Lourdes – The Experience of a Lifetime

The summer of 2017 was a big one for me. I went on my first trip abroad without my parents. Now, it’s not what you think. It wasn’t a big holiday with a group of friends clubbing somewhere sunny. Actually, it was quite the opposite…

1st photo The official Youth for Lourdes photo for 2017.

I first heard about Youth for Lourdes late 2016 when Fr Jim came to the school to talk about it. He told us that Youth for Lourdes was a Catholic organisation that sent youth (16 – 23) over to Lourdes to assist pilgrims and explore their faith every 2 years. It was a 10-day trip that would cost us £650. It sounds like a lot, I know. However, the money doesn’t come out of your own pocket. It comes from fundraising, whether that be a bake sale, sponsored walks or curry nights! It was hard work but we all managed it. Plus, if we ever had any problems with ideas, the team were always there to lend a helping hand.

I went with the Galloway and Dumfries Diocese. I had agreed to go with a friend but honestly, I was still terrified. Around 50 youth went this year and I was worried that maybe we’d clash or just simply not get along. However, you aren’t really going with strangers. The amazing Youth for Lourdes team organise multiple meetings throughout the year before you depart on your journey. This gives you a chance to get to know one another, to check on how you are doing with your fundraising and to learn more about where you’re going and why. I loved these meetings because it helped me to feel more at ease about going away without my parents and I met so many amazing people. The meetings were always lively and fun as there were ALWAYS some little ice breakers. At first, they felt very abnormal and awkward but towards the end, you were just having such a good time that you forgot you were completely embarrassing yourself. Also, it helped that halfway through the 3-hour meetings, we got some snacks. However, way faster than I expected, we reached the last meeting and finally our trip was in our sights.

photo 2Our blessing mass where we received our badges and uniform.

Before I go on to talk about the journey to Lourdes, I believe that it’s essential to talk about why Lourdes is such a special place. On 11 February 1858, a young girl by the name of Bernadette Soubirous was with her sister and her friend looking for wood. When the other two girls went through the cold river, Bernadette decided against following because of her persistent asthma. She reportedly heard “a noise like a gust of wind” but “none of the trees were moving”. She looked up to see a young lady in a hollow of the rock (where there is now a statue) who looked at her and smiled. At this time the Grotto was dirty and damp, known as the “pigs’ shelter” because the pigs feeding in the area. This is where the Virgin Mary (Immaculate Conception) appeared to Bernadette. In total there were eighteen apparitions, spanning from February to July. You learn more about these at the meetings you attend for Youth for Lourdes. You also get the chance to take an assisted pilgrim and yourself through the Grotto. You must remove any hats and be quietly respectful. You get the chance to run your hand along the wall which is incredibly smooth after many people doing exactly this. I feel the Grotto looks especially beautiful at night as there are candles lit and a light shone onto the statue of the Immaculate Conception.


Our rainy mass at the Grotto.

I feel I should also mention that Youth for Lourdes have a dress code. You can buy a polo shirt which comes with a Youth for Lourdes logo on it, or you can buy a hoodie (which is BRIGHT red) or a poncho sort of thing in case it rains. However, you get a free polo and are expected to wear a polo shirt whenever you are on duty. You can also bring plain white polo shirts, but I feel for picture day it looks better if you have a Youth for Lourdes polo shirt on. You also cannot wear jeans or leggings. It’s preferable that you wear dark trousers or a kilt if you so wish. Make sure that these trousers cover your knees because it’s frowned upon to have exposed knees in the domain. When they tell you it’s best to bring old trainers to wear on duty, listen! You will have an identity card and emergency numbers on a lanyard. You must always wear this on duty and when entering the domain. Personally, my favourite part of the uniform was the two badges we were given. They now have pride of place on my school blazer!

Now, I won’t lie. The journey to Lourdes is exhausting and endless but also fun. I was the first pick up point, lucky me! I had to be at St Matthew’s Academy at 5:45 AM at the latest! I am not a morning person and never will be, so you can imagine how horrified I was when I found out the news. After a couple hours of sleep, I was off in my onesie, armed with a blanket, a backpack and a suitcase. The word “excited” doesn’t even begin to capture what I was feeling when I first saw the bus. After getting on the bus, we had a few other stops until we eventually wound up in Dumfries. The journey there overall took around 2 hours, and can I just say, everyone in Dumfries is so lucky that they didn’t have to make the journey up there. I am still insanely jealous of the fact that they didn’t have to wake up at an ungodly hour. However, when we got to Dumfries, we were greeted with rolls and bacon. I think it’s safe to say that that right there was probably my favourite part of the 36-hour long journey. After our breakfast, we took a group photo and then we were truly off. It was happening, there was no turning back now.


Everyone bright eyed and bushytailed in Dumfries at 8am, ready to head off!

After a long drive, we boarded the ferry to France. This gave us a chance to socialise a bit more and stretch our legs. Also, we got to freshen up which was very needed. After around an hour and a half, it was back to the bus. I wasn’t unhappy per se, I just really wanted to get to our hotel. I know I said that this bus journey was fun, and I am well aware how bad I am making it sound at this point. However, the bus gave us a chance to watch movies, mainly musicals which included a lot of singing along. It also provided us with even more time together. Now, you’d think we’d all be sick of each other at this point, but I think we may all have been a bit too fed up and tired to really experience that. It also helped that everyone there was entirely unique in their own way and, as a result, there was never a dull moment. The bus journey, for me, was full of short lived naps, crazy sing-a-longs and cherished memories. After a day and a half, we were in Lourdes. This was it. We were here. Now the adventure was truly beginning.

Now, I won’t give you a play by play of our week there. I won’t lie, I can’t remember every single moment exactly. Instead, I’ll give you some of my highlights.

Now, meeting the pilgrims was an experience of its own. I was nervous about what the assisted pilgrims would be like. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that everyone was lovely. I really shouldn’t have been surprised. Everyone else I had met had been lovely, why wouldn’t the people we were helping be? I had a somewhat regular pilgrim that I would assist. She was hard of hearing and could see very little and was also a complete sweetheart. Despite wheelchair training, I was horrific at steering at the beginning of the trip. This woman tended to laugh about it and jokingly complain about how much I would run up peoples’ heels. Luckily, I eventually got better at it and it was smooth sailing from then on. Anyways, the pilgrim I usually assisted had come with her friend. They had been friends since school and they had such an amazing friendship. They helped each other if they had any problems throughout the day, they bought candles for each other and were always asking for each other. Everyone’s experience with the assisted pilgrims is different, however, I believe they are always positive. I consider the assisted pilgrims my Lourdes family, as well as the group I went with and all the other volunteers.


Our team leaders and some of the pilgrims at our goodbye party.

I believe the Lourdes experience is a very religious one, but you do not have to be religious to attend. You will have to go to church at least once a day every day whilst, however, they just become second nature whilst there. I strongly advise that if you get the chance to go to Lourdes, whether it be with Youth for Lourdes or another organisation, then go. You won’t regret it. They warn you of the impossible-to-shake Lourdes Blues. You don’t think much of it at the time, however, in the last six months since returning, I have found myself missing Lourdes time and time again. Just writing this article makes me wish I was right back there in Lourdes!

I have barely touched upon what happened at Lourdes so if you want to find out more, see more photos or get some information about the next pilgrimage, then head along to the Youth for Lourdes (Galloway) Facebook page. Whilst you do that, I’ll be counting down the days till the next pilgrimage. I can’t wait for the summer of 2019!

By Chloe Anderson

Rights Respecting Schools Award


The Rights Respecting Schools Award recognises achievement in putting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) at the heart of a school’s planning, policies, practice and ethos. A rights-respecting school not only teaches about children’s rights but also models rights and respect in all its relationship: between teachers, adults and pupils, between adults and between pupils. By aiming for this award, we hope to let children and young people in our school community learn about children’s rights by putting them into practice every day.


Through doing this award in our school, we hope to gain a UNICEF Rights Respecting School community where children’s rights are learned, taught, practised, respected, protected and promoted. We hope to have a significant impact on the school by providing a set of values which improve the climate for learning, improve relationships and provide a deeper more cohesive way of working. In addition to this, we are adamant that this award can impact positively with the pupils and adults in our school community. For pupils, it can improve their self-esteem, increase levels of respect, improve attainment and attendance and overall help to provide them with a wider understanding of the world in which we live. For adults in our school community, through aiming for a Rights Respecting School, it can help to strengthen collaborative working, increase consultative approach and provide a platform for parental engagement.


Currently, our Rights Respecting School group meets every Monday at lunchtime and through doing this we have managed to plan various things to help inform others in our school community about the rights of every child. We have attended parent’s nights for a wide variety of year groups in order to raise awareness and survey parents. Also as part of the World’s Largest Lesson, which is a UNICEF initiative, we were able to use this platform to show a short information clip both in the Daily Bulletin. We also issued questionnaires to both staff and pupils in order to provide an idea of where we are now and so that we are able to plan on how best we can move forward. Ultimately, this feedback has been extremely effective with it showing us how many people within our school community are not aware of what the award is. We have tackled this issue specifically in the past couple of weeks by making posters and placing them around the school in order to inform pupils and staff about what we are hoping to achieve.


In the following months, as a group we are planning to recruit junior pupils in order to carry this specific initiative forward next year. We are hoping to deliver additional year group assemblies and presentations to the pupil council and the Senior Management team. We want to issue badges to our Rights Respecting ambassadors and work towards drawing up a whole school charter by focussing on the rights which most relate to our school community specifically. Also look out for our interdisciplinary event with S1 in June in order to raise awareness of the problems facing refugees as part of UNICEF’S Refugee week.Rights Respecting Schools

We hope that you support our group throughout the school in order to achieve this award and use it as an opportunity to learn about your own rights!

The Things I learned from The Boy Who Lived.

When the first Harry Potter novel was published in 1997, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I wonder if anyone recognised its potential to develop into a $25 billion franchise. However perhaps the biggest impact it has made is the way it has influenced the lives and minds of millions of children and adults across the globe. In celebration of Harry Potter day we asked some of our resident Potterheads what they learned from growing up in the magical world of Harry Potter.


For me, one of the most important messages that Rowling conveys through her books is that of strong female role models. Professor McGonagall, the Head of Gryffindor House, exemplified strong females in a  leadership position. McGonagall forced us to admit a grudging respect for our teachers: we didn’t always lack her, but her decisions were consistently backed with firm reasoning.  Molly Weasley was everything a stereotypical mother could be. She was strong, caring, considerate. Molly took in her children’s friends as if they were her own ad was never afraid to speak her mind.  Ginny Weasley taught us that girls can be warriors too. She made us want to be sporty, adventurous and outgoing. Luna Lovegood taught us that it’s okay to be different, better in fact, and as long as you believe in yourself it does matter if few else do. This brings us to one of the most well-known female role model the Harry Potter series has to offer. Hermione Granger was the character most young girls, myself included, grew up idolising. She was fearless, feisty, passionate and intelligent beyond belief. Above all, she was human, a character young girls could relate to, she was imperfect she was flawed, but that made her even better. Hermione stood up for what she believed in, even going so far as to start a House Elf Protection movement in her 4th Year.

I think that the number of strong female characters throughout this book series is reflective of the way Rowling wishes young girls (and anyone, really) to perceive themselves. Rowling wanted us to grow up to be a leader like Professor McGonagall, to be caring like Molly, to be outgoing like Ginny, to believe in themselves like Luna, to stand up for what is right like Hermione.

Lauryn Reid, S6


JK Rowling’s use of characterisation meant that we could each find someone we found relatable – whether it be a member of the famous golden trio, or a character with less focus such as Luna or Ginny. Harry’s 3rd year Defence Against the Dark Arts Teacher, Remus Lupin, is a perfect example of this. Lupin struggled in silence as a werewolf, which in the wizarding community was surrounded by a strong stigma. The perception that it was an issue he struggled with primarily alone can be related to those suffering with “invisible illnesses”, which despite being profoundly disabling, is often trivialised to seem less intense or painful because there are no obvious physical signs of illness. These invisible illnesses often include mental illnesses (e.g. depression, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, personality disorders) or chronic illnesses (e.g. diabetes, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis). In such a subtly way where it

was barely noticeable, JK Rowling taught me to be patient and understanding – everyone has things in life that they find difficult to deal with, by being patient and giving them the space or support they need you could potentially make a huge difference and take a small portion of the weight from their shoulders.

Erin Henry, S6
The introduction of the prophecy in the Harry Potter novels sets up the idea of fate within the series.

The prophecy set up in the novel was that a boy “… with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies….”  to “…those who have thrice defied him… and that “…and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal..”

The criteria reveals that the boy who could defeat He-who-must-not-be-named would be born in July and the son of those who had fought against Voldemort. Obviously this criteria fits Harry exactly, his birthday is in July and his parents fought in the Order of the Phoenix and with his scar marking him as Voldemort’s. So, it seems pretty clear cut. Harry is the chosen one. Prophecy is done and dusted.

However, there is another character in the book who fits this prophecy and that is Neville Longbottom. He too was born in July and had parents who fought in the order, who were notoriously tortured to insanity by Bellatrix Lestrange, but he obviously doesn’t have a scar like Harry.

Now this is when the prophecy gets real interesting, Dumbledore reveals to Harry that Neville could have been the chosen one, that he, like Harry, had fit the criteria of the Great Prophecy. This scatters the premonitions of fate set up earlier in the series. It suggests that you choose your own future, that your fate is not set in stone but moulded by your actions.

This aspect of Harry Potter novels teaches the reader that your future is yours to decide and shape. That your life is not set in stone. That you can control your own destiny.

Niamh McLaughlin, S5 
Whether you are a fan of Harry Potter or not J.K Rowling must be commended for her world building abilities, creating an authentic and intriguing world with an inbuilt sense of culture. When I look at Harry Potter now I see how issues effecting our world today were exemplified in her work. One example of this is her treatment of the media, particularly in The Goblet of Fire and The Deathly Hallows. Through the characterisation of Reeta Skeeter, a scheming and vindictive journalist, Rowling conveys how individuals and stories can be manipulated to create the kind of scandal which equates to a rise in newspaper sales. Later in the series she explores the interaction between government and the media, demonstrating how the two are closely interlinked. The Daily Prophet, a popular newspaper, essentially becomes a source of government propaganda while the alternative and much less popular publication, The Quibbler, manages to remain apart from media influence. Although initially dismissed for its irregular conspiracy theories and odd content this newspaper becomes the only reliable source of information in a time of crisis.  Overall her portrayal of the media is extremely negative and represents many criticisms of the press today. By immersing myself in Harry Potter only to be brought sharply back to reality it is clear that mistrust of the media is not simply an issue for the muggle world.

Kate Ross, S6


J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series is one of the most critically acclaimed book series of all time. After receiving 12 rejections in a row from different publishers, Harry Potter  and the Philosopher’s Stone went on to become a seven book series, and then an eight movie franchise with a theme park and studio tour, amongst other things. Both JK Rowling’s novel and her own personal story have provided inspiration to million of people across the globe.

Study Tips

With exams only 5 months away and exam practise fast approaching we have some advice to get you through this stressful time.

  • Plan ahead- there is nothing worse than sitting in an exam hall regretting those hours spent procrastinating on your phone when you should have learnt the solutions to global climate change. To avoid this horrible feeling, create a checklist of everything you need to revise and use this to create a schedule. However, be realistic, do not schedule 3 topics for the one day. In addition to creating a schedule, record all deadlines in a notebook to keep on top of your workload.
  • If possible try to find a place with no distractions to study, this also includes leaving your phone in another room to avoid temptation or if you need your phone delete social media apps or turn off notifications.
    Try out different methods of studying and find what works for you- everyone has different ways of learning. Not everyone can revise by repeatedly reading over their notes.

For more information go to https://blog.prezi.com/the-four-different-types-of-learners-and-what-they-mean-to-your-presentations-infographic/.

My preferred methods of studying include-

  • Making Flashcards- Flashcards are effective as they make revising notes much easier and interesting than simply rewriting them out.
  • Creating Mind Maps- Mind Maps are also a great way to memorise and consolidate notes. Tip- use colours to make the mind map more engaging and interesting. However don’t waste too much time colouring in your mind map!
  • Past Paper Practice- Past paper practice is crucial to succeed! You may find it useful to note down certain questions from past papers in your study plan like, “Sunday Evening- Proteins Q16, 17, 22 & 24, 2012” instead of “Sunday Evening- Chemistry”.

My last piece of advice is equally important for your health as well as your success in exams.

  • Get enough sleep- Sleep is just as important as food and water. A lack of sleep can lower your concentration significantly making it difficult to learn and study. A lack of sleep also has numerous negative effects

By Rebecca McNicoll

Has Christmas Lost its meaning?


Christmas is different for everyone. For some it’s a time to spend with families,for others it’s a time of giving and unfortunately, for many, the focus of Christmas is centred around receiving.

Has Christmas become a marketing ploy for multimillion dollar companies
to lure innocent shoppers into spending hundreds of pounds on presents and Christmas dinner and decorations? We, the naïve public, spend this
money and for what? One day. One day of joy in materialistic good that is over in twenty-four hours. One day people look forward to and one day that others dread for the whole year. It has become a month or two of commercial nonsense being constantly advertised in shops and on the television. With lights decorating every house in sight rising, rising the electricity bill, plastic Santas and decorative reindeers on every street corner. All of this contributing on destroying the planet for one day of the year. One day for fake happiness, family arguments and presents that you pretend to love. No one, except maybe some young oblivious children, is completely happy on Christmas Day. Many adults are penniless by the time Christmas arrives and are scrapping by until their next pay check.

Christmas, from a Christian perspective, is supposed to be a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and to give and not expect anything back. Although no one knows the exact time he was born; the
25 Th. of December is the date which Christians have selected to celebrate
him coming into the world, or at least they are supposed to.

It is a time that should be about religion and people’s relationship with God. How they view themselves and each other in terms of religion and morals. In children’s minds Santa and what he leaves under the Christmas tree is the most important thing about Christmas. Should children be brought up this way thinking that it is only about receiving? Believing that everything is materialistic and that it is a selfish affair; that Christmas is only one day that everyone should be looking forward to all year. One day out of three hundred and sixty-five that is celebrated for no real reason in the eyes of many.
Although Christmas means different things to each individual person it has become a selfish affair; where few cares about what they give and only
what they receive. It’s is all about shopping for pointless presents, that no one will ever use, and spending large amounts of money on nothing. As bright Christmas lights flash all around us, insistent on being noticed, and presents rise is piles around plastics tress coated with colourful baubles and miles of tinsel I can not help but wonder if Christmas has lost its true meaning. How did we get so far away from our saviour in the manger?


By Aisling McAllister

Books come to life with Enterprise sculptures.

In 2011 ten beautiful sculptures made from books mysteriously appeared at libraries and cultural institutions across Edinburgh. The sculptures came with a simple message: ‘a library is so much more than a building full of books… a book is so much more than pages full of words… in support of books, libraries, words, ideas’. To this day, no one knows how they arrived and the identity of the sculptor remains a secret.the-tiger-who-came-to-tea

The book sculptures traveled around the country in the Gifted exhibition. This was designed as a tribute to the presence and vitality of libraries and arts institutions in Edinburgh and across Scotland, and to the generosity of the anonymous artist’s gesture. The sculptures were also intended as a gift to the communities which supported such places.the-hobbit

In response to this 1st year Enterprise pupils created their own book sculptures based on a favourite childhood, or current book. Work began by deciding on key characters and events within their book and through initial research and creative thinking pupils began to create paper sculptures suing paper mache. They created a scene or character from the book and used text from their chosen book as the final layer. The book sculptures were displayed in the Enterprise exhibition and Tidelines book exhibition at the Harbour Arts Centre in Irvine.



Thank you to Mrs Bell and her enterprise pupils.

The Book sculptures are currently on display in the library for everyone to see.


Meet the Groups: Chess Club

Since beginning the Leadership course at the start of the year Megan Copeland has shared her enthusiasm for Chess by running a Chess club every Monday Lunchtime. Recently she has started a mini-tournament within the club to encourage the members to meet new people and improve their skills. Although she has not competed recently, Megan has been crowned U18 champion at both the girls and overall section of the Ayrshire wide competition. Her love of Chess began as she was taught to play chess by her dad when she was aged 7. When discussing the chess club she was shocked to realise that this means she has been playing chess for 10 years!While many people play chess to relax Megan enjoys the tactical side of the game as well as the competitive element and wishes to pass this down to other members of the club. From beginners just learning the rules of the game to the more experienced players the chess club provides a place to have fun and meet new people while developing your skills.

The chess club runs every Monday in the Library. All pupils aged 1st to 3rd year are welcome no matter their ability.