Thursday, December 27, 2007

Keats-Shelley Museum

One of the most moving and tasteful memorials to any poet is the small Keats-Shelley House museum on the Spanish Steps in Rome (the website has been added to our 'Individual Poets' links in the sidebar). This is the building where Keats lived out his final months, tended by his dear friend Joseph Severn. Pictured, our Head of Department John Fanagan on a pre-Christmas trip to Rome, looking at Keats's death mask. The room is where the poet died of tuberculosis aged 25, though the furniture is not original (everything was burnt afterwards).

Keats and Shelley (and many other notables) are buried in the so-called Protestant Cemetery in Rome, a beautiful tranquil site which three English Department teachers visited a few years ago. Keats's poetry, including our recent Poem of the Week 'To Autumn', is on the Leaving Certficate course for 2009, while Shelley has been reduced to 'Ozymandias' on the Ordinary Level course (occasionally). The inscription on the grave reads :

This Grave contains all that was mortal, of a Young English Poet, who on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his heart, at the Malicious Power of his enemies, desired these words to be Engraven on his Tomb Stone:
Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water.

Friday, December 14, 2007

End of Term

This blog closes down now (perhaps apart from an occasional post) until the start of next term, Monday January 7th. Last night in the BSR we had our annual Christmas Entertainment, a sequel to last year's pantomime set in St Saints' School and called Glancing at Lufthansa. This time, young boys Michael and 'Bob' set off on a quest across Europe, through England, Germany, Italy and Hungary, to find the Ultimate Hat and save the school from closure. Pictured, small boys listening to Headmaster Augustus Scenario at the opening Assembly.

Season's greetings to all our readers.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Slave, La Prisonniere, Child of Tibet

The final TY Extended Essay we'll be posting before term ends is by Gina Mirow, who chose an unusual subject, Child Exploitation, as seen in three books - La Prisonniere, by Malika Oufkir, Slave by Mende Nazer, and Child of Tibet, by Soname Yangchen, about which Gina writes :-

it is an inspiring autobiography, set against the beautiful background of a turbulent Tibet, we learn about a different culture and way of life and witness how one woman's indomitable spirit sustains her through desperate circumstances, heartache, international singing success and, at last, reunion with her lost family. This is by far the best-written book out of the three, but I found that the plot of the story didn’t combine well with the way that the story was written. The author wrote the story very descriptively however describing setting and visual presentations more than sentimental ones. Since the plot was so dramatic, it often seemed to lack effort in the emotional parts of the book. This is mainly the reason why I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the other two; probably because I was expecting something so drastically different. Nevertheless, I learned a lot about the Chinese occupation and the setting of Tibet and India.

Read the full essay by Gina here.

St Andrew's Cast

The cast for next term's entry for the St Andrew's one-act festival, The Apollo of Bellac, is :

Agnes - Rosy Temple
Therese - Ellie Russell
The Clerk - Johnny Hollis
The Man - Sandy Cole
The Vice-President - Dylan Stewart
Mr Lepedura - Oscar Nunan
The President - Ben Armstrong
Chevredent - Erin Large

More on the production next term ...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Camus, Tartt, du Maurier

Our third TY Extended Essay features a very unusual mix of books. Kate Haslett writes about her project :-

The themes I have chosen to study for my extended literary essay are, crime, guilt and conscience, and I have entitled it, ‘Crime and Punishment’. I chose this title as I wanted to explore the morality and virtue of the different characters in my three chosen novels. The three novels I have chosen to write on are The Outsider by Albert Camus, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Although seemingly different they all share one underlying common ground - the main characters are each guilty of a secret crime, whether it be a crime of passion, or a cold blooded murder and they will all have to deal with the consequences and gravity of their situation.

Kate's full essay is here. The Daphne du Maurier site is here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fowles, Shreve, Yen Mah

The second in our series of excellent Transition Year Extended Essays comes from Jessica Dean, whose essay was on 'Dysfunctional Relationships' in three books - Adeline Yen Mah's Falling Leaves, Anita Shreve's Resistance, and John Fowles's classic chilling masterpiece The Collector, about which Jessica writes :-

I found The Collector the most interesting to read, as it was written from both Clegg’s and then Miranda’s point of view. The way John Fowles wrote when he was doing Clegg was particularly brilliant. The fact that the novel is split into the diaries of both Clegg and Miranda gives you two different perspectives on each character. The character of Clegg was written excellently; Fowles captured every minor but vital detail that passed through Clegg’s thoughts, interpreting and portraying his mentality very accurately. Miranda’s diary is also a great insight into understanding his ways, as Clegg’s version of events are usually distorted by the way he interprets things. Miranda’s diary gives another perspective of him, showing us how monstrous he does eventually become.

Here is Jessica's full Extended Essay.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Plath, Morrison, Banks

Before the end of term, we'll be posting some of the fine work done by IV formers in their Transition Year Extended Essay projects. The first of these is an outstanding essay by Fiona Boyd, which has received a (rare) Commendation. She writes :-

The books I have decided to write my Extended Esssay on are And When Did You Last See Your Father? by Blake Morrison, a memoir of his father’s life, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, the semi-autobiographical tale of a young girl's breakdown and Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks, a realistic and intriguing book about one boy's journey
into adulthood.

I chose these books, based on the recommendations of my English teacher, with the intention of basing my essay around the theme of 'Relationships'. However, after reading the books I couldn’t draw together enough material to write solely a
bout relationships so I began to look for other options. First I weighed up the books’ similarities, then their differences, then their strengths and finally their weaknesses and I formed a conclusive decision in my head. All three books were different in terms of social order (class), era and gender. This meant that the themes common in the three books, such as issues with their fathers, were written from three very different angles and so quite difficult to base a whole 3,000-minimum essay on. However all three did have one thing in common - changes. And so this became my theme.

Eventually Fiona found 3000 words too restricting a target : here is her full essay.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Language of Education

Last night Professor Terry Dolan from UCD gave another bravura performance while lecturing to VI and V pupils on the subject 'The Language of Education'. He examined the derivation of words from Greek and Roman times up to the present day, and then answered a battery of questions from the audience on a huge variety of words. Pictured, Professor Dolan flanked by VI form pupils afterwards in the Warden's Study.

Doris Lessing, and Tom Paulin

Yesterday's Guardian Review had two particularly interesting articles. Next term we will be studying Doris Lessing's first novel The Grass is Singing with our V form as part of their comparative module in the Leaving Certificate course. Lessing is not well enough to travel to Stockholm to collect her recently-awarded Nobel Prize for Literature, but you can read her Nobel lecture, 'A Hunger for Books' online on the Guardian's site here. It is an impassioned defence of reading and storytelling :-

We are a jaded lot, we in our world - our threatened world. We are good for irony and even cynicism. Some words and ideas we hardly use, so worn out have they become. But we may want to restore some words that have lost their potency. We have a treasure-house of literature, going back to the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans. It is all there, this wealth of literature, to be discovered again and again by whoever is lucky enough to come up on it. suppose it did not exist. How impoverished, how empty we would be.

Also, Tom Paulin writes about our 12th Poem of the Week, John Keats's ode 'To Autumn' here, (picture of manuscript, right), and argues that it is 'not only a pastoral masterpiece but a coded political poem in the aftermath of the Peterloo massacre.'

Finally, Giles Whittell wrote a savage attack on Shakespeare in yesterday's London Times here :
It's the plays I loathe, and the orgiastic groupthink that drips from every one of them; the industrialised, irresistible consensus; the greatness thrust upon them by brainwashed English teachers, polished with coach vomit and fish-and-chip fat on every school trip to Stratford, mindlessly reaffirmed by every A-level English examiner, and worshipped with world-class, awestruck claptrap by academics and directors from Stanford to Irkutsk.

Entertaining hyperbole and, of course, wrong. We here at SCC continue to celebrate the works of Shakespeare in class, through our Shakespeare Society, and in our productions of his plays, such as
The Comedy of Errors, As You Like It and, this time last year, Twelfth Night.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Professor Terry Dolan

This evening we welcome back our good friend and frequent visitor, Terry Dolan, who often lectures to our pupils about words and their origins, and of course also about his specialism, Hiberno-English. This post records his visit last year (pictured with prefects Ben Dunne and Emma Mallon), and we'll report on tonight's talk in a couple of days. Terry is recognized everywhere now also through his chats with Sean Moncrieff on Mondays on Newstalk.

Friday, December 07, 2007


II formers in John Fanagan's class have recently been experimenting with haikus, such as

Lingfan Gao -

Soft are the footsteps
Walking towards the cradle
Not to wake him up.

The spectators come
As sweat pours down from your head.

But the sh
ow must start.

(Lingfan played at the music concert on Saturday night - possibly an inspiration?)

Eamonn McKee -

On the sodden earth
The heather is fluttering

Like a butterfly.

On a rugged wall,
The ivy is quivering
In the endless gust.

and Peter Marshall

Frogs jumping around,
Frogs hopping away from snakes,
Frogs doing cool tricks.

For more haikus from members of the class, click here.

Coincidentally, recently Seamus Heaney wrote in the Guardian about Japanese poetry :

In the years since these early developments, the haiku form and the generally Japanese effect have been a constant feature of poetry in English. The names of Basho and Issa and Buson have found their way into our discourse to the extent that we in Ireland have learnt to recognise something Japanese in the earliest lyrics of the native tradition. The hermit poets who wrote in Old Irish in the little monasteries were also masters of the precise and suggestive.

Heaney's full essay is here.

The Apollo of Bellac

Mr Jameson and Mr Fanagan are holding auditions at lunchtime today (1.20, BSR) for next term's one-act drama entry for the St Andrew's competition in February, Jean Giraudoux's The Apollo of Bellac. If you're interested and can't make it then, please see Mr Jameson in advance.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Poem of the Week : Going Places

Our 16th Poem of the Week is one by a Junior Certificate pupil, Amelia Shirley, another in the series called Going Places from Liam Canning's class, which we started a couple of days ago. Her response to Billy Collins's 'Walking Across the Atlantic' is :

Going Places, by Amelia Shirley

Sitting in the back seat of the car,
The world outside becomes a blur
Of colours messing with my eyes.

This road seems familiar,
These woods, this side of the valley,
I’ve been here before,
A long time ago, perhaps.

As we swerve round the corner,
Old Barry’s pub appears ahead,
The field belonging to the Fosters becomes clear.

Mother looks back and smiles at me,
As if reading my blank expression,
As the happiness it was.
We’re going home.

As usual, this poem is currently being displayed around the school.

Finally, here are the other poems from the project, by Jasper Pickersgill, Daphne Wright, Rob Nolan and Igor Verkhovskiy.


We welcome today to the College Ms Mary Gilbride, from the Department of Education and Science Inspectorate, who is conducting a subject inspection of our Department. Subject inspection reports are now being published online by the Department here.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Dancing at Lughnasa review

Our production of Dancing at Lughnasa was a great success in mid-November, and here is V former Katie Murphy's review of it (an exceptional performance, which couldn’t have been done better by professionals).

She writes about each of the eight performers (pictured, bottom centre, having a late-night pizza after the dress rehearsal)-

  • Ellie Russell as Maggie Mundy : whose wit and saucy side got everyone's attention.
  • Dylan Stewart as Father Jack : His performance was exceptional. He portrayed the difficulty of returning to normal life after such an eventful, and life-changing experience perfectly.
  • Oscar Nunan as Gerry Evans : we went from dislike, at his abandonment of his child, to like, for entertaining Christina and the audience with his quick wit and funny stories, and back to dislike, at the discovery of his other family. Oscar played this part beautifully: he was an all-singing all-dancing ball of laughs who charmed the ladies on and off the stage!
  • Jessica Young as Chrissie : she showed the bursts of sunshine that his visits were to her, and her quiet frustration at his flirtatious behaviour with her sisters, especially Agnes, brilliantly. She had a very romantic part and did it proud.
  • Annabel Sharma as Agnes : Annabel showed Agnes’s sweet and patient nature towards Rose very well. Her jealousy of Christina and Gerry’s love was quite apparent, in undercurrents.
  • Rory Quinn as the narrator, Michael : It was incredibly well done how they showed him, on the stage; he was never part of the action but always at the centre of the plot. It never occurred to you that he wasn’t really there, that he just wasn’t out of sight too low for us to see or outside the window playing.
  • Rachael Roden as Rose : showed no shame in her portrayal of Rose: she shouted and sang at the top of her voice and even ran away with a local boy. She was truly wonderful, and deeply saddened all our hearts when she and Aggie ran away.
  • Celeste Guinness as Kate : played the part superbly. She was the stereotypical strict schoolteacher, with her crisp manner, prim clothes and harsh tongue. We knew exactly what her character would be before she even opened her mouth.
Read Katie's full review here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Wave, Knife Edge, Lirael

Continuing our series of book reports by Junior Certificate pupils, here is Philip Blackley's essay comparing three more books : Morton Rhue's The Wave, Garth Nix's Lirael, and Malorie Blackman's Knife Edge.

He writes about the latter :-

Knife Edge is the sequel to the novel Noughts and Crosses. It is a novel about an environment where two races are pretty much at war with each other. It is a futuristic view where black people (Crosses) are the upper class and white people (Noughts) are the lower class. It shows how the two races are distinguished from one another and how they relate to each other. Knife Edge is about two people from different backgrounds who live their lives in a hostile environment.

Philip liked Lirael best of the three, and writes : I liked this book the most out of the three as it held my interest the most and I read it the quickest.

Read the rest of his report here.

Malorie Blackman's website is here, and Garth Nix's here.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Going Places 1

Our most recent Poem of the Week, Billy Collins's 'Walking across the Atlantic', has been used in class by both Ronan Swift, who shared the animations on the Billy Collins Action Poet site with his Primary set, and Liam Canning, whose III form Junior Certificate pupils responded to 'Atlantic' by writing their own poems about 'Going Places.' We'll post some of these over the next couple of days.

Going Places, by Ji-won Lee

Red, orange, yellow, green,
Blue, indigo, violet.
The rainbow spans the mountain.
I wanted to put those seven colours
in my pocket and my heart,
something like a desire to possess.

I put up my hand and wriggled my five fingers.
But I couldn’t catch those colours.
Because it was too far away.
I ran and ran to get beside it.
I ran and looked up to the sky,
It was much more far away and
It started to disappear slowly.

Now I have lost my place to go.

Going Places, by Jessica Sheil

“Where are we going?”
“A place.”
The doors slammed shut.
Unfortunately I knew where I was going, but I wasn’t
Quite sure what would happen.
I wondered if I was going to my death.
I’m not afraid of death, I believe,
But I am afraid of pain.
They could take him away.

If they took him I could kill myself,
But it would seem almost unreasonable
To take my life so willingly when everyone
Else is trying their best to stay alive.

The doors opened and revealed light
And fresh air.
I was pushed out and handed my striped uniform
With a yellow star neatly sewn on.
There was a slight smirk on the man’s face
As they took him away.

They took him away…

Maths Department

Congratulations to our colleagues in the SCC Maths Department, who have gone live with their own website here. It includes a description of the department, 'cool links', the history of the subject, games and much more.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


Our Classics Department colleague Peter McCarthy has just selected the cast for next term's Junior Play, Sophocles's Antigone (we have sometimes used this for the comparative module of the Leaving Certificate in the past) :

Creon - Robin Fitzpatrick
Eurydice - Sophie Kyd-Rebenburg
Haemon - Jasper Pickersgill
Antigone - Anna Traill
Ismene - Alannah Howie
Tiresias - Sebastian Stephenson
Messenger - Patrick Tice
Guard - Fred Mann
Citizen - Kate Haslett
Chorus - Opeline Kellett and Gina Mirow.

Anna Traill, who plays the title role, wrote about her involvement in the Tenderfoot Drama Programme here a couple of days ago. More on the production next term.

Ronan Swift, Live in Concert

A shameless plug for the most versatile member of our multi-talented English Department : Ronan Swift performs at Bewley's Cafe Theatre on Wednesday next, December 5th, from 8.30pm. Tickets €10 at the door.

[Ronan Swift – acoustic guitar / vocals. Josh Johnston – piano / vocals. Eoin O'Brien – Electric Guitar / Vocals. Bill Blackmore – Trumpet.]

In the words of his publicity agent :

Swifty is an Autumn man. But by now it is Winter and although past his very best he is still worth a flutter. Leaf fall is general across Ireland. Breezes push and shove flimsy birds to distant parishes. As they are buffeted they sing, so does Swifty.

[added April 2009 : see here for a podcast interview with Ronan about his 2009 album, Farewell Future Wives]

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Tenderfoot Drama Programme

For the last few weeks, five members of our Transition Year have been taking part in the Tenderfoot Programme at the Civic Theatre in Tallaght. One of them, Anna Traill, here describes the experience :-

Tenderfoot is a Transition Year programme that Veronica Coburn has set up for young students interested in different aspects of the theatre. We've been doing it for a few weeks already, and everyone's really enjoying it. We've learnt about acting and speaking, set design, costume design, lighting and sound.

Five of us were picked from our TY: Fiona Boyd, Molly Sanderson, Lauren Cooke, Sarah O'Mahony and me. Fiona and Molly started before the rest of us and wrote the plays. Molly's play Nobody was picked to be produced. We've met loads of different people, with loads of different backgrounds, and although it's a lot of work, it's so much fun.

The plays are being produced on December 13th, 14th and 15th, at the end of term, and we're all really excited. We also went to see a play,
Danti-Dan by Gina Moxley, which was an incredible experience, and it gave us a great idea of what theatre's supposed to be like.