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.

Maxim Meddah gives an account of the annual TY House Speech Competition:

On Sunday 29th September, the annual Transition Year House Speeches took place once again in St Columba’s College. Each house was represented by two pupils. The topic the pupils could choose was up to them. Some were serious and some were humorous. The contestants were marked out of ten points for delivery and content and five points on lack of reliance on notes. They each spoke for three to five minutes.  

Glen was represented by Antoine Dulauroy who spoke about how Astrophysics can change your view on the world and Akin Babajide who spoke about why the idea of world peace is naive. Gwynn was represented by Tom Casey who spoke about why the earth is flat and Peter Taylor who spoke about anxiety. Stackallan was represented by Marcus O’Connor speaking about the profound message of Kung Fu Panda and Andrew Maguire on the importance of team sports. Edna Johnston spoke about being a twin and Amalia Falkenhayn speaking about being tall represented Iona. Representing Hollypark were Emma Hinde talking about ‘the power of words’ and Caroline Hager speaking about Flying.  

The event started with the announcement of the first speaker Edna Johnston by the evening’s MC, Guy Fitzgibbon. Edna then commenced with her speech which was about being a twin. She talked about her least favourite response to people finding out she has a twin which was “Oh I know a set of twins” and her favourite response being when people look in shock with their mouths wide open. In retrospect, her speech was really about being her own person and that she and her sister are not one and the same person but two individuals that merely look alike. The next speech was by Antoine Dulauroy. He talked about the two different ways someone’s view of the world could be affected by astrophysics, showing us how big the universe really is. The first point was that you feel tiny in such a huge world and that nothing matters. The second being seizing that feeling of feeling small and meaningless and use it as a pretext to trying scary and challenging new things. In the end, he mentioned his dream, or rather his objective of becoming an astrophysicist.

The third speech, a humorous one, was given by Tom Casey and he talked about the earth being flat with the example of a grapefruit. His first reason was that if the earth was round an aeroplane which flies from the northern hemisphere to the southern one should arrive upside down, which quite evidently does not. He also reasoned that all the water would pour down the face of the earth if it were round. His speech entertained the audience well and by the end of his speech the whole room was filled with laughter. Next up was Amalia Falkenhayn talking about being tall. She started her speech with a quote from a recently released Netflix movie called Tall Girl. She compared how the movie portrayed being a tall girl and how it really is. But what her speech was really about was that you should feel comfortable in your body and be confident about something you simply cannot change like your height. The next speech was about the power of words and was held by Emma Hinde. She began with reciting a fact about bird species being extinct in the Amazonian rainforest sounding quite convincing but then telling us that that was not true. She then continued her speech about how someone can sound convincing spreading lies and how powerful that could be and then talked about how these powerful words could also be used to comfort people and make them feel good. The next speech was by Andrew Maguire who talked about the importance of team sports. He talked about his first days in the school not knowing anyone and not being able to make new friends during class because he was not allowed to talk but then proceeding to the hockey pitch and finally being able to talk to someone. He talked about how the friends he made on the hockey pitch that day later came to be his best friends. He talked about how team sports binds people together and strengthens relationships.

Then Caroline Hager talked about how she has always dreamed of flying an aeroplane, not the big commercial airline planes but the four-man acrobatic planes in which she could do loops and nosedives. Marcus O’Connor followed, and talked about the profound message of KungFu Panda. The message here was that there is no secret ingredient, no quick way to earn success and that you should always believe in yourself and focus on being your best self and not someone else and that you should believe in others and that they can change for the better. The next speech about a controversial topic was by Akin Babajide. He talked about why the idea of world peace is naive. He talked about how human society is based on conflict and that it is a primal part of us we cannot simply ignore. He said that for millennia humans have been at war and millions of people have died because of this but yet we still continue waging war on each other with no end in sight simply ending one war does not mean peace it just means a temporary agreement to a ceasefire. He said that because war has always been there that it is impossible to keep away. The last speech was by Peter Taylor who talked about anxiety. He talked about the effects this disorder can have on a person and how it can affect their life, and how some of the most courageous people have the highest level anxiety and as an example, he mentioned his friend who is one of the bravest people he knows having crippling anxiety.

While the judges were deciding on the placements of the contestants there was a very entertaining performance of Irish dancing performed by TJ Hopkins. When the placements were announced it was announced that there would be a tie for second place. Both Tom Casey and Peter Taylor were awarded this position. First place was given to Akin Babajide. Thank you to Ms Kilfeather, Raphaela Ihouma and Reverend Owen for their excellent adjudication of the event.

The pastoral care team (called Cúram, the Irish for “care”) has organized a busy schedule of activities for our annual Bullying Awareness Week. Our theme is “small change, big difference”.

These include:

  • Workshops for Forms IV and VI with Stuart Wilson (from ZestLife) on the themes of “small change, big difference” and “leadership” on Monday.
  • A talk for Forms I and II from Monica Rowe from Key Conversations on developing the skills to cope with change, friendships and to develop a strong self-image on Tuesday.
  • A workshop called Hero Starts With Her for the girls in Forms I, II and IV which aims to raise awareness of the negative effects of female bullying on Wednesday.
  • A visit to the Gaiety Theatre on Wednesday for Form V to see the play Asking for It. (They will return to the College at 11:00 p.m.)
  • Teacher/pupil workshops for all on issues such as how we all have a responsibility to address bullying and how to report bullying behaviour on Thursday.
  • A workshop for Forms IV and V from Shout Out on Friday. This will address the issue of homophobic bullying. The Department of Education and Skills requires schools to focus on developing pupils’ awareness of bullying and asks that they deal explicitly with the issue of homophobic bullying.
  • A film evening for Forms I and II on Thursday (6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.).
  • A documentary and discussion for Forms III and IV on Friday (6:45 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.).
  • An art project involving the whole school.
  • Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) classes on the themes of friendship and bullying.
  • The theme of “small change, big difference” in Chapel.
  • A display of books in the Library on the theme of bullying and how to handle it.

We hope that day pupils will be able to join their classmates for evening activities. Please feel free to contact the College if you have any queries or if you wish to withdraw your child from any of the activities above.

On Saturday last, October 5th, the College hosted a researchED conference, the first time this international educational movement has been to Ireland, South or North. 350 educators, including 30 speakers, were joined by 25 of our own staff from morning to late afternoon going to presentations by world-class speakers from England, Scotland, Sweden and Belgium, as well as many presenters from all over Ireland (Derry to West Cork to Wexford to Dublin to Armagh). The programme can be seen here.

researchED Dublin (joining venues in the UK, USA, Australia, Sweden, Holland, Italy, Dubai, Chile, Switzerland and South Africa, with China coming) opened in the brand-new Whispering House at registration, with delegates arriving from 7.30am on (most of course were Irish, but we did have visitors from Switzerland, the UK and even Australia), collecting programmes and having coffee and eats provided by our superb caterers Sodexo. Then the conference proper started in the Big Schoolroom, with everyone being welcomed by the host and organiser, the Sub-Warden. Tom Bennett, founder of researchED, spoke about his delight in being in Ireland at last and gave an account of researchED’s purpose. He then handed over to the keynote speaker, Daisy Christodoulou, author of Seven Myths about Education and Making Good Progress? She showed how cognitive science has had a profound impact on teaching and learning.

After that, delegates chose from 6 strands, with sessions taking place in the BSR, the Cadogan, the Science Lab, the Physics Lab and the Biology Lab. Renowned speakers like Tom Sherrington, Mary Myatt, Alex Quigley, Pedro de Bruyckere and David Didau were interspersed with first-time presenters such as Conor Murphy, Kate Barry and Leona Forde. One of the exciting things about researchED events is how academic researchers meet and interact with classroom teachers, and the former here included University of Limerick researcher Dr Ann Marcus-Quinn and Ulster University’s Dr Victoria Simms (she speaks on the video).

A wonderful lunch (the perfect time to network and chat to strangers about common interests) was followed by three sessions in the afternoon, culminating in Carl Hendrick’s excoriating and hilarious dismantling of feeble pedagogy which sells children short. In the evening, the presenters came back together for dinner in town.

Reaction on the day was immensely positive, and online even more so: read this collection to get a flavour of what has been said since.

Many thanks to Ian O’Herlihy for the video of the day at the top of this post, and Daniel Owen for the photographs below.

The College, along with our partners Kilmashogue Golf Club, hosted the inaugural ‘Lionel Munn’ Golf Trophy competition for Sixth Class Primary Schools last week and it proved a tremendous success. The day consisted of the complete spectrum of weather conditions ranging from tropical sunshine to a torrential deluge accompanied by thunder and lightning, meaning all players were called off the course. One group managed to play eight holes and all others seven. So the competition was decided on seven holes.

The Best Boy’s prize was won by Aaron Nolan representing Lios na nOg,  playing off a 27 handicap with a very respectable 13 points. The Best Girl’s prize was won by Ana Abom representing Loreto Primary School off a 25 handicap with an equally respectable 13 points. The Team Prize was won by Loreto Primary School represented by Ana Abom and Sophie Considine.

Very well done to all players, parents, schools and the Kilmashogue Golf Club volunteers, headed by Geoff Brooks. It was fantastic to see so many smiling and positive young faces enjoying and playing golf.

On Saturday last the annual Sports Day took place. The College was awash with colour and, thankfully, sunshine as the boys and girls competed in a range of events from traditional track and field to tug of war (and everything in between). In the end, it was the Blue Team that triumphed!

That evening our annual Sports Dinner took place in the Dining Hall, celebrating the sporting achievements of individual pupils and their collective teams. The assembled pupils, staff and coaches were treated to an extraordinary speech from our guest Old Columban Alex Panayotou; Alex is an ultra-endurance athlete whose story is awe-inspiring.

College ‘Colours’ are awarded to those who are deemed exceptional in every way in their sport: ability, attitude, commitment on and off the playing field, consistency, reliability, character and courage. This year ‘Colours’ were awarded to Avouka Assebian (Athletics), Georg Mueller-Methling (Hockey) and Orla Conlon Batey, Helen Crampton, Anna Laurenceau and Valeria McQuillen (all Hockey). Congratulations to them.

The following were appointment captains of their respective sports for the next academic year:

  • Athletics (Boys) – Leo Moreau
  • Athletics (Girls) – Avouka Assebian
  • Basketball (Boys) – Pedro Grimalt
  • Basketball (Girls) – Calina Sacolax
  • Cricket (Boys) – Daniel Swift (Vice Capt Thaddy McKeever)
  • Cricket (Girls) – Eile ni Chianain
  • Cross Country – Shannon Dent
  • Hockey (Boys) – Alexis Haarman
  • Hockey (Girls) – Sophia Cole (Vice Capt Megan Bulbulia)
  • Rugby – Thaddy McKeever (Vice Philip Shekeleton)

Below is a collection of photos from the day’s activities, courtesy of Rev Owen.