There to Here

“Old friends,Old friends
Sat on their park bench like bookends
A newspaper blowin’ through the grass
Falls on the round toes
Of the high shoes
Of the old friends”

  • Paul Simon

Ronan started it. He wanted to come home for a visit from that London , but wanted to wait until my chemolympics were finished , so I could join him in his Rioja & Guinness bender.

“Would Micky join us ?”

“Wild horses wouldn’t keep him away !”

And so I booked a table of three for Saturday at 8 in The Squealing Pig.

“Do you ever see Milo ?”


“Would he come ?”

“Sure I’ll ask.”

And so I booked a table of four for Saturday at 8 in The Squealing Pig.

“It’d be nice to see Kennedy.”

“I’ll ask.”

And so I booked a table of five for Saturday at 8 in The Squealing Pig.

“What about Fintan ?”

“O’Donnell or Hamill ?”

“Both !”

“I’ll ask.”

I got a ‘yes’ and a ‘ ah shit, my wife’s away to Chicago that weekend.’

And so I booked a table of six for Saturday at 8 in The Squealing Pig.

“Doesn’t David live near you ?”

“Yes, and I bumped into Sean.”

“I hope you asked him.”

“Of course.”

And so I booked a table of eight for Saturday at 8 in The Squealing Pig.

“Do you know who I haven’t seen since we left school ?”

“Who ?”

“Cyril. Is anyone in touch with him ?”

“Well I am , but he lives in France now.”

“Mention it to him anyway , in case he fancies a visit home.”

And so I booked a table for nine for Saturday at 8 in The Squealing Pig.

I’d booked the table for 8pm, but I’d told everyone that it was booked for 7pm, assuming that we wouldn’t have changed that much in the intervening 38 years since we’d been to school together. I think we’d all arrived by 7.45pm.

Some of us had only met once since we left school in 1984, at our 10 year school reunion, where we memorably bought 96 bottles of Heineken when they were trying to close the bar, told several teachers exactly what we’d thought of them, and ended up cooking sausages for ourselves in the kitchen of the Westenra Hotel at 3.30am. The madness, and stamina of youth.

We all had a drink or two before we made our way to our table. Between arriving in the bar and sitting down we’d all got over any nervousness and were once again very comfortable in each other’s company.

We’d all attended St.Macartan’s Seminary, an all-boys secondary school in Monaghan between 1979 and 1984, some of us boarded, most were day students. We all had a love/hate relationship with the place. The school principal when we started there was Fr.Cahill, whom we all called Swiss for some reason. He’d told my Mum that our entrance exam results were the highest that the school had had in living memory.

The school principal when we left was Fr.McDaid, later Bishop McDaid, whom we called Willie, and he told my Mum that our Leaving Certificate results were the poorest the school had had in living memory.

We chatted about our time together at school, teachers we admired, and those we didn’t. I think Fr.Martin was the only one that got universal approval. Various incidents were recalled, mostly good ones, some bizarre…wedging Mr.Craven’s car sideways in the alcove beside the tuck shop , both hiding it from view and making it impossible to manoeuvre out. He called the Gardai thinking it had been stolen.

Niall Moyna making us do rugby training in the mud and snow on the senior pitch until Kennedy tackled him and drove him a foot deep into the senior pitch.

Fr.Martin accidently getting us to watch ‘Black Christmas’, an over 18’s horror movie when we were in first year.

The priests not allowing us to have a disco, but allowing us to attend ballroom dancing lessons in the Convent for a Deb’s dance which we also weren’t allowed to have. Despite their best efforts four of us sitting there were married to girls we’d met before we’d left school…my Soulmate has just read this and thinks it wise to stress that we met while at school, but were not married until AFTER we had left school…Monaghan is not that kind of place…well it is … but we didn’t….anyway…

The first computer arriving at the school, a giant Apple III, which took Mr.Kelly 20 minutes to boot up before cursing at it for another 20 minutes, not letting us touch it, and that was our computer training over for another week.

The many, many, many other stories must remain private to protect the innocent…and some careers.

But after the main course all of the conversations revolved about who we were and what we were doing now.

It struck me that the best thing we got out of our five years in St.Macartan’s was each other.

We’d all come a long, long way.

And yet here we were, back in Monaghan chatting away as if we’d only seen each other yesterday.

I loved that.

As various attendees’ loved one’s called to collect them our party dwindled until it was 3.00 am and David offered to drop Ronan and I home.

We quietly sat at the kitchen table, opened a bottle of Rioja, put on a few sausages, and drifted off to bed around 4.00am. The madness, and stamina of youth.



P.S.  Did I tell you Looby Smyth , the other Fintan and I are meeting for dinner in December…how many will I book a table for ?

Author: paul

1 thought on “There to Here

  1. Hi Paul,

    It is wonderful to read this and to hear that you were all reunited once more! Mark would have made the occasion if he wasn’t resting elsewhere!

    I have been reading some of your Blogs and they have brought tears of joy along with fantastic memories of growing up in Monaghan. Thank you. You have a wonderful talent.

    Sending positive thoughts and wishes to you, and your family, as you continue on your road to recovery.

    Keep on blogging and I look forward to reading the book!

    Ashling Bannon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *