Cathal Cavangh Essay

I arrived in UCD (Earlsfort Terrace) in 1957 as a country boy without much idea of what I was going to study. Because my impecunious state dictated that I should go for a faculty which held out the promise of a quick transit from university to earning capability, I settled on Commerce, while keeping opening the arts possibility by adding Latin in my first year. I took Irish for first commerce and observed the look of dismay in Professor Tomás de Bhaldraithe’s face when I told him at the end of the first year that I would not be pursuing Celtic Studies but instead would be selling my soul to Commerce.

Of all my professors, the person who most impressed me with his intellect and learning was George O’Brien. I stress this because his aged appearance (reflecting no doubt period of poor health) in class and low key lecturing style meant that many of the pupils totally ignored him and spent the class hours chatting away among themselves. Poor George used to lose his temper twice or three times a year and deliver a warning about the class behaviour, but this reached only as far as the first row of the class….which was generally composed of the very diligent note taking nuns ! Being the thorough gentleman that he was, George would then follow up by issuing an apology for losing his temper.

Among the professors whom I was privileged to have were Michael McCormack, Paddy Lynch and Garret FitzGerald.

In my spare time I attended Russian classes (for science students) given by Capt Mark Bates, which unexpectedly proved quite useful to me later in life.

Being a keen Gaeilgeoir I was a member of the Cumann Gaelach, which was quite a lively, rumbustious and iconoclastic society.

The UCD chaplain was Fr. Touhy, a very likeable and decent man doing his best in an intellectually repressive period. The student magazine “Yoohoo” ran an interview with Brendan Behan in which his declaration that the university should not be a seminary combined with a cartoon of a couple outside that chaplain’s office, with the girl showing a bump in front, brought the banning of this magazine by the university authorities. Poor gentle Fr. Touhy was reduced to describing the magazine as “immature”.

The L&H reacted at around this period by debating a motion “That Little Men Cast Long Shadows When the Sun is Setting”.

There was something of a social divide between us “Culchies” and the Dublin city students, partly no doubt due to the fact that many of the City students had been classmates at various schools in Dublin or close by. This barrier took a long time to dissipate.

Despite what might now be considered certain negative aspects of UCD, I personally found my stint in UCD both very enjoyable and rewarding. Of course we also made lifelong friends from this period. When I subsequently went to study economics in University of Chicago I found that with the basic grounding which I had received in UCD, I was able to compete successfully in a tough US post Grad University.

Cathal Cavanagh