Hearing Father Fehily’s voice in the back of my head – I go, “Ein Reich! Ein Volk! Ein Rock!”’
Put me on the board of governors and I will help make this school great again!
T he old man asks me if I’m nervous. And, like, the weird thing is I’m
Seven-hundred-and-something past pupils of Castlerock College packed into the old school hall, where Father Fehily made his famous speech on the eve of the 1999 Leinster Schools Senior Cup final – the Lebensraum Speech, as it became known – and I have, like, no nerves at all. The opposite, in fact. I can’t wait to stand up in front of them and say what I have to say.
We’ve spent the last ten minutes listening to some dope called Kelham Dolan give his reasons why he should be the alumni’s representative on the school’s Board of Governors. He’s obviously McGahy’s man, firstly because he was wearing Farah slacks and a jumper with leather triangles on it from Best focking Menswear – which is, like, McGahy’s uniform – and secondly because his entire speech was about how state funding would allow the school to hire more staff and bring the pupil to teacher ratio down to a level where it’s blahdy, blahdy, blah, blah.
The crowd applauds politely.
“Rugby wasn’t even mentioned!” the old man goes, his jowls wobbling like a drunk on the deck of a ship. “We’ve just sat through ten minutes of bloody well blather about exam results becoming the focus and rugby didn’t merit so much as a bloody well mention in dispatches!”
The dude on the stage with the mic goes, “Next, we’re going to hear from our second and final candidate . . . Ross O’Carroll-Kelly.”
There ends up being an incredible reaction to my name being called. Hero worship might be too strong a word, but it’s obvious from the cheer that goes up as I walk to the stage that my name means something to these people. I captained the only Castlerock College team to ever win the Leinster Schools Senior Cup and no one can take that away from me. Well, actually, they did take it away from me, after I admitted taking methamphetamine, but you know what I mean. It was the school’s proudest ever day until I was found guilty of a doping offence and the cup was awarded retrospectively to Newbridge College.
I step up to the mic – like I said, zero nerves. And that’s despite not having even a note in front of me.
“Thank you,” I stort off by going. “I’d like to tell you that I’d make a very good member of the Castlerock Board of Governors. But that would be a lie. I might as well tell you now, I wouldn’t be capable of following what happens at meetings. I can’t even follow simple movies. I still don’t know who Keyzer focking Soze is and I’ve seen that one about seven focking times.”
Everyone laughs. People love a bit of – it’s a phrase you sometimes hear – self depreciation ?
“But there’s one thing I will do – and this is, like, a promise ? I will use my influence to stop Castlerock College becoming non-fee-paying. Because I happen to care about this school. I happen to love this school.”
The old man slaps his two big bear paws together and shouts, “Hear, hear!”
It’s incredible how I automatically know all the right shit to say ?
“For the past few years,” I go, “Castlerock College has been sadly going downhill fast. It storted when they pulled out of the Leinster Schools Senior Cup. Then they allowed the old rugby pitches to be used for literally Gaelic games. Now, they want to let ordinary people into the school. And I’m here to say that it can’t allowed to happen. Because Castlerock is no ordinary school. And we shouldn’t allow it to become one.”
Someone from the back shouts, “What’s the alternative? Do you have a plan?”
It’s Hennessy. He’s a plant. I sort of, like, laugh to myself, as if at some old memory he’s stirred up. It’s all port of the routine.
“When I was 15,” I go, “I couldn’t read. Father Fehily, my old rugby coach, found out and asked me why I didn’t tell anyone. I said I was ashamed. He said to me, ‘Man’s greatest invention – do you know what it is, Ross? It’s the word ‘help’. Never be afraid to use it.’”
I look down at my old man, who’s writing in an imaginary cheque-book.
I’m there, “If the school gives up this non-fee-paying horseshit, and also returns to the Leinster Schools Senior Cup, my old man is prepared to support the school to the tune of €100,00 per year.”
There are, like, literally gasps ? “Not only that,” I go, “but he has six friends who are prepared to do the same. That’s, like, €600,000. Enough for this once great school not to have to go to the Deportment of Education with the begging bowl! Enough for it not to have to turn itself into a pretty much open prison where they let you sit the Leaving Cert! Put me on the board of governors and I will help make this school great again!” and then – hearing Father Fehily’s voice in the back of my head – I go, “Ein Reich! Ein Volk! Ein Rock!”
And the audience, in one voice, obviously remembering their own school days, responds with, “Ein Reich! Ein Volk! Ein Rock!” except they say it, like, three or four times in a row. And suddenly I’m remembering what it was like to captain the S back in the day, because everyone is up on their feet – some of them with even, like, tears in their eyes?
The dude with the mic suggests a show of hands. But there’s no need. He knows it. I know it. And Kelham focking Dolan certainly knows it. I’m on the board of governors of Castlerock College. And it’s one of the proudest days of my life.
I wonder do they pay expenses.