Special lockdown video brings former Thornhill girls together

Former Thornhill College students and teachers have joined forces for a special video to ‘Proudly Wave The Mercy Banner’ once again. 

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 2:04 pm

The 30-strong group joined forces last May over the Thornhill College Past Pupils Facebook group to record the well known school song, in the style of a virtual choir. 

Spearheaded by former Music teacher Miss O’Hara and past pupil Terri Coyle, the video has brought a smile to the faces of past pupils of the school, young and old. 

Speaking to the ‘Journal’ about the project, Miss O’Hara, who taught at the school from 1972 to 2008, and has been the Thornhill archivist since, said: “Terri Coyle and I were having a conversation, and I mentioned that I wanted a recording of the school song, and it started off from that. Meaning that it would be a bit of fun, and a way for the past pupils to connect, and a bit of a light relief in the middle of everything that is going on in the world at the moment.

“Terri did the messages on Facebook, and she collected the names of the people who were willing to do it. The two verses of the school song are on the video, but a lot of people weren’t aware there was a second verse. So a lot of them had to do work to learn the second verse! They were very committed to learning the song, and then doing the audio and video recording.”

Miss O’Hara said the recording itself proved challenging, but the process was fun. “I have no problem sitting down and playing the school song here, there and everywhere. But to record it, the producer Gareth, wanted my recording to be right, so I had to set the camera up, and run around and play the piano. But I couldn’t see if the camera was getting the angle right. It took a much longer time to record it than anyone would think it would be! I had a few friends who had offered to come around to record me doing it, but because of lockdown I couldn’t do that. Sure that’s part of the fun,” she said.

Speaking of the Thornhill College Past Pupils Facebook Group, she added: “The past pupil group was started by a pupil trying to find a friend, and now it has gone worldwide, with over 4,000 members.

“People are posting photographs, helping with names, having a bit of craic and meeting up with their friends. That school spirit was there. So when Terri asked for a school song, she knew she would get people willing to join in. 

“Not every school has a group like that, and not every school has a school song. When the girls won the BBC Choir of the Year, they were singing the school song, the school anthem. The Thornhill spirit is there.”

Past pupil Terri Coyle is based in Scotland, and was inspired during the first lockdown in 2020 after watching the documentary on another former pupil, Dana. 

She said: “I was watching the Dana programme, and Miss O’Hara was at the end of it. So I had sent her a message asking how she was. I put  a message on the Facebook group, and got an immediate response that it was a great idea. Also immediately as well, people were getting in touch with each other, and tagging each other, talking about memories.

“The whole emphasis was that it would be fun, we were in the thick of lockdown, and to be honest with you, no one thought we would still be in lockdown. Two past pupils had put us in touch with Gareth McGreevy, and he’s an absolute genius. 

“Helen Black is the past pupil that did the lead vocals on the video. She did it to match Miss O’Hara’s video on the piano, and then Gareth put those two together so the audio can go out to all the singers who want to get involved. They had to match Helen’s singing as much as possible, so we’re all timed together. 

“It’s about being part of it, it really isn’t an award winning performance, it’s about taking part in something during a really unusual life event that’s global. I got in touch with so many people, people that I didn’t know, or I hadn’t heard from in years. It really lifted me actually, it was lovely. I was getting phone calls from Italy, texts from Australia, it was just lovely. I was in Thornhill from 1976-1983 and two others from my year in the video, and one I’m now in regular contact with, we’re on the phone every week, it’s really nice.”

Local councillor and former Thornhill girl Mary Durkan was also involved in the video. She left the school in 1998. She said: “I come from a house of proud Thornhill girls, and always enjoyed the craic. When our friends get together the school song would come out together occasionally.

“We had a 20 year reunion in the City Hotel a while ago. Miss O’Hara came along and we had the piano out, and we had the words printed out. There were about 83 of us, and we all sang the school song. I liked being part of the choir, I’m not a singer, but I was part of the choir in school. 

“I was always dying about Miss Sheila Carlin who was a music teacher, and who took the choir in those days, we had great opportunities. Miss Carlin is also in the video, it was nice to be part of it. It was a bit high for me, but there were so many strong singers involved!”

Freelance producer Gareth McGreevy has worked on a number of different virtual song videos over the last year, including the video celebrating the anniversary of Dana’s ‘All Kinds of Everything.’

He was put in contact with Terri via his old English teacher. “It’s the power of music and connecting people, and this is an opportunity for people to reconnect to do projects like this. It was great to be involved in it, especially as it is multi-generational and brings back memories,” he said.