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One of my proudest moments was returning to visit my old school

September 19th, 2023 8:00 AM

By Southern Star Team

One of my proudest moments was returning to visit my old school Image

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Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns remembers her schooldays in Schull as the Community College celebrates its 40th anniversary. She believes it helped make her the successful politician she is today

MY abiding memory of secondary school is my mum chasing the school bus down the road in her car as we’d somehow managed to miss the bus again!

I am a very heavy sleeper and frequently sleep through multiple alarms, even to this day. And my sister is the total opposite of a ‘morning person’ so getting myself and my sister out the door in time for school was quite the challenge for mum. 

When I was 17, I saved up to buy a second-hand purple VW Polo and that made life easier on everyone, especially my mother.

I started first year in Schull Community College in September 2002. The Tide is High by Atomic Kitten was No1 in the charts at the time, soon to be dethroned by Complicated by Avril Lavigne, but I knew it was far cooler to pretend I liked Nirvana instead.

Holly, far left, during her schooldays in Schull with, from left, Aine Barry, Deirdre Cotter and Geraldine Coakley.


Schull Community College was a big step up size-wise from my primary school in Lisheen, and I can remember feeling very nervous on my first day. 

Luckily, I made an amazing circle of friends and they helped me find my feet.

I wasn’t the most diligent student, but I did love English, and my teacher Ms McMahon. She was very strict and I probably needed that. I also really enjoyed ag science and business studies.

I loved the social aspect of Schull Community College and lived for the lunch breaks. We made a little hub in the home economics room, with our own kettle, and we would spend lunch-time drinking tea and having the chats together.

Tara Constantine was one of my closest friends in school. She was very good at making me laugh and frequently got me into all sorts of trouble. 

Today Tara is my secretarial assistant and we work really closely together. She still makes me laugh but now works very hard to keep me out of trouble!

I feel very lucky to have attended Schull Community College.

I never felt inferior – I wasn’t particularly academic, but there were so many different ways to participate in school life (during transition year, I took sailing lessons, for example). 

I think that openness and sense of possibility has served me well in my career so far.

One of my proudest moments as a TD was going back to speak to the students in Schull in 2021. It was so nice to see so many of my teachers again.  

Sometimes people wrongly assume that Schull Community College is a fee-paying school, because of its incredible amenities and stellar reputation. 

I firmly believe that schools like Schull should be the norm. As a Social Democrat, I believe in truly free public education – no child should be more, or less, entitled to educational opportunities because of the depth of their parents’ pockets. I feel really privileged to be a past pupil of Schull. 

It has had such a massively positive influence on my life. 

The friends I made there remain my closest friends to this day.

Congratulations to everybody at the school on reaching this milestone and here’s to the next 40 years!

• Holly Cairns is a TD for Cork South West and the leader of the Social Democrats party. 

The view from Schull Community School where Holly took a sailing course in transition year. The school celebrates its 40th anniversary this week.

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