The class of 1981 30th School Reunion took place on Friday 27th May 2011 and it was a fantastic day.
The event started with a golf outing in the Castle Golf Club, followed by a school tour at 7:00pm. The festivities commenced in earnest at 8:30pm in the Glenside pub and continued late into the night.
Let me take you back, however, to May 1981, thirty years ago, when this group was just about to commence the Leaving Cert exams.
It was an unsettled time. Thatcher was forging economic change in Britain. The hunger strike in Northern Ireland was captured by the world press. 48 young people had died in the Stardust tragedy in February and we were heading into a period of Fianna Fail/Fine Gael yo-yo governments. John Lennon died the previous December. An assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan occurred in Washington DC and Pope John Paul II was shot in St Peter's Square, Rome. Both survived. The Space Shuttle Columbia was launched for the first time. The first test tube baby was born. MTV was launched in August. The winds of change were blowing across Europe and Princess Diana would marry Prince Charles that July.
I remember an Apple II computer being delivered to the school that year by the Department of Education, signalling the beginning of a technological revolution that would change how we would work and communicate forever. The internet and mobile phones however, were still only pipedreams.
De la Salle College was still dominated by the De La Salle Brothers. Bro. Christopher was the principal and at that time and the school itself was bleak to say the least. Mind you, the sixth year students had an official smoking room in the school (I kid you not!) and the school gymnasium had just been completed. I recall a student being expelled for dressing like Elvis at a school rugby match (not the white Vegas number now, just the quiff and sideburns). Mick Daly was the Dean of Discipline and would regularly watch as you hurried to reach the school before 9:00am and happily lock you outside to be dealt with later.
We were all heading together into a depressed economy where third level education was for but a few. Many knew that emigration was inevitable and employment in the banks or the Civil Service was promoted as safe bets, if you could get them. We set out on our way, some of us not to meet again until this day.
Paddy Adams arrived and took a class photo and we were then taken on a tour of the school with Mick Daly, Lorcan Balfe, John Corbett, Ruth Prenter and Paddy Adams.
The school had changed quite considerably. There was now a woodwork room, a library, video rooms, computers and carpet. Dave Halpin quipped that it felt like a proper school now. It was difficult sometimes, as we toured, to get a perspective on where we actually were, as with so many new extensions and wings had been added. Brian Kelly brought a tennis ball and for a few moments we re-enacted soccer in the corridor we had enjoyed so many years before. It was very pleasant to spend those few moments in the old place again.
We headed to the Glenside at about 8:30pm and were joined by the rest of our school colleagues. It was great to chat with the guys again as we learned of experiences, careers, relationships, children and grand children, marriage and separation, life and death.
Eoin O'Neill had travelled from San Francisco, Paul Grainger from Germany, Frank Donnelly from London, Brendan Butler from Westport and Huk Mok from Carlow. Des Marmion trotted all the way from Ballinteer.
It's remarkable how people fell back into their roles once the group was assembled again. The reserved were still demure, the confident held court, the pensive mused and the comedians had us in tears. How can Paul Fitzpatrick be still that funny after all those years? Mick Daly took the microphone and spoke about his memories of that year and recounted many humorous stories. How does that man do it? He knew everybody, their brothers and their families. He added something very special to the evening and stayed well into the early hours of the morning.
The evening flew, of course, and John Dempsey remarked that we could have spent another six hours and still not had a chance to speak to everybody. It was a wonderful day and I am very happy to have been involved.
It is interesting to note that we had parted in the year that Princess Diana had married and were back together again as her son William completed that cycle. Literally a generation has passed. Old friendships have been rekindled, new friendships have been forged and our journey continues.
There is no doubt that we will meet again. Possibly next year, maybe at Christmas. But one thing is sure - the friends you make during those formidable years have a very special meaning and are worth revisiting from time to time.
'Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once and a while, you could miss it.' Ferris Bueller (1986)
John Reddy, part of the organising committee