Friday, November 30, 2007

Frank, Boyne, Ure

Our second in the series of fine Junior Certificate book reports is from Sophie Millar, who has written this excellent review and comparison of three books - the current international bestseller The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne (pictured), Anne Frank's Diary, and Jean Ure's Plague 99.

She writes about the first book,
This terrific heart-breaking novel is very thought-provoking. Told through Bruno’s eyes, it covers some of the most serious political matters incredibly light-heartedly and innocently. It distresses and depresses the reader.

Sophie's full book report is here. John Boyne's website is here.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Junior Certificate Book Reports 1

Our III form have just completed their book reports, which form part of their end of term examination results. Winta Bairu wrote about three books of fiction - Stone Cold, by Robert Swindells, and The Friendship and Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, both by Mildred D.Taylor. She says about Swindells's novel :-

This book demonstrates the struggles, pain and desperation of the homeless and it influences you to stop just listening to the issues and do something about it. I admire the way the story line continues rising, without losing interest, until there is a huge climactic ending where you wonder what happened to Link. The overall message of this book was, don't judge someone by their looks or how rich they are. The ending happens so quickly but it is so vivid that you get so caught up in it and you don't want the book to end.

Read her full detailed book report here.

English Prizes

The annual Senior and Junior English Prizes are being held tomorrow, Friday, from 6.30 pm. Seniors go to Cotton, Juniors to Elrington. Candidates should give their names to their teachers by Friday breaktime. The Senior paper consists of two prose extracts for comparison, two poems for comparison, and a general essay on the nature of literature. The Junior paper gives two poems for discussion and comparison, and then a prose composition (in any form) based on an idea from these poems. As with all subjects, the prizes will be book tokens for the purchase of suitable books, which will be presented at the prizegiving on St Columba's Day.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Selfish Giant

Every now and then the Chaplain invites members of the English Department to speak in Chapel about their interests. Earlier this term, Ronan Swift talked about his reading, and sang about this too. This morning, John Fanagan read Oscar Wilde's 'The Selfish Giant' from the copy he received as a present at Christmas 1967, and talked about our love of listening to stories, which is deep inside many of us from childhood. Wilde wrote the piece for his own sons. The full text of the memorable story is here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Walking Across the Atlantic

Our 15th Poem of the Week is 'Walking Across the Atlantic', by the former American Poet Laureate Billy Collins. Below, a YouTube video animation by Mike Stolz, with Collins himself reading the poem in his characteristically dry gentle way. You can see 10 other charming animations with readings by Collins at this site, BCActionPoet, including 'Budapest' , 'The Best Cigarette' and 'Today'.

Friday, November 23, 2007


This has been a quietish week for the blog, since exams are on. They finish at lunchtime today, after which we have a weekend Exodus. School begins again on Tuesday, after which we'll start posting lots of material by Transition Year pupils (Extended Essays) and junior forms (book reports).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Vernon Scannell

We're not displaying a Poem of this Week around the school this week, since there are no classes, with all our pupils deep in their exams (normal activity resumes next week), but mention should be made of the fine underrated poet Vernon Scannell, who has just died, aged 85. Scannell's poems such as 'Nettles' and 'Uncle Edward's Afflictions' appear in many school poetry anthologies. Alan Brownjohn's obituary in the Guardian is here, where he writes about Scannell's fastidious procedure as a poet, his unflinching focus on the age-old themes of love, war and death, his concern for 'a real involvement with living experience'. Craft and care, and for that matter clarity and accessibility, were unquestionable necessities if you were serious about the art.

Here's a poem from the 1965 collection Epithets of War :-


begins slowly, uncertain of
its terminus, but after
the first hesitancies,
destination still hidden,
the pace increases, grows more sure
though with a confidence
that will not be for long sustained
when it becomes apparent
that movement is towards
not revelation or release
but a darkness darker far
than any known midnight,
dungeon, tunnel, desperation,
and all sentences must end
with an abrupt full-stop,
punched in like a nail, its black head
showing on the page, like this.

added later : link to Simon Jenkins's tribute in the Guardian, 23.11.07. Jenkins was taught by Scannell in prep school, and writes -
So remember, all you drifting, drinking, despairing, self-demeaning schoolmasters. Hidden at the back of your class, pretending to be sullen and resistant, is a boy in whose imagination lurks unknown a spark waiting to be blown to flame. Scannell was even better than a good poet. He could teach.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Our production of Dancing at Lughnasa is now over, after three very successful nights in the Big Schoolroom. Pictured - the cast and directors on stage. We'll have a review by a pupil here in due course.

This week our focus is on school exams. Next week we'll be posting a considerable amount of work by pupils in IV and III, as we did this time last year : our Transition Year have just completed their Extended Essays, which will now be marked, and III form (Junior Certificate) pupils have also completed their major Book Reports, and again many of these will posted here after marking.

In the last weeks of term, we also hold our Senior and Junior English Prize competitions.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Agnes Mundy

Annabel Sharma (second from right, in the dress rehearsal last night, beside Celeste Guinness, Ellie Russell and Jessica Young) plays the part of Agnes Mundy in our production of Dancing at Lughnasa (preview tonight). She writes :

In the beginning I wasn't sure about Agnes as she is quite a reticent character. I must admit that I have found this quite hard to portray as an actor, since more often than not, her silences are a consequence of deep thought. I find that one of the most challenging aspects is Agnes's standing : she doesn't have very much self-esteem, but yet does have enough to stand up to Kate (continued).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Christina Mundy

Jessica Young is playing the part of Chris Mundy in Dancing at Lughnasa (dress rehearsal tonight, preview tomorrow night). Pictured, Gerry (Oscar Nunan) proposes to her. She writes :

She has been a fun, and at the same time challenging, character, to play because she is clearly in love with Gerry and yet is guarded around him. She never lets him get too close, although she seems to want this. (full piece here)

Siren Song

Our 14th Poem of the Week was suggested by teacher Suzanne McEneaney. Margaret Atwood's 'Siren Song' (full text here, where you can also listen to her read the poem) starts -

This is the one song everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible ...

Atwood explains on the Poetry Archive site :-

The Sirens had the top halves of women and the bottom halves of birds and they were said to sit on their island and sing so beautifully that anybody who heard them would jump overboard and then they would eat these men. Ulysses was said to have been the only person who ever actually heard the siren song because he made his sailors stuff their ears with wax and he had them tie him to the mast so he wouldn’t jump overboard. But he never told what it was they actually sang, and therefore nobody has ever known. So this is what they actually did sing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Maggie Mundy

The third of our pieces by actors playing parts in this week's Senior Play, Dancing at Lughnasa, is by Ellie Russell, who is performing as Maggie Mundy, the heart of the family that Brian Friel has created :-

Of all the characters, Maggie is my favourite. She has such a big personality ... Acting the role is a challenging one, but also really enjoyable, and I'm looking forward to being able finally to perform the whole play.

(full piece here).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Michael Evans

Continuing our series of pieces by actors playing parts in next week's production of Dancing at Lughnasa, Rory Quinn, who plays the narrator Michael, writes about him. The production poster, now being displayed all over the school, is by Greg Howie.

Rory writes :
as we learn from his final monologue, everyone in the memory seems to be dancing, floating on the sweet sound of 30s music.

Full piece here.

Friday, November 09, 2007

'To Autumn' responses

We recently used Keats's great Ode 'To Autumn' as our Poem of the Week around the school. Liam Canning's Junior Certificate class wrote responses to this, and here are two : by Jessica Sheil and Jasper Pickersgill (since half-term winds have started to strip the beautiful leaves from the many trees around the College).

Jessica writes, in her piece 'Autumn - a painting' :-

There was an autumnal feel to the air and the view was so perfect you could almost swear you were in a painting, except it would be almost impossible to get so many different shades of greens and yellows and browns and reds into one picture.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Ireland's Other Poetry

Old Columban John Wyse Jackson, together with artist Hector McDonnell, is launching their new book Ireland's Other Poetry - Anonymous to Zozimus on Wednesday 14th at the Solomon Gallery in Dublin. It is published by the fine Lilliput Press. The website/blog for the book is here. John writes :-

You may reasonably protest that the good poets of Ireland are well known enough already. This may be true in the case of the so-called 'serious' ones - WB Yeats and Seamus Heaney being prime examples. But if on one side of the Irish literary fence these Famous Poets are preaching to their adoring public, on the other side, peering at them curiously, there is a ragged army of Anonymous Balladeers, Parodists, Stage Lyricists, Gifted Children, Comic Rhymesters, Advertising Copywriters, Poetasters, Academics, Rock Singers, Bards and Miscellaneous Versifiers. These neglected unfortunates, most of whom haven't got a public at all, are our ‘Other Poets’; Ireland's Other Poetry was put together to give them a home.

Gerry Evans

Here's the first of a series of pieces by the actors playing parts in our Senior Play at the end of next week, Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel. Oscar Nunan, new to the school this term, is playing Gerry Evans, the father of the narrator Michael, and occasional visitor to Ballybeg and the Mundy sisters. He writes :-

I play the character Gerry, the eccentric Welsh salesman. Gerry is important as he balances the other characters and injects liveliness and 'punch' into the play. Although maybe not completely honest, he is an undeniably likeable character, who keeps up the tempo of the play and adds humour and wit. He is an element of comic relief from the tense domestic atmosphere. [full piece here]

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Manhunt

For the latest Poem of the Week, we return to the author of our first one last term, 'The Catch'. In the Sunday Times, Simon Armitage this week wrote (here) a piece called 'Battlefield Salvos', about his experience of talking to those traumatised by war for a Channel 4 documentary (C4, 12.11.07, 10pm) :-

Forgotten Heroes: The Not Dead is a war film. It’s about returning soldiers. And, in keeping with the time-honoured and dignified tradition of war poetry, the mode of expression is verse ... the last word comes not from a man but from Laura, Eddie’s wife. Tracing the scar of a bullet that took away part of her husband’s face, then continued pin-balling through his body, grazing his heart along the way, she describes the slow and sometimes painful process of trying to reach him, touch him, love him and make him human again.

So this is both a war poem, and a moving love poem. Read it here.


Our good wishes go to a previous contributor to our blog, former pupil Ben Russell, who tonight and tomorrow night makes his opera debut at the Cork Opera House in a version of Gluck's Orpheus from Opera Works.

In their words :-
A celebration of young talent, the production will feature the Cork Children’s Chorus, exciting new discovery nineteen year old Benjamin Russell in the title role, while Euridice, normally a soprano, will be performed by young Irish Ballet sensation, Jane Magan.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Shakespeare MP3 Project

As we return from our half-term break, sincere thanks from the English Department and the Library to our Mathematics colleague (and Shakespeare fanatic) Noel Coldrick, who has put an immense amount of work into transferring old recordings of Shakespeare's works into digital form, so that (in our laptop- and Ipod-enabled world), pupils and staff can access this more easily.

The display case in the Library is now showing a sample of his work, which is explained here by the man himself in his article for the forthcoming Library magazine, The Submarine :

To preserve these recordings, particularly the older more fragile tapes, a joint project was setup between the library and the SCC Shakespeare Society to transfer the material to MP3 CDs. By moving to MP3 format we also make the recordings more accessible to pupils who can now listen to plays they are studying on their Ipods.

The new MP3 collection has over 60 MP3 CDs covering over 200 hours of recordings, and in addition to the plays contains the Sonnets and the Narrative poems, Pearson’s
Life of Shakespeare, various compilations of famous scenes and soliloquies and old archive recordings.