Annual Report 2017

Annual Report 2017


Annual Report 2017


The President and Governing Body of the Rockwell College Union are pleased to present the Annual Report of the Union for the year 2016/2017. 

The year was a very successful one for the Union, further progressing on the initiatives started during the previous year. There were a number of strategic and operational changes to the Union’s activities during the year, which were embraced by all.  These included better definition of the corporate sponsorship opportunities of the Union, the development and launch of an entirely new website, the reestablishment of the Union golf event on the Union calendar and perhaps most significantly the changing of location of the Annual Union Dinner from Dublin to Cahir. 

AGM 2016

The 91st Rockwell College Union AGM was held in Rockwell College on the 12th of May 2016. Donal Higgins was elected President, Brian Kavanagh was elected Vice President and Sean Tobin was elected 2nd Vice President. Eimear Burke was elected as Honorary Secretary, Cathy O’ Donoghue elected Honorary Treasurer, David Butler was elected Honorary Membership Secretary and Tim Murphy Honorary Webmaster.  2016 Report

Debater of the Year 2016

Shortly after the AGM the President attended his first function  - the in house Debater of the Year competition, at the college.  The topic for the debate was “that this house would hold parents criminally responsible for the actions of their children.”  Past pupils Eva Cummins and Jack Jeffries adjudicated.  It was an excellent evening of many serious points and much levity.

Prize Day 2016

The President of the Union attended Rockwell College on the 20th of May 2016. Prize Day was exceptionally well organised by the school and attended by the prizewinners and their parents in the Crosbie Hall.  

Guest of Honor at the event was Ms Muriel MacAuley, Grand Daughter to the 1916 signatory of the Irish Proclamation and former student at Rockwell College, namely Thomas McDonagh. It was very appropriate that Muriel was the guest of honor in the centenary year of the Easter Rising. In her address to the students she gave an intriguing insight into the life and times of Thomas MacDonagh – with some interesting anecdotes.  The principal of the school, Audrey O’Byrne addressed the large attendance urging the prizewinners to take leadership roles in their school, locality, and their country thereby giving their own important contribution to the Ireland of the future. 

Donal Higgins spoke of his time as a boarder at the school, he highlighted the importance of the network of friends and colleagues that students in Rockwell have and suggested that the students should follow Hamlet’s advice when he said – “to thine own self be true”. 

During the event there was a beautiful musical interlude  provided by a number of students.  The evening concluded with a sumptuous meal in the Dining Room attended by past and present teaching staff, parents and students, along with a number of the Spiritan community. 

Union medal winners were Michael Murphy for debating,  Oisin Fiuza – Thomas McDonagh Literary Award and Lochlin English, Student of the Year. Thanks to Audrey O’Byrne and her team for hosting such a most memorable occasion. Well done to all prize winners.

Union Golf Day

The President of the Union was determined to reignite the Union Golf Day which had receded into the background for the past number of years. A competition for the Rockwell College Union Perpetual Cup was held at Kilkenny Golf Club on the 18Th September.  Kilkenny Golf Club was a fitting choice for the event with so many Rockwell ties including its chef Barry Joyce and club captain Frank Dalton having attended the school.  30  players took on the challenge and after some great scoring, the cup was won by Brian MacGoey, from the 1985 class, with a stableford score of 42 points off a handicap of 9. Dinner and prize giving was held at the Newpark Hotel, another venue with many Rockwell links – it being owned by the Flynn family. Golfers came from the US and the UK. Some short interviews were recorded with the players in advance of the golf itself and these were shown on the Union website.

Business Lunch 

The 2016 Rockwell College Union Business Lunch was held on Friday the 18th of November at Fallon and Byrnes – for the second year running – a clear vote of confidence in the decision to relocate the venue for the event. It was attended by over 90 people.  There was a great atmosphere and with the later start time, attendees got into a very convivial mood early in the proceedings. 

Our guest speaker, in a slight change from tradition, didn’t actually attend Rockwell College as a student, but was very well briefed and acquainted with the school. George Hook gave a highly entertaining after dinner speech, recalling as he did the unpalatable nature of the food he was served on a visit  to the school whilst playing rugby. There is no doubt that George Hook’s name alone provokes multiple reactions, from multiple sources as it did in this instance both before and indeed after the event.

I wish to thank and acknowledge the trojan work of Shane Canavan in ensuring the success of this event. There were a number of learnings and it is hoped that with consistency of personnel organizing these events in the future such learnings can be acted upon. For instance, one of the limitations for the event was the actual size of the venue. It is now hoped that with the right venue, in the right location, at the right prize, this particular event can potentially have a much greater attendance.   Visit Gallery

Annual Mass for the deceased 

The annual mass for the deceased took place during November in Rockwell College. The President represented the Union. It was a well-coordinated ceremony with current students, from all years being involved and some taking individual candles to the altar for each person being remembered. Music, played by the students, accompanied the ceremony, making it a lovely occasion.  Refreshments were served in the refectory after the event for all attendees.   

Career’s Evening

On January 19th a number of past pupils took part in the Careers Evening at Rockwell College. The evening was organized by Audrey O’Byrne and David Butler.  The President of the Union attended and addressed the students about the merits of the Union in advance of the careers event itself. The format of seating each past pupil at a small table with a few students spending 5-10 minutes with them is continuing to prove to be a success and is a great opportunity for past pupils to provide meaningful advice to current students.  Undoubtedly there is scope for developing this event further as part of the increased interaction between the Union and the school. Indeed there may be opportunities for collaboration with other groups such as the parents association in making this event very worthwhile for all.  The formula seems to work, now it is a question of how to optimize it. 

Recently Deceased

In keeping with the lifecycle of any organisation, the Union lost many friends this year too.  Of particular note was the sad loss of Walter Swinburn in December 2016. Walter left Rockwell in 1976 and became known as one of Ireland’s if not one of the world’s greatest jockeys. We also lost Bertie O’Hanlon the last surviving member of the 1948 Grand Slam team. Bertie left Rockwell in 1942.  Both Bertie and Walter were great supporters of the Rockwell College Union. Others we lost included Yvonne Reddy, Fr Joe Gough, Dr. Jack Jolly and Dominic Lynch. We pray for all Rockwellians who passed away this past year.  May they rest in peace.  In Remembrance

Presidents Dinner

Past President Dearbhail Gildea organised a terrific evening at the Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club on the 6th of December 2016. After an initial governing body meeting, over 20, including many past presidents  broke bread together in the award winning restaurant.  This particular evening has become a great opportunity for past presidents to meet, share memories and show their support for the incumbent President as they did on this occasion.

Annual Dinner 

The 2017 Annual Dinner was held on Friday the 31st of March in The Cahir House Hotel, owned and run by Rockwell past pupil David Walsh. After much debate and soundings over the recent years the governing body, decided to make a bold move and change the venue of the annual dinner from Dublin to Cahir.  The attendance numbers alone is testament to the success of the decision.  For the first time in many many years, the dinner was sold out ten days in advance of the day. Over 220 attended. 

Not only was the Cahir House hotel itself festooned in the Rockwell colours, other hostelries in the vicinity also had the blue and white flags flying for us. There was a large local attendance at the event all of which gave the distinct feeling that the Union had come home to its roots and that the decision to move to Cahir was very well received.

The Rockwell College Union Person of the Year Award was awarded to Mr Arthur Pierse.  Athur left Rockwell in 1970 and became Tipperary’s and arguably Ireland’s most successful amateur golfer.   Since leaving Rockwell Arthur has returned on many occasions to support the school in its golfing exploits and presented the college with the jacket he wore when part of the Walker team. Arthur’s four children attended the college. Arthur gave a fine acceptance speech and proved to be a very popular as well as deserving winner of the award.  

Rockwell Principal, Audrey O’Byrne thanked the Union for its  continued contribution and spoke about the challenges that schools such as Rockwell face in these uncertain times, acknowledging the foresight of past leaders in the school to change its policies and keep in tune with the changing times.

Past students from Canada, America, Mexico, Nigeria, the UK and France were all present.  Three French gentlemen who attended the event had left Rockwell in 1945. They had spent a year in the school organized through the Red Cross after the war and have fond memories. Mr Francis Cristiani, who, has in the past, organized many Rockwell reunions in Paris addressed the gathering and regaled us with a few humourous anecdotes from 70 years previous. The President presented all three gentlemen with a copy of Rockwell’s history and Rockwell cufflinks. They were given a standing ovation.

The class of 1967 had 45 in attendance. Much credit goes to Pat Mulcahy and Sean Carter for organizing such a huge group. Both gentlemen were acknowledged for their efforts by their class mate Brendan (Piebald) Donoghue and presented with a token of appreciation.

A slide show was prepared by Dearbhail Gildea for the evening and it ran continuously in the background. This year, for the first time at the Annual Dinner we organized name badges for all attending – and these were deemed to be very beneficial. 

Cillian Balfe completed the role of Master of Ceremonies with great aplomb.

There were many involved in the organization of the dinner, but in particular I wish to thank Dearbhail Gildea, Johnny Riordan and Alison McGrath for their exceptional efforts and attention to detail.

The following morning the college opened its doors, in the form of a parlour call, to all those that had attended the Annual Dinner. About 40 of the attendees went to the school, revisited old haunts, reviewed old annuals and enjoyed some light refreshments.  Visit Gallery

Website / Database

Soon after his nomination at last year’s AGM, as webmaster, Tim Murphy had to step down from the role due to study and other commitments. I wish to give a sincere thanks to Tim for all his work as webmaster for the Union.  Tim did a fine job in keeping the website updated with Rockwell and Union content.  

JG Archer from the class of 1995 was co opted onto the board and took over the role of webmaster. He completed a detailed review of the website, presented a compelling proposal to the union on the way forward and after due deliberation was tasked with upgrading the union website.  The changes proposed necessitated the removal of Bestsoft as being the IT provider for the Union.  JG Archer negotiated the handover from Bestsoft to Clerky.  The results of the changeover to the new site are very impressive.  We now have a very clean, easy to use, engaging,  informative and more cost effective website than before and it is receiving much positive acclaim from many and varied sources. 

Recently JG has been supported in his webmaster role by Cormac English.  Cormac is responsible for stories on the website blog facility. Cormac has already done great work and has organized a number of articles.

As noted before in end of year reviews such as this the membership database is the Union’s key asset.  However, over many years, its accuracy and usefulness has diminished appreciably.   It is vital for the future of the Union that this trend is halted and reversed. As a direct result of donations received by the union ringfenced for the development of the membership database, we have now tasked JG Archer with managing Clerky in the development, upgrading and data compilation of a new database.  A plan has been put in place and it is hope that this will begin to bear fruit over the next year. 

Union / College Interaction:

David Butler took on a number of roles during the year.  In addition to being the membership secretary, David also took responsibility for liaising with and exploring how the union could better interact with the school. Ideas are being formulated at present on how the union can market itself better within the school such that the current students know who the union is – before they leave. Thanks to David on his work in this regard.  A kind donation has been received and ringfenced to support this venture.

A note of congratulations and invitation to join the Union was included in every student’s Leaving Certificate results envelope.  The introduction of the 7 year free membership for students who have left the school is beginning to make traction.

Student Event in Dublin

In order to increase awareness of the Union within current University going Rockwellians a student event was organized in Dublin on 1st March.  Over 30 past pupils arrived and enjoyed the evening which was organized by Niall Murphy and Cormac English.  Thanks to both men. Interestingly, of the 30 that attended some 17 of them also attended the Annual Dinner. This initiative is considered a small investment in the future of the Union and the GB is fully aware that if we don’t sow, we’re unlikely to reap

Governing Body

New members of the Governing Body were co-opted during the year as follows:

Cillian Balfe (1993), Eoin Macken (2001).

There were 10 meetings of the GB during the year with many meetings having an attendance in excess of 10 members. The use of teleconference facilities (being provided by past GB member Conor Lawlor) has facilitated those who weren’t able to attend in person.   

Spiritans Dinners

The Spiritans dinner was another enjoyable evening, once again held in the Herbert Park Hotel. The event is one that partners can attend and all the Home Unions attend. Thanks go to Joe Barrett from the class of 1984 for organising this enjoyable night out.

The Union was represented at all four dinners of the Unions of the Spiritan schools.  Relations with the other Unions continue to be positive and constructive. 

150th Committee/Fr. Aidan Lehane Pavilion

Gay Mangan and the Committee continue to work hard on raising additional funds. A generous benefactor, based locally, is matching all donations received by the college during the year of 2017.  This has been and is a great help and it is hoped that with a further matched funding of approximately 70K the target fundraising will have reached its goal.  Design work has been initiated and tenders are due back shortly for BOM approval at the end of May. 

Sponsorship Packages

The GB introduced a new initiative in the Summer of 2016. This allowed companies or individuals to take out a particular sponsorship package for the entire year – thus allowing it to know exactly what it was entitled to, as a sponsor of the Union. The prices of the various packages varied from €1500 (for the SCT package) to €750 (for the Misery Hill package).  They proved very popular and over the year sponsorship of over €10,000 was raised. With some more refinement, I believe that this initiative can be built upon.

We would like to thank the following companies and people who supported the union throughout the year.

Kirby Group, Arigna Fuels, Mongey Communications, Matheson, Prochem Engineering, Buttimer Engineering, Close Brothers, Bermingham & Co, George Maher, Garland, Hilary Healy, Mr M Collins 

Raffle Prizes: Trump Doonbeg, Dromoland, Kilkenny Golf Club, Fota Island, Lahinch Golf,  Mount Juliet Golf, Newpark Hotel, Barry’s Tea, Barlo Motors, Shamrock Lounge, Cahir House Hotel, Sussex Restaurant, Applegreen.

Become a Sponsor

UK Golf Event for Brosnan Cup

Pat Mulcahy (London based) with support from Aidan Ryan and Charlie Cunningham organised a most entertaining and successful golf outing in Bishops Stortford, near Stansted airport, on 5th May 2017.  16 players took to the course in a competition for the Mike Brosnan bowl. Ged O’Sullivan won the event. Thanks to Pat for all his efforts in supporting the Union throughout this year and years past.  Visit Blog

A vision for the future

There have been many lessons learned during the past year and insights that ought to be explored further where possible.

The use of the on line payment system has been very important in getting a person’s commitment to attend events.  Knowing the numbers of attendees in advance of any event removes greatly the strain and stress on the organisers. I commend JG Archer for all the work he has done in this area.

However there are challenges: Consistency of the administration approach and personnel involved in the Union is vital, I believe, in getting greater traction with those who have but a passing interest in the Union at the minute. The current arrangements within the Union, with its voluntary involvement, mean that the roles and approach are constantly changing. The Union, together with the college, should explore the possibility of having a paid resource, based at the school for Union administration and promotion. In assessing other successful Union / School arrangements we see this as one area where we could improve. How could such a resource be paid for? Perhaps it would pay for itself.


The Union would like to extend a huge thanks to the following people:

Alison McGrath for her support in the administration and event organization.

Fr Pat Downes for his attendance at Governing Body Meetings and Union events throughout the year. A further thanks goes to Fr Noel Redmond and Fr Jack Meade for their presence at Union events.  Thanks also to Rockwell College Principal, Ms. Audrey O’Byrne for her support and co-operation throughout the year.

Inter Mutanda Constantia

View 2017 AGM Gallery Here