History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'

History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'

Part 2...........

50 Years a Growin'

Life in St. Aidan’s down through the decades. What was general life like in the school during the next half century? And what was the background like in Ireland and the world? The Sixties segued into the Seventies and, with apologies to Billy Joel (and the Wexford hurling team), the decade might be summed up as follows:

Sheik Yamani in the news,

Never ending petrol queues.

All the Young Dudes lookin’ cool,

Another win for Liverpool.

Punk rockers , spikey hair,

Burning oil wells , Red Adair.

Black Tower , Blue Nun ,

Looking after Number One .

Johnny Giles hangs up his boots ,

Kunta Kinte finds his roots .

Bank strikes , postal strikes ,

all kinds of everything strikes characterised the Seventies. The bell bottoms got wider and the sideburns grew longer. Some teachers wore gowns. Uniforms and blazers were introduced for the students. Blazers? Ah for….you must be joking! It was far from blazers yous were reared. “Waist high bashing “became an indictable offence. When talking to a pedagogue, (“Is that a teacher, Sir?”) boys were expected to “stand erect, but not stiff “. Hair length caused many problems. “Cut it long, cut it short, cut it with a knife and fork”. Naw; just tie it in a pony tail and stuff it inside your collar. Sorted.

Mercifully, some of the more outrageous rules were short lived. They suffered the same fate as The Statutes of Kilkenny. They were blithely ignored and eventually consigned to the bonfire of the inanities. Both teachers and students started to excel in various spheres. Peadar Slattery (“the Mr. Slattery with the degree”) published a school text book on Geography while John F. Deane published an English textbook entitled “Realms of Gold”. He also produced his first slim volume of poetry “Stalking after Time “. He would go on to establish Poetry Ireland, publish many volumes of prose and poetry and win France’s most prestigious literary award The Grand Prix de literature de l’Academie Francaise. As will be mentioned later (in the section on Sport) Sixth Year student, Peter Jones, won First Prize in the Senior Section of the Texaco Art Competition for schools all over Ireland. A young lad called John Sutton had a passion for drama developed in Mr. Coffey’s English class and went on to found a theatre company with Paul Mercier called Passion Machine. This provided a platform for young unknown writers like Roddy Doyle and budding actors such as Brendan Gleeson in plays like “Brown Bread “and “Wasters”. And, of course, the school produced a band called Tokyo Olympics (it was the name chosen due to the fact that the first Tokyo Olympics were held in 1964 -the year that Aidan’s was founded?) Suffice to say that they became fleetingly so famous that another bunch of young upstarts from Mount Temple, named after an American spy plane, played support to these Aidan’s lads led by Billy McGuinness. They were originally called DC Nien (sic) just to let all and sundry know they came from the Northside. But, even though it was they who came from that area where the streets had no name, they still never found what they were looking for .C’est la vie.

Meanwhile, Liam Brady became the darling of Arsenal and Irish fans. The discos in the School Hall brought Saturday Night Fever to Aidan’s and raised much needed funds for school development. Sometimes dances were held without bands giving rise to a hundred couples dancing in two hundred different ways. Mrs. Phil Lomumby and the Majella Ladies Club (“ The Jelly Babies “) did Trojan work supplying refreshments at these dances and raising money for various school activities. Teachers and students took part in concerts and plays on the old stage in the hall. St. Aidan’s featured in an RTE drama called The Spike. All hell broke loose when it featured a nude model (of the female variety) in an Art class. The card carrying members of The Perpetually Offended took serious umbrage. Queries were raised. Solicitors’ Letters were exchanged. It had to be clarified that this was most certainly NOT our St. Aidan’s but a fictitious academy created by Little Hollywood out in Montrose. Our brilliant Art teacher Nicholas Moran smiled wryly and produced some brilliantly satirical cartoons for The Observer, the unofficial Staff newspaper. This was edited by Milo Connolly with some very witty and acerbic tag lines. Christy reminded us not to “forget our shovels“ but the dream of a new school seemed as far away as ever . And all we wanted was another brick in the wall. On wet days we ran around with plastic buckets and basins, placing them under the drips and drops that cascaded down on us. Rain drops kept falling on our heads. What larks!

But our great expectations of the long promised new school seemed only clouds in our coffee. Were we measuring out our lives in coffee spoons? Perhaps not. Pope John Paul came to Ireland in 1979 and told the youth of the country that he loved them. Some cynical teachers muttered darkly that if he had to teach a certain Sixth Year class known as “The Garden Gang” on a wet Friday afternoon in November he might change his mind. The number of extra-curricular activities grew. Annual trips to Connemara were the highlight of the Autumn season. It started with VPTP students and later involved Transition Years. Filthy weekends in Connemara were eagerly looked forward to - and what could be more filthy than standing in muck up to your ankles, getting soaked as you learned how to capsize a small boat and sleep out under the stars and lashing rain. Bivouacking was the euphemistic name given to this activity. Brave souls indeed were those teachers who accompanied the students on those weekends. Let us write their names in verse: Slattery and O’Driscoll, Keane, Moran and O’Neill ; Now and in time to be , Wherever Red and White is worn, Their names will be sung with pride. And no, this is not a eulogy to the greats of Irish rugby and soccer. It is a tribute to that small core of teachers who believed that education is not all about academic success and that there are many different types of intelligence. Pioneers of alternative forms of learning. “If you don’t pan every river, you won’t find every nugget”.

Nicholas Moran was also responsible for organising an annual Art exhibition in the school. Many lord mayors, footballers and politicians visited the exhibition over the years. The most famous of course being the Earl of Kinsealy who deigned to come amongst and mingle with his people. Rumour has it that he entered the Hall to a rousing rendition of “Rise and Follow Charlie “but that might be a case of a good yarn getting the better of the truth. Great things happened in the Art Department. As well as Peter Jones winning the Texaco All Ireland Senior Art competition, many years later, Alan O’Neill took excellence to a hyper level by winning this same premier Art competition not once but twice. (Sure we all know that “Elvis” was so good they named him twice) Indeed excellence blossomed in many areas. History teacher, Tom Ward, was justifiably proud of his protégée, Eamonn Toland, who won a Lawlor Foundation scholarship to St. Hugh’s College Oxford where he studied History and Economics. He went on to become a management consultant and media spokesman, making many TV appearances. He has written for the London Times and Telegraph and has recently published his first book The Pursuit of Kindness. (An evolutionary history of human nature) He remembers Aidan’s as a school where “the teachers cared . They stayed after school to supervise running, football, basketball, art, music and so much more.” He also remembers the school as a place of fun “There were some wild dreams, and jokes about flatulence and concupiscence - and there was a smoke haze in the Senior toilets at 11 o’clock break”. And perhaps that phrase, that telling compliment, summed up the School community: the teachers cared. And as a result, they gave generously of their time and expertise.

Debating was another extra-curricular activity that flourished in the School . Started by the late Bill Mangan and Tommy Broughan (“Cool Tommy, who went on to become a T.D. and has been re-elected to Dáil Éireann every year since 1992) and carried on by such dedicated teachers as Annemarie Dunne and Ollie Deneher. One of the most articulate students to emerge from these debates was Trevor Butterworth. After his Leaving Cert., Trevor went on to get his primary degree in Trinity College before proceeding to obtain his Master’s in Georgetown University, Washington D.C. He then studied in the Graduate School of Journalism in Columbia University in New York. Trevor has written for the Huffington Post, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and the New York Observer . He edits STATS.org a research project affiliated to George Mason University that examines the way the media cover science and statistics. Many, many more distinguished alumni came from the young school which was growing in stature. Eddie O’Sullivan, a member of the first Leaving Cert. Class of 1969, carved out a glittering career in the Civil Service rising to General Secretary of the Department of Finance.

The Eighties arrived. A grim decade in many ways. Death had touched the staff with the passing of Brendan O’Bric, his wife Ursula and former Garda turned teacher, Bill Mangan. Brother Clarke, having established an athletic academy akin to Brother Colm O’Connell’s famous nursery in Kenya, entered The Great Silence on a cold, snowy morning in January 1984. He would have been so proud to see how his legacy has been so magnificently preserved and developed by Peter McDermott and the irrepressible Alan O’Neill. Brother Redican, who had been Principal from 1979 to 1985 entered slí na fírinne only months after retiring. He had done great work in advancing the cause of a new school but, sadly, never lived to see the fruits of his sowing. A 100 miles up the road men were dying on hunger strike. Black flags sprouted all along Drumcondra. We had three general elections in eighteen months in the Republic. He stepped out and I stepped in again, I stepped out and he stepped in again …..GUBU stalked the land . Exhausting referenda debates leave a bitter legacy. A young girl dies giving birth beside a grotto. Was it for this the Wild Geese spread …..?

Kerry babies, statues move,

Crazy slashers in the Louvre.

Reagan comes to Tipperary,

Michael D. is quite contrary.

Purple Rain and purple hair,

Boris Yeltsin’s over Clare.

Kerry in a drive for Five,

Geldof keeps the Aid alive.

We had many distinguished visitors to the school down through the years. Bishop Kavanagh was appointed Parish Priest of Larkhill and he dropped into the school regularly. Jim Tunney T.D was also a frequent visitor. Áine O’Connor, who “ discovered“ the actor Gabriel Byrne and who mentored him in his early days in the film industry, dropped into the staff room and dazzled all the male members of staff. Juvenile Liaison Officer, Sergeant Mick Fox, was a frequent presence ensuring that any boy who was inclined to go astray was brought back by a man who was a friendly, wise counsellor. Another man who appeared in the school occasionally was Father Peter McVerry, who helped any student who was having difficulties at home. Fr. McVerry was, to quote W.H.Auden,” in the modern sense of an old fashioned word , a saint .For in everything he did , he served the greater community”. Of course, we had regular visits from Dublin GAA captains accompanied by Sam and Sam Junior.

A number of very harsh winters hit us in the early eighties and snow was general all over Ireland . But it would take more than heavy snowfalls to stop the dedicated, hardy souls that plied their trade in Aidan’s. On one such freezing morning in January, as cold as a new razor blade, Jim O’Brien walked all the way from Lucan to get to his classes. Rumour has it that he fell three times but then the retelling always leads to a little embellishment. Jim, another former Garda, was the epitome of integrity. A shining, and contrasting, beacon of light in the darkness of GUBU Ireland. Another powerful beam of light was cast by Education Minister, John Boland, when he abolished corporal punishment in all Irish schools in 1981. Discipline in Aidan’s had been administered in three main ways up to then: 1. A clitther 2.A clatther . 3 A kick in d’arse. Number 1 was a clip on the ear. 2 was a slap on the jaw and No.3 is self-explanatory. Even though some students said they preferred these methods to the ones that replaced them, as they were administered swiftly and then it was all over and done with, most civilised people were relieved that this barbaric practice of hitting children was finally banned. Forty years later it seems inconceivable that this obscene practice of assaulting children (for that’s what it was) could ever have been tolerated for so long.

In 1985 Brother Gerry Cashel was appointed Principal. He had a vision for the School and was surely one of the first to realise that computers and Information Technology was going to have a radical effect on education. Over the next decade he worked tirelessly to bring both staff and students up to speed on this technological revolution whose long term effects and benefits would, arguably, outweigh the effects of the printing press. Another exciting development wrought by Br. Cashel was the introduction of a Transition Year in the school. This year allowed students to step back from purely academic education and gain experience in practical matters. Getting work experience was probably the most valuable- and enjoyable- aspect of this year for many students and Richard Keane did Trojan work in getting placements for them. One lad said he’d like to work in the EEC. (The EU was known as the EEC back then). “So you want to go over to Brussels or Strasbourg?” “ Ah not at all Sir ; I just want to work in Eddie’s Egg Centre in Fairview “. Needless to say, Mr. Keane needed a sense of humour! Kevin Slattery organised the TY students to form a Mini-Company and they produced many items over the years, Christmas cards being the most successful in terms of sales. In response to government cutbacks in education, thousands of teachers, including practically all the Aidan’s staff, marched through the streets and converged on Croke Park for a massive ASTI rally to protest against the government’s educational policies and swingeing cut backs. A member of our staff, Jack Cleary , appeared on the Late Late Show to debate the issues. No more articulate spokesperson could be found than the same Mr. Cleary. Of course, we had been admonished by our Taoiseach that “we are living way beyond our means”. And still we gazed, and still the wonder grew, That Charvet shirts were worn by so few. The Croke Park rally brought some positive results. Of course, The Croke Park Agreement back then simply meant that peace had broken out between Meath and Dublin or between Meath and Cork or between Meath and …. well, just about Meath and anybody. But there was time for some fun in the school too. School trips abroad became commonplace every Easter. Derek O’Gorman (known in Germany as Herr Oggermann) organised these trips for many years. These were very educational trips as well as being great fun and valuable bonding exercises between all involved. (of course, the term “bonding exercise “was unknown: all we knew was that these trips developed and cemented friendships between teachers and students.)

Extracurricular activities blossomed - and not just the sporting ones. Gerry Tallon, ably assisted by Richard Keane, set up a branch of Young Ireland in the school and it did not delay in making its mark. His group of putative entrepreneurs won the All Ireland School of the Year award not once but twice, in 1987 and again in ‘88. They beat over 350 schools which had entered the competition. Now, didn’t that beat Banagher? Meanwhile, Tom Ward and the irrepressible Brother Donnelly sowed several trees in the school grounds. Many lessons were learned by the students while this operation was in progress in the Great Outdoors. Thirty five years on, the fruits of their labours are evident in a beautiful sylvan setting at the front of the School. And so the Eighties went on:

Dinny, Miley and Glenroe,

Foggy airports in Mayo.

UB 40,Simply Red ,

Chernobyl‘s blast leaves many dead.

Phil and The Boys are back in Town,

The Berlin Wall comes tumbling down .

In 1989 we realised that the School was 25 years old and some people thought it might be a good idea to celebrate that fact. And so, on an October evening we assembled in the Grand Hotel Malahide for the launch of the Silver Jubilee Year. Bertie Ahern, who had been Lord Mayor of Dublin two years before and was being tipped for the top in Fianna Fáil, got the year long celebrations under way with a rousing speech. Richard Keane edited and published a magnificent anniversary book which outlined the history of the first quarter century in the School. It was also decided to have an Open Day to mark the historic occasion. It eventually became an Open Night, a night dedicated to showing off the many good things about the school. Gerry Tallon was given the task of organising this extravaganza and due to his Herculean efforts, the night turned out to be a resounding success. But this event also reminded us that, in the words of the main organiser, “tempus was fugiting” or in the words of the poet “Always at my back I hear Time’s Winged Chariot hurrying near “.

1990 heralded the start of a brave new world in Ireland. Mary Robinson, a Labour candidate in the Presidential election, visited St.Aidan’s and was introduced to each member of staff by a proud Tommy Broughan. And, as we know, a month later Mary became the first female President of Ireland. And she invited mná na hÉireann to dance with her into a new, exciting future. The light in the window. A future forbidden to nobody. A crack in the glass ceiling? “Each age is a dream that is dying, or one that is coming to birth”. We were witnessing the birth of something; just what it was we did not know. When President Robinson invited women to come dance with her I don’t think she meant Line Dancing to the music of Garth Brooks…..but that became a craze for some time. Her visit to the school seemed to act as a catalyst for staff members and past pupils to embrace political life . Tommy Broughan was elected to Dáil Éireann in 1992 and has been re-elected at every general election since. Young RE teacher John LaHarte became a Fianna Fáil TD some years later and is still a sitting member of the Dáil. Former students Pat Montague became a City Councillor and his brother Andrew went on to be Lord Mayor of Dublin. Her visit also sparked an influx of female teachers into the School. What a future Minister of Education would later call “The feminisation of education “. Foot firmly in mouth. Older staff members looked on this development as the end of civilisation as they knew it. Students suddenly developed an intense interest in Irish. Could it have something to do with the fact that many of these young female teachers were Múinteoirí Gaeilge, blonde of hair and hazel of eye? ITC arrives and proves very popular with the lads, especially if classes were held in The Collins’ Suite.

History became more popular too. Many young female teachers, like Mary Lucas, Aisling Brennan and Mary Ryan, imbued their students with their own love and passion for the subject. Students learned that History is not just about dates and battles and political change: “History is not just facts and events …..History is also a pain in the heart and we repeat history until we are able to make another’s pain in the heart our own” . Many people felt pain and, indeed, fear in their hearts on a beautiful June day when the brave journalist, Veronica Guerin, was shot dead by a drug baron’s henchmen. “Lord , you are hard on mothers”. But she too sowed a mighty seed that bore fruit and ensured that her death was not in vain. In the early Nineties two members of Staff moved onto greater things: Dan O’Connell became principal of Coláiste Mhuire and Jack Cleary became principal of St. Declan’s CBS, Cabra. And one beloved staff member went to his eternal reward. Brother Donnelly, loved equally by staff and students, departed this life which he had loved so well. A child like sense of wonder never deserted him. He was a man who did not “analyse God’s breath in common statement “but who was enraptured in the joy of ordinary plenty. He approached every day as a gift to be cherished, bouncier into the Staff Room every morning with a cheery “Anything big on today folks?” . He supported every team, every venture and every adventure. On any given day he could be seen, Pied Piper like, leading a gaggle of students around the Playing Fields. The Academy of Don Dons in the Fields. What were they doing? “Nature studies” would be the official answer to any inspector who might have questioned his unorthodox methods. But we knew that he was revealing “the spirit shocking wonder” that lay in “every stale thing”. He conveyed this sense of wonder to his students and they sensed in him a “beauty that the world did not touch”. Our most famous past pupil (second most famous after Chippy ?) became Minister for Finance and devalued the Irish punt by 10%. Short term pain. Long term gain. It laid the seeds for the Celtic Tiger which would soon start to purr and then to roar. Was it Bertie or Big Jack who kick started that big cat? Ah, the glorious Nineties.

Italia 90 lights the flame ,

Who says now It’s only a Game ?

Sam goes back to Donegal,

Bertie leads new Fianna Fáil .

Michelle’s treble sets the bar ,

But is that Whiskey in the Jar ?

Mother Teresa , Princess Di ,

Thousands flock to say goodbye.

September 1994, exactly thirty years after the School was founded, brought an enormous sense of excitement. The dream was about to become a reality. After waiting for so long, the Man from del Monte finally said “Yes” and the building of a new school commenced. A giant wooden hoarding was erected around the site of the new school and life went on as normal in the old one. All we could hear was hammering and sawing. The hoarding kept us all in suspense while the new school arose as we couldn’t get even a sneak preview. Amazingly, a full-scale building site and a fully functioning school coexisted on the same site. And then, in September 1995, the hoarding was removed and, like a giant egg emerging from its shell or a chrysalis from its cocoon, the new school stood before us in red brick glory.

History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'History of the School Part 2-50 Years a Growin'
Apr 24
Transition Year Information Evening
May 02
Awards Night
What a fantastic weekend it was for St. Aidan's Athletics on Saturday 9th March in Tymon Park Tallaght for the All-Ireland Senior title. It is 50 years since St. Aidan's won their All-Ireland Senior title.
Congratulations to two of our Transition Year Students, Daragh Murphy and Anthony Vilcu on winning the Innovation Award at the Student Enterprise Programme Dublin City Finals, which took place on Wednesday 29th February at the Mansion House. This a
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