I begin my review of the work of the Student Council by congratulating its members on a very fulfilling year’s work. At the beginning of the academic year, we welcomed Mrs Sterrett to the Council. I thank her for her invaluable input and an injection of fresh ideas in which the council has benefited from. This year has proven to be the most successful so far due, in part, to the council becoming more visible on social media (via @BGScouncil on Twitter) and within the school itself.
The junior members of the council felt that the input of staff members such as Mrs Huddleson, Mrs McNally and Miss Crossthwaite has enabled them to directly pose questions about aspects of school policy. Furthermore, we have developed links with St Columbanus and Bangor Academy as part of the Shared Education Programme. Through these meetings, we were able to reflect on our own practises and take pride in the fact that our meetings were frequent yet continuously remained focused on different projects as the year progressed. Our most significant success involved our senior council members, Jamie Stewart and Oliver Hamilton, trialling a walking route from the school to the nearby shops. In doing so, they were, along with the rest of the council, able to state their case to Mrs Huddleson for senior pupils being given permission to leave the school site during lunchtimes. This was ratified in early November of 2017. Similarly, the council’s very positive reception to the four square courts also played some part in new courts being added to the outer quad area. These two examples, of which there are many more, demonstrates the pupil voice can have a tangible impact upon school life.
The BGS Library has had a very successful 2017-2018 school year. We started off with our entry into the International Kids Lit Quiz in November where our two teams fought it out with 29 other schools to show off their knowledge of modern and classic literature. Our Junior team came 22nd and our Senior team managed an impressive 8th place—not bad for our first year.
This month also brought delight as news arrived that Bangor Grammar School, after being nominated in 2016, had won the Accelerated Reader 2017 prize for the Top Performing Secondary School in Northern Ireland. A testimony to the positive reading culture of our school, we were extremely pleased to have successfully beaten our competitors and received this award.
In December we received our novels for the NI Book Award and this created some heated discussions around which book the boys where enjoying the most—would it be Irish author Paedar O’Guilin’s The Call? Or did DJ Brazier’s Alone create more tension? Fantasy fans promoted Dave Rudden’s Knights of the Borrowed Dark and many a debate was had.
April was a slightly sadder affair as we said goodbye to some of our hardest working Senior Librarians who have given years of service to the BGS Library. Tears were shed, a party was had, and next year’s Library Top Team were appointed—the standard has been set very high, boys.
We are now on the home straight and getting ready to have our rewards day for boys who have smashed their individual reading target and earned a little break. Eyes are already turning to next term and how we can emulate the success of this year. Enjoy the summer everyone, 2018-19 is only going to get busier.
A Crossthwaite, Teacher in Charge
Fairly early in the year, I recognised that the combined talent and commitment of the 22 boys in Chamber Choir this year was unique and something quite special. For that reason, I felt it was worth investing time and effort to take us beyond Bangor this year, to one of the biggest and best established music festivals in Northern Ireland. On Wednesday 18th April, we boarded a bus, bound for Craigavon Civic Centre, which was the venue for the senior choral competition of Portadown Music Festival. We enjoyed performances from Lurgan College, St Patrick’s College Maghera and Markethill High School, whose names are all engraved on the trophies from previous years. Mrs Helen Deakin was our adjudicator and awarded us first place with an “outstanding” grade and a mark of 90. We were delighted to hear her praise of our rhythmic precision, well graded dynamics, rich sonority and impressive technical control. Simon Harbinson (Year 8) went forward to be presented with the EH Lamb Cup. We were then invited to return for the Gala Concert the following week which closes the festival each year.
Wednesday 25th April, saw the opening day of Bangor International Choral Festival, now celebrating its 25th anniversary. We performed the same programme of Light in the Hallway, by the Pentatonix and Fionnghuala, a traditional Scottish piece, arranged by Michael McGlynn. Greg Beardsell was adjudicator and his impressive profile includes: “Music Director of the Peace Proms, London Youth Chamber Choir and Deputy Artistic Director of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain. He works worldwide as a conductor, adjudicator, workshop leader and presenter.” Greg’s high profile in music education and performance increased our nerves! It was lovely to perform alongside other local schools, and especially to see a boys’ choir from St Columbanus winning a commendation award. Also performing were St Catherine’s College Senior Choir, Armagh, St Columbanus College Junior Choir and Bangor Academy and Sixth Form College Chamber Choir. The standard of performance was very high, with a varied and interesting repertoire presented. Greg’s final adjudication awarded us another “outstanding” grading which was labelled “an exceptional performance, both technically and artistically.” This time, the prize wasn’t a cup, but a substantial amount of money which will fund the purchase of new music for the choir next year, and perhaps a pizza party next week by way of celebration!
Following the end of the Bangor International Choral Festival, we headed off to Portadown again for our final performance of the year at the Festival’s closing Gala Concert. We were treated to an exceptionally high standard of solo vocal and instrumental performances, as well as the Lowry Theatre Group performing an extract from Cats. Our performance was the finale of the evening, following which an awards ceremony was held. Johnny Mason (Year 14) went forward to be presented with another monetary prize for our performance. The best surprise of all, was a very unexpected award for the “most memorable performance of the entire festival”. We were privileged to have been invited back to perform at the closing concert and even more flattered that our performance was significantly memorable. Needless to say, it was a tiring day, but the mood was buoyant on the homeward journey.
Tuesday 6th February was a busy day for Bangor Grammar as we played host to a prestigious IntoFilm presentation with Catherine Geary, the Location Manager on massive hollywood blockbusters such as James Bond: Skyfall, and recent Star Wars movies The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Pupils from Glenlola, St Columbanus and Bangor Academy also attended the event, as part of our continuing Shared Education project.
The Q&A session was an inspiring insight into the challenges of working within the competitive, high-stakes movie industry. Catherine stressed upon the difficulties faced by a female in a still male-dominated workplace. It was pleasing to see so many students lingering behind to chat to Catherine.
Two of our Year 13 pupils, Conor Meharg and Jonah Loughlin later had the chance to work with Catherine on the set of a Chinese language romantic-comedy which was filming key scenes in Belfast City Airport.
It is hoped that this will be the first of many such opportunities for our pupils. Many thanks to Phil Cartmill for arranging transport for our partner schools and organising behind the scenes.
D Cunningham, Teacher in Charge
Universities & Careers Fair
This was our fourth Careers Fair and by far the biggest to date. We had a selection of universities and local FE colleges represented from all over the United Kingdom and South of Ireland. Presentations were also given on studying in Oxbridge, applying to the South of Ireland through CAO, and entrepreneurship.
Employers were well represented and were able to answer questions from pupils and parents about different career paths in their sectors. Those attending also had some BGS past pupils on many of their stands.
We were delighted that so many employers who have supported us over the years were here once again on the day but we were also very pleased to introduce new companies such as Bauer Academy (education arm of Cool FM) and Mount Charles Catering.
Junior Drama operates on the theories of devised theatre—students are given stimulus material and use this as a starting point to come up with a unique and original performance piece. It involves Year 13 victims willing directors being locked placed in a room with boys from Years 8 & 9 once a week for two months and seeing what they come up with.
This year’s concept was ‘Movie Sequels’. We brainstormed a lot of ideas such as Titanic 2, before eventually letting the boys loose to explore their own ideas. The final performances were the product of many evenings of hard work and cooperation —albeit with a gentle teacher-edit here and there.
On Thursday 1st March 2018, students, teachers and parents all came together to witness the organised chaos and glory of ‘ Attack of the Sequels!’
Unfortunately, due to adverse weather conditions, our 2018 adjudicator, playwright John Patrick Higgins, was unable to make it to BGS for the performances. Thankfully Mrs Payne, our ever-ready and utterly impartial Head of Drama, graciously stepped in to assess the Houses.
Mrs Payne commended the boys on the focus which all of the groups demonstrated and the thorough characterisation many performers showed in their acting. All of the boys spoke with clear voices and delivered their lines confidently. They showed excellent skills in creating comedic performances and worked the audience to get some loud laughs! Even the costumes were evidence of the time and effort which the students (and obviously some enthusiastic parents!) had put in at home.
On Tuesday 5th June the Year 10s had the opprtunity to visit the new Microsoft HQ in Dublin. This 34,000 sq m building, with over 2000 employees from all round the globe, is as futuristic as it is impressive. With a digital lake and digital waterfall made up of 125, 000 LEDs, Microsoft branded coffee, five different restaurants, gym and yoga studios, there was a real sense of a working community where well-being is at the core of the company’s success.
As the students walked into the building we were met with a warm welcome by our hosts, reiterated by the 'Welcome Bangor Grammar School' displayed on the massive TV screen in the main foyer. The students had a brief tour of the building whereby they were able to get a feel of how Microsoft try to inspire their employees to promote creativity through spacious working areas, interactive screens and 'chill-out' zones.
In January, the CCF took part in two recruit weekends for the year 10 cadets; in total over 80 cadets took part in these weekends. To say these young warriors were put through their paces is an understatement. On Day One they had a four stand round robin comprising field cooking and basher building, obstacle course, command task and camouflage and concealment.
All the cadets threw themselves (some literally) into the tasks with loads of zeal and enthusiasm. The cold and wet did not dampen their willingness to get the tasks done; cadets led by Cadet Walker ended up wetter and muddier than all others. The command task stand became one of the favourites, with the hand grenade crawl proving to be a great opportunity for muddy photos.
CCF Easter Camp
The annual CCF Easter Camp started early as always, with bleary eyed parents dropping off their children and rushing home for a well-deserved coffee and some peace. The cadets paraded in their matching hoodies all ready for the long journey across the water and down through Scotland into England. The destination was Halton Camp in Lancaster, an old Royal Engineers Training Camp which is now a training camp for all MOD personnel to use as a base for Adventure Training. After a few hours’ drive from Scotland the cadets arrived and were allocated their rooms and groups. A short briefing that evening then bed ready for the rigours of the next three days.
We used Tower Wood Outdoor Activity Centre as our training base, located on the picturesque shores of Lake Windermere. Once we arrived the groups were sent off with their instructors to take part in either water activities/high ropes or the dreaded hill days. The water activities were a mixture of sailing, canoeing or kayaking and as the name suggests it is wet and cold but the centre ensured all were kitted out with the right gear for the activity. Over the three days the cadets did get very wet, some because they wanted to, others because of the forces of nature or their inept shipmates. The high ropes are exactly that, taking you completely out of your comfort zone, hanging from trees and balancing on top of telegraph poles. All the cadets had a crack at it, some overcoming fears which they thought they never would.
CCF Ship Visit
On May 5th, the CCF were invited on a tour of a visiting ship from the Dutch Navy the HDMS Niels Juel, named after one of their famous admirals. It is a guided missile frigate of the Iver Huitfeldt class, whose main role during war is air defence of the fleet. The ship's company were brilliant, showing the cadets all the different areas of the ship even down into the depths of the gun turret. The ship's pilot officer took time away from his break to show them his new “toy” -a newly-arrived helicopter with less than 300 miles on the clock.
The CCF would like to say a big thank you to the officers and crew of the Niels Juel and to the SNONI who arranged the visit for us it was a massive privilege for BGS CCF and something our cadets will remember.
RAF 100 Athletics Meeting
A week later, on May 12th, BGS CCF attended the RAF 100 Athletics Meeting at the Mary Peters track in Belfast. A team of 17 cadets both male and female, junior and senior volunteered and, on arrival, they quickly numbered up and got straight into it. Medal after medal came their way as they all threw themselves into every race or field event they could enter.
By the end of the day BGS CCF came away with 12 gold, 8 silver and 6 bronze medals; we also won the best Under 17 year Boys trophy and Best Team Overall.
A massive thanks to the ATC, the RAF and Athletics NI for a brilliant competition and for all their hard work in organising the day. One last mention goes to LCpl Jamie Campbell who left the track on a stretcher, then an ambulance, after bravely putting everything into qualifying for the final of the 200m Sprint. LCpl Campbell’s determination and courage, even while in acute pain, displays the type of young adult that BGS CCF fosters.
Master Cadet Course 2018
The Master Cadet Course was an amazing opportunity that anyone who gets a chance should take. The course is challenging physically and mentally. I and the rest of my platoon took part in a range of activities across the syllabus over the four-day exercise period, covering basic harbour drills like morning and night routine to 4 Star equivalent field craft.
On Day One of the exercise phase, we located our harbour area and set up the HQ, and reconnaissance patrols were sent out for the rest of the day to locate enemy positions. Day Two consisted of patrolling and helping out friendly forces in command tasks; the most difficult was a casualty extraction. Later that night more patrols were sent out to access the enemy strengths and locations. Day Three of the exercise brought us into deliberate attacks on enemy positions located on the previous day. This saw my section participate in eight separate section attacks. After that we were back to the harbour area to prepare for an ambush that night.
On the last day we did a platoon dawn attack on the enemy’s HQ. My section was the first into contact and, as the section commander, I had to advance and clear dug-in enemy positions for the assault and support to push through and clear in-depth enemy positions. Once the platoon had finished all its end-ex admin we prepared for the course mess dinner to signal the end of the course. I found quite a lot of the course easygoing, but at the same time, being challenged by unexpected events whilst operating on a maximum of four hours sleep a night. The course helps you find out a lot about yourself as a senior cadet, but also what you can possibly achieve. I found it very rewarding am honoured to be the only Northern Irish cadet from the CCF to participate in the course, and one of only nine people from all the CCFs in the UK to have completed it.
Sgt J Watton
CCF First Aid Competition
Saturday 16th June saw the CCF enter three teams into the Brigade CCF First Aid competition with the chance of being the CCF representatives at the National Competition in October.
All three of our teams who were slightly under strength due to exams but did exceptionally well, having to deal with a multiple casualty car crash, firework burns and power saw accident with two amputated fingers.
At the end of the day and much to their surprise the Junior Team came away with the silver medal; our senior teams have to wait until the results of the ACF competition to see where they are placed so will not know until after Summer Camp.
Well done for all the cadets who entered at this very busy and stressful time and great to end the year with yet more medals for BGS CFF. Bravo Zulu.
Towards the end of the Summer term, seven boys and two members of staff, Mr Nicholl and Mr Ramsey, embarked on the annual German Exchange with the Immanuel-Kant Gymansium in Lachendorf, Northern Germany. The BGS boys enjoyed a fascinating week experiencing life in Germany first hand through living with host families and attending school classes with their German exchange partners. The first shock for many of the BGS boys was the rather prompt time for the start of the school day with the first class beginning at 7.40am. As consolation, however, lessons finished at the rather more civilised time of 1.10pm, giving the boys ample opportunity to rest weary minds in the afternoon.
Several excursions were planned during our time in Germany, including sightseeing trips to the state capital Hannover as well as Celle, the nearest large town to the school and very well regarded for its over 250 half timbered buildings. The highlight trip for most of the boys proved to be the day at Wolfsburg and a visit to one of the larget interactive science museums in Europe. During the weekend of our visit, host families arranged a varied programme for the boys to again enable them to feel truly at home during their time away.
Traditionally Saint Patrick’s Day is the start of spring. However, with the arrival of the Mini Beast from the East, the conditions were more like winter with several flurries of snow rather than the bright spring days expected at this time of year.
The Year 13 Gold group consisted of 13 pupils assisted by two staff. Training took place in Tollymore Forest Park where the boys refreshed their campcraft skills, pitching tents before cooking on the portable gas stoves. The evening was spent deliberately getting lost in the forest, with the pupils practising their navigation skills. Night navigation is always a good test of skill but was made more challenging in the freezing conditions and occasional snow flurry. After a long evening we returned to the refuge of the tents, frozen and exhausted.
We awoke to a thin covering of snow. Several boys had found it difficult to sleep because of the cold (a mere minus 5 degrees celsius). There is nothing as good as the experience to reinforce the instruction imparted in the classroom. Some might listen more carefully in future to the advice given about proper equipment. One pupil said it had been, “the worst night in his life”. They had been warned about the freezing conditions and the need for warm clothing even in bed. After some warm refreshments and breakfast it was back to compass work, route planning and then a navigational exercise through the forest.
On Tuesday 6th February, 37 BGS athletes braved the cold conditions at Campbell College, Belfast and competed admirably in the District Cross Country Championships. Four out of the five teams medalled and therefore qualified for the Ulster Championships.
The Danske Bank Medallion Bow Final, between Bangor Grammar School and Limavady Grammar School, was held on the 24th February 2018 at Roughfort Playing Fields. On the morning of the match, the weather conditions were good with very little wind and the pitch was in excellent condition.
The match began with both teams eager to get the first points on the board. Bangor Grammar got off to a great start with a try from Robbie Grant in the first few minutes of play. The score went unconverted, Bangor 5-0 Limavady. Bangor took a clean catch from kick off and proceeded to attack the Limavady defence. Plenty of ground was made as Bangor piled on the pressure and kept the momentum going forward, resulting in a good team try. The ball went through the hands, with Ben McLean scoring in the corner. The conversion was missed, Bangor 10-0 Limavady.
BGS continued to press the Limavady defence and kept the ball moving quickly, from touchline to touchline. Following some excellent phase build up play, Josh Carroll burst through the centre of Limavady’s defence to score. Again the conversion was unsuccessful.
Limavady put Bangor under pressure from restart and forced a BGS knock on, resulting in a scrum and possession for Limavady in an attacking area, giving the opposition their first real attacking opportunity of the game.
Limavady began to make their way back into the game. Just before the half time break, they broke down the Bangor defence, scoring a converted try under the posts, making it Bangor 15-7 Limavady at the break.
The 2nd half began with Bangor kicking off. BGS got off to another fast start this time by putting excellent defensive pressure on the Limavady attack, forcing them to knock it on and presenting Bangor with possession of the football.
It only took a few phases for Bangor’s Rory Wood to break through and score a wonderful individual try. The conversion was again unsuccessful, Bangor 20-7 Limavady. Bangor made a clean catch and kept the momentum going forward from the restart. This led to some fantastic phases as Bangor proceeded to attack but Limavady did a good job and kept them out. A quick pass from Mark Carberry to Jack Nesbitt saw him break through a weak tackle and barge his way over the line. Try Bangor, this time converted by Carberry. Bangor 27-7 Limavady. Bangor were slow to react from kick off leading to a strong attacking position for Limavady to score a converted try under the posts. Bangor 27-14 Limavady.
Bangor dug deep and once again put pressure on the Limavady defence, going through multiple phases and keeping the ball. This series of plays ended with Robbie Grant breaking the Limavady defence and scoring, converted by Mark Carberry. Bangor 34-14 Limavady. Bangor looked completely in control of the game, finishing strongly as Jack Nesbitt again fought his way over the try line for another unconverted score. Full time Bangor 39-14 Limavady. Both teams fought hard, but on the day Bangor Grammar played some excellent rugby, taking their changes and deservedly taking the spoils.
A representative of the Schools’ Committee of the Ulster Branch and Bangor Grammar School first of all thanked Danske Bank for their continued support of Schools’ rugby in Ulster. He also thanked BRA for the use of their excellent pitch, the referee and assistants, coaches and staff from both teams and all the supporters. Mr Robinson praised both teams for making it such a great match. He then went on to present medals to the Limavady and Bangor players before the presentation of the trophy to the Bangor Grammar captain Luke Norman.
Sporting stars of the past six decades gathered at Bangor Grammar School on Tuesday evening for the launch of its new Sporting Wall of Fame.
No fewer than 32 faces appear on the Wall, beginning with rugby international George McIldowie, who gained four caps for Ireland between 1906 and 1910, and ending (for now) with current international Stuart McCloskey, who recently gained his second cap in Ireland’s 23-20 win over Fiji.
Nineteen of the Wall ‘inductees’ attended the launch, along with Byrom Bramwell, great nephew of Thomas Bramwell, another rugby player, who appeared for Ireland against France back in 1928.
The Wall was conceived and funded by Bangor Grammarians, the past pupils association, and was brought to fruition over recent months in co-operation with the School itself. The aim was to collate and celebrate those sportsmen who had gained full senior international honours in their chosen field.
No fewer than 10 different sports are featured on the Wall of Fame: rugby (12), cricket (4), sailing (4), hockey (3), golf (3) and football (2), with one each from rowing, squash, swimming and tennis.
In advance of the formal proceedings, the ‘inductees’ were taken on a guided tour of the sports department where the Wall of Fame is located.
Former Northern Ireland and Arsenal captain Terry Neill, who had flown over that morning from London, rubbed shoulders with Dick Milliken, who captained the first Schools Cup-winning team in 1969 (before going on to play for both Ireland and the British Lions). Golfers Brian Kissock and Garth McGimpsey, cricketers John Elder, Brian Millar and Mark Hutchinson, and hockey Olympic Gold and Bronze Medallist Stephen Martin all joined in the tour.
Other rugby stars in attendance included Roger Clegg, David Morrow and Kenneth Hooks, Olympic sailors Bill O’Hara, Conrad Simpson and Stephen Milne, while squash, rowing and tennis were represented by Jeff Hearst, David Gray and Peter Minnis respectively.
Completing the line-up were Bill Whisker, the school’s only sailing World Champion (the GP14 class in 1975), and swimmer Steven McQuillan, who set seven new Irish individual records between 2008 and 2010.
There were apologies from 10 past pupils who were unable to attend – David McManus (hockey), David Feherty (golf), Michael Rea (cricket), Don Whittle (rugby), Mark Cummings (swimming), Mark McCall (rugby), Keith Gillespie (football), Kieron Dawson (rugby), Chris Cargo (hockey), and the aforementioned Stuart McCloskey.
In many instances they were represented by family members and all expressed the desire to view the Wall for themselves during a future visit to Bangor Grammar School.