Our friends in the North: Portora return - Clongowes Wood College

Posted: 2nd April 2014

Before Christmas students and staff from Clongowes visited Portora Royal School in Enniskillen for Remembrance Day (see http://localhost:8080/?p=3250). Last month (March 9th and 10th) Portora returned the favour when a group of staff and students paid a visit down south. Accompanied by Ms Janet Goodall, Ms Sally Rees and Rev Kenny Hall, the celebrations began when they attended our Sunday Eucharist in the Sports Hall, followed by lunch and an array of activities, which were drawn up by the Poetry students.

Sunday evening saw the annual debate, as the sides argued the merits of day vs. boarding schools. In a highly entertaining (and sometimes hilarious) debate the advantage of having ‘your parents read to you at night and tuck you into bed’ invoked retorts aplenty from across the floor. However, it was voted by the house that boarding school is the better option – with the Portora boys voting in favour!

Monday morning commenced with Ms Goodall leading the school in our morning prayer. It was a moving moment as she recalled the long friendship that binds both schools. (See full text below) In an instant, Portora and Clongowes realised the depth and strength of a bond going back to 1979 (for more on this see http://localhost:8080/?p=1427).

It’s always a fun occasion to have the staff and students from Portora come and share in our daily lives here at Clongowes. And while a lot of fun and ‘craic’ is had, there is a reminder of the troubled past that this island once had, but which is well and truly broken down by the common friendships and purpose of two fine education establishments North and South.

Reflection on Friendship with Clongowes Wood College

Clongowes Wood College and Portora Royal School have been friends since 1979. Our friendship began with our writing prize celebrating our literary alumni James Joyce and Samuel Beckett and since then, our friendship has continued to grow deeper. You have been good friends to us, very good friends. In 1980s Ireland such friendships were not as easy as now. I’ll tell you about one exchange.

You came to visit us at Portora and came to our lessons. A Clongowes boy joined a lesson to be greeted with “I’m not sitting beside that Fenian expletive”. Then, on hearing that this Portoran’s father had been shot by the IRA, the Clongowes boy extended his hand and offered his condolences for his loss. They are still friends today, which shows how our friendship has been important in learning about each other and building mutual and personal understanding.

In the 1990s you stood alongside us at the Cenotaph in Enniskillen to honour those who had fallen. Even when tensions were high and security was tight you were still our friends. And the people of Enniskillen saw your friendship and appreciated it. Today our friendship may not face as many challenges but it is still valued and important. Our debates have been controversial at times, the type of debates that could probably take down the Dáil or the Stormont Assembly yet with us it ends in camaraderie and banter. And sometimes singing. And regardless of the outcome they always leave us with lasting memories, be it the image of a hulking 17 year old being read a bedtime story or the idea of a flare being launched to find a teacher.

As with all good friends you have been incredibly hospitable and welcoming.  We have eaten, played and learned with you and from you: and it has, as always, been immensely enjoyable.  We thank Fr Sheil, Fr Harper and Ms Doyle for forging our friendship in the early years and we thank Mr Carroll for making it continue. Like all good friends, we get to say Happy Birthday. 200 years is a remarkable achievement as a leading school in Ireland. We look forward to marking your bicentennial when you join us at Portora in November.

Like all good friends, we wish you victory on Sunday.  We will be cheering for you and hoping the Leinster Senior Cup returns home. And whatever the outcome, we will share your pride in your boys.

So thank you for being our friends and we hope that we have been as good friends to you as you have been to us.

Let us pray:

O blessed Lord, who has commanded us to love one another, grant us grace that having received your undeserved bounty, we may love everyone in you and for you. We implore your clemency for all, but especially for the friends whom your love has given to us.  Love them, and make them love you with all their heart, that they may will and speak and do those things only which are pleasing to you. Amen.

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