Thursday 20 June 2019

Special trip down memory lane

It was no ordinary class reunion as St. Peter’s College classmates from the late sixties reunited after 50 years in Clayton White’s Hotel. Brendan Keane reports

Members of the St Peter’s All-Ireland winning team of1967/’68 with captains Paddy Breen from Campile and Paddy Bierney from Ferns, at the reunion
Members of the St Peter’s All-Ireland winning team of1967/’68 with captains Paddy Breen from Campile and Paddy Bierney from Ferns, at the reunion
Back together again: members of the St Peter’s College class of1968 at their reunion in Clayton White’s Hotel

A very special reunion took place in Clayton White's Hotel, Wexford, recently involving former classmates from St Peter's College who created their own unique bit of sporting history 50 years ago.

The classmates were among those who won the All-Ireland Senior College hurling championship double in 1967 and 1968 and seven of the people who attended the 50th anniversary class reunion were on that historic team.

In total 47 former classmates gathered together in the Hotel for the event and speaking to this newspaper about it, Larry Byrne, who was one of the organising committee members, said it was a lucky class as only four people from it had passed away in the intervening years.

'We were a very united class and a lot of that was because of sport,' said Mr Byrne.

He highlighted the fact that it wasn't just about the players on the field and that the buzz created by the supporters was as much a contributing factor to the success of the team as was the sporting prowess of the players on the pitch.

'Winning two All-Irelands in a row was a massive achievement,' said Mr Byrne. The fact the team is the only one to have secured the remarkable feat in Wexford underlines just how significant an achievement it was.

For the class it wasn't all just about sport either as the pupils were very involved in debating, Young Scientist initiatives and even the Opera.

In the 1960s schooling in Ireland was very different to what it is nowadays and when they enrolled as boarders in September, 1963, most of the class didn't see their families again until the following Christmas.

'You would get one monthly visit and we all looked forward to it because you would get a goodie bag which was great,' said Mr Byrne.

'Boarding was a very traumatic experience for a 12-year-old at the time though,' he added.

Sixty-three boys enrolled in the class in 1963 and 18 more joined over the following five years leading up to the Leaving Certificate class.

The teaching staff in the college at that time was composed mostly of priests with some lay teachers and while academically it might not have been as high profile as some other schools at the time the class still had its fair share of graduates.

'We did have our share of graduates and we had eight pupils who went on to become priests,' said Mr Byrne.

Recalling their time in the college 50 years ago he said there 'were around 60 to 70 students confined to small dormitories where facilities included a wash-hand basin and cold water.

'You couldn't talk after lights out and the dorms were patrolled,' he said.

'Thinking back on it, it was very regimental,' he added.

'We used to have to attend two masses on Sundays; one at 7.30 am and then another, sung High Mass at 10 am.'

For the reunion 35 of the attendees availed of the opportunity of attending mass before the meal. Mr Byrne said that with reminiscing and renewing old friendships the meal part of the night in CLayton White's Hotel ended up lasting 'well over two-and-a-half hours'.

'Myself and half that class lived for hurling and football,' said Mr Byrne. He added that with many of the former students now living abroad it was great that so many managed to attend.

Many of the All-Ireland winning teams also starred for their own clubs and the county in the years that followed with some of them making it onto the famous Wexford Minor hurling team that won the All-Ireland title in the late 1960s and the U21 team that was victorious between 1969 and 1971.

For the reunion the classmates got to view once again the Croke Cup which they won 50 years ago and they also got to view an exhibition of photographs and memorabilia related to their time in the college.

'We had a digital slide presentation on the night as well and it was a great event for everyone,' said Mr Byrne. The organisers were delighted with the night and thanked everyone for its success.

Wexford People

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