Published: Thursday, 28th June, 2012 9:30am
As his Leaving Certificate class of 1992 plans a get-together to mark 20 years since the exams, John Donohoe reminisences about those days in St Michael's Diocesan School in Trim............
Back in the day we did our Leaving Certificate examination, the English essay options could have been along the lines of: 'Imagine what it would be like if everybody could communicate instantaneously via their computers' or 'Imagine a time in Ireland when both the Catholic Church and Fianna Fail will be disgraced'.
In 1992, when this writer sat his Leaving Certificate in Trim, the first option was just dreamt of in a time when email, the internet and Skyping weren't heard of. But the second was unthinkable. Bishop Eamon Casey's liaison with Annie Murphy was just breaking - it was harmless considering what was coming down the tracks at the Church. And Charles Haughey had just told us that he hoped he served the people well. It transpired he had served himself well, too.
In the words of the Yeats' Easter 1916 that we studied in English classes, 'All changed, changed utterly'.
It's hard to believe that it's 20 years since we sat in the exam rooms of St Michael's Diocesan Secondary School. The school doesn't even exist now. Well it does, in another form, as Boyne Community School, with a questionable extension built to part of the front of the old stone façade.
We were there for the original changeover, when St Michael's Christian Brothers School became St Michael's Diocesan School. Brother PJ Connaughton retired and the Christian Brothers, or what was left of them, retired to Kells. The school was handed over to the bishop and Sean Condon became principal, with Fergal Giles as his deputy.
In 1987, when around 90 or 100 young lads of 12 or 13 first entered, we were placed in classes according to our surname. J1, J2, J3 and J4 were the first year classes. If your surname began with A-D you were in J1, and so on. As you went into second year, you became an L; and it seemed a very fair way of doing it - it meant classes weren't selected because of ability in the entrance exams. Later, you ended up in your Honours or Pass classes for exam purposes. TLC was the Technical Leaving Certificate, rather than the loving care!
Three of us went from Dunsany NS at the time - Andrew Lynch, Paul Meehan and myself. The bus collection was about 8am, or before it, at Dunsany Cross. Johnny Moran and Marie Kelly were the drivers. Some years, the route would be via Kiltale and Scurlogstown; other years, via Kilmessan and Connell's Cross. If you were unfortunate enough to be at one of the last stops, there wasn't a seat.
It meant we were in Trim about an hour before classes start, and had time to kill. So we took in a tour of the town. Hughie McGeogh's shop opposite the convent. The Bon Bon, which the proprietors didn't like us treating like the local library. Doyle's Sweetshop, for the apple drops. MJs, Moores and the little place on the corner opposite the courthouse. Back passing by the Garda Station. Of course, the Romeos didn't troop the town, they stayed up at McGeogh's or the church grounds, and it wasn't their prayers they were saying behind the church. It just happened to be beside the convent!
Those early years in Trim CBS were also the beginning of the glory era of Sean Boylan and the Meath team. The September of our arrival there saw the capturing of the Sam Maguire for the first time since 1967. In 1967, the captain was a past pupil, Peter Darby, and 20 years on, two more past pupils brought the cup into the school, Frank Foley and Michael McDonnell. Brother Connaughton pointed out they were also both past students of the year titleholders, "proving that discipline required to compete in top class football is character formation". Our business studies teacher, Trudi McEntee, let us know who her brother-in-law was, as football took over commerce for a time.
We had our own football stars. Barry Sheridan - now running The Wine Buff in Navan - captained the Meath minors to a Leinster victory. Nigel Nestor was on the Meath side that won the 1999 All Ireland. There was a sweet day in Pairc Tailteann in Navan when we watched his brother, Paul, lift the Leinster Colleges Football Junior Cup, captaining a school side that beat Gormanston by 2-9 to 0-9, with Gary Thompson providing two marvellous goals.
And of course, the ever youthful Brendan Murphy, only recently hanging up his goalkeeping gloves with the Royal County. At the time, Brendan was making his international soccer debut as an u-16 for the Republic of Ireland, and was to go on to play professional football in England with Bradford City and Wimbledon.
Ray Dorran was our county hurling star for many years, while Justin Egan was hurler of the year in the Trim club around that time.
Thomas Dunne won the National Apprentice Competition in construction and steelwork, representing Ireland in the International Skills Olympics in France, and Eamonn A Byrne gained a place on the prestigious Kew Diploma Course, administered by the School of Horticulture, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Ronan Dempsey, the last of the 12 Lionsden brothers to pass through the CBS, inevitably took to a piloting career, as he was taking flying lessons at the time. He's in Dubai, while Ken McManus is also flying, but closer to home, from Dublin. Garvin Reilly designed the cover of our first school magazine, and went onto work with architects, and Stevie Felle followed his late father into stocks and shares. But we never thought Oliver Cunningham would end up DJing and running a speciality tea shop in Portobello!
We were one of the last classes to do the Intermediate Certificate - the curriculum had already been phased out by the time we sat that exam. This writer recalls getting his hands on a mock exam from Dunshaughlin Community College. These were the trial runs for the big thing. We were just about to start when one of the Ballivor lads (who else?!) let a teacher see the paper under his desk. There was pandemonium, and the exam was delayed while a substitute paper was got from the convent. An eagle-eyed Mary Menton!
Sports days were always looked forward to, except by those on the tug-of-war team. Fergal Giles made them swallow duck eggs.
There were variety concerts, school magazines and other sports such as golf and handball, as well as athletics. Andrew Lynch excelled at those. There were also trips to France, although a day at the Ploughing Championships with Tom Byrne was as far as I got!
Not everybody who started with us in 1987 finished in 1992. Some left to go farming if that was the family business, other to apprenticeships or work after the Inter. Some stayed back until the following year, and others went to different schools or moved away.
And others joined us along the way, from other schools, or repeated the Leaving with us. We were to lose Malachy Lee who passed away during the summer of 1991. Sadly, he was not the only one. In the intervening years we have said farewell to Andy Warren, David Kinghan, Andre Anderson, Joe Christie, Raymond Cassidy and Francis Quinn.
Since that finishing of the Leaving Cert in 1992, and the lounging around Trim Castle afterwards, we have seen the best of times and the worst of times. A small number of lads are working abroad, with some like Lathan Dixon, Nigel Nestor and Ken Wiseman in the US for many years, and Neil Bellew in Australia.
Those that are available are gathering in Trim GAA clubhouse - another new addition since we left school - for a 20 year get together next month. It's on Saturday 14th July at 9pm in the club. We won't call it a reunion. We'd like to think we're still too young for one of those!
Contact (087) 610 1966 or (086) 388 4499 for more details.
Some of the 1992 Leaving Certificate Class at St Michael's Diocesan School, Trim. Back, from left, Justin Egan, Marcus Fagan, Jason Manek, Liam Geoghegan; fourth row, Frank Hevey, Wayne Byrne, John Kangley, Mark McHugh, Derek Fahy, Ronan Clinton, David Kinghan RIP, Mark McLoughlin, Seamus Quinn, Michael Keane, Declan Lewis, Stevie Felle, Andre Anderson RIP, David Murray, Anthony McLoughlin; third row, Sean Condon, principal, Eamonn A Byrne, John Holland, Fergal Duignan, PJ Howard, Alan Keane, Barry Smith, Philip Cosgrave, Paul Gilligan, Ken Wiseman, Derek Bannon, Gerard Daly, William Mundow, Adrian Griffith, Fergal Giles, vice-principal; second row, Nigel Nestor, John Cribbin, Eamon Donohoe, Lathan Dixon, Niall Brady, Gary Dunne, John Donohoe, Oliver Cunningham, Oliver Hackett, Barry Sheridan, Robin Cooper, Michael Newman, Gerry Williams, Neil Bellew, Ronan Dempsey; front row, Paul Meehan, Dean Clinton, John Gilsenan, Jeffrey King, Ray Dorran, Aidan Leonard, Emmet O'Rafferty, Darren Mullen, Des Mulvey, Keith Thompson, Barry Fay, Daniel Fogden, Paul Gannon.