Jake Lowry, former Sidney JCR President, has shared with us the special message he delivered to his cohort last night at the Graduation Service. Read it here.

98 Sidney Graduands will be making their way over to Senate House today. Most of the cohort joined Sidney in 2019, months before the first Covid lockdown, and have completed their degrees against a backdrop of universally challenging circumstances. We are deeply proud of them all.

Jake Lowry, former Sidney’s JCR President and History and Politics undergraduate, delivered a speech below to his fellow Graduands last night at the Graduation Service in Chapel.

“There is no shortage of collective memories to summarise our time at Sidney, however, none are as profound as the impact of COVID. The panic of rushing home at the end of Lent 2020 seems like a lifetime ago but I am reminded of how, throughout successive lockdowns, we all came together and maintained strength of spirit – through baking challenges (thank you Andrew from Bakeoff), online bar quizzes, Taskmaster Challenges, and welfare calls outside isolating friends’ windows. We will all cherish the memories of how we made the most of the circumstances. I don’t think I speak only for myself when I say just how difficult that period was – so many of our friends struggled mentally, and many intermitted – but none of us could have survived without the strength and intensity of the friendships within our community.

“Whether your freshers’ friendships survived the trials and tribulations of our first Michaelmas or fell victim to the intensity of Cambridge, there is no doubt that our cohort has grown to become a uniquely strong community. Whether your relationship with somebody is characterised by a smile and nod in the library; or whether you have formed the undoubtedly life-long friendships; these characterise this community. I am proud to be a part of it.

“It is true that many of us in this room will not see each other again in the immediate future, the person you smiled at everyday in the library, or who you shared a corridor with in first year. It is also true that those with whom you are best friends will likely stay in pretty constant contact. But in the context of this community, both of these positions, and every point between the two, are valid, important, and essential relationships in determining the character and our memory of Sidney. We have all spent 3 or 4 years together, which have undoubtedly been the most formative of our lives. This is not an individual or an isolated process; but one which is shaped by our relationships with others; and by our shared experience of living in Sidney. The impact of COVID only serves to drive home this point: in the literal absence of stuff to do, and operating under various restrictions and lockdowns, it is the relationships we have forged that define our time here; our collective experience of a fundamentally altered university experience.

“This is what defines our community; and what defines our time here. We all have great pride in Sidney and its people. And so we will always feel connected to this community, and to its people. There are people in this room who will go on to do utterly wonderful things, undoubtedly. These may be people who you haven’t spoken to in years, but when we read about them in a journal or see them on the news (for good reasons, we hope) we will be proud of them; and we will feel a mutual connection owing to our formative time at Sidney.

“The people have defined my time here. I have made some of my greatest friends for life. I have also made many more friends with whom I may lose touch, or won’t see until we get our Master’s degree in a few years, I love you all, and I thank you for our shared experience, and making this time so special.

Jake Lowry in the Fellows’ Garden

Jake Lowry in the Fellows’ Garden

“I have never been particularly religious but, as with those of you who grew up in a religious background, I often find solace and spirituality in the rituals of church and its writing. And so, despite my best intentions, some passages have stuck with me. So I should like to conclude with a traditional Irish blessing.

“And, if I may, it will be a great privilege to first read the blessing in Irish Gaelic, a language which is all but extinct, just a few metres away from the head of Oliver Cromwell, a man associated with the forcible suppression of the Irish language and culture:

Go n-éirí an bóthar leat
Go raibh an ghaoth go brách ag do chúl
Go lonraí an ghrian go te ar d'aghaidh
Go dtite an bháisteach go mín ar do pháirceanna
Agus go mbuailimid le chéile arís,
Go gcoinní Dia i mbos A láimhe thú.

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.


“I wish you all the best of luck as you graduate and look forward to seeing you in the near future.”

Graduation Service in Chapel

Graduation Service in Chapel

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