Playwright was part of 'golden generation' at St Columb's
THE late Brian Friel was one of a 'golden generation' at St Columb's College in Derry.
The playwright attended Long Tower primary school in Derry before joining St Columb's in the 1940s, shortly before John Hume and Seamus Heaney.
Hume and Heaney would later go on to be awarded Nobel prizes.
Friel's later co-director of the Field Day Theatre Company, writer and academic Seamus Deane, also attended the school several years after the playwright.
Such is St Columb's pride in its three best-known past pupils that it placed busts of Friel, Hume and Heaney in the school's foyer.
Friel, born in 1929, was from Killyclogher in Co Tyrone but grew up in Derry.
After school, the playwright spent a short time studying for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, before transferring to teacher training college in Belfast.
St Columb's Past Pupils' Union awarded Friel its Alumnus Illustrissimus award in 1997 for outstanding past pupils. In winning the award, Friel followed Hume and Heaney who were winners in 1995 and 1996 respectively.
Past president of St Columb's, Archbishop Eamon Martin, described the writer as a "most distinguished past pupil".
"He was genuinely interested in the students' progress and especially supportive with regard to the development of their literary skills," he said.
St Columb's principal, Finbar Madden said Friel's "seminal work continues – and will continue – to influence and delight people of all generations".
Mr Madden said the college was deeply saddened by the writer’s death.
"At the same time we are comforted by the immense pride that we have in this Alumnus Illustrissimus and in the immense contribution that he made to Irish literature," he said.
"Reflecting on his memories of St Columb's college a number of years ago, Brian Friel wrote of the respect that he felt for those who had been entrusted with his education. Having named some of those former teachers, Friel wrote 'and now that I look at their names again I know that my memory of them is more than respectful. It is fully affectionate.' "
Mr Madden offered his condolences to the writer’s wife, Anne and family.