Friday, October 30, 2009

Sporting Kids Raise a cool €25,000 in aid of Barretstown!
What a marvellous day the recent ‘Stars Day’ at Barretstown offered young sports enthusiasts – and I’m talking the Daddies, Mammies and grandparents too. Gaa hurling and football legends such as Sean Og O’ Hailpin, Joe Canning, ‘Jayo’, Dermot Early and Anthony Rainbow; rugby dynamos Donncha O’ Callaghan and Gordon D’Arcy plus a plethora of stars from popular RTE drama, “The Clinic” (to attend to injuries, just in case!) joined in the fun to raise a marvellous €25,000 in aid of the centre. Wow! Not bad going for an afternoon’s work………. Thankfully the rain held off to deliver a fantastic family fun day on Saturday 29th August. Families from all over Ireland arrived from 9am, eager to meet their sports and acting heroes.
Children and their families participated in rugby, soccer, hurling and gaelic drills with their idols whilst budding young entertainers joined actress Amy Huberman and ‘The Clinic’ team on stage. Soap sculpture, bracelet making and picture framing were amongst the many activities that could be tried out in the Arts and Crafts room. In addition archery, high ropes, zipline, pony rides and bouncy castles ensured no child was idle on the day.
Parents were also busy mingling with the stars and when this got too much, the ladies were able to retreat to the Castle Drawing Room for a professional make over by L’Oreal with a massage area for a real chill-out treat. (To think I missed a good look at Sean Og and a massage……damn, my loss!).
“Join the Stars” day culminated with a most entertaining show in the theatre by the budding actors who had been practising hard with help from The Clinic team. Afterwards, they were joined on stage by the sports stars and any other children who wanted to join in the grand finale. The stars appeared to derive great pleasure in supporting the centre which serves children and families affected by serious illness.
Sean Og said before leaving, “Being at Barretstown was good for the soul, an amazing place”. Tomas Mulcahy, presenter on the Sunday Game said: “Just a short few lines to say how impressed we all were with Barretstown. It was my first visit there and I really enjoyed the experience - all the stars were delighted to help out and are more aware now of what Barretstown actually achieves. Any chance I get to plug this place on TV, I certainly will!”.
Well done to management for organising the event, to the stars who gave their time and tips on the day and to you, the children and families who supported the event. A great day out and a great result - €25,000 in the bank for Barretstown - now that’s something to shout about!!
- Rose

Community Games
Following the cancellation of the Community Games Finals due to torrential rain earlier in June, the re-scheduled finals were thankfully bathed in sunshine. Schools had just broken for summer holidays the previous day which no doubt heightened spirits on the day. Tom Murphy ran a cracking race in the 800 metres final finishing third – congratulations Tom!
And a huge ‘well done’ to everyone who participated. We had a great day - from the thrill of watching the children compete to simply enjoying the heat of the sun on the banks of the track – the phrase “The best things in life are free” springs to mind! We look forward to seeing everyone again next year and will keep you posted with up-coming winter events in the coming months.
Ann Murphy

Back To School

What drew this long forgotten episode of school life to mind recently was the start of the new school year and the universal fear of every parent, when after the first four years of a young child’s life being weaned, nurtured and protected from infancy to early childhood on to the point when the process of formal education begins; the ‘apron strings’ loosen and the child is set out to a world of wider learning and inevitable dangers. It is probably the most heart-rending moment of separation for any parent, yet consoled by a knowledge that the three hour time to redemption is definite, and the first day at school will have concluded.
When one of my younger brothers, Ciaran aged 4.1/2 years, came with me on his first day to St. Patricks National School in Drumcondra, he was wearing a young boy’s fur coat, fashionable enough at the time, though not considered so at St. Patricks. Even though I was aged only 6.1/2, I was aware of what might happen to him. At that time we lived on Griffith Avenue, Dublin, and my father drove us to school each morning on the way to his office. On that day and for some further months, Ciaran, a frail, shy but very intelligent chap (he was later threatened with expulsion from Clongowes for ‘running a book’ on major horse races when he was age 14) was under my care. As we waited for the school gates to open and while I was talking to a pal, I noticed the school bully badgering Ciaran, pulling at his coat and causing him to cry. What propelled me at that instant in time or how I did what I did I will never know, but I flung myself physically at Breathnach, whose head hit the school wall with an audible thump. We both fell to the ground, but already I was raining blows to his head with little fists no larger than ‘drum sticks’. I was dragged off him, and when the school gate opened a few minutes later, all the boys stood aside to let the two of us through first, an acknowledgement that the deed would not be repeated.

At age 11, I was already an old hand so to speak, well experienced in life after six years at St. Patricks, and having passed the entrance examination, was due to start secondary school at Clongowes Wood College, a place I was familiar with from visiting three of my older brothers who had already passed through those hallowed halls and my turn was at hand (two more were destined to follow me).
The Castle entrance-gate at Clongowes is a high imposing structure, its surrounding land once owned by the Eustace family, lead in a straight tree-lined kilometer to the Castle, surrounded by a moat, and later owned by the Wogan-Brownes, one of whose descendents, Ronnie, who is a good friend, ‘still alive’ he says, ‘but barely kicking’.
Beside the Castle were the ‘Pleasure Grounds’ as they were known, covering perhaps ten acres with exotic trees, flowers, plants and undergrowth, a wonderland where even Alice would be overjoyed. It was where we would walk with our parents when they came to visit.
Beyond that, the college farm stretched across hundreds of acres, large and well-stocked with its huge herd of cows, its own dairy, poultry, pigs and the vegetable garden, providing fresh nutritious food in plenty for young growing men.
The very thought of going there was exciting and as the cases, hamper and books were loaded into the car and the journey to a new school began, I was oblivious to any form of nostalgia for home, the Chestnut-tree-lined avenue, even to Jack, the blind man with the white stick whom I used to help across the junction at Grace Park Road beside our house, every day. A new life lay ahead for me, not so much of books or learning, rather to sports – of rugby, cricket, tennis, swimming, athletics, all laid out across vast open grounds; and indoor, sports facilities at the gymnasium; the billiard tables, tennis tables, or just fooling around in the long galleries.

Along with my parents, I waved a last farewell to the rest of the family, leaving Dublin on this new adventure with no regrets. We passed through Chapelizod and Lucan, negotiated our way through Celbridge, by-passing Straffan and sped on towards Clane. It was on this straight open road that the full impact of the nature of this journey to my destination began to fully dawn. On previous visits, the college itself with its castellated battlements could be seen through threes in the distance. I was sitting alone in the back of this big car, speeding like a rocket, but now I wished it to slow down, for new and urgent thoughts were now running through my mind. I needed a delay in time before parting from my parents, because leaving them, seemed as though it was to be forever. When we left Griffith Avenue earlier on that September day, the Chestnut tree leaves were turning a bronze colour and I would not return until Christmas when their branches would be naked, waving dark and ghostly skeletal limbs against a full Moon – and within the hour I would be alone, totally alone for the first time in my life. Even though there would be about 360 other students along with the fearless Jesuit fraternity, the concept of such companionship had no meaning whatsoever to me in the sense of family, of the protection of my parents and older brothers.

We turned right at Clane, speeding along that weird and twisting hedge-lined road with fairy raths and hidden laneways on either side until we reached the castle gates. Up to that moment, and over the past years, it was a thrilling sight to see, with its portcullis hanging in ominous threat, ready to descend and mortally wound any highwayman or band of brigands daring to venture through its portals. Now things were different. I wished it to descend at that moment, to fall and block the entrance. Far ahead in a straight line, the shape of Clongowes castle, widowed in ivy, beckoned forward, waiting for me.
As my mother waved goodbye and closed the door of the car for the last time, suppressed tears ran down my cheeks. I was alone; but I was not abandoned, for a good Jesuit father came to accompany and introduce me to some new school-friends.
In afterthought, that closing door eventually lead to the opening of many others, just as it did when Lucy opened the ‘Wardrobe’, placed there in the room by C.S. Lewis.
Michael Ward.

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