(source: Peter Finn)
by Susanne Lamb (née Scott)
Taken from several emails that Susanne sent recently (as numbered)
1. My memories of Broome Hall cover a much longer period than the time we actually lived there.
My grandmother - Mrs. Stirling - was housemother at a London County Council care home in Holmwood, about 4 miles from Broome Hall. She built close links with the community of priests before the Novitiate was established there.
Fr. Len Marchant was there, and Fr. McSherry. Fr. Len used to race my grandfather, who had a little 3-wheeler minicar, back to Broome Hall. He was a demon driver! (Fr. L. not Grandad) He once overtook him on the inside at the junction of the A24 and A29 - Grandad was terrified!
(Source: Eugene MacBride)
It is difficult for me to remember exactly the chronology because I was still at Junior school and living in Wembley at that time. Later, in 1958, we moved to Holmwood ourselves and always attended Sunday Mass at Broome Hall, eventually moving there in the summer of 1963.
I remember a lot of the priests. Fr. Duffy, Fr. A. Murphy, Fr. David Cullen, ( my younger brother Michael, who served mass regularly, and I used to wonder at his "wingspan" from one side of the altar to the other - or so it seemed to us!) Fr. Beckwith (who my mother saw in Lourdes in 1982), Fr. Peter Kelly (whose sister was a friend of mine later at Digby Stuart), Fr. Donnelly, Fr. van Spandonk (is that spelled right??), Fr. Michael Ryan, Fr. Moran, Fr. Tom Tryers, and I know I shall remember more as soon as I have sent this.
Fr. van den Bosch, of course, with whom I was in contact until his death, as I was with Fr. Len. Frs. Dooley, T O'D and Maguire were great friends of my grandmother. I remember on one occasion in her caravan, my grandmother was telling my young brother not to touch the back of her late brother's pocket watch, which was glass. You can guess what happened, of course. Poor Granny was aghast, but Fr.Duffy, who was there, said "Now, he didn't mean to break it, did you Michael?" A tearful Michael agreed heartily. "But it was very old!" wailed Granny. "Time it was broken, then!" rejoined Father.
Collapse of stout party.
I also remember Bro. Casimir. Once, while he was on kitchen duty, and frying bacon and egg, he wasn't sure where to put the bacon while he cooked the eggs, so he carefully removed it from the pan and placed it in the top pocket of his boiler suit! (Mum wasn't there then).
Bro.Joe Mullen who looked at Mum's sewing machine for her , and Bro. Albert Gardiner whom I believe is now Father. And of course Bro Trevor - how lovely to see his picture on your website!
The memories are very rich - we were treated with great kindness and it was a paradise for kids. We had a couple of ponies in the field, a little rowing dinghy on the lake and the run of the grounds. We just had to turn on our heels during the 30 day retreat! There were memorable parties in the rec room at Easter and Christmas. Instead of palms on Palm Sunday, everyone would be given pieces of greenery from the grounds.
I remember Fr. van den Bosch always stopping at my youngest sister's pram and letting her play with the rosary. I remember Fr. Beckwith calling for a chair at the end of mass and settling himself comfortably, delivering a 25 minute sermon (only once, I'm glad to say!). I remember walking in an outdoor procession around the building, following the scent of Old Spice wafting from Fr. McSherry many yards ahead at the front - much stronger than the incense!
I remember Fr. A. Murphy solemnly trying to impress upon me that the blank tile which had arrived with the specially commissioned Stations for the woodland walk was in fact no. 15 - just after Christ had disappeared at the Ascension!
I remember far too much to go on really, though I could...!
I remember many Novices, mainly English and Dutch, though also two Africans - Ron and Josaphat. Many of them left, of course, and even more in the next four years, but they were all good friends to us and Mum and I still wonder about them. For us, they were very happy days, and they certainly had a great influence on me - I have always felt it was a very great privilege to be so closely involved in such a community.
I shall be delighted if anyone responds to any of this!
2. I had a nostalgic chat with Mum (Anne Scott) after I had discovered your organisation, and we came up with some more names - as I knew would happen.
Bro. Cuthbert, from Lerwick, Bro. John Ogilvie ( I think you have received my most "recent" (1974!) memories of him and Fr.vdB) and Fr Owen Magee (spelling??).
Lots of novices' names surfaced, but some of them will not have remained with the order. John Quinn, from Bootle, whom John (my husband) and I have seen since he left the order, John McDonald, Fr. Jan Boos, who came to our parish here on an appeal many years ago, Gerard from the Netherlands who was about 6'8" tall and always placed the pans on a shelf way out of Mum's (5'2") reach - quite unintentionally, I'm sure! several Hans, many Jans, Percy someone, Charlie Bingham, Jimmy Mallen.
I think Fr. Vincent Bailey used to have a pipe with a face on it that lit up when he smoked - much to my brother's and my fascination - but that really is going a long way back , I think it was a coach trip to Canterbury in 1959! It was the night that Sputnik was launched, and Bro. Cuthbert said we might be able to see it if we looked carefully!
Aren't childhood memories fantastic? I am sure I have photographs of Broome Hall, but I'm not sure about people. I shall certainly let you see whatever I can find. Dad has some 8mm cine film. I don't know if you have viewing facilities for that, and of course I should have to ask him. I know he is currently renovating a lot of his collection.
The very night I heard from you, there was a repeat of the programme about Oliver Reed, with scenes of Broome Hall. I quite understand why he was so fond of the place, but felt a bit indignant at the use of the word "derelict" in describing its condition. It wasn't that by any stretch of the imagination, though I imagine it needed a lot doing to it.
The Canadians were there during the war and I believe it got a bit battered, but they were responsible for laying the concrete drive.
(Has anyone got a videotape of that programme, I wonder? If so, contact Paul West)
3. The rest of the family is quite excited by all this activity and I intend to get them involved in dredging up memories. I was the eldest child, so I expect it to be easier for them - on second thoughts, scrub that illusion! I should mention them, shouldn't I?
In 1963, when we moved to Broome Hall, I was 16, Michael was 13, Anne Therese was 10 and Jacqueline was 6. As I mentioned earlier, we had been in contact with the White Fathers since about 1953, through my grandmother, Madge Stirling. She had invited the 5 or so priests from Broome Hall to the "cottage" childrens' home (Hampton Cottage) for a Christmas party. The day before, she had a phone call to ask "May we bring 25 extra,please?" The Novices had arrived!
From then on, our lives were full of "Brother" this and "Brother" that (we children always addressed the novices as "Brother" right up until we left Broome Hall in 1965). It was a bit like having 20-30 elder brothers - right down to the teasing. We learned a lot about The Netherlands - particularly never to call it "Holland" !!
Some more names have re-surfaced : Joe Curtain (Curtin?) - I was present at his sub-deaconate at Broome Hall; Mike Reilly (??? I'm really not sure about his surname) who was a lay-brother. I remember a statue of St. Joseph in the grounds near a workshop. It had previously stood on top of St. Joseph's Mill Hill and was apparently a landmark for pilots approaching Heathrow, so Mike told me. Once the statue was down at ground level, of course, the eyes appeared to be closed, so some enterprising WF had taken a knife to it and very skilfully and convincingly "opened" one eye. Well, naturally, he was whisked away before completing the job, so - as far as I know - the statue is still known as "St. Joseph of the Wink". I hope so, anyway!
(source: Peter Finn)
It's interesting that you should always have known Broome Hall as "Dorking" - I always knew The Priory as "Southampton"! And "St. Boswell's" has always puzzled me. Surely it's much nearer to Jedburgh? Or is it another place altogether? A few years ago, we had a holiday in Jedburgh and I found "Monteviot House" on the OS map. The name struck a distant chord - I looked in all sorts of reference books, and asked all sorts of people what the name "Monteviot" meant to them - and I'm afraid it seemed to mean nothing. Then one day, I made a tenuous connection at the back of my mind with the White Fathers. I wrote and asked FrvdB, who was happy to solve my puzzle - "an easy question", he called it. It was in fact his first posting in Britain.
I'm afraid I have no clue to the whereabouts of Charlie Bingham - I haven't heard of him since he left the Novitiate in 1961/2 (?) Such was the force of his personality that I still remember him. He was always joking.
Mum remembers Dick Schopman also that tall Gerard was retrieving pots and pans off the top shelf in the kitchen as she learned that JFK had been shot. I had been to see "West Side Story" with my then boyfriend, Chris Floyd. Does anyone remember the Floyds? I lost contact in the 60s. They lived down the lane at the White Sisters - Chris's dad Len managed the convent
All these memories are quite amazing - the more I write, of course, the more I remember. Mum has a group photo she is prepared to lend, and Anne-Therese has some pictures. She was actually brave enough to visit Broome Hall while Ollie was in residence - although he was away, his brother Simon was there and he showed her round. Not much had been done, apparently, apart from the rooms seen on the programme - that is, the ballroom (old chapel) the chapel - a large room with a sort of ante-room and a wonderful ceiling (I've got a picture) and the library (where I received instruction in the 15 Stations of the Cross - see earlier message).
By the way, my husband John was at Simmaries from 1964 to 1967. I was at Digby 65-68. My parents had moved to Southport in 65 and we saw John Quinn here, then I saw him again when he went to Simms.
I hope this isn't all too incoherent. I haven't saved any of it, so I'm afraid it's not exactly chronological, but when I started I don't think I realised quite what I was starting! It's all just sort of bubbling up! I shall endeavour to collect pics and send them in the next week or so.
It's my daughter Helen's 18th birthday party on Friday and I have some catering to organise! (not that that will necessarily shut me up!) Kindest regards, and thanks for providing a wonderful excuse for all this! Susanne
4. Another name I remembered is Pat Shanahan. I last saw him staffing the White Fathers' stand at the Vocations Exhibition at Earls Court in 1964. I was there on a school trip (organised by optimistic nuns!) I greeted him with the patently silly remark "What are you doing here?"
5. Bro. Joe was a stalwart at Broome Hall. He used to drive the van, I remember, along with many others, of course. I believe he had worked as a Singer sewing machine man in a previous life - he fixed Mum's on at least one occasion. He was great fun. I remember us giving him a lift to Epsom Tech on one occasion when he was doing a course there. It really is amazing what one remembers! He was Scots, and had a great sense of humour.
Some of the pictures in the gallery jogged memories. I recognised Jim Bentley, although we knew him as Jamie. I think I remember Bob Johnson as well (ex-butcher! - Why does that stick in everyone's memory? I know it does in mine)
Another couple of names have resurfaced - Fr. Bernard Joinet, who gave me a lot of help with French conversation when I was revising for O-level and Fr. Gerard Lebel, a French Canadian. I think he was there in pre-Novitiate days. He gave me a holy picture of Notre Dame du Cap, a shrine in Canada. I still have it - he wrote my name on it. That must have been in about 1956.
I have not forgotten about the photos. Mine are mostly places, not people, but my sister Anne-Therese has several which she is prepared to lend. Unfortunately, she is not terribly well at the moment, having a ghastly cold, and I cannot find my photos at all. That is mystifying, but -sadly- typical. Dad is working on the cine film, hoping to restore it well enough to transfer onto video. If he manages that, you may have a copy - I think it's only short, and a lot of it of course is family, but I think there will be glimpses of several assorted WFs on it!
6. I have just succeeded in viewing the rest of the gallery and was interested to see the Broome Hall pictures.
The picture of the novices receiving the habit - is that Fr van den Bosch on the right, with Fr. Andrew Murphy in the centre? I think the novice second from the right was a Dutchman called - inevitably - Jan, and that may be Percy --- on the right. (All I can remember is that he was Irish - and a real tease!).
The beautiful colour picture is definitely taken after Oliver Reed moved in, because the white steps in the foreground are new. We had to walk to the right hand end of the terrace to get down to the second level (out of the picture to the right) which is where we kept our two ponies.
(Source: Eugene MacBride)
The estate agent's leaflet is interesting. I believe the Piggott-Brown family put the whole estate, which included the large Home Farm and four small farms (as well as several cottages and the large old house Bearehurst, which became Maryholm - the White Sisters) up for auction in 1945. It then comprised 847 acres. Perhaps Broome Hall itself was sold on, or as a separate lot. Incidentally, it is now all very swish apartments along with the various buildings in the grounds. The picture of the entrance hall, with the stairs and armchairs seems very strange! The door at the back of the photo on the right led to a small room which was used as the confessional. To the right of that, and at right angles to it was the door into the old chapel - the ballroom, which is the conservatory-like room added on at the right hand side of the building (in the coloured picture). The chapel in the b/w picture was established in the early sixties.
7. I have realised that, of course, the sale brochure for Broome Hall is the one produced when Oliver Reed put it on the market.
It was a silly mistake really, I should have noticed that the tel. no. on the brochure is a modern one. I am fairly sure the date is mentioned on the television documentary. One day when I am really at a loose end, I'll check!
(Source: Eugene MacBride)