Bangor Grammarian’s Dinner 2012


                                                     Jim Dornan and myself                


                                                       The O’Fee Brothers 

Assembly Hall, Bangor Grammar School, College Avenue, Bangor

At the start of 2013, Bangor Grammar School will relocate to its new £20m campus at Gransha Road and with the move the School’s long association with the College Avenue site, stretching back over 100 years, will be brought to an end. To mark the immense significance of this occasion, the Grammarians organised a couple of events that offered every former pupil the opportunity to bid farewell to what will for them always be the true home of their Alma Mater. 

Thanks to the co-operation of the Headmaster, tonight Friday 16 November 2012 the Grammarians held their Annual Dinner in the familiar surroundings of the School Assembly Hall. 

The memories of the various generations from down the decades were stirred as we passed through the College Avenue portals for one last hurrah. Each will have his own recollections. Whatever the memories, this was the last chance to stand in the Assembly Hall for one last time and join in a hearty rendition of Comgall Noster Columbanus. 

In addition, for an opportunity to look around all of the buildings at College Avenue and venture down memory lane, it will be Open House the following day, Saturday 17 November, once again by kind arrangement with the Headmaster. 

Prior to the annual dinner there was a pre-Dinner Drinks Reception, as well as an opportunity to view an exhibition of the School’s history from the Archive. The four-course meal was followed by the guest speaker – our very own Jim Dornan. For those of a thirsty disposition there was a full bar. In addition each attendee  received a specially commissioned memento.

I met my old friend and colleague Jim Dornan at the Reception and my favourite Master, Irwin Bonar,who taught me history. I sat with the O’Fee brothers James, Basil and Richard. We discussed that old chestnut, the meaning of Bangor.. I now think that the Gaelic name is derived from Pictish and means “The Blessed Place”..The oldest Bangor is Banchory (Scots: Banchry,from Scottish Gaelic: Beannchar), a burgh or town in Aberdeenshire. It is about 18 miles west of Aberdeen, near where the Feugh River meets the River Dee.

The name is thought to be derived from an early Christian settlement founded by St Ternan. It is claimed that Ternan was a follower of St Ninian. He established a college on the banks of the River Dee to teach Christianity and agriculture to the local Picts. The village and parish was called Banchory Ternan until the 1970s. The original Gaelic form is almost identical to that of Bangor, probably of similar meaning, and also the site of our monastery in County Down.

Relics associated with St. Ternan were preserved by hereditary keepers at Banchory until the Scottish Reformation. Two early Christian cross-slabs survive in or near the old churchyard on the site of the early church. One is built into a corner of the ‘mort house’ in the churchyard, and shows two crosses incised in a worn pink granite slab. The other is a ringed cross in relief built into the wall facing the main road outside the churchyard.

I reminded James that we had first talked about the sale of our old school at a previous Grammarian Dinner..I relayed this conversation to my old family friend Keith Mallin, Eddie Irvine’s manager. I was Eddie’s first sponsor into Formula Ford racing and his car with my Pretani Press labelling is on show at EI Sports in Bangor. Although I did not mention it, EI Sports will pick up the deficit for the funds raised tonight for the School Clock, on which the name of James’ brother Basil is inscribed.. I will report back to Keith and his beautiful wife Sue when we see them for dinner soon

Basil’s name on BGS clock

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