On Friday last, November 9th a group of eight Poetry students* from Clongowes, accompanied Mr Tom Carroll and the Rector, Fr Michael Sheil S.J. travelled to Portora Royal College, Enniskillen, for a Remembrance Day Ceremony. This is an annual visit and one of a number of events that have served to strengthen the links between the two schools for over 30 years.
The group was welcomed to Portora by the Headmaster Mr Neil Morton and Ms Janet Goodall and attended a remembrance service in college hall, at which Alex Stewart laid a wreath to remember the dead of Clongowes. Portora has changed from an all-boy boarding to a co-ed. day school. Their main sport in now rowing (given the proximity of Lough Erne) and they have a magnificent new boathouse with state-of-the-art boats and equipment. The group was given a tour of the school (including the boat house) and then the Clongowes boys attended classes for the afternoon in the company of their hosts.
Historical links between the two schools are to be found in the person of Fr John Sullivan, ‘The Servant of God’, who attended Portora and then ministered in Clongowes between 1907 and 1933. The connection is also mirrored in the friendship of James Joyce with Samuel Beckett, past pupils of Clongowes and Portora respectively. To mark this latter a literary competition is held each year between pupils of the two schools for the honour of the Beckett-Joyce Literary Award.
The involvement of Fr Sheil is particularly appropriate as he was a member of the group that established formal links between the schools in 1979. Along with the then Headmasters of Clongowes (Fr Philip Fogarty SJ) and Portora (Mr Alan Acheson) and Mr James Pratt (Portora) he helped set up a number of connections between the schools. Twinning was made official in 1980 as evidenced by two mounted plaques displayed in the entrance hall in Portora and on a signed cricket bat in the Clongowes trophy display area. Activities initially included rugby and cricket followed by debating and ‘historical’ exchanges and each year the respective Past Pupils’ Unions share Annual Dinner invitations.
This year also marked 25 years since the Enniskillen bombing and the group laid a wreath at the grave of the late Senator Gordon Wilson, a good friend of Clongowes, whose daughter, Marie, was one of the victims that day. The Clongowes group was very conscious of how much Portora appreciated their attendance at the service, which further helped to foster good relationships between the students and we look forward to welcoming them when they make a return visit to Clongowes after Christmas.
* Alex Stewart, Ross O’Carroll, Tom Cantillon, Philipp Von Matuschka, Cian Browne, Brian Dowling, Conor Godson and Jack Quinn.