This year we celebrate 40 years of twinning between Clongowes and Enniskillen Royal Grammar School (formerly Portora Royal School), County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. The strong bond between these two schools began during ‘The Troubles’ a tumultuous time in Ireland’s history, marked with sectarian conflict.
In 1980, in the midst of The Troubles, Headmaster of Clongowes, Fr Philip Fogarty (RIP) and Dr Acheson, former Headmaster of the then Portora Royal School, formed a friendship against the background of political and social tensions. The fruits of that first meeting, most likely informal, were evident to all this past weekend as we welcomed our friends from Enniskillen for the 40th consecutive year. While the name Portora Royal School was officially disbanded in 2016, with the merging of the school with Enniskillen Collegiate Grammar School, the ties between staff and students in both schools remain strong.
Some 12 pupils and three staff joined us in early February for our weekly Eucharist and stayed overnight in the company of our own Poetry students and staff. We open our ‘home’ to the students of Enniskillen to get to know them as we welcome them to pray with us, attend our classes and join us for swimming and tag rugby or to just sit and chat. These are the moments where political dialogue ceases and friendships begin. It is in the small gestures of meals enjoyed, card games played, and jokes shared in the Higher Line Recreation Room where contacts are made, and friendships flourish. Our students often comment that the ‘lads’ from Enniskillen are all very ‘sound’ – a compliment indeed that summarises the breadth of shared values. We enjoy your wonderful Enniskillen accent, mannerisms and good humour – thanks ‘lads’.
As always, we welcome the staff who accompany the boys from the ‘school on the hill’, once home to Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde and Blessed John Sullivan SJ – Ms Sally Rees, Mr Raymond Clarke and Ms Janet Goodall who arrive into Clongowes and just settle into their ‘home’ for the night. These are good people who are true friends of Clongowes and all we stand for. Thank you to our elder sister school for joining us in Ireland that has changed in those 40 years. We travel together as friends.