Dr Fogarty’s speech on Prize Evening

Dr Damian Fogarty with Fionntan Callan who won the Liam Agnew Cup for Best Overall Performance at A Level with 3A stars and 1A. Fionntan is studying Physics at Queen’s, Belfast
The following is the text of an excellent address that Dr Damian Fogarty (GT 1976-83) delivered as Special Guest to our prize Evening on Thursday.
GCSE Award winners
Very Reverend Father, Principal Brady, governors, teachers, school staff and local guests, parents and families and lastly but most, most importantly, pupils, prize winning pupils, it gives me immense pleasure and pride to return to my old school, St Mac Nissi’s, Garron Tower, GT, St Killian’s and celebrate with you all your excellent achievements.
I don’t think we have applauded you enough…Well done everyone.
So I would first like to say thank-you to the school especially Mr Brady and Mrs McKay for inviting me. Thanks also to everyone here for this warm St Killian’s, GT welcome to both myself and my wife Clodagh. It’s especially important for me that Clodagh is here as she has heard so much about this place and my tales of hardship, no electricity, running water, that sort of thing!! Of course I exaggerate but 64 years ago when your grandparents were young this school opened as St MacNissi’s College and did not have such basic amenities across the school. It is hard to find the exact numbers starting but less than 100 and now today you have 843 pupils and over half 427 are girls. No one told me!! I left in June 83 with the girl count at 0! Sorry Mrs McKay…you were a teacher! My year especially the boarders spent hours contriving ways to get out just to speak to some girls. In my AS level year a scheme came in to help 17 year olds learn to drive. Now although I was nearly doing my test already I signed up anyway, yes to get a day a week to visit Ballymena and learn to drive, but also for the chance to hang around the gates of St Louis’s and St Mary’s!! Yes this was the hardship of being a boarder at the all-boys Garron Tower of that era!
So now I have that off my chest what can I tell you tonight? Well you, the pupils we celebrate, are an integral part of this large and highly regarded school. Your achievements and those of your predecessors have helped it grow. You are part of an educational and social movement similar to other social movements that we read about now on Facebook. So today I want to share with you my ideas and experiences of how you can contribute to your own development academically and socially. I am going to do this using 8 words and some stories about those words. If you concentrate on these words they will come together with a theme that someone may work out.
Sports' Awards were collected by back l-r Marc McKinstry & Liam Gillan. Front Callum Wharry, Dervla Cosgrove, Jonathan McManus
SCHOLARLY-So our first adjective to consider is SCHOLARLY and this is reflected tonight with prizes for school related usually academic activities. But scholarly has a wider meaning to me and that’s the idea that we never stop learning. Mahatma Gandhi famously said “Live Life as if you were to die tomorrow; learn as if you were to live forever.” Of course some think that Gandhi converted this to “You Only Live Once”. I had to explain Y-O-L-O to my Brady earlier as he may need it for his new smartphone here! {Holds up small old Nokia}. Of course YOLO only equates to the first part of Gandhi’s saying and misses the lifelong learning aspect. To me this type of scholarly activity does not mean studying for exams but rather means asking more questions and if the answer does not sound right it may not be…your generation more than any before has the tools to go and check everything at your fingertips. So in my area kidney medicine Wikipedia pages are pretty darn good but there are better sources. I spent many months writing a chapter one of 100 in a large textbook creatively called “The Kidney”. So yes my chapter is better for specialists but I never stop learning and when I don’t know something I still ask the awkward questions of even bigger experts. I first met these experts at my first big conference in Boston in November 1993; there were 5000 scientists and doctors from all over the world there to learn even more about things they knew well already. What amazed me was how normal they were and they even had a good time becoming more of an expert, being scholarly and having fun. I liked that mix! I was hooked.
So as you move to next scholarly phase in higher education or work, don’t view learning as the same as for exams, though you will have some of those, view learning as equipping you for a fun filled job for which you actually get paid. Do ask questions, explore and enquire further, become an expert…you all have the same capabilities as myself and my generation but even better tools to do it and the whole world out there. You can now book your Easyjet flights on a smartphone!
I can see some of you maybe the teachers know many pupils who want to just leave school; we understand that, but this reflects the desire to grow up and move on in life and be independent, not be told what to do etc. Humans are more simple animals; we have this huge brain and communications system that yearns for information and learning. So go after the scholarly activities that you like and want to do. Teachers and parents-lets recognise that our view of education and the subjects we teach or consider essential may not be the things that inspire other kids not here tonight your role is to help those kids find their ‘subject’.
Science and Mathematics awards went to back l-r Shane Magill, Christopher McLearnon, Ciaran Emerson. Front Odhrán McAleenan, Kathleen Cunning, Matthew Kerr
NATURAL- Our second word is Natural. Two years ago this address was given by one of the first girls to pass through GT/St Killian’s Anne McReynolds, Director of the MAC theatre in Belfast. She made a point which I shamelessly repeat about ‘being natural’…’be yourself’. Don’t pretend you like something if you really don’t just to keep in with some friends; if you cannot be natural with your friends then you need more and different friends. There are plenty more people like you over 7 billion of them!
Again quoting a former pupil and speaker here Ben Glover, ‘Follow your heart.’ Do what comes naturally and life is much easier. Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
AMBITION- Tied in with what you want to do is our next word
Language Awards went to back l-r Sean McMullan, Gerard O'Hara, Aidan Murray. Front Eve McClintock, Christy McRandleVictoria Watson, Laoise McKenna
AMBITION. It’s vital to have ambition and aim high and not be overawed by what seems like a difficult task or course…you can all do it…look how you tackled the tasks behind the awards tonight. Remember most courses have different grades not because you need to be smarter to do one course or another but often to help filter the popular courses. I was a middle of the year student in my first 3 years at medical school yet somehow then got a first in an intercalated degree in science…how come? It was a combination of my ambition but also my natural liking of a subject (medical genetics) and enjoying a different scholarly approach where I now did practical laboratory work and not the more typical book work. I had found my niche at that stage anyway.
You have all had a great education and it continues either here or at university or college or in work…but the sky is the limit. Look what has happened in your careers and these prizes…if you want to you can get even more or change to other things and achieve anything. So be ambitious, follow your heart guided by your head.
History and Geography awards went to L-r John McGinnis, Roisin Healy, Sarah Okasha, Caolan Lalsingh
INGENUITY- Our next word is ingenuity, finding new ways to do things. So 2 quick stories on how this helps and matters. In my practice the best thing we can do for a patient with kidney failure is get them a new kidney with a kidney donated preferably from a live donor. This year our unit has already performed almost 80 kidney transplants and we will pass our own record of 97 from last year. When the first senior pupils in this school were leaving in 1954 at the same time there were 2 slightly older boys about to make history in Boston. These 23 year old twin brothers were Richard and Ronald Herrick. Richard was dying from kidney failure and there was no regular dialysis machine to keep him alive then. He was losing weight on a very strict diet, he had very high blood pressure and serious swelling of his legs and body in total. His kidneys could not get rid of the poisons and water that they normally excrete. His brother wanted to donate a kidney to him but at this time most live donors only survived in the body a few weeks before they stopped working due to rejection when the body recognises that the kidney tissue is not their own. So the Herrick twins were born at the same time but could just as easily be very similar looking non-identical twins, fraternal twins. There was no way to tell…no books or experts knew what to do. This needed ingenuity so the team had the novel idea to check their if they were doing a small skin transplant using a disc of tissue probably from under the arm out of sight. So Ronald donated a small piece of skin first to his sick very similar looking brother Richard.. If there was rejection the skin graft would turn red within days and weeks. It remained pink white & healthy. They were identical so just before Christmas 1954 the kidney transplant happened; it was a huge success and Richard lived for another 8 years, married and started a family. The 3 doctors involved won the Nobel Prize for the ingenuity of the many steps needed to get there. Since then probably close to a million transplants have happened around the world. Ambitious, scholarly but it needed ingenuity!
You can be ingenious in many ways-look at Mark Zuckenberg and Facebook or a lesser known example is the Gower Brothers…who set up and run Jagex…anyone heard of this. Well it’s the company behind the game RUNESCAPE an online game with multi-players moving around a fantasy world…does not do anything for me but 10 million subscribers think otherwise and the Gower Brothers are millionaires. That ingenious idea started in a living room or bedroom; the company now has 500 staff in Cambridge. Just making a game, doing something they love-a natural love-that’s ingenious!!
Dr Damian Fogarty, Fr Tim Bartlett & Jonny Brady with Niamh McIntosh Cup for Best Overall Performance at GCSE with 10 grade A stars
LABOUR-Our 5th word is labour not the political party but the long hours that you prize winners have put into your studies and course work .
Hard work and dedication are important in all walks of life and indeed in sport, music, drama and even in the simplest tasks we take for granted like cooking & gardening. Normally tonight at this time I am getting ready for my labour of love…namely 7-a-side football but being honest it now takes us old boys about 9 or 10 a side to cover half the pitch. How is this relevant to labour? When you work hard you have to also play hard and release the tension from the day’s work. So as you head off to the next phase do consider your work-life balance and get some form of exercise going and keep it going thru college etc. Now the parents are going to object when I say this but even Facebook and Twitter have potential angles to help you in work and definitely in sport & hobbies. Mrs McKay mentioned that I dip into twitter the odd time…just the 25 thousand odd tweets. I use it to communicate with a wide range of colleagues and indeed many patients and charities. Ironically some of my tweets have had more attention than the scholarly book chapter I wrote! Times are changing but hard work will always be a constant need in work and play and hobbies. Play hard and work hard…as you clearly do.
Awards in Art, Music, Media and Drama back l-r  Becca McIlroy, Emma O’Loan, Cassie McCullough. Front Molly Kemp, Ellen Mulvenna, Orla Glanville, Niamh McLaughlin
LOYALTY-Loyalty is the 6th word not the unswerving devotion to a country or its high ranking leaders but for you the most important people to be loyal to are your family, your friends, your neighbours and community, your school. Loyalty is like looking into a mirror when you show loyalty to anything or organisation it is almost always reflected back sometimes later and in many different ways. Loyalty to family and friends you have already experienced but for those leaving you may think you cannot wait to leave St Killian’s but this desire to leave is normal and reflects you growing up and needing new challenges and steps to take. Don’t forget this great school and your next great ‘school’ whatever form it takes. Be loyal to them all. Sean Doherty our Governor here reflected back this loyalty to me and my family 25 years ago this very week when my mother died suddenly. Thank you Sean we have not forgotten!
Chloe McDonnell (RE), Mary Kane (AS Business), Aimee Heggarty (Leisure & Tourism) and Chloe Watterson (GCSE Business)
INTEGRITY- Tied into this loyalty is my 7th word integrity. Our local author CS Lewis is credited with saying “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”…It is hard to emphasise the importance of peace of mind in these matters. If you are not sure what is the right thing to do ask for advice; I was lucky to find in 1987 my soul mate Clodagh who is my gold standard for many things but especially in matters of integrity and doing the right thing. Don’t worry you will find many important friends and a soul mate too. Be honest, be yourself.
This great school is so much more than a school. I looked back at its history and now think I understand why it has always treated its pupils as individuals not as collective classes. I mentioned that 1954 the year of the first transplant was the year the first students at St MacNissi’s to leave the school as many of you do now or soon will. They were congratulated by the President, Mr Brady’s predecessor, Reverend Tumelty and I quote “for their help in the orderly running of the school…I should like to pay special tribute to the boys those students who have left us. They have been with us from the beginning and much of our early success has been due to them”. You are lucky to be so included in decisions and activities here in the school. Being treated as an individual and now a young adult is just as important in your overall education and helps shape your integrity. So the school opened 64 years ago and we now have 3 generations of Glens people passing thru the school. That says plenty about loyalty and your trust in the school and its integrity.
Award winners in Home Economics, Child Development, HSC & LLW back l-r  Chloe Baston, Caitlin Bagchus. Front Francesca Black, Martin O’Kane and Courtney McLaughlin
KINDNESS –My final word is kindness and this does not always mean being gentle to everyone all the time. Being kind for me at home means that I have to limit my 12 year old son in how long he spends on a computer; he has to get out and play outside so he stays fit and healthy. Not to do so would be clearly unkind. Likewise in teaching and as a university teacher I know this well we have to be firm with pupils for the benefits of a whole class so the kindness towards many is often hidden in the stern words to a few.
I would like to mention a couple of the kind teachers I grew up with especially PJ Magee who died tragically aged 33 and his wife Mrs Anne Magee. Also some of the priests from my era stick in my head such as Father Vincent McCartan who also died young. Fr McCartan was notable as he came along when I was in 3rd year at that awkward stage in adolescence. He was supposed to be the dean of discipline but he was a big softie…over 6 foot tall and with a huge mop of ginger hair.. He was one of the kindest and fairest of men. He recognised ahead of his time that my year needed an outlet and he set up a Garron Tower youth club fully affiliated etc. Now you have to remember that in 1979 there were only 3 TV channels, there were 2 or 3 computers about…in the whole of County Antrim!! That reminds me that another kind teacher ahead of his time Mr Joey Ferris a physics teacher somehow acquired a computer; I would have said fell off the back of a lorry but it was huge over 20 feet long-it filled that classroom A15 now a drama classroom just outside the hall here. I think it came from a large company or organisation who wanted to upgrade to a ‘smaller’ one. Well it did keep a rudimentary spread sheet of all the pupils but the data was entered using cards which were nearly slower than writing them out in a ledger!! Anyway Vincent McCartan recognised how we needed an outlet so he was driving us around to visit every youth club around the Glens-the first ever Disco we went to was in form 3 in the glamorous setting of the church hall in Waterfoot!
How is this relevant to kindness; well we live in a faster and more technically advanced world and everyone wants things quicker and smaller or better than before. This creates tension and that can make people misbehave, lose that bit of manners and it can be easy to be unkind in our world. Your generation though can ensure that does not happen; you have already seen that most shared stories on Facebook reflect positive things; the world is full of good people wanting to make a difference. That is what comes naturally to us coming from loving families. Thankfully tragic scenes of refugee children dying are rare but your generation with the tools we now have can make a real difference as Mr Brady alluded to and create a world that is fairer and more equal than ever before.
So my time is nearly up…did anyone work out these 8 words: I will read them out in reverse Kindness, Integrity, Loyalty, Labour, Ingenuity, Ambition, Natural and Scholarly. K-I-L-L-I-A-N-S.
These words represent some of the traits and life skills you have already and can keep building on. Finally may I congratulate everyone here in helping our young people achieve so much. The progress since my time here is hugely impressive and the school has gone from strength to strength. Thank-you and well done.

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