| 2°C Dublin

'I'll be dead... or still presenting Late Late' - Gay Byrne's poignant letter from the past

Close

Returning pupils: Kate Brennan and Elva Fogarty, who took part in the project in 1995/96, at the ceremony. Photo: JULIEN BEHAL

Returning pupils: Kate Brennan and Elva Fogarty, who took part in the project in 1995/96, at the ceremony. Photo: JULIEN BEHAL

Blast from the past: Ex-pupils Louise Mulholland, Maria McGrath and Laura Hendrick recreate the image published in the Irish Independent

Blast from the past: Ex-pupils Louise Mulholland, Maria McGrath and Laura Hendrick recreate the image published in the Irish Independent

/

Returning pupils: Kate Brennan and Elva Fogarty, who took part in the project in 1995/96, at the ceremony. Photo: JULIEN BEHAL

Gay Byrne predicted that climate change would allow Ireland grow Mediterranean fruits and vegetables, cars would be banned in Dublin city, and people would have more leisure time.

It was January 1996 and the broadcaster was sharing some of his thoughts on what 2020 might look like, in a letter written for a time capsule project to mark European Nature Conservation Year 1995.

Coming to light less than three months after he passed away, there is particular poignancy in the line that by 2020 "I'll be dead or 86-years old and still presenting 'The Late Late Show'".

Now, 25 years after being stashed away, letters he and other celebrities wrote to the sixth class pupils in Loreto Primary School, Rathfarnham, Dublin, are part of a unique cache reopened yesterday.

The late Seamus Heaney shared his pride in how his stanza containing the famous line "hope and history rhyme" had been quoted by President Bill Clinton and wanted that included in the capsule.

Broadcaster Joe Duffy presaged a 2020 "of materialism, greed and high-tech communication which is designed to stop people meeting face to face", while then Taoiseach John Bruton hoped for an Ireland "at peace".

The school was one of 72 in Ireland that participated in the '20-20 Vision' project, organised by the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. Other schools will open their time capsules in the weeks ahead.

The project encouraged students across Ireland and the UK to think about their environment, what had happened over the previous 25 years, and how it might change over the following 25 years.

Grainne Meaney, the sixth class teacher in Loreto Primary in 1995/96, was back yesterday for a walk down memory lane with former colleagues and pupils.

Such was their collection, that the OPW supplied them with a bigger than usual capsule. When that proved too small, the local bank happily agreed to store part of the trove, while the capsule was buried in the school grounds.

"The OPW said they would like to follow the project, that they would attend the burial and would invite President Robinson to officiate and she did. It was a very special time," she said.

As well as pupils' essays about their vision of 2020, observations from various people on comparisons between 1970 and 1995 and a look ahead to 2020, the capsule also included projects on the environment, photographs and video footage.

Ms Meaney recalls how in her pupils' letters to children of 2020, there was a lot of focus on subjects such as "bullying, Boyzone and sports".

School principal Sr Maria Hyland was newly arrived in Rathfarnham at the time but remembers sixth class as "a great group". One of those pupils and another from the Loreto in Omagh who passed away were remembered in prayers.

Irish Independent