Friday 24th. January, 2014 – We celebrate Burns with the young folk of Our Lady and St. Patrick’s High School 


Some of the young folk and invited guests at this year’s celebration of Rabbie Burns at Our Lady and St. Patrick’s High School


Rose immediately the alarm went off and walked Mix, showered and changed into good clothes, breakfasted in the farmhouse and then set off with Rachel to drive to Dumbarton.

The purpose of our drive was to attend the annual Burns celebration at Our Lady and St. Patrick’s High School but on the way we stopped off at the home of Grace and Maisie and Nina to hand in an accordion from Tom and to collect another from them to bring back to Tom. It was good to see them and they had kindly made us a small picnic to eat in the car on the way home – how very thoughtful.

We arrived at the school and were welcomed by Hugh who was the mainstay of the visits which young folk (under his guidance) made to Luss over recent years. The purpose of their visits twice a year was to take part in their own leadership training course. We loved their visits, we loved having them staying in the Palace and eating in the Manse and, over the years, we got to know them very well. I will never forget the music evening which they arranged in Luss Church during our year of celebrations in 2010 (we celebrated 1500 years of continuous Christianity in Luss). The church has seats for 222 but that night there were 364 folk in the Church and the music which they provided was out of this world – a happy evening enjoyed by everyone.

Well, today was like that too. It was a Burns celebration for the first year students at the school. There was a lovely meal. The haggis was piped in and addressed and then the entertainment began – well, almost. Charlie Rooney started by explaining what today was all about. He also introduced students to an understanding of what it means to be born in the image of God. It is a very special school and its ‘specialness’ starts at the top and works its way through all of the staff.

The programme involved all of the disciplines in the school. The art and the technology departments presented two animations, one on Burns’ poem ‘John Barleycorn’ the other an imaginary ‘To the Devil’ (in which, as you would imagine, good triumphs over evil).



I snapped this shot during the animation presentation


Next came some recitations (including ‘To a Mouse’), some rap versions of Burns’ work, highland dancing and a voyage through some famous Scots who had made an important contribution to our country and to our world.

Finally, Charlie said some words of thanks, especially to his staff – he must have the best staff of any school in Scotland – and introduced one of the special guests: an older lady of one hundred and one years. She had enjoyed the afternoon and the pupils had enjoyed entertaining their guests.



It was a special afternoon for one lady of one hundred and one – here being introduced to the pupils by the head-teacher


It was time for us to set off for home. It was absolutely bucketing down; Rachel fell asleep and I had time to reflect on the visit. I always end up raving about this school and to those who don’t know it, or who don’t know me, it must sound very over the top. But it isn’t. It is quite simply an exceptional school doing exceptional things. Its ethos – it is a Christian, a Roman Catholic, School – and it is unashamedly open about the faith base on which everything else is constructed. There are so many extra opportunities on offer all the time. One teacher I talked with today was setting off at dawn tomorrow to take thirty youngsters skiing in Austria. The school has a partnership with a school in Africa and several staff have been out there to help – this year they are paying for the provision of toilets in their partner school but there is so much more to the partnership which clearly benefits both parties. And of course, it was great to see Hugh again and the team who work with him – good to learn too that the leadership course which they run (and in which we shared at Luss) is gaining recognition and will be presented to representatives from several education authorities next week. I made so many friends at Our Lady and St. Patrick’s and I was touched to be invited back from retirement to attend this special event today.



A picture from my archives of some of the youngsters from Our Lady and St. Patrick's High School around our meal table in the Manse at Luss


It was after six before we got home. Mix was glad to see me! We dined in the farmhouse (tomato soup and fish pie) and then, back in the Granary, Rachel and I watched a bit more of ‘The Tunnel’ before walking the dogs and retiring to bed. What a lovely day!

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