One thing that has not been delayed is the production of The Submarine magazine. While it won’t appear in paper form, you can read the Hilary Term edition now here.

Editors Avi Johnston and Edna Johnston have put together an attractive mix of writing and art work by pupils, including Sinéad Cleary, Paz Guitart, Arizona Forde, Iris Foster, Tita Schack v Wittenau, Aiyuni O’Grady, Mika Sacolax, Georgia Goodbody, Eyitore Gbenga-Ajayi, Vivian Tuite, Jasper Wilkinson, Aran Murphy, Aeladh Bradley-Brady, Ayodeji Ediale and Rory O’Dowd. And there’s an appeal for more material for the next edition, too (see the final page).

The Warden is sending a letter to Sixth Form, preparing for their Leaving Certificate. Here it is:

Dear 6th Formers

I hope this letter finds you in decent spirits. It is very hard to maintain morale at this time and I hope you are managing to stay positive.

Let me start by saying how much I and all the staff here miss you all at the moment. Yes, it is holiday time right now, but it has already been a while since you all left and the prospect of an extended break from school is really depressing. The school grounds can feel very peaceful in holiday time but it doesn’t feel like that right now…instead it just feels very empty.

I am sure that you are following the various pronouncements from the Irish government every day. As things stand there is a determination to proceed with the Leaving Certificate exams in June, but how realistic that is I don’t know. It may just be bravado, although one cannot rule out the possibility that in two months’ time the worst will be over and that conditions will allow you to come in each day for exams. There are arguments from some saying that it would be unfair to make you sit exams in the present environment, while there are others who say it would be unfair to deprive you of the opportunity to sit those exams. I don’t know who is right, but we have to be prepared for either eventuality.

What I can say with certainty is that the College will be here to support you fully through whatever happens. If exams need to be sat, then we will make sure that, if you live a long way away, or even abroad, and we are not allowed to accommodate you in school, the wider Columban community will help out in every way possible. We will do everything that we possibly can to ensure that you end up with the grades that you deserve and get into the courses at the universities on which you have set your hearts. I know how unsettling and stressful it must be for you, having to carry on with your revision, while being unsure as to whether the exams are actually going to take place or not.

This is Easter week and, although my biblical interpretation may be a bit contrived, it could be seen to mirror the current situation. On Palm Sunday Jesus rides into Jerusalem, acclaimed by the crowds, who hail him as the king. By Thursday he has been deserted by everyone and betrayed by a close friend and everything looks as dark as it can be. On Friday Jesus dies on the cross, his disciples flee and he is mocked and despised by passers-by. However, that is not the end of the story and on Sunday he rises from the dead, the culmination of the Christian story.

You may or may not be very religious but you will still agree it feels now like we are going through a very dark time. The excitement of the approaching summer term, with its sunny weather, sports day, prize-giving, graduation and emotional farewells to friends, has given way to a sense of betrayal and huge anti-climax. I imagine that that is how you feel. However, I do believe that we will get through it, as a College and as individuals. I can tell you now that, if we are not able to have a graduation ceremony in late May, we will still find an opportunity, when the time is right, to invite you all back to the College to celebrate your time here and to say goodbye in a fitting manner.

On Sunday we will be recording a short Easter service in chapel. Please do listen to it and join in where you can. In the meantime take care of yourselves and support each other in every way you can.

Best wishes,

The Warden.

 

 

In normal circumstances, pupils would be leaving the College this morning after Warden’s Assembly.

The Senior Prefect, Megan Bulbulia, has an end of term message to all pupils, which you can listen to on the player below.

This morning the Chaplain again led a small number of resident staff (well ‘distanced’ physically) in another Chapel service, for the worldwide Columban community, on the day we would have had our final Hilary Term classes.  Again there are prayers from the Chaplain, the lesson read by the Warden, and the hymn ‘Angel Voices’ sung to Mr McCarthy’s piano accompaniment.

You can listen to the previous service here.

Listen via this player:

 

This morning the Chaplain led an unusual service in Chapel, which we hope provides comfort for the whole College community. A small number of staff attended, keeping well apart from each other under social distancing guidelines, and Reverend Owen said prayers, Mr Crombie read the lesson, and the hymn ‘The King of Love my Shepherd Is’ was sung to Mr McCarthy’s piano accompaniment.

We plan for more in the future. Listen to the 10-minute service by using the player below. If you have a problem with that, try the ‘video’ version (sound only) below it.

SCC Chapel Service from St Columba’s College on Vimeo.

Best wishes to all the College community on the strangest St Patrick’s Day ever.

Normally we would be appreciating a weekend off, and resuming classes tomorrow for the rest of term (and enjoying the Arts Week activities). However, the focus for College staff will now be on supporting their pupils academically for as long as the national schools’ closure lasts. We are already well-placed to do this, since our Firefly Learning virtual learning environment is well-embedded in College practice for some years, and this is backed up with regular use of the tools in G-Suite for Education.

Yesterday teachers received additional online training from the IT Department on using these systems, including Google Meet. They are ready to guide all classes (with priority given to public examination Forms), starting tomorrow. Both parents and pupils have been emailed about this recently.

We wish everyone in the community the very best in the times ahead.

 

Well done to the Artistic Performance class on their successful first art event. They organised and hosted an exhibition of ceramic work for 1st, 2nd and 4th Forms on Monday evening. Everyone had an important role to play in organising this: marketing, printing brochures and labels, interviewing artists, making speeches, photographers, curators, refreshments, security and printing positive quotes for every visitor to take.

The Playboy of the Western World is an ambitious play for Juniors to put on, set as it is in what is by now an alien culture for teenagers of the early 21st century, who have to speak in a language that is even more alien to them. However, Mr Jameson (who has himself performed in the play) is properly ambitious, and his cut-down version of John Millington Synge’s masterpiece told this memorable tale effectively in the BSR.

The bleakness of the Mayo shebeen was echoed in a bare set as Pegeen Mike (Daniela Nolan) opened the play showing her disdain for weedy Shawn Keogh (his personality embodied physically by Alex Hinde). The great moment when stranger Christy Mahon enters, nervous and quiet, claiming to have killed his father, was effectively played by Naoise Murray, and then built on by the locals played by Florian Zitzmann (Jimmy), Susan (Kate Higgins), Aedlagh Bradley-Brady (Nelly), Zofia Cannon-Brookes (Philly), Elizabeth Hart (Sara), Shannon Walker Kinsella (Honor) and pot-bellied Michael, Pegeen’s father (properly cheerful and self-centred as portrayed by Hal Somerville). Gradually Christy realises he is actually being seen as a hero striking back against authority, and, even better, Pegeen has an exciting alternative to Shawn Keogh. Naoise Murray conveyed this dawning discovery very well, and Emily McCarthy as the Widow Quin conveyed her own scepticism confidently. The cast was completed by Elliot Warnock as the Bell Man announcing Christy’s sporting success.

An even better moment is when Christy’s supposedly-dead father Old Mahon comes in, and Cameron McKinley brought renewed energy to the stage. Later, after he is ‘killed’ again, he repeated that entry crawling onto the stage, blood-spattered, head first, to the delight of the audience. The rest of the story played out as it should, with the audience divided between delight in Christy’s triumph and sympathy for Pegeen’s abandonment. Congratulations to all involved.

 

Photographs, below, by Daniel Owen.

 

Cast and Crew

 

Daniela Nolan: Pegeen Flaherty

Alex Hinde : Shawn Keogh

Hal Somerville: Michael James Flaherty

Florian Zitzmann: Jimmy

Zofia Cannon-Brookes: Philly

Naoise Murray: Christy Mahon

Emily McCarthy: The Widow Quin

Kate Higgins: Susan

Elizabeth Hart: Sara

Shannon Walker Kinsella: Honor

Aeladh Bradley-Brady: Nelly

Cameron McKinley: Old Mahon

Elliot Warnock: The Bell-Man

 

Production / direction: Evan Jameson and Humphrey Jones

Stage management, sound and lights: Ronan Swift

Set design: Derarca Cullen, Michael Keogh, Emma Hinde, Iona Chavasse, Avi Johnston, Edna Johnston

Costumes: Karen Hennessey

Make-up effects: Arizona Forde

 

Thanks to Donna and Ted Sherwood. 

 

The College’s annual Mental Health Awareness Week kicks off tomorrow (Saturday) with another rich and varied programme of events lined up to promote positive mental health and wellbeing. We have a series of visiting speakers including Jigsaw (The National Centre for Youth Mental Health), Courageous Kids, Tom Tate (on the transition from secondary school to university). We welcome back Humourfit Drama Group who will present a play on The Value of Life while there are a series of physical activities to compliment the mind through Poundfit, yoga, mindful breaking and an early morning walk. In SPHE classes, there will be a great focus on safe Internet use and the effects of social media on mental health (it’s also national Safe Internet Week in Ireland) while the Library will display a series of books related to positive mental attitude and mental health. There is also a table quiz for the whole school and a late-rising (to grab a couple of extra winks). Some activities are scheduled in the evening and Day Pupils are actively encouraged to take part. Parents can get involved too – the Parents’ Association has organised a hike up nearby Kilmashogue Mountain before the parent-teacher meeting on Friday morning.

We hope the entire school community will get behind these events; positive mental health amongst young people is such an important issue. For the full programme of events click here.

Below is a Spotify playlist for the week.

Today in Assembly we heard about the Transition Year entries for the Junk Kouture competition. They now need your help to get through to the next stage by voting for them online. We would really appreciate your help.

Voting is free: you just need to register with a few details. You can vote once every day from Monday 3rd February until Friday 7th (6 pm).  Please share the link. We are a small school so they need every vote they can get!
  1. Register to vote app.junkkouture.com
  2. Vote for the design/ designs you want to get through. You can vote for 1-4 of the designs each day. Search by their design name or follow the links below:
For more photos of the outfits have a look on the @stcolumbas_art Instagram page.

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

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

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

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

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

Tickets are available here.

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16th January 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The latest edition of The Submarine, edited by Avi and Edna Johnston, is now out, and can be read online (and downloaded) here. Among the articles are ones by Éile Ní Chianáin about her experience of the recent Climate Change Youth Assembly, Elise Williams on the UCD Leinster Debates, Cian Slyne on dystopian societies, and Zofia Cannon-Brookes, as well as lots of pupil art work.

Team Hope’s Christmas Shoebox Appeal is a wonderful charity that provides shoeboxes full of toys, treats, school stationery, hygiene products and clothing for some of the poorest children in the world. The College has been involved with this amazing charity for over 15 years and this year, once again, the Transition Year pupils have been actively involved. Pupils have already created over 200 festively wrapped filled boxes to date and have also fundraised through their mini-companies. They have also visited the Team Hope warehouse over the past few weeks packing the filled boxes into the lorries destined for Eastern Europe and Africa. A particular thank you to Mr Cron who has been driving the College’s involvement in the charity from day one, and to the other staff who accompanied the pupils to the warehouse in the evenings. Team Hope is once again the Gywnn House charity in 2019/2020.