Posted: 8th April 2013

There are many who have taken the road less travelled upon leaving Clongowes, but perhaps none moreso than Ruairi Lynch (OC’06)

In 2007, Ruairi earned a place at Oxford Brookes University where he opted to study Mechanical Engineering . To earn his keep away from home Ruairi worked the usual student jobs before he became aware of a voluntary position at the Oxford Night-shelter. O’Hanlon House, with its own ‘unique’ sounds and smells is a 52 bed direct access homeless hostel which accommodates anyone who is homeless 365 days a year.

In 2009 Ruairi then became a part-time fire-fighter for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue where he witnessed first-hand how easily life can change and how vulnerable we all are. It was during this time that Ruairi was offered a more senior position in another night-shelter nearby. In contrast to O’Hanlon House, Lucy Faithful House was a longer term stay hostel for those who were waiting to move into council properties or for those simply too vulnerable to live by themselves and in need of full time support. As Ruairi embraced this role it soon became clear that the workload – not forgetting all those college assignments – was quite overwhelming. It therefore came as a natural step for Ruairi to take a break from his studies and continue to work in what was a challenging but ultimately rewarding environment. In helping clients overcome their problems Ruairi encountered many interesting characters from all walks of life who had fallen upon hard times.

After a year at Lucy Faithful House, Ruairi decided it was time to return to the books –but not without further outreach work on the streets of Oxford City. Beginning his day at 6am Ruairi would approach those sleeping rough to try and establish a relationship with them in order to get them back into a settled life. Essentially, Ruairi and his team were the first point of contact for these people in the area and with access to public funds they enjoyed enormous success in providing beds for many of who had been entrenched in homelessness. Sadly, there were simply not enough beds to go around – each day it was left to Ruairi and his colleagues to decide who would be accommodated in the hostels and who would not. Despite the inevitable mental and physical exhaustion, Ruairi remained on call for the Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue service during the nights and at weekends.

In what spare time he had, Ruairi took to playing rugby league during the weekends. Although an accomplished member of several Clongowes cup teams, the transition to rugby league went better than Ruairi could have ever imagined. Soon he was received a scholarship to play on the University team in his final year at Oxford Brookes. In accepting the scholarship Ruairi was now in a position to give up full time work, remain on in the fire service and concentrate on his studies. Further recognition was then forthcoming in his selection and captaincy of the South East students team, the Irish students team and also the Great Britain Student Pioneers that toured Poland in an effort to spread rugby eague there. Furthermore, in recent months Ruairi has signed a contract with Oxford Rugby League Inspires, a new Championship 1 side called Oxford Rugby League Inspires which is in its inaugural season. Having valued competitive activity since his time sporting the purple and white, Ruairi sees his status as a part-time professional as a dream come true.

When asked to consider his time in Clongowes, Ruairi states that “the stark contrast of my background to some of the homeless clients has made me appreciate the gift that was my education and the positive figures I was fortunate enough to be placed in the care of during my formative years. I have learned through my work with young offenders and the homeless that adolescents is an extremely important time in a young person’s development and if one is surrounded by the wrong influences at critical stages a lot can go wrong. Clongowes is a great start in life for any boy and equips young men with the tools required to succeed. I am and will always be extremely grateful to the staff and for my place at CWC.”Where are they now? This page is a collection of our weekly feature on notable Old Clongownians.

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