Union Day is one of the great traditions that have helped to make Clongowes what it is and has been gracing the grounds of the old Castle Browne for well over a century, ever since the first event on June 5th 1898. While the attendees in this second year of our third century may not have arrived by rail to Sallins and charabanc to Clongowes there was still a certain timelessness to the occasion as Clongownians past and present disported themselves about the grounds in sparkling sunshine.
Union Day is the occasion when the gentlemen of the graduating class effectively finish their second-level schooling, when the incoming School Captain Vice-Captain and Secretary are appointed, and when the new President of the Union takes up his Chain of Office. It is also one of the principal social days in the College calendar with the Parents’ Association providing entertainment with a climbing-wall, face painting and the traditional Tug-O-War and Penalty Shoot Out.
This year the event took place on Sunday May 29th and was as busy as ever. The Rhetoric Graduation Mass was followed by lunch in the refectory as well as in numerous pop up picnics around the grounds. Mr Niall Leahy sj had delivered the homily at the Mass reminding the boys that they are surrounded by people who believe in them and that they are right to believe in them, which is a wonderful thing. Earlier Andrew Lynch (OC’ 04) had succeeded Owen Binchy (OC ’80) as President of the Clongowes Union at the AGM. In his valedictory speech to Rhetoric Owen reminded them that their parents were 18 once and so have some idea what they are going through and may actually have some useful tips.
Union Day Awards
All afternoon the weather gods smiled on the happy families dining al fresco around the cricket oval with the gentle click of willow on leather ‘as the run stealers flickered to and fro’ in the background. Elsewhere The Parent and Son golf competition took place with David Wilkinson père et fils (1985 and Grammar 2016) making off with the coveted gong. It was with some difficulty that the ‘Lord High Chief of All Indoor Doings’ aka Mr Frank Kelly persuaded the revellers to vacate the sunny swards for the airy confines of the Sports Hall that the Union Day Awards might be dispensed.
The Headmaster, Mr Chris Lumb, making his inaugural Union Day address, placed the school in the long tradition of Jesuit Education and spoke of ‘the sixteenth century Jesuits [as being] ahead of their time, upholding the value of learning alongside their students, sharing best practice in their teaching, and always striving for excellence’. He made no apology for stressing the academic life of the school, saying that ‘one of the key challenges for Clongowes, like all the top schools in Ireland, the UK or further afield, is not to rest on our laurels’. Saying that he has ‘long believed that a school is judged, above all, by the quality of its community life, by the values which are practised by its members, and by the attitudes and principles of its past pupils [he looked] forward with great optimism to Clongowes continuing to flourish and develop in so many ways in the years which lie ahead’.
While the day was an important rite of passage for the departing Rhetoric, it was no less important for the rest of the student body, all of whom were on the edge of another step in their progression through the school. Three Poetry students in particular felt the hand of history when Conor Galvin, Colin Bourke and Sean McCrohan were named as Captain, Vice-Captain and Secretary respectively, in succession to Conor Slattery, Jack McCreevy and Donnchadh Walsh (no less respectively).
The most prestigious award on Union Day is the Aloysius Award, named for our patron saint, Aloysius Gonzaga. The honour is given ‘For courage and determination in personal and communal life – for development of character, placing his talents at the service of others and through his efforts to come to terms with himself and life in Clongowes – for growth as an integrated, genuine person.’
Sean McMahon was a very worthy recipient.
Declan O’Keeffe, Head of Communications
Pictured above is Sean McMahon receiving the Aloysius award from Mr Peter Gray, Chairman of the Board of Management. There are lots more pictures of Union Day here courtesy of the lens of Mr David Nelson.