On Monday, 25th November, Graham Norton, the internationally famous television and radio presenter, comedian, actor, author, and commentator, returned to his old school, Bandon Grammar School, County Cork. He was there to launch a new book Bandon Grammar School – A History, written by the school’s Principal Ian Coombes.
Nearly 1200 past and present pupils, parents and staff, together with community representatives, guests, members of the school Boards, were present to give Graham a tremendous reception, his first time back at the school since he opened a new classroom block in 2012.
Representatives of the patron of the school – the Incorporated Society for Promoting Protestant Schools in Ireland – were also present, as was the Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, Dr Paul Colton.
The school hosted a lunch for Graham and approximately 70 guests in the school dining hall beforehand where Graham caught up with old friends and familiar faces, before being taken away to meet scores of students and to meet the large group from the waiting media.
At 3 p.n. Graham entered the crowded auditorium to rapturous applause and a standing ovation. The Chairperson of the School Board of Directors, Catherine Giblin welcomed everyone.
The school choir sang accompanied by the school orchestra.
Launching the book, Graham Norton, reminisced about his own days at the school, and shared some wise insights:
If I could go back and talk to the boy I was shuffling around here in a uniform … I would tell him ‘worry less. Don’t worry about things so much. It is such a waste of emotional energy.’ The other thing I would tell him is that all life is a series of choices and consequences. The trick is to think about the consequence before you make the choice…
He paid tribute to current principal Ian Coombes, also a former pupil of the school, who wrote the history of the school. Graham Norton said:
One of the more unusual clues that you are getting long in the tooth is that you are now included in a history book! … It really is an extraordinary work. It works as an academic book. It works as a a social history but also for a lot of us, a walk down memory lane or simply scanning names that we can’t remember wondering if they are dead yet!
The thing about history is it is all about perspective; where you are looking at it from.
In his speech, Ian Coombes said that Graham Norton’s talent as a writer had been nurtured by English teacher Niall McMonagle, who was also in attendance at the book launch. Mr Coombes presented a survey of the history of the school and expressed his thanks to all who had assisted him during the fourteen year period of writing it. Referring to the school’s Church of Ireland connections he said that ‘over the centuries, the school has had a chequered history with bishops.’
In proposing a vote of thanks to Graham Norton on behalf of everyone present, Bishop Paul Colton, picked up on this and said:
In spite of the school’s ‘chequered history’ with bishops, I am honoured today to have been asked to proposed this vote of thanks to you Graham, in spite of the fact that you have come here today wearing my colour. Being a bishop might suit you; we could do with a few bishops of your calibre.
Referring to a busy few days, the Bishop said:
I’m having quite a few days of it – on Saturday the Archbishop of Canterbury asked me for a selfie – true story – and less than 48 hours later I’m sharing a stage with Graham Norton.
Graham – you and the Archbishop of Canterbury in the same sentence – did you ever imagine that when you were shuffling around here in uniform?
You certainly pull a crowd. Not because you’re famous, but because people genuinely like you. That’s true in a special way for us here in Cork, and here in your old school in particular.
I first met Ian 41 years ago at University College Cork. We parked our motorbikes in the same place at the same time each morning. That was a couple of years before I first met you also, Graham. This is undoubtedly a big day for Ian. You, Graham, have rightly turned the spotlight on him. And that says a lot about you, not only as a professional, but as a person.
Bishop Colton’s full speech may be read HERE.
On behalf of the school, Graham made presentations of the new history to a number of people who had supported Mr Coombes with its production. Afterwards, Graham Norton was snowed under with requests for autographs, selfies and photographs, and gave hugely generously of his time to the many people present. A reception for everyone followed in the school dining hall.
Copies of the history of Bandon Grammar School are available from the school.