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News > Alumnae News! > THE CLASS OF 1983: Thoughts on our forty year school reunion at Holy Child, Killiney

THE CLASS OF 1983: Thoughts on our forty year school reunion at Holy Child, Killiney

Surpassing all expectations, a special reunion and the joy of old friendships. Back together after 40 years.
Members of the class of 1983 returned to Holy Child as part of their 40 Year Reunion Celebrations
Members of the class of 1983 returned to Holy Child as part of their 40 Year Reunion Celebrations

In September this year, we gathered at the chapel entrance of Holy Child for our forty year reunion. I'd been looking forward to it, but when the day arrived I found myself a bit nervous. I think probably everyone was. 

After such a long time, a school reunion is both happy and sad: happy, because it connects us with our formative years and is a rare opportunity to share memories and milestones among the classmates we grew up with; sad because in the intervening time, we've weathered some of life's storms, grown older, lost beloved people and other precious things along the way. I worried I mightn't recognise everyone. I feared the nostalgia might overwhelm me. 

I needn't have been so anxious. There was delightful mirth in seeing that everyone was exactly the same as they'd always been. Principal Caroline O'Brien welcomed us all if she knew us too. I suppose in a lot of ways she did. We're Holy Child girls after all, and we share something essential with those who have come after us, and those who went before. 

With huge courtesy and grace, we were shown around the school by current 6th year, Milly, who wore the same uniform we once did. Long-forgotten conversations came echoing back as I floated up the Bunny Rabbit stairs; songs we had once sung seemed to play again inside my head as I sat for a while in the chapel, whose unique light must come from the bright oranges, greens, reds and blues of the stained glass on either side. In all my years at school, until this moment, I hadn't noticed quite how beautiful those windows are. 

Passing the corridors and classrooms that had once been the ordinary places of our school days, I felt a kind of magic. In the perimeter wall between the buildings and Military Road I spotted an old door, through which we often used to sneak. We thought we were the only ones to have discovered it. 

 School days aren't perfect for anyone, and they weren't perfect for me, but this return visit made me feel lucky to be able to remember those days mostly with fondness and gratitude. While the campus has grown, and fabulous new facilities have appeared since our time, the buildings and corridors, the blue hall, the stairways, the gardens and the grounds feel very much as they did when we were there. 

My favourite place was the library. It gave me a thrill of reminiscence to see that bookish space again. In the 1980s, our librarian was Sister Delia, always in a blue veil with immaculate white trim. She was quite strict and fierce but I always knew she had the kindest of hearts. Though there was a regimented orderliness in the way she presided over the library, still it was a place of liberty, where you could read what you liked; a place of peace, where people would leave you to your solitude. I became a reader there. And though she never knew it, Sister Delia was one of the people who gave me the courage to become a writer. I wish I'd appreciated how fortunate we were to have had a resource like that, with its abundance of beautiful books. I wish I'd said thank you to Sister Delia. I don't think I ever did. 

The passage of time is a strange thing. In some ways it feels as if those years have been an eternity. But another part of me feels they've gone by in a heartbeat. I know my classmates shared that same sense of paradox when we gathered. We reminded each other of the joyful things we'd done together - the fun, and friendship and that particular brand of innocent wildness that belongs only to teenage girls. But we also remembered some of the things that made it difficult to be a girl in the Ireland of 1983. We didn't have the language for many of the things that mattered in our lives – language to do with consent, empowerment, agency, control over our bodies, our wellbeing and our ambitions. On top of this, I remember spending a lot of time thinking I was not beautiful and fretting that I never would be. 

I know we were luckier than many other girls of the time, but I don't think we can ignore the struggles we encountered. For me, Holy Child was a safe place, helping me to navigate that world. In school I felt I had a voice; I could try something and fail without fear or humiliation; I could make mistakes and be forgiven; I learned what I was good at and was encouraged to get better; and on the days when I felt sad or afraid - as all girls sometimes do – a bunch of my classmates would run up to the shops and come back with chocolate.

What I remember most is being surrounded by decency and kindness and a brilliant kind of joyful sisterhood that gave me such a strong foundation for the life that has followed. I'm grateful and proud to be part of the Holy Child alumnae, to have grown up with such clever, funny, strong, smart, lovely classmates. They were wonderful girls then. It's no surprise that they are wonderful women now. 

On behalf of the whole class of 1983, I thank Principal Caroline O'Brien and Chaplain Ellen Moiselle for the warmest of welcomes, the current sixth years (who showed us around with such generosity and patience), and the transition year students (who prepared the heart-warming goodie bags for us, full of memories and sweet things - including the love hearts!). 

We would have given anything if our beloved, departed classmates Ceili, Dervila, Elaine, Janet and Liz were with us too. They were at the centre of the precious memories we shared. A special word of appreciation must also go to the core team of organisers: Sarah Dwyer, Julie Hamilton, Sally Brown, Sinead Lenehan and Melanie Sheridan. It's thanks to them, that this very special occasion came about. Our lifelong connections with Holy Child mean a great deal to us all. We will continue to cherish them.

What would I say to the seventeen year-old version of myself after all these years? I'd tell her she was beautiful, but that being beautiful isn't the most important thing about her. I'd tell her she's going to weather some storms but her strong foundation will help her to make it through. I'd tell her there's also plenty of joy up ahead, and that she'll know it when she sees it because she's already learned what it looks like. I'd tell her to seize the day, to hold on to her friends, to make the most of every stage of life. I'd tell her to say thank you to Sister Delia.



Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

Oct 14th 2023. 

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