Still a College boy

NEW PRESIDENT. . . .Mr. Ian Doherty (right), outgoing president, hands over the chain of office to the newly elected president of St. Columb's College Union, Mr. Enda Rainey, at the AGM on Thursday last. On left is Mr. Finbar Madden. 2211JM01

NEW PRESIDENT. . . .Mr. Ian Doherty (right), outgoing president, hands over the chain of office to the newly elected president of St. Columb's College Union, Mr. Enda Rainey, at the AGM on Thursday last. On left is Mr. Finbar Madden. 2211JM01

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Some people are born to their roles and this is certainly the case for the new president of St Columb’s College Past Pupils’ Union.

Enda Rainey was recently appointed as the new president and has had a lifelong association with the famous Derry school - an association he is extremely proud of.

He received his chain of office as president of the Past Pupils’ Union from previous president, local businessman Ian Doherty, recently. The Union has a long history, dating back to 1929 and has been an institution for former ‘College boys’ ever since, holding an annual dinner and a range of other events each year.

In one way or another, Enda Rainey has been involved with St Columb’s College for most of his life, first as pupil, then as a staff member, and now as president of the Union.

That association also extended to his wider family. “Our family have had a long association with the College dating back to 1950,” he said.

“There were five boys in the family and all of us went to St Columb’s. That association started in 1950 and right up until 2008 there was always a member of the Rainey family at St Columb’s.

“In fact I counted up all the years the family have spent at the school and it was 240 years - that is longer that the College itself.

“My eldest brother, Fr Sean Rainey, who was a Colomban missionary priest, was the first of our family to go to St Columb’s in 1950.

“Sadly he died last week. My brother Brendan taught French at the College for 38 years so we have always had a big family connection with the school,” he explained.

Reflecting on his own time at the school, Mr Rainey said; “I was a pupil at the College from 1960 to 1963 and then I went to the Strand Tech where I did a secretarial and administration course,” he said.

When he left St Columb’s, Mr Rainey could scarcely have realised he would return in a few years to begin a career that would span three decades.

“I was 19 years-old when I got the job in the office at Bishop Street in 1966 and in 1973 I moved down to Buncrana Road. Fr McCauley was the bursar at that time.

“I worked there for 41 years. I became the office manager in January 1992 when Leo Casey retired and remained in that position until I retired myself in September 2007,” he said.

It was when he returned to St Columb’s that Mr Rainey first became involved in the Past Pupils’ Union. The Union was formed in 1929 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the school but its origins go back further than that.

The first gathering of former ‘College boys’ took place in Dublin in 1906 when a meeting was held for “old boys of St Columb’s.”

The Bishop of Derry at the time, Dr John Keys O’Doherty, was an enthusiastic supporter of the idea of the establishment of a formal organisation of past pupils but, for various reasons, the Past Pupils’ Union was not formed for another 23 years.

Its first president was Buncrana senator John McLaughlin and the Union held its first dinner the following year in 1930.

Since then it has gone from strength to strength and its presidents have included some of the city’s most famous sons including; Paddy Maxwell, James Doherty, Dr Francis Lagan, and John Hume.

Explaining how he came to be involved in the Past Pupils’ Union, Mr Rainey said; “I have been a member of the Past Pupils’ Union since 1966.

“I first became involved with the Past Pupils Union committee back in the 1980s when people like Joe Tracey and Michael McColgan were involved.

“Back then we used to have a toast to the Bishop at the Past Pupils Union dinner and I remember one occasion as a young member being chosen to make the toast. I remember that I did not enjoy my dinner that night because I was so nervous about making the toast.”

The new president explained that the Union involves itself in the life of the school in a number of ways, including sponsoring prizes.

“We fund certain events in the life of the school but the only funds we have are gathered from a one-off payment of £20 for life membership,” he said.

“We like to support the College in its sports and academic prizes and occasionally we would sponsor other events, for example last year when we found out the Basketball team was gong to Manchester to compete,” he explained.

The new president also said that he hopes to use his year in office to boost the coffers of the Union in order to be able to be of more support to the school.

“We would like to be in a position to find more activities so we are trying to increase our funds.

“Last year we sent out an appeal letter to members asking for either a one-off payment or a standing order and we had a good response so hopefully we will be able to increase the activities of the Past Pupils’ Union,” he said.

He also outlined his other hopes for the Union over the next twelve months.

“I would also like to establish closer links with the Parents Association.

“I have written to the chair of the association to let her know about my appointment and my intention form a closer working relationship. We are both working for the good of the school so we could do even more good if we cooperated,” he said.

Mr Rainey also has plans to delve back into the Union’s history and resurrect some of the events which had previously been firm favourites in the organisation’s calendar but have been almost forgotten in recent years.

“Given Derry’s role as the City of Culture in 2013 we would also like to raise the profile of the Past Pupils Union so we will be restarting our May Ball dinner dance.

“We used to do it in the past but haven’t held one in a number of years so I am looking forward to its return.

“That will probably be in May. Hopefully the Parents Association will be involved in that too.

“Perhaps on the school sports day we could organise a football match between a team from the Union and the current College team,” he explained.

While the Union may be seen by some as an ‘old boys’ association, Mr Rainey has said he is keen to boost the number of young members.

“We would like to try to attract younger members to join the Union.

“Hopefully public events will help raise the profile of the Union and what it is about and attract new members.

“We tend to find that people join the Union 15-20 years after leaving the College.

“Hopefully in the next year we will be able to increase the number of younger members.

“We would like to try to attract younger members to join the Union.

“Hopefully public events will help raise the profile of the Union and what it is about and attract new members.

“We tend to find that people join the Union 15-20 years after leaving the College.

“Hopefully in the next year we will be able to increase the number of younger members,” he said.

The president also said he believes that the idea of an ‘old boys network’ could also be beneficial to the Union.

“It is a good way to meet other people professionally.

“While that is certainly not the main purpose of the Union, it is a possible attraction for some people, particularly in these days when people are finding it difficult to get work, having the opportunity to meeting people and gain introductions could help someone out,” he said.

Although he is now retired, Mr Rainey’s passion and committee not to the College has not dimmed.

“I always enjoyed my time at the College, both as a pupil and working there.

“In one way or another I have been there most of my life and all of my working life at the College.

“I am very proud of my link with the school and it is certainly a school with a lot to be proud of. What other school can boast two Nobel laureates?” he asked.

He also encouraged former St Columb’s pupils to consider joining the Past Pupils’ Union.

“It’s nice to meet up with people you were at school with or maybe people who you didn’t know at school. It’s good to have that link with the school.

“It’s the camaraderie of the union that makes it what it is,” he said.