‘They’re trying to turn this country’s elite schools into young offenders’ institutions, teaching metalwork and joyriding’

Illustration: Alan Clarke

Illustration: Alan Clarke

 

Even after 40 years of friendship, the old man and his solicitor still greet each other with a hug – it’s a way of both expressing affection and checking whether the other one is wearing a wire.

Hennessy goes, “Terrible business.”

And the old man’s like, “Terrible business indeed.”

They’re both throwing the XO into them, by the way. I’m there, “Okay, can you explain it to me one more time?”

There are many types of intelligence. But thickness comes in only one variety.

“It’s called the Admission to Schools Bill,” the old man goes.

“The Government wants to stop the likes of Castlerock College from discriminating on the grounds of class,” and he gets himself so worked up that he has trouble keeping his pouring hand steady. “It was discrimination on the grounds of class that made this country great for 11½ years.”

Hennessy goes, “They’re saying that only 10 per cent of places can be reserved for children of past pupils.”

I’m like, “10 per cent?” trying to figure out what that actually means. It definitely doesn’t sound like a lot.

The old man goes, “They’re trying to turn this country’s elite schools into young offenders’ institutions, teaching children – I don’t know what – metalwork and joyriding no doubt, instead of the old staples of Latin and embezzlement.”

Hennessy is just as upset, even though he’s a Terenure man. He’s there, “It’s the greatest assault on our way of life since motor tax was linked to CO2 emissions.”

“Good point, well made,” the old man goes. “But what are we going to do about it, Old Scout? Should we call an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Castlerock College Old Boys Lodge?”

And that’s when I end up opening my big Von Trapp. I’m there, “Actually, I’ve got a meeting with McGahy this afternoon,” meaning Tom McGahy – as in, like, the school Principal?

The old man and Hennessy both look at each other and it’s obvious they’re thinking the exact same thing.

I’m like, “No way. This is an important meeting. I’m trying to get him to take Ronan back in September.”

But in that moment, it’s decided – they’re coming to the school with me to put McGahy on the spot.

I’m the one who ends up driving, what with the old man being totally bladdered and Hennessy being banned from driving until 2025.

Half an hour later, we’re sitting outside McGahy’s office and I’m going, “Goys, would you possibly let me go in first? I’ll say my piece, get him to agree to Ronan coming back, then you can come crashing in and say whatever drunken nonsense is in your heads.”

The old man nods.

“All sounds fair and reasonable,” he goes.

Twenty seconds after that, McGahy’s secretary pops her head around the door – she looks like Kaley Cuoco, except a Roscommon version – and she goes, “Ross O’Carroll-Kelly? Mr McGahy will see you now.”

Into the office I trot. He’s sitting behind his desk with a big smug look on his face, his elbows on the desk, the fingers of his two hands touching.

“Ross O’Carroll-Kelly,” he goes. “To what do I owe the considerable pleasure?”

That’s the kind of dick he is. I sit down opposite him. “I’m going to come straight to the point,” I go. “I was wondering – yeah, no – can Ronan come back here in September?”

He goes, “Ronan?” suddenly delighted with himself.

“Didn’t he leave this institute of learning to become a soccer player, wasn’t it?”

I’m there, “Yeah, no, he did. Thankfully, it didn’t work out for him. I’ve agreed to write it off as just a bad phase he went through. I was hoping you’d be good enough to do the same.

“I know you’ve always hated my actual guts. A lot of that possibly goes back to the time you told me to put my school work ahead of my rugby and Fr Fehily made you apologise to me in front of the entire school.”

He goes, “I’m afraid we’re full for next year,” and then he stands up, letting me know that our meeting is already over.

I’m like, “Full?” standing up as well. “How could you be full?”

“It’s this new Admission to Schools Bill,” he tries to go. “We’ve decided to make it school policy before it becomes law. I think it’s rather a good idea. It’s certainly in the interests of social fairness. Goodbye, Ross.”

I’m like, “Hey, back up the hord drive. My son wants to go back to school. He’s serious about possibly doing his Leaving Cert. Where am I supposed to send him?”

McGahy – and I’m quoting him word for word here – goes, “Have you considered Belvedere College? Or even Clongowes?”

That’s when the door suddenly flies open and the old man and Hennessy come piling into the room.

Belvedere College or Clongowes?” the old man is roaring at him. “There was a time, when this school had a proper religious order running it, when Ross could have thrown you out of that window for saying what you just said. Fr Fehily wouldn’t have even bothered to inform the police. He and the other priests would have just buried you in a hole behind the boiler house.”

I’m there, “He’s refusing to take Ronan back.”

“Don’t worry,” he goes, “your godfather and I heard every word of the conversation. Belvedere College or Clongowes! The bloody nerve!”

“If you don’t mind,” McGahy tries to go, “I have rather a busy afternoon ahead of me,” and he walks over to the door and just stands there, letting us know that it’s time for us to leave.

The old man goes, “You’ve chosen to take on the might of the Castlerock College Old Boys Lodge. And, as the Grand Wizard of the Legal and Business Chapter, it is incumbent on me to inform you that you are making the biggest mistake of your career.”

McGahy’s like, “Goodbye, gentlemen.”

I end up just shaking my head. I’m there, “I should have decked you while Fr Fehily was still alive.”

But the old man goes, “Don’t worry, Ross. Ronan will be here in September. And I can guarantee you that Mr McGahy here won’t.”

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.