1B)

Poster Competition –‘Choose your Future’
Our poster competition entailed designing a poster to highlight this year theme – Choose your Future our Form 1 winner was Polly Pringle and the Form 2 winner was Hedley Butler

Junior Movie Night
Our Junior Movie night theme ‘Wear it – Eat it – Use It’ consisted of three short movies which the pupils watched during prep. The main objective to focus on sustainability. The best reflection was submitted by Sarah Cron, which can be read below. Our TY Pupils also got the opportunity to watch the latest David Attenborough Documentary – A life on our planet.

Senior Movie Night
On Friday night the senior pupils had the opportunity to watch the controversial documentary – Virunga. The story follows a small and embattled team of park rangers – including an ex-child soldier turned ranger, a caretaker of orphan gorillas and a dedicated conservationist – protecting this UNESCO world heritage site from armed militia, poachers and the dark forces struggling to control Congo’s rich natural resources. A very thought-provoking watch and definitely worth adding to your Netflix list! A huge thanks to those pupils who attended the event.

Science Riddle of the Day Winners

Monday: Kate Higgins, Avi Johnston, Jamie Casey
Tuesday: Joshua Chan, Calvin She, Rory O’Dowd
Wednesday: Solomon Babajide, Nikolai Foster, Alannah McKee
Thursday: Ciara Finn, Amaya Street, Carlotta Castagna
Friday: Keelin Bradley-Brady, Caleb Owen, George King
Saturday: Jemima Bunbury, Sinead Cleary, Yilong She
Teacher Winners Ms Kilfeather and Mr Canning

A shout out to some pupils who entered every day: Avi Johnston, Solomon Babajide, Nikolai Foster, Kate Higgins, Pascha Shvalov, Ciara Finn, Carlotta Castagna. A special mention to Mr McDonald and Ms McEeaneny for entering all riddles!

Science Kahoot Challenge
No science week would be complete without a Kahoot, we had a huge amount of entries with Amber Cotton winning the Junior Prize, Pavlov Shvalov winning the Senior Prize. A big shout out to Mrs Owen for winning the teachers’ Kahoot!!

Many thanks to our wonderful Science Department for organising the week’s event especially Ms Hennessy and Dr Rice.

Some Science Week Prize Winners!

Sarah Cron – A Reflection on Wear it –Eat it – Use it

On Wednesday 11th November as part of Science week we watched three short movies – the theme – Wear it –Eat it – Use it – looking at sustainability through the life cycle of tee-shirts, chocolate and plastic bottle.

Wear it – I had no idea how much water was required to produce one tee shirt and I also didn’t realise the impact the chemicals used have on rivers that affect ocean wildlife. The process of making a tee shirt is much longer than you’d think it is. It was also interesting to find out that the fashion industry has a serious effect on the environment as its generated a lot of greenhouse gases during its production and transportation of the millions of tee-shirts purchased each year. I also learned that cheap synthetic fibres emit gases like N2O, which is 300 times more damaging than CO2, is crazy to think about.

Eat it – This movie looked at the cocoa industry, from the cocoa plantations in Africa to the shelves in our shops. It’s unfortunate and unfair that the workers for the cocoa plants are under paid and don’t earn enough for basic needs. If chocolate is worth 4 billion pounds per year how is it fair for the cocoa farmers to live off £0.80 a day! Fairtrade is a great organisation, in my opinion, they are helping local farmers and their communities, helping to provide better farming technology, clean water and schools to advance their children’s education. In these cocoa-producing countries, women often have less access to land than men do so for a company being able to make a difference and give women their own independent income makes a huge difference. Buying Fairtrade products can really help people’s lives in the long term.

Use it – Our third movie looked at the life cycle of a plastic bottle. I never knew that it could take a water bottle 1000 years to decompose and I think it’s very sad that plastic pollution is having on a huge range of habitats around the globe. These three videos were all very interesting and definitely made me think.

Today, November 11th, is Remembrance Day. Traditionally, the entire school congregates in Chapel Square formally to acknowledge and remember the members of the College community who lost their lives in the World Wars of the 20th century.

This morning, a smaller than usual group of pupils and staff gathered (distanced, and wearing face coverings) for the regular commemoration of those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom, including the 96 former pupils and staff who died in the First and Second World Wars. The Warden has recorded a short video message to mark the event.

Pictured, the Senior Prefect lays the wreath. Following this, there was the two-minute silence, and then Konstantin Kühne played ‘The Last Post’ and the ‘Reveille’. The Chaplain concluded with a prayer.

Science Week kicks off and there is a wide range of activities and challenges for pupils and staff to get involved in. Some of the activities include: daily chemistry riddles, online science Kahoot challenges, STEM Activities (rocket building / paper aeroplane workshops & challenges), movie nights (exploring environmental and sustainability issues), poster competitions

The theme of this years Science week is Choose your Future  – and we want to focus on how you can shape the future of humankind by addressing key issues such as energy, pollution, and environmental change as we strive to find more sustainable ways to live and protect the planet.

Pupils are asked to keep an eye on FireFly and on the noticeboards in the Science Building. Get stuck into Science!!

Our Transition Year pupils took a day off class on Saturday last and instead engaged in a series of new activities to engage their creativity and challenge them physically. There was a wide range of activities on offer including yoga sessions, arts & crafts (including Christmas decoration making and book covering), Gaelic games (some promising “wristy” hurlers), baking and more. All activities took place in a socially distanced environment and we are grateful to members of the Parents’ Association for their help in facilitating some of the activities.

An album of photos from the Transition Year 2020 is below, including some new photos of the weekend’s events.

The College Virtual Choir launch their performance of Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’ tomorrow morning at 11:30am. Be sure to check it out on FireFly here or by watching below (when it goes live).

Here is a film to mark the St Columba’s Day weekend.  The Warden speaks, as well as Chairperson of the Fellows, Sarah Love, and Senior Prefect Megan Bulbulia. At the end are prize announcements (more prizes are being awarded in June). St Columba’s Day itself is on June 9th.

St Columba’s Day 2020 from St Columba’s College on Vimeo.

On Friday evening we were delighted to host a live webinar with Professor Luke O’Neill from Trinity College Dublin. Professor O’Neill gave an hour-long masterly analysis of the Covid-19 situation in Ireland and around the world and shared the latest developments in the hunt for a vaccine, and the potential of anti-viral and anti-inflammatory drugs to help fight the infection. He also shared his own recent research, which is showing some promise.

Professor O’Neill was joined online by over 50 pupils, parents and staff, who contributed to a really great question & answer session in the second half of the talk. Professor O’Neill impressed with his knowledge, common sense, humour and, above all else, positive outlook in the fight against Covid-19. We are enormously grateful to Professor O’Neill for giving up his time to spend with the St. Columba’s College (online) community.

Professor O’Neill’s talk is now available online by clicking here (pupils and parents will require their FireFly log in credentials to access).

Today the 25th of April at 1:30 p.m.was when the entire St.Columba’s College community were to join Old Columban and extreme runner Alex Panayotu in stages of her 24 hour ‘Run till the Sun’ around the college grounds in aid of Purple House Cancer Centre.

The entire College community: comprising pupils, staff, parents, Old Columbans, friends of the college Come together to give something back to a very worthy charitable cause. The reason why this is not happening as I write is very clear.

The world will come out on the right side of this current global pandemic. So the ‘Run til the Sun’ is only postponed. It will be nice to have something to look forward to when we will eventually be allowed to get together.

As a cancer survivor, Alex has been in isolation in the northern suburbs of Athens for over six weeks with only her faithful dog Robyn for company. Alex tells me she is doing at least two hours of running and walking every day on Mount Penteli training and preparing for when her ‘Run til the Sun’ endurance challenge will happen. She also said ‘Liam you have no idea how much I am looking forward to seeing and running with all the pupils and supporters of ‘Run til the Sun’.

I am delighted to say that in a time which is a disturbing and challenging one for so many that I can give you some good news. Purple House has finally secured a permanent home after thirty years. The HSE approved a prioritised capital application for funds towards the purchase of its new permanent premises on Duncairn Terrace in Bray. This was announced in the midst of the current crisis it will give hope to the thousands who use its services every year. The ‘Run to the Sun’ committee delighted for Conor O’Leary and Stephanie Murphy, their dedicated team and all the charity’s volunteers. Although the doors of Purple House are closed their hearts are open and hampers and support are being provided for cancer patients who are isolating.

Purple House will need to launch fundraising when the crisis is over as they will need support to fund their move. The St.Columba’s ‘Run til the Sun committee’ are looking forward to giving them as much support as our community can muster.

Luke O’Neill is a Professor of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity College Dublin and one of Ireland’s leading science figures. He has been a prominent figures on Irish radio and TV over the past number of years and in particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, providing evidence-based advice for the general public on minimising the risk of contracting Covid-19.

We are delighted to announce that Professor O’Neill will host a live webinar for pupils, teachers and parents on Friday April 24th at  7:00pm. The title of his presentation is “A frenzy of activity: vaccines, antibodies, anti-virals and anti-inflammatories against COVID19“.

To join the webinar simply click on FireFly logo above. This post contains the details of the Google Meet link  (you will need to log in to your FireFly portal to access). Professor O’Neill will give a short presentation before taking some questions from those attending (you can add your questions into the “chat” during the webinar).

The College is delighted to announce details of a fantastic charitable event taking place this April – Run til the Sun! On Saturday, April 25th, Old Columban Alex Panayotou – an accomplished long-distance runner – will challenge herself to run for 24 hours around the College campus. She is looking for your support along the way – both financial and physical – to complete this mammoth challenge.

The event is being organised by a committee of pupils, who have decided that all proceeds from the event should go to Purple House Cancer Support – a fantastic charitable organisation based in Bray that provide hands-on practical support for children and teenagers with cancer. They have set up a fundraising page here where all donations, large and small, will be gratefully received.

You will soon be able to sign up to join Alex on a leg of her journey; perhaps you’re willing to run for a half-hour, 10 kilometres or even something more ambitious? You can run in the morning, afternoon, evening or even at night time – with the course illuminated along the way. The event will culminate with a celebratory barbeque at the Cricket Pavillion on Sunday evening.

The pupils have created a dedicated page for the event here and a donations page here. They have a fundraising target of €8000, which would be transformational for Purple House, as the vast majority of their funding is through donations. We were delighted to welcome Purple House to the College Chapel last Monday to hear about the work they did and some of the organising committee visited their facility in Bray a few weeks ago. Alex is a cancer survivor, another reason why the charity resonated with the pupils.

So please do get involved, donate to the cause, sponsor a runner or run a leg of the journey yourself. We would love the whole community to get involved – pupils, staff, parents, Old Columbans, friends of the College and even local primary schools.

To coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week the Parents’ Association is organising a walk on Kilmashogue Mountain.

The bus will leave the school car park at 8.30am and take us up to Kilmashogue car park. The walk will commence there and end up back at the school at approx 10.15am.

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 sccenglish@stcolumbas.ie with your suggestion.

Tickets are available here.

On Thursday 14th November the College officially opened our new social centre. It is named ‘Whispering House’, acknowledging the title given by early pupils of the College to the previous building on the same site. The occasion also marked the renaming of the school’s Library the William Trevor Library and the art centre the Patrick Scott Art School. William Trevor, who died in 2016, and Patrick Scott, who died in 2014, were both alumni of the College.

The new building will also be used for artistic display and musical performance and, in recognition of the school’s proud artistic and literary heritage, Josepha Madigan, TD, Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, officially opened Whispering House. We were delighted also to welcome the legendary commentator Micheál O’Muircheartaigh, who delighted all with his words towards the end of the evening.

Pictured above, from left to right: Mark Boobbyer, Warden of St. Columba’s College; Josepha Madigan TD; Micheál O’Muircheartaigh: Gavin Caldwell, Chairperson of the Board of Fellows of St. Columba’s; Sarah Love, Chairperson elect.

The recent naming of the Art Centre as the ‘Patrick Scott Art School’ has provided great inspiration for Arts Week 2020. Arts Week organiser Mrs Cathy Boobbyer has teamed up with visual artist Yvonne McGuinness to plan an exciting week of events. From March 18th to 22nd there will be a number of artists visiting the College to carry out workshops with various year groups. There will be drama and music and there are plans for a collective art piece involving everyone!

Community Matters‘ will be the theme of the week. The College’s strong connection to Patrick Scott will anchor a number of the activities but there will also be an emphasis on our current community. Community is also the theme for the 2020 Art Prize brief. The brief has now been published and can be found here on firefly. Pupils can also get details on entering for the prize from Ms Cullen or Miss Murphy.

Preparation for the Art prize can begin immediately and entries must be submitted by March 19th.

Sunday 17th November 2019 is the 100th anniversary of a sad event in the history of St Columba’s College.

The Warden in 1919 was Reverend William Blackburn. He came to the College in September 1909 from Oriel College, Oxford, where he had been Chaplain for some years (he had previously gone to school at Repton in Derbyshire). On arrival he paid from his own funds things needed at the College, including the refurbishment of the Warden’s Drawing Room, and as G.K.White writes in his history of the College, “the ten years of his Blackburn’s Wardenship were something of a golden age in Columban history, “with numbers rising to a record 118 during the War”. In addition, “the financial position remained sound throughout, proving that the Warden was a good manager” and for once the College did not suffer from a financial crisis. He was “a born schoolmaster with an impressive personality and infectious enthusiasms… [his] popularity sprang chiefly from his friendliness, approachability and sense of humour.” In 1919 also the Masterman Library opened, thanks to the efforts of Mrs Blackburn, née Masterman, in memory of her brother, who had died in the Great War.

And then “in the prime of life, in the full flood of activity, apparently in perfect health [he] died in his sleep in the early hours of November 17th 1919.” At breakfast that Wednesday, the Sub-Warden, Mr Attwood, stood up and announced to the boys that the Warden had died during the night.

The black-framed Editorial in The Columban magazine of December 1919 reads: ‘It is with deep grief that we record the sudden death of the Warden, Rev William Blackburn, 40 (he was actually 41], M.A., which took place in the early morning hours of November 17th. In losing him we have been deprived not only of a master but of a true friend. He knew us all intimately, and watched over us with kindly care. He was always ready with wise counsel in all the trials and difficulties of school life… The funeral took place from the College to Whitechurch on November 20th. The first part of the Burial Service was read in the chapel, the Rev R.M. Gwynn conducting the service. The hymn ‘On the Resurrection Morn’ was beautifully rendered by the choir. The school then went in procession to Whitechurch, the bier being pushed by all the prefects, where the service was concluded.’ Warden Blackburn was buried beside Warden Morton (who died in office in his early 30s). On December 1st Mrs Blackburn and her children left the College and Ireland, moving to Brighton.

For the second time, Reverend ‘Robin’ Gwynn became Acting-Warden. In July 1920, there is one item in The Columban under ‘Birth’: ‘Blackburn – June 11th 1920, the wife of late Warden Blackburn, of a son.’ So Mrs Blackburn had been just two months pregnant when her husband died.

The memorial to Warden Blackburn was installed in Chapel on Easter Eve 1921 (around the same time as the Old Columban Memorial for the Great War – the Chapel Square cross and the plaque in Chapel). It is on the reredos (the screen covering the wall behind the altar), being is a figure of The Risen Christ in a mosaic by Sarah Purser (1848-1943) of the stained glass co-operative An Túr Gloine (she also restored the Founders’ windows in the Dining Hall) with below it a brass plaque reading:

TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND IN THE MEMORY OF
THE REVEREND WILLIAM BLACKBURN,
WARDEN OF THIS COLLEGE, 1909-1919.

Warden Blackburn’s grave in Whitechurch features an inclined granite cross in a kerbed space for two graves. By this century, the lettering on the cross had become severely eroded, so much so that the lower parts of it were unreadable, so the College decided to mark the centenary of the death by restoring it. However, family permission was needed for this, which was challenging: the (English) family left the country one hundred years ago.

There was one promising avenue of inquiry. At the time of her father’s death, Barbara Blackburn was 9 years old. In the 1980s under her married name she become famous as a TV ‘celebrity’ on the BBC as Barbara Woodhouse (1910-88), presenting ‘Training Dogs the Woodhouse Way’ and appearing in many other programmes. Eventually the College was able to be in touch with her daughter Judith, and thus received permission to improve the grave.

The restoration has now been completed by M. Roe and Sons, with the cross cleaned, smoothed and re-engraved, and the kerb also cleaned (the grass in the picture is natural for graves in Whitechurch). At a short ceremony, the College has just marked this with prayers and a simple commemoration by Canon Horace McKinley, Rector, our Chaplain Reverend Daniel Owen, the Warden, Sub-Warden, former Chaplain Reverend Michael Heaney and two Prefects, representatives of the pupil body. On Sunday 17th itself the Sub-Warden will give a presentation to the College at the start of Evensong on this part of our history, with ‘On the Resurrection Morn’ again being sung, by the Chapel Choir.

For those parents who were able to attend this talk by Patrick Foster we were treated to an insight into the world of someone whose life almost ended through an addiction to gambling. Patrick was a young man who was hugely successful in sport and then in his career but lost everything through gambling and was within minutes of taking his own life.

 

Julia Kaptein, Form V, reports on the recent art trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Newgrange.

On October 19th, Saturday morning we left the school on a bus filled with V and VI Form Art pupils to go to the Boyne Valley. We arrived to the Interpretive Centre (currently undergoing renovations) where we met a shuttle bus which would bring us to our destination. Our first stop was Newgrange. Our guide showed us around and explained everything to us about the Newgrange passage tomb, a UNESCO world heritage monument. Through the narrow passage, we entered the grave. It is astonishing to think about the craftsmanship that was needed to build this structure. Looking up inside the passage tomb, we could see the corbel vaulting technique that was used to keep the grave dry inside. We walked around the outside of Newgrange and took a second shuttle bus that took us to Knowth. We were shown a short video about Knowth before we went inside the passage tomb. The Knowth monument was more decorated on the outside and surrounded by smaller tombs. We walked on top of the tomb and although the weather was not as beautiful as we hoped, the view was stunning and overlooked the entire Boyne valley. I think it was very helpful for all pupils to see and walk around the tombs rather than just learning from of our books. Visiting the site brought to life all that we had learned in the classroom. Many thanks to Ms. Cullen and Miss Murphy for organising this memorable trip. The excursion was very successful and a chance for us to learn outside of our classroom.