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A large cohort of pupils joined Rev. Daniel Owen for the first episode of the Nua Film Series last night – a new series of short videos which offers a different perspective on Christian faith. In total, there are eight videos in the series and each is around 15 minutes. According to their website ….

“NUA is all about exploration: it’s a film series that encourages questions, acknowledges doubt, and offers an engaging perspective on the Christian faith. NUA equips you with the ability to intelligently explore and understand what you believe. We give you tools to discuss your worldview with credibility and confidence, while encouraging you to wrestle with the things that just don’t seem to make sense. At the end of the day, this film series is about impact—immediate and personal, as well as the long-term, life-changing experience of working out your faith.”

The first video certainly was popular – I’m sure Rev. Owen’s vast biscuit collection had little to do with its popularity – with plenty of discussion afterwards too. Here’s the first episode of the series (in case you missed it).

Yesterday 15 candidates were confirmed at the Ascension Day service in Chapel on a gloriously sunny day by the Archbishop of Dublin, Most Reverend Michael Jackson, assisted by the Chaplain, Reverend Daniel Owen. Pictured, the group after the service.

Educating the next generation is the most serious and weighty responsibility that anyone could possibly engage in. However, as in every profession or vocation, it is important not to take oneself too seriously. When you are working with young people laughter and absurdity are never very far away and in my experience most teachers are good at laughing at themselves. A staff room is a place of great camaraderie and mutual support. There is always something around the corner to bring you down to earth and more often than not your colleagues are responsible. Or something entirely unpredictable.

Let’s take yesterday as an example. We had our annual Confirmation service in the afternoon, a happy and enjoyable affair with plenty of visitors. During the service I left my two dogs in my study because I feel sorry for them being locked up at home all day when my wife is away. I was outside the chapel afterwards talking to a parent when a girl came up to me and told me I needed to come back to my study quickly. It transpired that the younger dog, still a puppy, had found a blue biro, chewed it up, walked in the ink and then run all over the light brown carpet leaving footprints everywhere. It is hard to believe that such a small dog could cause so much mess. It was a scene of mayhem. Today I have to receive some visiting parents who are contemplating making a serious investment to send their children to my school…let’s hope they aren’t too alarmed by a Warden who cannot control his own pets, let alone a school.

A couple of weeks ago, while walking with gravitas through the assembled children after Chapel I stumbled and nearly fell down the stairs in front of everyone, to general delight. In the same week I managed to come into a hymn in Chapel a beat too early. You know those moments when someone comes in early and everyone smiles and turns to look at the culprit…only this time the culprit was the Warden. Oh well…no danger of taking myself too seriously in those circumstances.

Every teacher will remember those moments in class or in a boarding house when a pupil has done something against the rules, but which is actually very funny. With great difficulty you keep a straight face and read the riot act, then go into the staff room and burst out laughing: the child who has given you the most ridiculous excuse for wearing the incorrect uniform or told you that he smells of cigarette smoke because he was with others who were smoking, but he didn’t smoke himself. I was once talking to a boy in house who wanted to go out for the weekend and while he was asking he pulled his hand out of his pocket and a packet of fags accidentally fell out and landed at my feet. The boy whom I caught walking down the corridor with a half empty bottle of wine, which he claimed was not his, but someone else’s, who had left it in his room. He was just returning it. Then there was the boy who managed to rack up a £12,000 mobile phone bill on another boy’s phone, downloading movies which he thought were free. (Don’t worry, these things didn’t happen at St. Columba’s. Obviously such things would never happen here!)

Occasionally a quiet and good-natured boy or girl, who has never been in trouble before, does something stupid and cops the consequences. I feel a sense of relief, as if to say, ‘I am so glad that they have got it wrong at last. I was beginning to worry.’ Obviously it would be better to stay out of trouble but we learn from making mistakes and testing the boundaries and getting it wrong may not be a bad thing. Young people must be allowed to make mistakes.

So running a school is a very serious business. However the laughter in the staff room and the antics of the pupils can brighten many a rainy day and we are all better for that.

By the way the carpet cleaner is coming this afternoon.

I have just come back from a few days at the Boarding Schools Association heads’ conference in York. As a boarding school in Ireland we are rather unusual and as there is no such network on this island it is helpful to be engaged in a wider boarding conversation. It is no good if we are the best boarding school in Ireland but fall well behind the standards of the best boarding practice elsewhere.

When surrounded by people who see as much value in boarding as I do it gets one thinking: what is it about boarding that means that it still survives, and indeed flourishes, in the 21st century? Here is my list, though certainly not exhaustive:

  • Boarding creates a wonderful sense of community, in which everyone should feel valued and accepted;
  • Living in a boarding house with others creates a sense of belonging and identity, as well as often a great sense of pride;
  • It is of great value for young people to live alongside others in close proximity. Often their housemates or dorm-mates are very different and would not naturally become friends, but one learns to appreciate those who are different from oneself and to get on with all sorts. That is a good preparation for life beyond school;
  • Pupils learn to be independent and make decisions for themselves away from their parents;
  • No time is wasted travelling to and from school…time that can be spent on work or activities for the children…and it frees up parents from the daily ferrying to school and other activities and clubs;
  • Boarding schools typically provide and encourage a huge amount of extra-curricular activity and pupils have the time to engage in that programme in a fuller way than if they were day pupils;

I have worked in boarding schools for 23 years and I envy the friendships and bonds that are created between those who spend their formative years together. That is not my experience of day schools…I went to a day school and have kept no friends from those days, even though my school experience was largely positive. The boys who went through my boarding house will be at each others’ weddings, be godparents to each others’ children, spend holidays together and even give the addresses at their funerals.

I would say all these things, wouldn’t I…after all I do run a boarding school and if I didn’t believe in it then it would be a bit worrying. I also understand that boarding is not right for everyone and I am too well aware that not everyone’s experience of boarding has been a happy one. There was a time when bullying was ignored and boarding schools were harsh places for the sporty and popular. Of course no school, however good, can ever claim to have no bullying, because young people, like adults, have a tendency to be unpleasant to each other. Nevertheless I do think that a really good boarding education is for many a fantastic start in life and all good boarding establishments nowadays are attuned as never before to those who are battling and struggling to fit in.

I am back at my desk now…school is over for the day and children at day schools have gone home. For us we have sports practices, cricket matches, Saturday school and a parents’ fund-raising dinner tomorrow night, chapel on Saturday and Sunday, a beautiful environment to enjoy. I love it.

Mark Boobbyer

There is a tremendous variety of activities on show in our annual Arts Week, which this year runs from Monday 20th to the evening of Sunday 26th. See below for a day-by-day outline.

Monday 20th March

Look Up, Look Forward, Look Out with James Shone 8.30 am (pupils) and 7.00pm (for parents and friends) with James Shone. Venues: BSR in the morning and the Drawing Room in the evening

11.45am: Dancersize, Sports Hall, 11.45 am Form IV

1.20pm: everyone and anyone, including staff.

6.30pm  French Theatre for Schools, BSR, I/II/III.

 

Tuesday 21st March

10.30am : Instituto Cervantes trip for Form IV Spanish pupils.

3pm:  Primary Schools Choral Day concert, Chapel (P, I, II).

Emily Archer workshop, Art Centre, Second Form art pupils

6.30pm  (Drinks and Dinner);  8.oopm  Lecture (VI, V art pupils). Opening of Hector McDonnell exhibition, Whitehall & Lower Argyle.

7pm,  Flamenco Dance Workshop, BSR, Fourth Form.

 

Wednesday 22nd March

8.10am, Art and Social Conscience with Hector McDonnell, Chapel

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: Second Form Actiontrack drama workshops, BSR, during class-time.

Morning: Art Workshop with Hector McDonnell for Form V and VI, Art Centre

Lunchtime:  Speaker’s Corner, Chapel Square

8pm, Guitar Recital with Shane Hennessey, Chapel

 

Thursday 23rd March

Morning: Poetry Slam with Jasper Bark (pictured) (different times for P, I/IV), Library. [CANCELLED]

Morning: Photographic Workshop with Erin Quinn, Art Centre

VI and V art pupils to exhibitions of Caravaggio at NGI and Lucien Freud at IMMA.

8pm, ‘William Trevor Remembered’, BSR, with Joseph O’Connor and Julian Girdham – talks and readings. Reception in Whitehall for visitors afterwards.

 

Friday 24th March

Morning: Poetry Slam with Jasper Bark (different times for P, I/IV), Library. [CANCELLED]

7pm, Poetry Slam Competition Final, BSR (P to IV) and performance by Jasper Bark [CANCELLED]

 

Saturday 25th March

8.15pm, Art Prizes Evening  with Mick O’ Dea, president of the Royal Hibernian Academy, BSR.

 

Sunday 26th March

8pm: Music Recitals and Music Prizes Evening, BSR, with adjudicator Margaret O’Sullivan Farrell.

Activities that will be running through the week

WE ARE UNIQUE – drop into the Science Lab and create your unique handprint for display.

Fifth and Sixth Form  art pupils will reconstruct a figurative painting of their choice from their course work which will be photographed and displayed during the week.

Yesterday on Remembrance Sunday, the Chaplain, Rev Daniel Owen led the service broadcast from the RTE studios. The Chapel choir, directed by Mrs Malone Brady, played a major part singing Hewson’s ‘Let us now praise famous men’, Bach’s ‘Sheep may safely graze’ and Hutchings’ ‘We will remember them‘ plus several hymns. The service may be seen on RTE player here.

The Reverend B.W.N. Walsh Memorial Concert was held last night in the Chapel to mark the Walsh Fund for restoring the organ. It was a superb evening of high-class music-making, particularly by the ‘headline act’, the Old Columban Colm Carey.  Click here for some photographs.

The large audience was welcomed by the Sub-Warden, Julian Girdham, who thanked all subscribers to the Fund, including the Walsh family, who were well-represented. Then former Chaplain Michael Heaney gave a tribute to his predecessor ‘Bert’, a much-loved long-serving colleague, who as well as being Chaplain and a teacher of Religious Studies was a distinguished Head of the Irish Department.

Then the concert began. Currently Master of Music of the Chapels Royal, HM Tower of London, Colm Carey started his career on the organ as a teenager in our Chapel under David Milne and Chris Jenkins, and has gone on to an impressive performing and recording career. His complete mastery of the instrument was obvious from the opening piece, a spectacular delivery of Egil Hovland’s Toccata, ‘Now thank we all our God’.  Angela Hicks (soprano) sang exquisitely throughout the concert, including a stunningly controlled version of Schubert’s Litanei auf das Fest ‘Aller Seelen’ and the engaging love song ‘Sweeter than Roses’ by Purcell.

The choir, who in December travel to Amsterdam to perform in several venues, gave us Bach’s ‘Sheep May Safely Graze’, and Mozart’s beautiful ‘Laudate Dominum’ in support of Angela Hicks.

Colm Carey’s virtuosic skills were in evidence in a wonderfully varied programme, the rest of which included pieces by Locklair, Hakim and Karg-Elert, and a memorable Durufle ‘Veni Creator’, with plainsong intervals by Angela Hicks.

The concert concluded with the choir’s resounding rendition of George Hewson’s “Let us Now Praise Famous Men'”. The standing ovation for organist and soloist at the end was thoroughly deserved. It was a superb evening, and a deserved tribute to Reverend Walsh, and is now memorialised by a new brass plaque on the organ casing.

Refreshments and chat were enjoyed by all in the Big Schoolroom afterwards.