GRYPHON spring/Summer 2016

Talent Show 2016

After a one year break, the Bangor Grammar School talent show returned triumphantly. As always, the show was in aid of a charity nominated by the Year 14 Charity Committee, as well as supporting the Year 14 Formal. This year's selected charity was the MS Society, a Northern Irish organisation which specialises in research and support for those affected by Multiple Sclerosis.

Video: Tony Heron, Year 14

The night itself proved to be both entertaining and great value for money, with the usual dazzling standard of entertainment on display. Our two hosts for the night were Ruairi Lawther and Tony Heron of Year 14, who never failed to disappoint with a humorous aside or quasi-intelligent quip. The three assembled judges presiding over the affairs of the night were not lacking in either star power or professional zeal. Mrs Huddleson, Mrs Payne and Mr Gilmore were charged with critiquing the hopeful contestants; their comments were insightful and witty, always constructive. Mrs Payne in particular always managed to find a subtle Drama angle to every performance, no matter how tenuous.

The acts themselves ranged from singing to mentalism. A particular mention must be made of the junior school acts, who performed in front of a 200-strong audience, showing great confidence and courage. Though the senior acts did show a similar professionalism, one act stood head and shoulders above the rest - the 'Year 14 Act'. This was a musical medley made for the ages, from Queen to Busted, performed with brio, bravado and (dare I say it) braggadocio. These god-like performers were simply majestic on stage and provided an act that will linger in the memory. A personal favourite moment was when Jamie Larkin knocked three or four of his peers seemingly unconscious to the tune of Queen's, 'We are the Champions' - a wonderful moment in our school's collective history.

When all the votes had been counted, the 'Music Ensemble' act won the junior school section in a very close call; whilst Joel Mawhinney of Year 14 won the senior school section with his renowned acts of mentalism which left all flabbergasted. In total, the fantastic sum of £907 was raised for the MS Society and will help their very important work.

Photography: Chris Mills, Year 13

-Tony Heron, Year 14

Spring Concert

Music is a beautiful thing. There is only one thing on this Earth which makes me happier - music with additional banter. This is how I would personally define the BGS 2016 Spring Concert.

From an A-level Music student’s point of view, the Spring concert is the event that every boy in the Music department looks forward to the most - and for good reason. The Spring Concert allows the boys to transition from the more formal School Carol Service to an event featuring music ranging from xylophone duets, to rock bands where they can ‘let their hair down’ (hypothetically speaking of course. Hair rules still apply). Following up the 2015 Christmas Carol Service was always going to be a challenge after the immense success of this event. However, with the hard work of the boys under the heroic leadership of Mr O’Reilly and Mrs Buchanan, the night seemed to go beyond all expectations.

Photography: Thomas Haddock, Year 13

The evening was hosted by none other than BGS’ inimitable double act of Tony Heron and Ruairi Lawther. Their witty charm and sarcastic ad libs set the tone of the event - a lighthearted yet entertaining frenzy of music, music, and more music. From Eric Whitacre, to adaptations of Footloose, the night was characterised by an immense variety in styles. Boys from years 8 to 14 all worked together to produce an immense variety of music from groups such as the Concert Band, the School Choir, and the ever-growing Jazz Band.

As a boy who was raised in the creative maelstrom of the Bangor Grammar School Music Department, I believe that this spring concert was the typical fun, banter-filled atmosphere, yet nicely balanced with quality musical performance that has not been seen on this level during my career at school. It is with sadness that I leave the Music department this year, but it feels good to know that as a collective, we managed to pull off a concert that will be remembered by parents, teachers and boys for many years to come.

Joel Mawhinney, Year 14

BGS Jazz Band

You've heard of Billie Holiday. You've heard of Louis Armstrong. You might even have heard of Benny Goodman. But you've never seen Jazz in its true form.

The Bangor Grammar School Jazz Band.

Conducted by Paul O’Reilly (Head of Music), the Jazz Band features around twenty of the school's finest young musicians, ranging from members in Year 8 to Year 14. Not only do the Jazz Band learn new material for many events throughout the academic year, but many of the members learn their instrument specifically to be in the band. Boys are often recruited from the concert band, handed an alien instrument and, with the competitive zeal of the Music department coursing through their veins, are up to performance level within a few months.

This has never decreased the quality in sound, however. The Jazz Band is undoubtedly one of the leading groups in the Music department; certainly one of the leading Jazz groups in Northern Ireland for this age group. The Jazz Band also splits to create the Chamber Jazz Ensemble. This smaller group, made up of six of the school’s senior players, often perform interlude pieces between the bigger sets. The Jazz Band has not only taken part in school events such as Open Day and the Spring Concert, but also events that lie outside the school environment. From playing upbeat jazz anthems at the cutting-edge Black Box venue in Belfast, mellow sets in the Clandeboye Lodge and Larchfield Estate, to the opening of the new YMCA building in Bangor. The Jazz Band have performed in settings which few students in other schools will ever get to experience. With an eclectic repertoire ranging from Michael Bublé to Sonnymoon, the boys have their work cut out; learning new styles and new techniques, all while having a good laugh along the way.

-Joel Mawhinney, Year 14

Junior Drama

Backstage, the casts of the four Houses waited anxiously to perform. Black cloaks, red ribbons, animal ears and chocolate bars littered every inch of the Drama department, as seven weeks’ intense preparation was about to culminate in one final performance. There was no margin for error. Too much was at stake. Outside, the wind and rain lashed against the roof of the Assembly Hall, but inside the atmosphere was charged, as the audience awaited the first of the performances on that cold Wednesday evening. Miss Crossthwaite introduced the adjudicator for the night, the right honourable Mr R McAuley, our new Head of English. Thus began the 2016 Junior House Drama competition, the staging of four fantastic stories by the great children's author Roald Dahl.

First on stage were Ward House, who presented their adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory using bright colours, loud music and horrible children. The directors produced an interesting take on this bittersweet morality tale by incorporating contemporary pop culture references into this modern masterpiece. The Best Actor award for Ward House went jointly to Conor McKenzie for his performance as Veruca Salt and Callum Gunning as Mr Wonka.

Fantastic Mr Fox was performed by the eager actors of Dufferin House, who adapted the animals of the “Northern Irish Countryside” into a fast-paced ‘tail’ of love, life and Buckfast, which left the audience clutching their whiskers in excitement. Dufferin’s Best Actor award went to Dylan Haire who played the sneaky and manipulative Badger.

School House presented their dark and mysterious interpretation of The Witches, which left many members of the audience speechless. Unlike the other productions which largely played the stories for laughs, this minimalist production stayed true to the horrific themes of Dahl's tale, using nothing more than the physical skills of the performers to tell the story. As potions were mixed and sinister meetings held, Granny told her young grandchild stories about children mysteriously going missing. The Best Actor award for School House was awarded to Rory Watson who played the wise old Grandma.

Last, but by no means least, Crosby took to the stage to finish the night with a wonderfully comedic performance of Matilda. The Year 13 directors managed to turn the well-known, pleasant Matilda into a totally different character. Examples of Matilda’s unusually anti-social behaviour were presented before the ‘court’, with witnesses such as Miss Honey, Miss Trunchbull and ‘Daddy DeVito’ and many more familiar characters giving statements which all escalated into a surreal pirate battle at the end, which made no sense, but was all the better for that. The Best Actor for Crosby went to Conor Smith for his convincing performance as an irascible, alcoholic Judge.

Afterwards, there was a short interval and time for the young actors to discuss each other’s performances, whilst the nervous directors of the four plays waited for the winners to be revealed. As the audience were directed back to their seats, Mr McAuley took to the stage to give his comments for each of the performances and also to announce each House’s Best Actor. He then reached the most important stage of the night - awarding first place to Crosby House and second place to School House. The award for Overall Best Actor was given to Finn Ritchie for his unnerving interpretation of the mischievous, potentially sociopathic Matilda.

-Thomas Haddock and Cameron Robinson, Year 13

Combined Cadet Force

It is safe to say that the Bangor Grammar School CCF has been extremely busy over the last few months.

On Sunday 13th March, the CCF took part in the NI Cadet Orienteering Championships, which tested their navigation and map-work abilities, achieving great success. Out of 20 teams from across Northern Ireland, Samantha Dornan won the Senior Girl Individual award, with Katie Doherty coming runner up and Sam Donaldson won the Senior Boy Individual award. In terms of team awards, the Senior Girls’ team came 1st and the Senior Boys’ team came runner-up in their respective categories, with the Junior Girls’ team winning and coming runner-up in several other events.

Following this success, a number of cadets went on the annual Easter camp to Lancaster. Over the course of five days they took part in canoeing, team-building exercises and hiking, all of which made for a fun and interesting week.

It was not long after returning from the Easter holidays that the CCF was taking part in yet another competition, namely the First Aid competition on Sunday 10th April, in which the two teams managed to finish in second and third place.

The CCF still has a month or two remaining, and will conclude in June with the highlight of the CCF year - Summer Camp, with the army section going to Warcop Training Area in Cumbria, England, and the navy section going to Garelochead Training Camp in Faslane, Scotland.

-Karl Craig, Year 13

Charity Report

If the words of Isabel Allende are true, and 'we only have what we give', then BGS has certainly gained a lot this year; our generosity and our commitment to charity has been exceptional. Led by the Charity Committee, but contributed to by every single boy at Bangor Grammar, we have raised a fantastic £19,188.31 - an amount unmatched in our school's long history.

This year’s fundraising efforts included some popular annual events in the school calendar including the Sponsored Walk, which raised £10,750.48 across all year groups, with each year choosing their own charity to support. This year also included the Music Department's efforts in raising £915 for Action Cancer which was warmly received by the charity, and will go to aiding families of those with cancer. From raising over £1,600 for Children in Need through leg waxing and wet sponge throwing (which I ‘happily’ got involved in), to well in excess of £3,000 for Abaana through the sleep-out and non-uniform days, the 2015-16 school year will be remembered as an exceedingly generous one.

On behalf of the Charity Committee, I believe it is only right to thank every boy for their fundraising efforts this year. Whether you gave £1 or £100, someone in need is being helped because of what you contributed. I must also pass my thanks to Mrs Will who so tenaciously advocates the work of the charities we support and whose heart for giving has led to to this massive sum being raised.

As a Committee, we are very proud to have led these efforts and raised a significant amount of money. However, what I believe to be even more important than numbers on a sheet is the spirit of giving which is so evident at this school. I will soon leave BGS and head onto the next stage of my life; but the generous spirit and outward-looking nature of the pupils and staff at BGS is something that will sustain me for years to come. It is not easy to come by and I am very proud to be part of a community that is so compassionate and that gives so much of its time and money to help those in need. It is with great pride that I write this report and I once again wish to thank every committee member, every pupil, and every staff member. Without your help, we could not help so many.

-Curtis Irvine, Year 14

Sponsored Walk

Surely nowhere in the world is there a movement of pupils as immense as the annual BGS Sponsored Walk; where over eight hundred pupils and staff migrate from the First Bangor Presbyterian Church on Main Street to the greener pastures of Crawfordsburn Country Park in Helen’s Bay. Every year, this mass exodus of charitable beasts takes place in order to raise funds for charities nominated by their pack - a true demonstration of community spirit and camaraderie. The annual migration takes place at the beginning of the short dry season, when the fertile grass plains of Bangor and Crawfordsburn briefly bloom with flora and fauna.

Some of the older members of the pack pose for a photograph before they face the long journey ahead.

I was fortunate enough to witness at first-hand the migration of the younger members of the herd, who were finding conditions tough in this, their first journey. Not yet fully-grown, these youngsters teetered on dangerously weak legs, their progress slow and unsteady. However, under the watchful eye of the older animals, the youngsters pulled through and successfully completed their treacherous voyage towards the watering hole that is Crawfordsburn Country Park. Here, the herd will consume vast quantities of sandwiches or other carbohydrate-based foodstuffs, washed down with fizzy energy drinks. This prepares the animals for the long trek back, providing them with much-needed sustenance and electrolytes.

The journey back is a gruelling one for all. Injured animals hobbled in the blazing sun, as the older, stronger alpha males finished their libations at the Crawfordsburn watering hole and turned back to face the gruelling journey home. The pupils toiled through the punishing sunlight towards the McKee Clock, where they met their journey’s end. In a matter of minutes, the whole herd dispersed as if they had never been there. All that is certain is that this whole ritual will be repeated , year after year.

But of course, this great enterprise is not without reason. £10,750.48 was raised for the selected charities. This staggering total made the journey worthwhile and overall, it was an enjoyable day for the whole pack, who made it home safely and a tiny bit healthier.

-Matthew Bradley, Year 14

Inter-House Debating

This year has certainly been enriched by the high quality of discussion in the Senior Debating Society, as well as the characteristically satirical fashion in which a wide range of issues have been considered by pupils. The recent inter-house debating competition has certainly been a specific highlight in the debating calendar with more than pride at stake - namely, house points. As Joseph Jourbert stated, 'It is better to debate a question without answering it than to settle a question without debating it', and this was truly the nature of the competition. Not seeking definitive answers, but the pursuit of lively discussion and intellectual badinage.

School took on Dufferin in the first debate, discussing the potential for a redesign of the BGS school uniform. Matthew Bradley and Evan Wellard-McMillan proposed the motion as Head and Deputy Head of School, narrowly defeating Dufferin House Captains Matthew Durkin and Toby Hawthorne. It was a closely contested debate, with lively discussion and numerous suggestions for a potential new uniform, mostly met with disdain and horror from the house.

In the second debate, the age-old partership of Tony Heron and David McMullen came together to debate as Head and Deputy Head of Crosby, taking on their adversaries from Ward, Connor McKee and Mitchell Davidson. Ward emerged victorious after vigorous debate on the motion, 'This house believes BGS should merge with Glenlola'. Passions flared and after two witty and highly entertaining debates, we had our finalists.

After some jovial motions in the semi-finals, the abilities of all speakers were seriously called into action as Ward took on School. Connor and Mitchell of Ward House proposed the motion, 'This house would legalise abortion in Northern Ireland', which was opposed by Matthew Bradley and Matthew Bryson of School House. After some very thoughtful and passionate discussion, especially considering the sensitive nature of the issue, School house came through victorious and were crowned Senior Inter-House Debating champions 2016. Congratulations to all who took part and to School House for taking home the points.

-Curtis Irvine, Year 14

Inter-Schools Debating Success

We arrived at Stormont on the 22nd April with a feeling of heightened anticipation. We stepped off the bus and saw our debating team of Curtis Irvine and Luke McWatters (Year 14) walking towards the iconic Stormont building, the fading sun bathing them in glorious rays of light. After passing through the small security hut, we entered the Great Hall of the Parliament Buildings, where we eagerly awaited the commencement of the debates. We were directed into the Senate Chamber, where we filled the government benches, ready to support our mighty team. The tension built as we sat watching the Best Speaker debate, and with each speech the suspense grew more and more.

Supporters and speakers gather outside the Parliament Buildings at Stormont

A few moments after the first debate was finished, Curtis and Luke entered the hall to compete in the final of the NI Schools Debating Competition, proposing the motion, “This House Believes That Our Obsession with the Past in Northern Ireland is a Major Obstacle in Moving Forward”. Both the team from Bangor Grammar School and their opponents from Abbey Grammar in Newry spoke with tenacity and zeal in a truly gripping debate that showcased the talents of all speakers.

Curtis Irvine and Luke McWatters with the trophy

Following a short break, we retook our seats and awaited the results of the competition with bated breath. To our great joy, it was revealed that the dynamic duo of Luke and Curtis had won the competition, marking the first time since 2009 that competitors from our school have done so. It was a deserved victory for a team who had fought so hard and put an incredible amount of work into their speeches. After we left the Parliament Buildings, we stood on the steps and sang the school song with gusto - all thirty supporters proud of their fellow debaters and their achievements.

The Senior Debating Team and Committee would like to thank Mr Wolfenden for giving up so much of his free time to provide them with the help and guidance they needed to win the final. Floreat Bangoria!

-Matthew Bradley, Year 14

Student Council

The Bangor Grammar School Student Council has seen an array of business discussed under the leadership of Mr Dickson, Chairman Reece Simpson and Secretary Jack McClements. Carefully selecting business from the suggestion box or from issues raised to Student Council representatives, the Council has met and deliberated over pupil issues since November. Some of the most significant issues raised to representatives involved the school canteen. Councillors gained clarification from Mrs McNally on 16th November that changes were being made in the canteen; most significantly to how paninis were heated and stored, as well as making the promise of printing menus. Both guarantees have since been met.

The Council has met fortnightly to discuss issues surrounding lockers, school trips, behaviour management, pastoral care, school image, form time, assemblies and school buses.

As Chairman and Secretary respectively, Reece and I have taken on the role of representing the Council to Mrs Huddleson. In meetings with the Principal, we have relayed all discussed items of business to her. It has been our responsibility to report back to the Council on both her own and the SLT (Senior Leadership Team)’s responses to the Council. A strong rapport with Mrs Huddleson has made the running of the Council more effective and both Reece and I look forward to continued meetings with her.

Student Council Membership is as follows:

Reece Simpson, Jack McClements Benn Cudworth, Martin Withers, Matthew Durkin, Damien Kerr, Harvey Carlin, Billy Pollock, Oliver Hamilton, Nathan Bell, Joshua Hardy, Andrew Todd, Thomas Boyd, Rory Gilmore, Charlie Hamilton, Glen Hughes, Owen Caughey, James Crawford, Jamie Lyall, Ethan Murray

The Student Council meets every lunchtime, Monday Week 2 to discuss council business. Pupils are reminded that they are free to attend meetings, should they wish to hear what points are being discussed and to suggest motions. Alternatively, pupils can suggest topics via the suggestion box at BGS reception.

-Jack McClements, Year 13

BBC School Report

Budding journalists leapt at the chance to make headlines as part of the BBC School Report. Teams of middle-school students worked together to create articles detailing various aspects of school life as part of our 5th School Report. Pupils researched, planned and wrote articles based around various aspects of school life and current events, giving them a greater insight into the world of journalism. Students also conducted interviews with staff around the school, which provided the experience of working as a TV news presenter.

The articles written for BBC School Report can be viewed through the link below:

-Matthew Bradley, Year 14

Joint Scripture Union

This has been a really fantastic year for Scripture Union in Bangor Grammar. Our groups are thriving and it has become a place of openness and freedom where anybody is welcome to come and explore Christianity, as well discuss issues within society from a Christian perspective. We believe that God values and loves every pupil and member of staff at Bangor Grammar and, as we meet and go about our lives, we are called to live to emulate that truth by loving those around us.

The highlight of SU this year was most certainly our joint meeting at Bangor Academy. In the past we have always collaborated and joined together with Glenlola and Bangor Academy for events through the year but, more recently, that has fallen by the wayside in some respects. However, this year we wanted to change things. We wanted to celebrate the network of schools we have in Bangor and unite as one body to celebrate and create a vision for the future of SU in Bangor.

Everything started with a few casual conversations between myself and a few people from other schools and, before we knew it, we had met for the first time to plan an event for early 2016. After a few meetings, we begun to get really excited about the potential we had to rejuvenate the relationships within our Scripture Unions across Bangor.

The night itself was hugely enjoyable and offered us a real opportunity to connect with each other, with inspiring words from Joshua Walker and music led by Carl McManus. We ate together and were challenged over issues of identity and self-worth, something which we all struggle with at school. There was a real message of hope and a sense that what was happening was raw and real.

I look forward to hearing about the progress of Scripture Union next year and hope that it will remain an integral part of the school community, with a lot to offer those who have faith or are interested in knowing more about Jesus Christ and what that means to us today.

-Curtis Irvine, Year 14

Sports Round-up


The Schools 1st XV side comfortably defeated a strong team from Limavady in the second round of the Schools' Cup, before progressing to the third round. Ballyclare away was the team drawn for the third round in a repeat of last year's cup, but this time round the boys prevailed with a 15-11 win in a change of outcome from last year, tries coming from Zach Kerr and Connor McKee. This saw the team progress to the quarter finals for the first time in four years, only to be drawn away to a useful Dalriada side. Unfortunately, a lacklustre performance cost Bangor the match but the BGS boys established a solid platform for what is to come next season.

The Medallion XV were set up for big things at the start of the season, but suffered a shock defeat in the second round of the Medallion Shield. However, this gave them the chance to contend for a fine piece of silverware elsewhere. In the Medallion Bowl, the team progressed to the final - a tremendous achievement for all involved. The final was a big day for the team, travelling to play against a solid Belfast High team. Unfortunately, the Bowl did not return to BGS this time, but I have been told to mention that it seems some injustice in the final play of the game led to the final outcome.


The Hockey 1st XI travelled to Oxford for a sporting tour. Touring is widely deemed to be a very valuable experience for all involved, and this tour was no exception. In an arguably up and down season, the team needed the varied opposition provided to allow then to return to their consistent ways. Their first game was hotly contested; neither team was able to score a goal, leaving the score line at 0-0. The second game was the decider and against a slightly better team it was going to be tough. They held strong keeping the game at 0-0 for the first half, but a sense of weariness and fatigue let the opposition run away with a 2-0 win. This set them in good stead, however, for their cup run when they returned home.

Cross Country

Cross Country is often overlooked as not being much of a spectator sport. Despite this unjust reputation, the Minor and Senior teams have put in spectacular performances this year. In the District Cross Country Championships, Craig McMeechan and Jakob Swann both won their respective races by a fair margin. However, when they progressed to the Ulster Championships, the Senior and Junior teams finished fourth, narrowly missing out on a medal position. Craig McMeechan put in another terrific run for which he was awarded a silver medal - further evidence of the excellence of athletics within BGS.

This has been a terrific season for sport and hopefully more is yet to come in the summer season!

-Connor McKee, Year 14

EDITOR: Mr D Cunningham, SUB-EDITOR: Matthew Bradley, PHOTOGRAPHY: Curtis Irvine, Tony Heron, Thomas Haddock, Chris Mills, CONTENT WRITERS: Karl Craig, Toby Hawthorne, Ruairi Lawther, Joel Mawhinney, Jack McClements, Connor McKee, Christopher Murphy, Cameron Robinson

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