Following my visits to Ballyroan Boys School I was advised that an application had been made to an Áras for a group visit for the boys in third classes. They had been kind enough to include me in the group. I was delighted, of course, never having been there before, but felt that, with the volume of applications, such a large group had no chance.
However, very soon, I was delighted to be told that we would be going onTues. 23rd. Sadly the numbers had to be restricted so only one class could go. Miss Rooney’s class was the lucky one. Our hopes of meeting the President were extremely slim as he was meeting the Pope on Mon. 22nd.
Yesterday was the special day. Weather was lovely and sunny and we departed the school in the luxury of favourite bus driver, P. J’s coach. We were accompanied by the Principal, Mr Des Morris, and a number of the staff, Saoirse Rooney, Anne Mazzoni, Conor McHugh, and Linda Price to look after the boys. My friend Trish Mullen, the school Secretary was looking after me. We also had Patricia Mulrooney, mother of Sean, one of the pupils.
When we arrived at Phoenix Park, we had some time to spare, so the boys were allowed to pay a visit to the famous Wellington monument, with it’s many steps. They loved that, of course. Remembered all the happy visits I made to there with my own small children and later with my grandchildren. A magical place we thought.
Arriving at the gates we picked up two other guests, Ronnie Daly and John Twomey, both from the Irish U. N. Veteran’s Association. They are friends of Sergeant Major Colton, whose great-grandson, Sean Mulrooney, is in the class. He could not come today. As a group, they had entertained the boys some time ago with tales of their army experiences, when peacekeeping in Africa and elsewhere.
We drove up the elegant driveway in lovely sunshine, and could see the house in all its glory. There we were greeted by Mr. Kevin McCarthy, Secretary to the President, and by Tom, our very nice guide for the tour of the house. We were made most welcome and were firstly treated to some light refreshments. The boys were in their element with minerals and cakes.
We were shown the principal rooms with full details of famous people who had visited there. Queen Victoria had stayed there and had made some changes to suit her wishes. The details and history of the house are widely available and recommended. Portraits of all nine Presidents of Ireland are displayed as also a painting commissioned by President Higgins.
The painting represents the nine Presidents we have had to-date.
Strangely I can remember all nine Presidents, but President Higgins is the first President I have met.
The boys were intrigued by an elegant ceiling whose design represented the famous Aesop’s Fables. They knew them all.
The gardens are immaculately kept. I have included some pictures which give a small glimpse of their beauty. There are several trees planted by dignatories , including President Kennedy. On her visit a few years ago, Queen Elizabeth planted an Irish Oak tree, which is flourishing. A similar tree planted by Queen Victoria is really thriving. It is over 150 years old.
President McAleese had an old bell relocated in the garden. It now called the Peace Bell erected to commemorate 10 years of the Good Friday agreement. I was invited to ring the bell on behalf of the group. Didn’t make a good job of it, so asked the boys to help. Needles to say no shortage of helpers. Great success.
Before we left, we were invited by Mr. McCarthy to assemble on the front steps, for a group photo. When we were ready we were surprised and excited to be joined by President Higgins himself. We had believed he was not at home as he had an audience with His Holiness, The Pope, on the previous day. He was very kind and spent some time talking to us separately afterwards. A great privilege indeed. Thank you Mr. McCarthy for arranging that.
We left there around 2p.m. Having arrived at 11.30am. A wonderful morning well spent. Many happy memories.
I must again thank sincerely my friends Trish And Saoirse for including me once more and also looking after me so well.
Saoirse with me
I now attach some additional photos of our memorable day
The President’s dog. A great favourite with the boys.
Trish Mullen, Anne Mazzini, Linda Price and Saoirse Rooney.
The lovely carpets. Made in Ireland.
Surrounding the President and the boy’s, are Myself, Trish Mullen, Anne Mazzoni, Conor McHugh, in the centre, the Principal Des Morris. Then Saoirse Rooney, Patricia Mulrooney, John Twomey and Linda Price.
My letter to the boys after the visit. I await their replies.
Well boys, what did you think of that visit?. Brilliant wasn’t it. I enjoyed it very much and it was great to be with you. We were very lucky to meet the President indeed. When I saw that he was meeting the Pope yesterday, I thought we had no chance, but there he was. Somebody must have told him that Ballyroan boys were coming, and he didn’t want to miss you.
The tour guide, Tom, was very good and told us lots about the different Presidents. Funny to think that I remember all of them being President, but President Higgins is the first I have met. I am looking forward to seeing what you all have to say about the visit. Put in plenty of drawings too, won’t you?. I love them. Sorry that you all didn’t get a chance to ring the bell. I made a mess of it didn’t I? Thanks to those who got it right. Knew I could depend on you.
Thanks for being so good and having me with you. Glad nobody fell down the monument steps. Luck I suppose. Ir am looking forward to seeing you all again soon. Haven’t seen you running yet, but hear you are all doing well.
Cheerio until the next time.
Saoirse’s letter after visit to an Áras
Thank you for your wonderful email. It was an amazing day. It was definitely our best day in Third Class, maybe it will even be the best day the boys will ever have in primary school. It was super. We are so privileged to have you accompany us. It is one for the history books for Ballyroan Boys’ School.
We are amazed that you remember every President and this is the first time you got to meet Uachtaran na hEireann. These boys are so lucky to meet him when they are 9 and 10 years old. Imagine all the presidents they will get to see in their lifetimes.
They boys absolutely loved the whole day but in particular they loved meeting the President. Such an honour to have our picture taken with President Higgins and Brod. They will treasure it. We are going to display in on the walls in Ballyroan. You will be famous Florence.
The boys have been busy doing their Daily Mile, recovering from all the cookies and fizzy drinks in the Aras and doing their standardized national reading tests this week. We will write our reports soon and sent them onto you with lots of drawings and pictures.
We look forward to looking at your blog and ggetting emails from you.
Keep a day free in mid/end of June to visit us up in Ballyroan Boys. You will have to come in an see they boys before they get all grown up and go to fourth class.
Enjoy the sunny weather. We hope you are not too tired after your exciting week.
Saoirse and all in boys in Third Class