It was a case of back to school for the Bishop of Connor on October 15 when the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy returned to Grosvenor Grammar School as guest speaker at the annual prizegiving.
The modest Bishop admitted: “This is the first prizegiving I was ever invited to because I never won any academic prizes when I was a pupil.” Bishop Alan was a pupil at the school, then known as Grosvenor High School, from 1968 until 1975, and this is the first time he has been back in more than 30 years.
He said: “I had seven good years at Grosvenor. I really enjoyed them.”
In keeping with any good speech the Bishop recalled some humorous times from his Grosvenor days – like losing his front tooth when he was playing wicket keeper during a cricket cup match against Sullivan; being on the Grosvenor 3rd XV which lost 64-0 to Methodist College fifths – “a nightmare, I can still feel the pain of it” – and being sent home to get his shoulder length hair cut – “I got the curling tongs out and the headmaster never noticed a thing!”
The Bishop also thanked staff at the school for their help over the years. “I wanted to mention the staff who really shaped me, so much so that I was considering becoming a teacher. I suppose in a way I still am a teacher. They were amazing,” he said.
The Bishop also spoke about his family and how they shaped and influenced him.
And, to the present day pupils of Grosvenor Grammar School, he said: “You are all unique and special. Northern Ireland needs people like you to go out and make a difference. It is a very exciting and difficult time for this community and we need people like you.”
He added: “Remember the universe won’t fold without you. Don’t take yourself too seriously. One of the greatest gifts is a sense of humour.”
Bishop Alan said his return to his old school was a ‘humbling’ experience. “I really enjoyed Grosvenor and it is both humbling and an honour to be back. The school gave me a lot and it is good to give something back,” he said.
The prizegiving took place in the Whitla Hall at Queen’s University, and Bishop Alan was accompanied by his wife, Dr Liz Abernethy.