Castleknock College Union

Union Day 2016

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May 29, 2016


May 29th, Union President, Lorcan Tiernan and Junior President, Ian Garrigan at the kind invitation of College Headmaster, Oliver Murphy and College President, Very Rev. Peter Slevin, CM, joined for Union Day celebrations out at the College.

The day kicked off with Mass for the graduating class 2016, with lunch thereafter in a festooned gym, followed by an afternoon of Tag Rugby, Tennis finals and other fun & festivities, thankfully all in glorious sunshine. All then returned to the gym for the graduation ceremony and prize giving and a magical day concluded with a final Benediction for the boys.

There was a strong past pupil flavour to the proceedings as Paul MacQuillan, class '76 and Chairman of the Board of Management presided over prize giving, and Colin Murtagh, class '83 and Union President-Elect ran the Tag Rugby.

The Captain of the House, Conor Stinson, spoke on behalf of the graduating class '16:

President, Headmaster, Deputy Headmaster, Reverend Fathers, staff, family, and fellow graduates, I am fortunate, humbled and honoured to have, on this important occasion, this opportunity to express some thoughts and thanks on behalf of all the young men who graduate today.

At an early parent teacher meeting, one of my teachers joked to my parents Ah yes, Conor, a man of few words and he doesn’t use them very often” so it is more than a little ironic, that I stand here today to make this speech!

When seeking advice regarding what to say, someone advised me to have a good start and a good ending and then to have those as close together as possible. Other advice was: Be Sincere, Be Brief, Be Seated! However there is no such thing as a free lunch, and the price you all must now pay is to “abide with me” and listen to a few important reflections that I would like to make.

It has been particularly difficult to write these lines, especially having to follow the great validectory oration, expertly addressed to the school by Conor O’Hare last Wednesday. He is a man of very many talents and compared to him I may look like a simple man and speak like a simple man, but do not be fooled, for I am a simple man.

Conor spoke from the heart and gave some advice to all the boys in the school, and of course today the audience is different, just us, the 6th Years, our families and our teachers. So my focus will be somewhat different, but friendship will remain a key feature.

Almost 6 years ago we entered St Vincent’s Castleknock College as 100 bright eyed twelve year olds, we had left our primary schools as the senior boys there, now we were the most junior boys here. I remember as a 1st year, we broke for lunch 10 minutes before the rest of the school. We would all have just started lunch when the bell would go and after a 20 second delay, there was a growing rumble and the whole building shook as the hundreds of bigger lads would charge down the stairs. As new boys, most of us had clusters of friends entering the school with us, but the majority of our classmates were new. Now 6 years later we may be divided into 4 classes, but we are 1 year, 1 cohort, now ready to play our parts in the world.

We have had great times in the school and certainly much fun. We have celebrated successes over those 6 years, we have supported each other in the few times when the going got tough. We have celebrated with the great musicals, sporting successes, debates and the various trips or the foreign schools exchange programs, to Sweden, Norway, Lithuania, Germany, Spain and France.

However, never was there such a sudden change in emotion as when we celebrated the school awards for the first time in the Helix, only to be devastated as a community later that evening with the tragic death of our brother, Pierce Moran in the year below us. It was a hard lesson of the brevity of life. I am also aware that recently some pastmen have died tragically young.

So my first piece of advice is to live and enjoy every day and never put your life on hold.

Every man here is part of our graduation group, the class of 2016. Each unique, each special, each with his own strengths and weaknesses, but each enriched by being woven together as part of the unique tapestry that is this graduation class. In many ways we are an unusually diverse year with many eccentricities, which is great. We are one, but we are certainly not the same!

Of course we are excited to be graduating and moving on to the next stages in our lives. In recent weeks there has been a growing impatience to be free of school, and yet in the end the lunchtime footballers locked themselves into the all-weather pitch and if it wasn’t for Ms Coombes, I’m pretty sure the lads would still be there today.

However, we are ready to move on, we need to move on, we must move on.

But we should not fear, for there is much talent in the class of 2016. Musical talent, leadership talent, sporting talent, acting talent, academic talent, I could go on and on, and without a doubt, there are also some talents that are yet to surface!

We must believe, be confident, enthusiastic and persist.

So my second suggestion is to be determined and persevere, you will succeed in the end.

Though the umbilical cord to the school will soon be cut, we will always be proud alumni of the school, and we will always cherish the fantastic time we spent here. It was both great fun and a privilege to have been a student here for the last 6 years as I know all the young men sitting before me will agree.

Time will pass, paths will stray, but we will always be bound together as the class of 2016, and I hope will always reach out to each other. With the internet, e-mail & social media, it has never been easier for those of us graduating today to keep in touch. It has never been so easy to be together, even though we may be separated by oceans and continents. For we have all gained from such wonderful times and friendships here at Castleknock. Let us maintain these friendships and the Castleknock Union can help us to do that.

Thus my third piece of advice is not to forget who we are:

I quote the Coronas:

“And you know these roads, they could take you to the start, from the shadows, you’re cast to play the part. So don’t grow old, forgetting who you are, a simple goal, could get you very far”

We also have much to be grateful for and there are many we want to thank today.

We all have appreciated the great teaching staff here in Castleknock.

We have had exceptional teachers, who have worked so hard on our behalf. They have been so dedicated and have gone well beyond the call of duty for all of us. After school sports, music and other activities, after school tuition, weekends and summers devoted to improving us as sportsmen. But it is not their dedication and commitment that sets them apart. Rather it is how friendly, constructive and positive their approach has been.

You have each covered your curriculum for sure, and in Ms Wall’s case, twice, but you have also had that vital element: Warmth

Truth be told, we will not remember everything you taught us, but we will never forget how you made us feel. So thank you so much for all the hard work, the diligence, the care and especially the great warmth you have shown to each of us.

It has been said that a teacher is someone who makes himself progressively unnecessary. I now can appreciate how you have developed us and gradually taken us to that point of independence.

In particular I have to say our maths teachers have been great, they constantly help us solve problems……… problems we would never have even dreamt of without them.

We are so grateful for our year heads, Mr Healy and Mr Tierney, they have been fantastic. Mr Healy especially has our gratitude having been our year head for all 6 years. We would like to remind Mr Healy that his stock phrase “you’ll see the gate” has now come to pass!!

We have had a great headmaster in Mr Murphy and we thank him sincerely. In the 7 years since he was promoted (in more ways than one) to Castleknock, he has developed the school in so many ways. Academically the school has powered ahead (so no pressure lads!). He has brought new ideas and led by example. He fund-raised for new tennis courts, new all weather facilities and now his next goal is to replace the sports hall. A little known fact about Mr Murphy, is that his latest campaign was the inspiration for Donald Trump’s election credo, Mr Trump paraphrased Mr Murphy who states: “We’re going to build a HALL and the PASTMEN are going to pay for it!” We won’t, however, miss all those broadcasts reminding us about 1st year cricket and picking up litter!!

We must thank our deputy head, Mr Kinder. His dedication to this school is phenomenal. His quiet manner and modest nature disguises his determination and organisation skills. He truly has been the role model for his compatriot, the Ireland rugby coach, Joe Schmidt, but Joe Schmidt only has to manage a panel of 45 players who are all determined to impress him, while Mr Kinder has to manage 630 students who all seem determined to distress him.

Oscar Wilde notoriously quipped that Nothing worth knowing can be taught” And, though cynical, there is some truth in this, for we have learnt much from Father John, Father Slevin, Mr Murphy & Mr Kinder, despite never having been taught by them, gaining important attributes which will help us throughout our lives.

The St Vincent de Paul ethos of the school has been important in our social development. By chance we have been brought up by families, who have been able to provide for us. We are fortunate. We recall the simple ethos of St Vincent de Paul:- bringing the love of Christ to those in need.

Father John and the priests have been always there for us. Father John recently said: “In 6th year, if they don’t leave with a good heart we have failed.” Well I can assure all present, that you have not failed even one of this graduation class.

We finally thank our parents for the wisdom and real sacrifices made to send us to this college. It is a wonderful school, and the most beautiful School Campus in Ireland, just think of the playing fields, the mature trees, the ivy covered buildings, the Chapel, the old corridors filled with character and history. We will no longer see these school features every day, but all that is great about this College will still belong to us, just as all that is good about us, will remain part of this College.

So my fourth piece of advice is to be grateful for all we have in life.

Time does not permit me to mention each member of the year. However I would particularly like to thank Conor O’Hare and Luke Newcombe for their special roles this year-- whenever the school asked, they responded. I would like to thank Cathal Birmingham for his great leadership of the Senior Cup Rugby team. Ryan Cullinan has also been a fine captain of the more successful school soccer team. A special thanks to Sean Townsend who has sat beside me in most classes for 14 years now, he deserves an award for patience and tolerance. However everyone in the year deserves my sincere gratitude. Conor O’Hare spoke movingly about friendship last Wednesday, I echo his sentiment and am so grateful to have each and everyone of the year as my friend. Much as I appreciate my sister, I have never had a brother, but today I leave this room with 80 brothers.

My last piece of advice is to care for those friendships.

A few treasured memories for me are:

Jack O’Neill’s loud, enthusiastic and unwavering support at matches;

The endless feminist rants in English;

The Great Escape in 3rd year

Mr Gallagher’s seemingly endless supply of biscuits

Father John at the school doors warmly welcoming each and everyone of us, every morning was particularly appreciated.

These memories we have forged here will be lifelong reminders of the wonderful times we have shared together over the last 6 years. We will cherish these thoughts for all our adult lives. I wish everyone the very best of luck over the next 4 weeks, and much, much more importantly, in the real life that lies beyond. We are each unique, we are all precious, we will all flourish, we are all one.

So don’t grow old, forgetting who you are, a simple goal, could get you very far

And so as we leave this great school;

May our adversities make us strong,

May our victories make us wise and

May our actions make us proud

President, Headmaster, Reverend Fathers, Teachers, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honoured, humbled and very pleased to present to you for the final time as school boys; those who have now become the men of the class of 2016.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.

Thank you