Graduation Day- The End of an Era for our son, for his university and for his parents

Cepta and myself were very proud parents when we stood beside our youngest son Dáire a few days ago as he graduated from his university.
He was one of the final class of students to graduate from the National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway). From yesterday it will be known as the University of Galway/Ollscoil na Gaillimhe.
His graduation represents the end of an era for Dáire as he leaves Ireland in a few weeks to commence a postgraduate degree in bio medicine (human biology) in Barcelona. Like his older brother, he has been a gift from heaven to Cepta and myself over the last twenty two years. A cycling, field sports and travel enthusiast; a keep-fit advocate; a lover of aquatic life (thanks to Galway Atlantaquaria); a conscientious student; a kind person who surrounded himself at university by a group of very loyal good friends whom he has known from his early days in Coláiste Iognáid. We earnestly hope and pray that he will soon enter a new and exciting phase of his life by starting a long and successful career in hands-on bio science, a sector that will allow him to work with others to use new technologies to improve the health of people everywhere. 
It seems like only yesterday that Dáire was starting his first day in primary school (Scoil San Phroinsias). It was the same month that our oldest son Shane finished up in the same school to start his secondary education at St. Mary’s College. But it was 2004. How time flies!
For Cepta and myself his graduation brings to an end our involvement as parents in Irish education which began 26 years ago. 
So the day was one of great happiness but also tinged with a little sadness and a few tears.
I could not let the day pass though without taking a photo of Dáire sitting one last time in a Galway university lecture hall (and one in which I also sat as a student fadó fadó!); a photo of him using his student card to enter the campus library one final time and a photo of him joyously throwing into the air his graduation hat in the oldest part of our esteemed campus which dates back to the 1840s. Appropriately it was in the same decade that our university first opened as Queens Collage Galway that my maternal great grandfather Thomas Agnew became the only member of his family to survive the Irish Famine (An Gorta Mór). The rest of his brothers, sisters and parents it seems died from starvation and execution. He alone survived. As with many other Irish families, hunger, eviction and imprisonment at the hands of absentee landlords, the British judiciary and military is part of our history. But that is a tale for another day. Suffice to say that Dáire’s graduation is in my mind a thank you and a tribute to so many of our ancestors who experienced so much pain, death and destruction so that future generations of Irish men and women of all creeds and none could have a better life, one based on dignity, respect, justice and hope.
Finally I have to compliment Dáire for celebrating his graduation by taking part in a 80km charity cycle to the Electric Picnic.

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