By Geraldine Collins on May 23, 2017.   No Comments

John Spillane charms students and staff


John Spillane along with students from varying year groups, and their teachers on his recent visit to Ashton.


Violin player C. Kelly plays a duet with John Spillane, much to the delight of the audience.


Irish dancing was celebrated as part of John Spillane’s visit with the Irish department recently, capably danced by R. Premchand.


An enchanted audience at Ashton, being entertained by John Spillane.



Singer/song writer of renown John Spillane recently visited the Irish Department at Ashton and really inspired students and  staff in a very intimate, spontaneous, and relaxed visit.   There were Irish songs, many of the beautiful old renditions,  Irish dancing, spontaneous singing from students, excellent  and entertaining violin playing and a great sense of a shared ‘grá’ for the ‘cúpla focail’.  This was all part of the ‘Taster session, Music Workshops with secondary schools’.

Also in attendance for the visit was Caroline Nolan, Oifigeach Forbartha Gaeilge, (Irish Language Development Officer) , Cumann Gaelach na hEaglaise.

Cumann Gaelach na hEaglaise, the Irish Guild of the Church, was established in 1914 and works to promote the greater use of Irish in services, in school activities, and in the wider community of the Church of Ireland.

 The Cumann began a competition, Comórtas Bedell, in 2012, encouraging Church of Ireland secondary schools in the ROI to create a programme of activities during Seachtain na Gaeilge.  The response has been great and many schools from around the country have entered the competition,  from Ashton School in Cork to Sligo Grammar School and from Kilkenny College to Monaghan Collegiate College as well as several schools in Dublin, including Alexandra College, Wesley College, and High School Rathgar.

Then a series of contacts began with schools in Belfast, including Regent House Grammar school, and Wallace High School (Lisburn) and it was felt that it would be a positive and important step forward to begin to create an understanding of the various levels of understanding and engagement, and indeed opportunities for engagement, that young people from a Protestant background can have with the Irish language.

This project, linking young people in schools from the ROI and NI offers an unique opportunity to share different views and experiences of the language, in first step, low –key approach to explore these issues.  The focus on music workshops is to set the language in an entertaining context that is not wholly focused on the language.  The project is introductory in nature.

Many of the young people from NI taking part in the project will have had little or no exposure to the Irish language before this event.  The project hopes to show that the Irish language belongs to everyone and that young people from the ROI attending schools with a Protestant ethos not only learn Irish but actually can enjoy it!  For many young people in NI the Irish language is seen as ‘belonging’ to ‘one side’ and yet we have encountered a curiosity and interest in the language from young people in NI and maybe the focus needs to shift to finding new opportunities for young people to engage with the language. Over a year ago we wrote about Wallace High School Choir (Honours) performing carols and hymns in Irish at church services in St. George’s Church Belfast and the response was phenomenal.  We were contacted from several sources telling us that this was a game changer.  Such is the power of our young people!

The project is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Four schools will take part in the project in the first instance, with a waiting list of other schools which we will try to accommodate if possible:

NI:  Victoria College, Belfast (8 June) and Wallace High School, Lisburn (28 June) (Lagan College, Belfast on the waiting list),

ROI:  Ashton College, Cork, and either Wesley College, Dublin (TBC) or High School, Rathgar (TBC). (Sligo Grammar School on the waiting list).

A great opportunity for any school,  a pure pleasure to attend and be part of.  Well done to all involved in the Irish Department.