In the first on our series of snapshots from our schools around the country, we hear from Galway, where one student describes their school as 'pure heaven'
From the windows on the second and third floors in Raven’s Terrace, one can see the river Corrib flowing into the sea — sometimes ferocious, sometimes peaceful. The river can be seen as a metaphor for our minds and hearts seeking tranquility and finding it in the practices undertaken in the school. You come here, you fall still, and everything falls away. Beauty without, beauty within. Little wonder that only recently, a student described our school in Galway as pure heaven.
"I joined in the summer term of 1998," writes Tom McKeon, the leader of the Galway school. 'The class was held in the Ardilaun Hotel," he explains, "our tutor was Jim Doherty. What I remember most from that first evening was the Exercise and becoming aware and observing the thoughts in my mind. The course ended and that was that. I had given no thought to attending Part Two until I received a letter from the school inviting me back. Looking back on it now, receiving this letter and the effect it had on me undoubtedly changed the course of my life.
"We’ve inhabited many buildings since we began in Galway in the mid-nineties," Tom continues. "From Newtownsmith, to the Ardilaun in Salthill, Bridge Mills in the city, Mayoralty House, and now Raven’s Terrace. Like all the other branches, we attend residential weekends in Townley Hall."
Claron O’Reilly recalls his first interaction with the school.
"My sister told me about a Philosophy class she had attended in Dublin and thought I might like it. A year later, I saw an ad in the Galway Advertiser and went along to the Ardilaun Hotel. I was expecting a PowerPoint presentation and laser show,’ he says.
After that first class, somewhat perplexed, he returned the following week and "15 years later I am still going".
Presently, there are two introductory classes on Wednesday evenings in Galway, one in Raven’s Terrace and another in Tuam. An M level and a Part Two group meet on Thursdays. The senior group meet on Tuesdays. More recently, a Conversations’ class takes place on Saturday mornings, before Plato. All these groups are served and cared for by students in the school.
"The Plato group started some 10 or more years ago, when a few slightly daft students met on Saturday mornings at 7.30 am," says another long-term student, Ann, recalling her adventures with Plato.
"Numbers ranged from zero to three. A decision was taken about five years ago to change the time to 10 am. Currently, numbers range from 15 to over 20. As part of Culture Night, the Galway branch hosts a Socrates Cafè. Usually, over 50 people attend,’ Ann explains.
On his first residential in Townley Hall, Tom, again has fond memories, particularly involving the help offered by others.
"When I was invited to go to Townley Hall on a residential, again I said yes, with no idea about what might happen. This has been a hallmark of my experience in the school, coming into good company, being inspired by that, trusting that, and moving out of my comfort zone.
The volunteers and students in Galway are so grateful to Tom and would like to thank him most sincerely for his presence in the school and in our lives. They would like to acknowledge and give sincere thanks also to all those who in the early days of the Galway School travelled — primarily from Dublin, pre-motorway — to set up and serve our branch. They feel a huge debt of gratitude to them.