Radio presenter Kilian Pettit says students should not be afraid to pick creative subjects, writes Esther N McCarthy
What was I like at school? A pretty average student, a bit of an underachiever if I’m honest. But I was a top level class clown; somewhat entertaining, though a major pain in the backside for most — belated apologies to my classmates!
Primary school was St Luke’s in Douglas, only a mile down the road from where I lived. I’ll never forget my first day; big smile on my face, I wandered into the classroom and headed over by the windows where “the lads” were hanging out. Before I’d had a chance to say “hello” the leader of this little posse said: “You’re late. We started three days ago”.
I accepted it — we spent a lot of time during my early childhood
visiting my grandmother in Wales so maybe I had missed a few days. It’s only within the past two years my mum told me this was nonsense — I was there from day one!
I won’t name the fibber, but we went on to be great friends. Probably my best primary school memories are the school plays and football. Every year we held our play in the Canon Packham Hall, beside our school. My debut was in first class as one of the seven dwarfs, Sleepy! My yawn was so convincing it got a big laugh and that was it — I was hooked!
Football was a different matter; similar to my academic abilities I was pretty average. We practised in the community park, with matches on Saturday mornings. I got a spin with our trainer, Mr Espey, and his son Keith. We had a brilliant team. I was probably the weakest link but I knew that and didn’t care. I still got to hoist the cup aloft year after year.
My mum and sister minded me, as did my school pals. It wasn’t long before I was running around with them again, playing chase and climbing trees (when children still climbed trees).
Alongside most of my St Luke’s classmates I attended Ashton for
secondary school. I still remember our first day vividly. Wearing our new uniforms, we sat in the canteen waiting for teachers to tell us what’s what. One teacher, Mr Burke, frightened the living bejaypers out of us about the importance of keeping our top button closed. The chap beside me shoved his tie so far up to his chin he was practically blue in the face. Mr Burke turned out to be one of my greatest allies, fighting my corner when I was the occasional brat; I had quite the sharp tongue and was known to cut people down to size. Ashton was a great school to attend. Outside of the usual academic and sporting life, it felt like an international school. A girl in my class spoke Afrikaans; one of the lads was born in the Lebanon; I hung out with a guy from Texas; and one of my best friends to this day is from Japan. Being in that environment opened my eyes to the world. It felt like you could go anywhere and achieve anything.
My mum would give me a spin in every morning, but I had to make my own way home on the bus — the 222 to Carrigaline. I was usually the first person to get off, so every day was a battle; forcing my way through the Regina Mundi girls and Douglas Comm boys, with gasps of “Excuse me… sorry there…” to make sure I got to the front in time.
Music was, and still is, a massive part of my life. I didn’t study it but I was in a band from the age of 16. We ducked out early on a few occasions to play gigs in the UCC old bar. Being able to play guitar and sing a few songs was always a massive bonus at parties, as long as you didn’t play anything by Radiohead!
I hated homework. I whinged and moaned about having to do it for the full 14 years of school. I’m such a procrastinator, but these days I rationalise it by telling myself I only get things done when under extreme pressure. Maybe that’s why radio suits me — you wouldn’t believe how often presenters run back into studio with mere seconds to spare!
If I was to give advice to anyone in school now, it’s that you should not be afraid to pick the creative option. So many of my schoolmates are successful in the arts, and I still don’t know why I chose business organisation over art for the Leaving Cert.
Kilian Pettit is an IMRO-nominated radio presenter, award-winning filmmaker and musician. He is on Cork’s RedFM, Sundays from 10am, and week nights from 10pm on The Late Shift.