Student sails to, and through, exams

Meet the Leaving Cert student who sailed to, and through, his first exam.

Michael Collins, 18, is in the same boat as the 53,789 other students who began state exams yesterday.

However, he travelled by boat from his home on Sherkin Island off the Cork coast to the mainland to sit English Paper 1 at Schull Community College.

And it’s a journey he’s going to make every exam day for the next two weeks.

“It was a total diversion for him,” his mother, Majella, said last night. “And his classmates were joking when he arrived at school about the photographer turning up. I think it lightened the mood for everyone and took the edge off.”

During the school year, Michael is normally collected by bus from his home, then boards the ferry to Baltimore to catch another bus to school — but that bus service doesn’t run during the exams.

And so yesterday, with a fair wind at their backs and the tide in their favour, Michael and Majella set off from their home at “The Dock”, at the northern end of Sherkin, at 8am.

Michael powered up the outboard engine and steered the punt to the pier at Turk Head, making the crossing in 30 minutes to where the family car was waiting. Majella then drove him the 15 miles to school where the exam began at 9.30am.

“That’s island life — we’re totally dependent on the weather,” said Majella.

“You’re always running against the weather, and in our situation, the tides too.

“But we were lucky yesterday because the weather was great.

“We could have opted to stay on the mainland for the exams but we are trying to keep things as normal as possible for Michael, with the regular routine.”

She visited relatives while Michael sat the exam, and collected him afterwards for the boat trip home.

They’ll do it all again today, and every exam day for the next fortnight.

“I just hope the weather holds for the next fortnight,” said Majella. “He’s very calm and balanced and has worked very hard during the year, so we’re hoping things will go very well.

“And the amount of prayers and Masses that are being said for him — his grandmother Mary O’Neill, from Church Cross, is praying mad. And with her behind him, sure there’ll be no problem.”

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