Mike Mearns also sent 4 more items that he has kept all
these years. The first is the photo that he referred to in
that evocative Message that he posted on 9th September 2003:
"It was 2 am in the UK seven hours ahead of Calgary. I realized that it was exactly 50 years ago, on 8th September 2003, that I set out on a journey that even now influences my life.
At 10 am, accompanied by Tony O'Gorman, Eddie Heffernan and Justin Briody I left Euston station bound for Newtown St Boswell's
(change at Carlisle). The photo that shows me then new black blazer, old style purple badge and my first pair of long pants!
All the other Southerners were on the 9 am from St Pancras andwe joined them at Carlisle : Pat Shanahan, Graham Hoxley, Michael Brennan, Bernie Baker, Geoff Bickers and Bill Nimmo-Scott (but he was a second former!, not one of the neophytes).
It was so bewildering to arrive at the college and be assigned one's bed in the dormitory. Lots of tears in the chapel at night prayers.
Meeting up with all the Northerners - Finbarre Fitzpatrick, Tony Rigby, Michael Finnegan, Dessie Smith, and the Scotsmen - Dave Airley,
Charlie McLaren, Thomas Telfer, Ned Harvey, Gerry Cannon, Eric Creaney.
Where are they all now?
The porridge was so salty and the accents so obscure."
(source : Mike Mearns)
Fr Andrew Murphy, the Provincial at that time
(and on the staff of St Columba's 1948 53)
(source : The White Fathers magazine, Golden Jubilee issue, Feb '62. Lent by Mike Mearns)
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No doubt this memorial card has been tucked away in Mike's old Missal for many years now as has mine. We were all given one of these to mark Brother Moddy's death. His passing was quite an experience for us, as young people, for most of us hadn't yet lost someone that we knew well.
'Moddy' was an integral part of our relatively small community.By the time that Mike and I arrived at The Priory he was well into his 'retirement' (whatever that meant for a man who had spent his life working long hours of hard graft to maintain the buildings and work the farm) and he was best known to us youngsters as the person who made the beer which we were allowed to drink on those
all-too-rare feast days. I'm sure that it was extremely weak at one time it would have been called 'small beer' but we used the miracle of our imaginations to the full to turn it into something alcoholic. (In the best tradition, of course).
On the day after his death, we were all paired up with a class mate and given 15 minutes or so for paying our last respects to him. He was laid out in a ground floor room of the Fathers' house, which we entered, very apprehensively, rrom the driveway. For me, it was a very scary experience and I found it hard to concentrate on my prayers as we knelt by his bedside. All sorts of eerie sounds emanated from that radiator by his bed, so I spent my time staring straight ahead, convinced, of course, that I could see and hear Brother Modeste breathing.
In chapel, during the weeks that followed his funeral, I wrestled hard to translate the Latin at the bottom
of the memorial card but although I could recognise several words, not one combination of these came up with a plausible message. It was like trying to crack the Enigma code without a computer.
Moddy was a well-loved and respected member of our community and I hope that my spotty adolescent memories of his passing have not seemed disrespectful.
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Mike also included two 'official' postcards. This one was
issued by 'Fondateur des Missionaries d'Afrique' (Pere Blancs),
which Mike sent to his parents.
I include it, even though you will find other pictures of
Cardinal Lavigerie elsewhere on this site, because you never
know if the Vatican is watching.
I want to make sure that when they do a Google search for other
likely candidates for canonization, they come across dozens of
reminders of this great man and the huge contribution that he
made in his lifetime (and beyond) to the cause of Africa.
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This map of "The Missionary College of
The White Fathers" must have been around
in 1955, because the message on the back
is from Fr Pat Fitzgerald, confirming
arrangements for picking up Mike by coach.
I don't remember this postcard, as such. Perhaps it was only
issued to people whom they felt would not use it to run away.
(Not me. I loved the football and the roast potatoes too much).