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Trinity Tales – Trinity College Dublin in the 2000s

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Non Fiction

By Grace O’Reilly

Published in 2021 by Lilliput Press, this anthology of writings from twenty-eight college students over the decade of the 2000’s, is edited by Sorcha Pollack and Katie Dickson, both past Trinity students, and the forward for this book was written by Ivana Bacik, another Trinner.  “This book is dedicated to the memory of Dr Emma Dunphy.”  Katie’s Trinity experience came from working in the SU Bookshop and meeting an array of different students.  “It was ultimately the idea of sharing stories… that finally tempted me.”  She wanted to show that Trinity can be open to people from all backgrounds.  Sorcha got an email in February 2019 inviting her to edit this anthology.  “When we first started on the book, we met in bustling coffee shops to chat through plans,” and then COVID 19 hit.  In this book the writers, “reflect on the immense changes” and “our collective sense of gratitude”, (Ivana Bacik).  The technical revolution, the Irish economy, cultural changes, gay rights, debates on abortion, the Celtic Tiger and more happened.  September 11th 2001, lots of people still remember where they were when news of these attacks was first heard of, and we see how Khalid and those in Iraq were dictated by Saddam Hussein.

The twenty-eight contributors had very different, yet some very similar thoughts and experiences, at Trinity.  The following people’s stories are within, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have read them.  As in the order of the contents, the contributors are, Jarlath Gregory, Sally Matu-Garnett (Loah), Katriona O’Sullivan, Kieran Quinn, Cliona Loughnane, Annie Colleran, Sarah Benson, Erica Murray, Emma Gleeson, Jess Majekodunmi, Adam Crothers, Caitríona Lally, Heledd Fychan, Carl Whyte, Paul O’Connell, Khalid Ibrahim, Elske Rahill, Dave Ring, Jonathan Schacter, Rory Hearne, Kate Kennedy, Darragh McCausland, Wayne Jordan, Claire Hennessy, Uché Gabriel Akujobi, Dylan Haskins, Hal Hodson and Alice Ryan.

Emma Gleeson and Adam Crothers both wrote a poem.  With twelve novels to her name, Claire features highly in the writer’s circle in Ireland, in different areas.  Elske also has also had novels published and others in this book.  Jarlath speaks about finding your tribe amongst, “faultlessly polite Christians and Muslims; enthusiastic foodies and impassioned environmentalists; Trinity Players and rugby players; the long-standing Literary Society and the recently revived Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Society,”.  He is the author of ‘Snapshots’, G.A.A.Y., ‘The Organised Criminal’ and ‘What Looks Like Love’.  Jarath attended Trinity at a time prior to the internet taking off, where payphones and twenty-four-hour internet cafes were frequented by video gamers.  “Mobile phones were only beginning to make the transition from overpriced status symbol to workday necessity.”  Sarah writes, “In 2000, a company called ‘Google’ was really up and coming, with search engine offerings,” and at the time it was new and huge.  Today we literally have Google at our fingertips.  She recalls the turn of the Millennium, where people were “braced for the apocalypse,”, no microwaves revolted and no planes fell from the sky, well as a result of the so called ‘millennium bug’.  Sarah was heavily involved with Niteline which helped people who were mentally suffering, and is now the Chief Executive Officer of Women’s Aid.

As Sorcha says, “The finished book is a fusion of voices – male, female, black, white, gay, straight, middle-class, working-class, Irish, Nigerian, Welsh, Iraqi, Canadian.”  Sally comes from a multi-cultural background, “travelling between…Kildare…Banjul and Freetown” in West Africa and by 18 just wanted to stay put.  Although Sally originally studied pharmacy she found her dream job in music.  Dr Katriona O’Sullivan is a lecturer in Maynooth University helping others.  Despite coming from an underrepresented background with drug use, family imprisoned and a teenage pregnancy, becoming an ‘access’ student on ‘TAP’ (The Trinity Access Programme) changed Katriona’s life.  There were supports from St Vincent de Paul and Trinity.  Paul can relate how TAP changed his life.  His family have been in prison, and, “I always expected to go to prison too”.  Yet again despite being kicked out of school he himself became an educator, and “the first in his family to go to university”.

Kieran “we needed a team spirit” both on and off the rugby pitch.  Carl says “Trinity News…was full of energy, excitement, talent, ability…”.  Heledd came from Wales and struggled with language at first, as she piled on weight in her first year, a personality change led her to lose 7 stone in weight, however “As the weight fell off, my confidence grew.”  Dave wrote “Trinity wasn’t all about Bulmers…I inhabited these other identities…I managed life at Trinity by making connections.”

Rory wrote “He had been diagnosed with a brain tumour.” and Dylan wrote, “I’d spoken to him a few days before, and he told me he had a tummy bug” in regard to the loss their Dads when they were at Trinity.  They both finished their courses and their Dads I’m sure would be very proud.  I was sad to hear how unsupportive her Dad was “he who tore my essays to shreds at odd hours of the night, always just before the deadline”, and it was he who collected her results and chastised her with his words, “At least you’re consistent”.  Cliona “is currently a post-doctoral researcher on a project re-imaging care provision in Ireland following the pandemic.”  Others had family difficulties during their time in Trinity too, some kept going, some took a break, and life continued.

Hal recalls how “The streets are beautiful before the sunlight and traffic.”  He liked his double sausage and egg McMuffin from the McDonalds at the bottom of Grafton Street.  He learned to learn from a kick that he needed from Trinity.

Some had wild experiences with mushrooms, as written by Darragh in ‘Than Stanford Marshmallow Experiment’, I laughed how he got Trinity and The Customhouse Quay mixed up.   Jonathan was left traumatised by a homophobic attack in Dublin so much so that they returned to their home abroad. “The attack, and more particularly what fet like a betrayed by 999, made the transition a bit easier”.  Some met their first love and for some it was followed by heartache, Wayne fell in love and was cheated on, however “I’m glad I knew him in the way I did when we were young.  He was my Romeo, my Heathcliff.”  Back to Romeo (and Juliet) and the famous quote, “A rose by any other name would smell so sweet”, reminds me of the piece by Jess entitled ‘What’s in a Name?’

Players was another place where friendships started.  Kate and Uché are both professional actors now.  Sally is a musician and worked with Hozier and other big names and starred in hits such as ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and writes poetry, and who likes to help others.  Annie came all the way from ‘Down Under’ to attend Trinity and refers to the college years as “kidulthood”, (love this word), until she needed to grow up as she discovered she was going to be a Mum, and Elske was also a Mum in college.  Trinity was supportive and they finished their Studies. Erica recalls her lecturer saying “Amongst these people will be your maid of honour, your best man, your children’s godparents, your partner, your lifelong friends.”  Some remember many scarves that the arty girls wore draped around their heads, their hips and shoulders.  Some remember the art building when the heat was broken.  The arts building “or ‘Arts Block’ as it is collectively known”.

Some people met their other half in Trinity, some had babies during their time in Trinity.  Some remember the feeling of walking under the famous Front Arch and standing on the cobblestones, Catríona’s piece is entitled ‘Cobblestone Ambivalence’.  Many contributor’s mention drinks in the Buttery bar, t and Alice’s quote the towering Campanile, the slipway onto New Square, the statue of Lecky sitting in an oversized chair”.

What is important to know is that you should always reach for the stars, whether you’re an asylum seeker, English isn’t your fist language, you are a teenage parent, your family has a criminal background, these things don’t have to affect your future.

I learned many things through reading this book, including that “Trinity College was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I as the ‘Queen Mother’, reading Cliona’s piece.

(c) Grace O’Reilly

Order your copy online here.

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