The Times We Lived In: Scrubbed up on Synge Street

Published: May 22nd, 1956. Photograph by Dermot Barry

CBS Primary School, Synge Street, Dublin, in 1956. Photograph: Dermot Barry

CBS Primary School, Synge Street, Dublin, in 1956. Photograph: Dermot Barry

 

Gabriel Byrne? “Yes, sir.” Milo O’Shea? “Yes, sir.” David Kelly? “Sir!” Eddie Jordan. Don Givens. James Plunkett. John Connolly. The roll-call of celebrity graduates from the Christian Brothers school on Synge Street is impressive.

Would any of the iconic school’s famous graduates be in this photograph from 1956? The actor Jim Norton just might: he graduated that year.

The reason why the picture was taken is a bit of a mystery. An archive search reveals a small news item to say that the Christian Brothers school in Dún Laoghaire celebrated its centenary on May 22nd with a Solemn High Mass in St Michael’s Church. It was a glamorous affair, with politicians in attendance, music sung by a combined choir of past and present pupils and bugles sounding “a salute at the Elevation”.

Maybe that’s where these lads were headed. They’re certainly all scrubbed up for something important. But as so often in the days when The Irish Times was a much more modest production – the edition of May 22nd, 1956 ran to just 10 pages – the photograph didn’t appear on the day.

It’s not as if it was a busy news day, either. True, the front-page lead was about bomb attacks in Cyprus. A good deal of space was also given to the first ever international film festival in Cork (with a starring role for a screen adaptation of the Nevil Shute novel A Town Like Alice) and a forest fire destroyed 40 acres of State plantation near Shankill, Co Dublin.

Still, it’s a shame that this atmospheric and beautifully composed picture didn’t make the cut. The immediately recognisable steps at Synge Street take centre stage, the mathematical severity of their uniform brickwork echoing that of the building behind. Out of the classical portico, however, pours a living waterfall of boys and young men whose anything-but-uniform body language and facial expressions carry a clear message: we’re individuals. Not bricks in a wall.

You can buy this photograph and other Irish Times images from irishtimes.com/photosales

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.