THE WHITE FATHERS IN SCOTLAND
attributed to Father
Leonard Marchant WF
(source: Chris Benton)
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Charles Martial Lavigerie was born on the 31st October 1825, and he was barely 5 years old when the French captured Algiers in order to put an end to the raids of the Pirates there on the Mediterranean coasts of Europe. He was ordained priest in June 1849 and lectured at the Sorbonne University of Paris on Ecclesiastical History. In 1856 he was appointed Director of the Oeuvre des Ecloses dOrient. In this capacity he raised large sums of money by personal appeals in churches all over France. In 1860 some 200,000 Christians were massacred in the Lebanon and Father Lavigerie went himself to that country to see that the money collected to support the survivors was properly distributed. There he met Abdel Karder, who had been exiled from Algeria but who had the nobility to protect the Christians, even taking some of them into his own house. We can perhaps see in these events the first seedlings of his African Missionary vocation. He is known to have visited London to discuss with British authorities possible measures to protect the Christians of Lebanon.
In 1863 he was consecrated Bishop of Nancy and four years later in 1867 he was transferred to the newly founded Archbishopric of Algiers. He was at once filled with a great desire to spread the Church to the African continent, inspired by the account. he had read of the explorations of Speke and Grant and above all of a great Scotsman called Livingstone. In 1868 he began to gather a band of missionaries around him with the intention of carrying the Gospel message to the 200,000,000 Africans inhabiting this vast continent. In 1875 three White Fathers, as they were popularly known, set out across the Sahara to reach Timbuktu but were massacred by their Toareg guides. On Easter Sunday 1878 nine White Fathers and one brother sailed from Algiers on board the Yang-Tse for Zanzibar, where they organised their caravan. It took them three and a half months to hack and wade their way to Tabora, and on the way they lost Fr Pascal along with their porters and askaris and practically everything they possessed.
The survivors later walked to Kageye on the southern shore of Lake Victoria. From there they sent on an advance party to negotiate with King Mutesa of Uganda. The sufferings and losses suffered by the first expedition prompted Cardinal Lavigerie (archbishop) to send Fr Charmetant to recruit a private army of ex Pontifical Zouaves, who had been disbanded when Rome fell to the forces of the King of Savoy. He also published an appeal to young Catholics to join this force. This appeal was printed in the London Tablet in March 1879 and was read by Fr Moser, the priest in charge of the Holy Family chapel in Queen Street. His Obituary notice says that he was born in Norwich in 1818 and educated for the most part on the continent, at Bruges and at Roulers in Flanders and at Treves on the Moselle. He began his studies for the priesthood in 1867 at the English College in Bruges, where he was ordained in 1872. One presumes that it was he who spoke about the appeal to two young Scots who were in Peterborough at the time. One was a former sailor called William Oswald and the other was Charles Stewart from Braemar. The latter was the son of Mr Stewart, who built Clunie Bank, a redstone building within a stone throw of the spot where the banner of James III, the Old Pretender, was raised in 1715. He had a brother James who studied for the priesthood at Valladolid in Spain and afterwards became parish priest of Braemar. Both brothers appear to have changed their names to Stuart, as a sign of their loyalty to the Stuart cause. This is the reason given by their grandniece, Miss Mary Hunter, who still lives in Clunie Bank along with much of the original furniture, put in by Mr Stewart, who was both miller and joiner to the little Catholic community. Our two Scots were accepted on the recommendation of Father Moser, and made their way to Algiers. There they took part in a ceremony in which the Sacred Heart banner was blessed along with the swords that they, the auxiliaries, would carry. There were six auxiliaries, four Belgian and two Scots. There were nine priests and three brothers in the caravan.
This expedition, which left the coast in 1879, suffered very heavy casualties. Four of the priests and three of the Belgian auxiliaries died of disease, one brother was killed by robbers and William Oswald received a self-inflicted wound when cleaning his rifle, and had to be sent back to Bagamoyo. The others would probably have died of starvation had they not been received at a Church Missionary Society mission they managed to reach. The survivors reached Kageye on the Southern shore of Lake Victoria, and one can see the name of Charles Stuart on a monument there to all missionaries, Protestant or Catholic who passed through this staging camp. When the party reached Uganda, Charles encountered Mr Mackay of the CMS and in spite of their religious differences the two Scots did meet, and Charles told Mackay that he found the French breakfast of a cup of coffee, very little to start the day on. Mackay himself tells us that he replied: Man! I could forgie ye yer popery, but forwhy die ye forgo yer parriach? Charles eventually made his way back to Scotland, and appears to have brought with him a large Papal blessing in French for his brother Fr James. It is granted by Leo XIII and still hangs on the wall at Clunie Bank, their Braemar home. Later a Captain Joubert of the Pontifical Zouaves, did raise a small force among the Africans, which cleared at least a small portion of Africa of the plague of the Slave Trade. Captain Joubert with five other Zouaves accompanied the third caravan in 1880. He built palisades around the mission, organised a Home Guard and drove the slave traders out of his district. Besides the three Zouaves who died on the 2nd caravan, another was speared to death in an attempt to release an ex-slave who had been seized by hostile Africans.
Just about the same time a Father Roy, a Frenchman who spoke English fluently, was sent to beg for alms for the White Fathers missions. He may have studied in an English seminary as he seems to have had a number of friends among the clergy.
However, Cardinal Manning was busy with the new churches and schools and was unable to allow appeals for money. Fr Roy went to Ireland, and to Canada, where he did much better. However, later on he returned to England and was received much more generously. Another White Father who had relations in England, and whose mother was English, spoke English with a glorious Cockney accent until the end of his life in 1929. In 1890 he had been on the caravan led by the future Vicar Apostolic of Uganda, Mgr Heni Streicher. During the civil war between Catholics and Protestants supported by the East Africa company, he used to relate how he came under fire from a maxim gun officered by Captain Williams as he and a number of Catholic Africans swam away from an island in Lake Victoria and how the Africans trod water so as to protect their priest with their own bodies. Captain Williams afterwards said that he did not know there were European missionaries present among the Africans when he ordered fire to be opened. At the end of the war, a Scot, Captain Macdonald was charged by the British Government to report on the causes of the war and to assess the compensation due to the missionaries. He was somewhat amused to find a rickety old mudbrick building was described as a cathedral, not realising that for the French that term was given to the Bishops church, not necessarily to a fine old stone building. Similar mix-ups occurred in the correspondence of Fr Achte and Captain Lugard, who wrote to one another in Latin. Unfortunately the Captain had studied Classical Latin while Fr Achte had been reared on Ecclesiastical Latin of the Middle ages, which was only vaguely related to Ciceros Latin. Fr Achte realised this and he must have been the first White Father to go to London to study the English language in its national home. Cardinal Lavigerie appealed to Cardinal Manning and to the leading English Catholic, the Duke of Norfolk, to help to end the war. In 1888 Cardinal Lavigerie, though a very sick man, came to London to assist at a meeting of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, at Princes Hall, Piccadilly, on the site of the present Pan-Am offices. His speech was read for him and copies were handed out in advance. This was just as well, as it was written in French. The Cardinal also took part in an Anti-Slavery Conference in Brussels on November 18th 1889. At the London meeting both Cardinal Manning assisted, along with the former British Foreign Minister, Lord Granville. Both events were noted with a full page picture and a full page of text in the Punch, the first time a Catholic Prelate had received sympathetic treatment in that magazine.
At that time 190-195 Piccadilly housed The Royal Institute for Painters in Water Colours. It was bombed during the last war and largely rebuilt.
In 1872, Arthur Prentice was born, probably at Clapham, London. (photo left) His family were practising Anglicans and his father an active supporter of the Christian Missionary Society. He must have read the memoirs of Mackay, with its strong anti Catholic bias. But Arthur was a born musician and came to know an Italian girl in the same block of flats. They played duets on the piano. In the course of conversation Arthur asked her how so intelligent a girl could believe such crazy things. She vigorously denied all such stupidities and he came to study the Catholic religion (and eventually joined the Church). He was obliged to leave home and seems to have gained his livelihood by giving English lessons to a White Father student. In 1890 Arthur went to Canada, and the first time he met a priest he refused to shake his hand, but eventually he became a Catholic and asked to join the White Fathers. In 1896 he applied to join the Society, and arrived at Algiers at the same time as an Egyptian, the future Fr Joseph Sallam, a convert from Islam. Both were treated with a certain suspicion: could a Muslim and an English Protestant make real White Fathers? From 1897 to 1899 Arthur studied at Binson in France, were he encountered a student from Liverpool, Lawrence Lupton, who later left the novitiate and returned home.
Arthur was ordained in Carthage Tunisia on 29th June 1903. It is said that he allowed the oil of consecration to remain on his hands until he had played the organ in the afternoon. He worked for many years in Uganda. Bishop Streicher asked him to start an English speaking school, St. Marys Rubaga. Fr Prentice used to tell the students at The Priory, Bishops Waltham that the Bishop offered him a silver inkwell and said: Thats all I can offer you to do the job.! He brought several African notabilities for the Beatification of the Baganda Martyrs in 1920. He taught for a time in Autreppe and then returned to Katigondo seminary in Uganda. For another twenty years. He retired to England and gave a hand with running the parish of Heston, Middlesex. Later he resided at Palace Court and died on July 7th 1964 at 92 years of age.
Back in 1833 Bishop Livinghac, the first bishop of Uganda and the first Superior General after the Founders death in 1892, came to London to put the Catholic case before the Colonial Office and to invite the Mill Hill Fathers, founded by Cardinal Vaughan, to share in the Uganda mission. The Catholics had come to be identified with the French while the Protestants were considered to be British. It was hoped that the presence of British Catholic priests would give the lie to the general belief that a Catholic could not be loyal to the British Queen.
In 1912 Fr Pierre-Marie Travers, a Breton with Irish blood in his veins, was chosen as the delegate for Bangweulu (modern Zambia) at the White Fathers General Chapter. He was convinced of the necessity for missionaries in British-held territory to speak English. The Chapter decided to separate the upper classes at St Laurent dOlt in Southern France from the lower classes. It was also decided to found a new school for the older boys in British territory after the chapter. So Fr Voillard, the Assistant General and Fr Travers were sent to the Channel Isles which formed part of the United Kingdom, though French was spoken there.
The two missionaries failed to find a suitable property and in any case these islands formed part of Portsmouth Diocese. Bishop Cotter, after consulting his Chapter agreed to the foundation of an Apostolic School in his diocese and suggested the Bishops Waltham area, which the parish priest of Eastleigh found it difficult to visit regularly. Fr Travers acquired a Rover motorbike and sidecar, and enlisted the late Father Holmes, who had been a dispatch driver and the two had visited many schools run by the Jesuits, The Xaverians and the Christian Brothers, all of whom encouraged Fr Travers especially when he became very depressed at certain unexpected difficulties that arose.
Many-years later Canon OLeary of St Swithuns Portsmouth told a White Father that at the time he was secretary to the bishop, and had been astonished to hear the two priests ask to say mass fairly late in the morning. He enquired if they were still fasting and was assured that they were - not too difficult for a Frenchman in those days. He told the bishop afterwards that they were really devout priests.
At the beginning, all the students were French, but when the war broke out in 1914, the older boys were called up to the French armed forces. Fr Travers himself was called up and spent some months cleaning barrack windows. He was replaced by Fr, later Bishop, Forbes whose journey to Uganda was thus delayed by several months. Two other priests did not fare so well: Frs Bouniol and Falguieres spent some time in German prison camps. Fr Travers obtained permission to recruit British boys and made contact with various Boys schools. The Jesuits and the Xaverian Brothers opened their schools to him and it was a Jesuit Father from St Josephs, Woodside Road, Glasgow that directed the first Scots aspirant towards The Priory, Bishops Waltham in 1916. Another influence in introducing the Society to Scotland appears to have been Professor Phillimore of Glasgow University, where he held the Chair of Classics. In the early 1920s he used to stay in Summer with friends at Shedfield, Hants and attended mass at The Priory. He is also known to have made a short retreat at Bishops Waltham.
Incidentally the name means the Bishops (of Winchester) house in the wood. The Priory was so named by the owner who bought the uncompleted infirmary, opened by Royalty at the request of one of Queen Victorias Privy Council. It is said to be on the site of the battery of guns with which Cromwell reduced the Bishops Palace to a ruin. The Palace was being held by the Royalists. At first Canon Ross and Fr Parsons were somewhat reserved towards This Frenchman, Father Travers, but eventually they were both won over by the sheer goodness and politeness of one who was always known to his boys at Bishops Waltham as Pop Travers. It is thought that they directed the future Archbishop Arthur Hughes towards the White Fathers. There was also a parish priest at Dalmuir in Scotland who had a great zeal for the Foreign Missions. Fr Brotherhood had come from England as a child but had become a Scot by upbringing. He was known as a zealous priest, visiting regularly all his flock and always available to administer the sacraments. It is said that his day off was spent on the top of the tramcar from Dalmuir to Auchenshuggle Depot in North East Glasgow. He recited his office and then watched the scenery pass by, while he thought over his sermon for the next Sunday. The Jesuit Retreat House at Craighead, near Hamilton, received the White Fathers Magazine, then published in Canada. Thus in one way or another there were at least three Scots in the group of some 15 students who made the retreat under Fr Travers in September 1919. Fr Joseph Robert and Fr Vanhissonoven, a Belgian White Father educated in England, supplied for Fr Brotherhood in the early 1920s. In June 1927 ex-sergeant Howell was ordained at Carthage in Tunisia. He had been captured in Flanders but had escaped from Germany into Holland, where he was interned till the 1918 armistice. He had spent his time in Holland studying and was able to enter straight into Philosophy in France. He had met Archbishop Livinhac when he had gone to the Maison Carree novitiate in 1921.
He came up to Scotland in 1928 and did a tour of churches promoting the Propagation of the Faith. The next year Fr Arthur Hughes was ordained and sent to The Priory. In 1928 he also toured the parishes of Scotland. He recalled in later years, how one rainy evening he called into Whifflet parish drenched to the skin. Canon Hackett, who was a great believer in the sacrament of confession, often answered the door and led repentant sinners off to the church. He opened the door to a drenched Fr Hughes and barked at him Well! what do YOU want? Fr Hughes stuttered out Something to eat and received the reply, Come on in, then, dont stand there in the rain. Fr Hughes never forgot that example of Scottish hospitality. He recalled too the time he called on Mgr Forbes at Bearsden. After a meal, Mgr, who had a painting of Archbishop Lavigerie in his study, and who is believed to be distantly related to the two Canadian Bishops Forbes, took him into his study, sat him down by the fire and offered him a cigarette. Fr Hughes who never smoked accepted as a gesture of politeness, but took little pulls at his cigarette and got rid of the distasteful smoke as soon as possible. Mgr Forbes noticed this and asked him whether he smoked as a rule. Fr Hughes told him the truth and at once Mgr Forbes threw his cigarette into the fire, saying Im also only doing it to keep you company!
One other person Fr Hughes met on his travels was a recently ordained Fr Francis Walsh, curate in Inverness. He said later on when applying to join the White Fathers, that he had long thought about becoming a missionary, during the years in Rome where he had acquired a doctorate in Philosophy and another in Theology. Frank Walsh applied to join the Society in 1929 and arrived in Algiers that September. He did his second year of novitiate teaching at The Priory, Bishops Waltham. He proved to be an outstanding teacher and a forceful character. At the end of the year in August 1930 he returned to Algiers and made his final oath in the Maison Caree Novitiate in the presence of Fr Paul Voillard.
He was sent back to Scotland with the charge of making the Society better known, and of obtaining recruits and money for the African missions. He knew all the priests in his former diocese and he had good friends among men who had been with him in Rome. Fr Davitt of Boness, Fr McGarvery of Polmont and Fr Welsh of Falkirk are some of the better known men, and he lived with them in turn as he assiduously visited parishes and schools, giving talks and slide shows on the missions, doing supplies and preaching retreats in many convents.
It had been decided that it would be better to open the future Apostolic School out in the country, away from the industrial region of Central Scotland. In due course a house was rented in Tweedmount Road, Melrose, and with the help of many friends the house was provided with the basic items of furniture. Bishop Bennett of Aberdeen, who had given him permission to leave his diocese in 1929, Canon Gray of St Andrews, Fife, Mgr Clapperton, his former Rector in the old Scots College in Quattro Fontane Rome. In Boness Canon Davitt used to recall how the two of them would visit Provost Baptie and would be required to sing for their supper. He acquired a tiny Baby Austin which had already done ten hundreds of thousands of miles when he acquired it, probably with the help of the Barrys of Edinburgh. He was to turn the speedometer through many more thousands of miles. The bodywork was removed and a wooden floor installed in its place and it became a light lorry carrying stones and sand from one part of the building site to another. It was replaced by an old Humber, with a dicky seat and very high spoked wheels. It was a gift from Canon Rooney of Peebles, who had not used it a great deal and kept it spotless. One day, after we acquired it, it was driven through Motherwell as the men came out of the factories. They thought it must be taking part in some Old Crocks Race and they lined the roads and cheered it on.
But before such luxuries were acquired, the house in Melrose had been rented and sketchily furnished but not yet staffed. On the 15th December 1932, Fr Walsh met the evening train from London at Galashiels station. Two bearded Dutchmen got off the train, and the three missionaries made their way across the bridge to the Catholic Presbytery, where Fr ODonaghue welcomed them and gave them a good supper. Later they took the bus to Melrose and entered the house at the North West end of the village of Melrose. The two missionaries who alighted from the train were Fr Balthazar Drost and Brother Modeste. Brother Modeste was 60 years old. He had worked as cook and butcher at the Mother House in Maison Carree, and as gardener and assistant to another Dutch Brother on The Priory farms, which supplied the college with milk and eggs, vegetables and fresh meat and, from time to time, wonderful black sausages - not to mention deep golden butter from Jersey cows. He worked for a few years in Scotland before returning to The Priory, where he died in 1956. Fr Balthazar Drost was a year or so younger. He had studied at St Eugene, Algiers and had met the founder, Cardinal Lavigerie on several occasions. He was also a member of the students band there, though one imagines that he did not belong to the Wind section as all his life he had suffered from poor lungs and eventually died of TB. He had taught in the Netherlands as well as at The Priory during the 1914 war and at the Senior Seminary of Uganda. But most of his life he had been Bursar General in Uganda and Lake Albert. He was on his way to found the house in Buenos Aires when he fell ill and spent some time at home. He finally came to London where the Dutch Superior hoped he would be able to be of some use. A few months later he was transferred to Scotland, where his little help lasted till 1959, some twenty seven years of writing innumerable letters, addressing thousands of magazine envelopes by hand, doing uncounted supplies, hearing confessions and doing one stint of what he called flat on bed in the Pau Sanatorium near to Lourdes as well as some years in Kingussie and Haselemere sanatoria. He finally died with the Brothers of St John of God in Scorton, near Richmond, Yorks.
Although it was late at night when our three travellers reached the house in Tweedmount Road, Melrose, the first task they performed was to bless the house from top to bottom, room by room. One little comfort that awaited them was a hot water bottle in each bed, thoughtfully provided by Fr Walsh or perhaps one of the ladies who had helped to install the little furniture that was there at the beginning. Next door in the other part of the semi-detached stone house were the District Nurses. Fairly soon, surplus vegetables were exchanged over the garden wall for succulent fruit pies. But for the population at large the arrival of the White Fathers posed a serious threat to their most valued asset, the ruins of St Marys Abbey. King David I of Scotland had erected it for the White Cistercian monks. It was extensively damaged by Herefords English army in 1545 and never fully restored. Part of the main church had been made into a Presbyterian Church and used as such till 1810. The Heart of Robert the Bruce was buried here after it returned from Spain, where it had been taken on its way to the Holy Land. White Fathers (or White Feathers, as they were often called) were thought to be the descendants of the White Monks of Yore. The house in Tweedmount Road had four rooms on the ground floor: the parlour, the dining room, the kitchen and the laundry. On the first floor one of the four rooms was turned into a chapel, while the four rooms on the second floor housed a number of postulants, who were to be trained as Brothers. They received their spiritual training in prayer and the practice of an industrious, virtuous life from Fr Drost: they cleaned the house or worked in the garden and in the kitchen under the supervision of Brother Modeste. Meanwhile visitors flocked into Tweedmount.
In the old diaries we read of visits from Mgr Clapperton, Fr Walshs old Rector from his Scots College days in Rome, from Bishop Graham, auxiliary of Edinburgh, from Canon Gray, Canon Galbraith, and from many lay folk including the Miss Gallaghers, who had made a good living in the rag trade, the Barrys who also started in the same way, the Bapties of Boness, the Maxwell-Scotts of Abbotsford, the OMalley sisters, Bel McMullan and so many others. In particular Mr Downie, a seascape artist, and his sister Helen offered him some £2,500 or £3,000 on a life rent to buy Hawkslee and it would also seem, 4 Monteith Place.
A White Fathers Association was started among the Edinburgh Ladies, something distinct from the White Fathers Parents and Friends Association started over in Glasgow by Mr Hector Smith, a tram driver from the Outer Hebrides, Frank McSherry, the uncle of Jack McSherry a White Father. Father Jack served for many years in Central Africa as well as in St Columbas and St Josephs Rutherglen. Mr Tolmie, the father of Father James as well as Mr Donnelly, the father of Father Pat, were also active on the committee. There were so many others that it would be tedious to mention them all.
The Edinburgh Ladies, first organised themselves in Falkirk, where Canon Welsh always welcomed Frank Walsh and his supporters with open arms. They decided to start a typed four to six page magazine called Kizito after the 14 year old boy martyr of Uganda. At first they tried printing this themselves. Mona Monaghan, Bishop Monaghan of Edinburghs sister, was active in this group. Soon it was handed over to Mr Spence of Linlithgow. It was directed towards school children, and had Miss Cissy OMalley as Aunt Margaret. Later it spread to England and was finally taken over by the Sutton Coldfield team and printed down South. The Association also rented a room near to the Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh and met there from time to time. One of them read a paper to the others on some aspect of the missions in Africa. They also made vestments, copes and chasubles as well as altar linen.
Frank Walsh always exercised a great influence over women. Cissy OMalley recounts that when she was a child, in a village outside Jedburgh, Fr Walsh called on them one day. She was the youngest of ten and looked with wide eyes as this priest who knew some of their relatives in Inverness, walked over to the stove looked inside the pot and found, as he expected, that it was full of Scotch broth, of which he soon demanded his share. He knew their parish priest, Mgr McGettigan, the future administrator of Edinburghs cathedral and Vicar General to Archbishop MacDonald. Cissy was already working for the APF and was soon working for the White Fathers.
Fr Walsh had a direct way with women, which they liked. He would tell them either to get married or to enter a convent, and many a young girl took his advice. A young Birmingham doctor came up to Edinburgh to qualify as a surgeon. She had heard terrible tales about the anti-Catholic riots led by a man called Cormack. She went out on the first Sunday to find a Catholic church and seeing a lady with a prayerbook under her arm, she dared to ask her about a Catholic church and was told where it was and that if she hurried up she would be in time for the next mass. When she came out from the mass, she found the same lady, Dorothy Jackson, now a Carmelite nun in Falkirk, waiting for her. She told Dorothy that she was studying at the University but staying in a private Nursing Home, where in exchange for board and lodging and £10 a year, she did night calls. The next day the phone ran and a man asked for her by name. The other doctors who were all non-Catholic were surprised at someone calling her up, when she had no friends in Edinburgh. She explained that it was a Catholic priest and he wanted to call on her. Doctor Joan had tried to dissuade him because it was a non-Catholic institution. The others said they would be delighted to receive him and he eventually came to tea.
After the others had left Fr Walsh asked Joan How long have you been a Catholic? and what have you done for God? and why arent you out in Africa? Joan was somewhat ruffled by this barrage of questions but some years later on she went out to work alongside two other lady doctors who were working for Bishop Roy of Bangweulu, and she is still there forty five years later and still working in her mid seventies.
But the first lady doctor had been Dr Jean Meiklejohn who came from the Shetlands and had become a lecturer in Hygiene at Dunfermline. She became a Catholic and joined the WF Association. When her mother died she offered to work in Africa for her board and lodging and a few pounds a year. She was put in touch with Fr Onstenk, who was then in charge of the British School of Philosophy at Autreppe in Belgium. He put her in touch with Bishop Roy and in 1937 she opened a small hospital at Chilubi on Lake Bangweulu, from where she radiated through the villages with a rather vicious mule and her dog, seeking out lepers and persuading them to come in for treatment. Out in the bush one day she had to operate on a growth on her own hand, and without anaesthetic. Unfortunately she remained partly paralysed in one hand.
Joan Lamplugh was by now preparing to join Jean but had not yet finished her studies in Gynaecology. A non-Catholic doctor friend offered to take her place in Africa completely at her own expense. Marjorie Robson later married Mr Bourdillion (a district commissioner) and raised a large family in what is now Zimbabwe. A daughter Cecily is now a Medical Missionary of Mary in West Africa and one of her boys joined the Jesuits. Another doctor, Dorothy Cunningham, is now married in Wales, but all four were in the missions when Jean contracted Blackwater fever and died on the 19th February 1944. As there was a scarcity of quinine after the Japanese had overrun Malaysia, the Government had asked the missions to use quinine sparingly. Jean had stopped taking it herself until she had a bad attack of malaria. Then she had taken a strong dose with fatal consequences.
Jean had relied on Occupational Therapy, while the newcomers wanted to use more up-to-date methods. So it had been decided to open a leper colony farther down the lake on the River Lipushosi at Kasaba. Brothers Christopher and Celestin built a series of mud huts, each with a tree or two in front of it, as well as a small chapel dedicated, as of right, to St Margaret of Scotland. And it is near this chapel that Jean is buried in a spot overlooking her favourite view.
One incident from Dr Joans apostolate will illustrate the lifestyle of these ladies who gave their lives to Africa under the inspiration of Fr Walsh. Joan tells us that A Beaufort Bomber crashed in the swamps around the lake. It took three days to get a message to me by canoe. I set off in an open boat during the rainy season only to find the plane empty of humans but full of snakes. The crews radio had worked one way and a rescue party had got to the plane before me. I complained to the Kasama RAF and told them the wretched plane was sinking in the water, and that my hospital was finding it difficult to keep its head above water. So, could I take things off the plane for my hospital? Permission granted, I set out with two brothers and we worked all day in the blazing sunshine, and endeavoured to sleep on the wings at night, devoured by mosquitoes.
Dr Marjorie Bourdillon died last year in Zimbabwe but Joan and Dorothy are still happily with us. The Parents and Friends Association in Glasgow will be dealt with in another section.
So now we return to Father Walsh. He was still occupied with a busy round of supplies, appeals, retreats and interviews with potential students. He was also looking for a suitable property on which to build his college. He had been told by the Mother House in Algiers that they could not advance funds for this purpose. But he had received that promise of some £2,500 in life rent from Mrs Helen Downie and he had a somewhat Benedictine outlook, and was very much in favour of the Back to the Land movement of Mgr MaQuillan, who was running a farm at Symington and who had been given a plough (and perhaps a horse) by Celtic Football Club. So he decided to build his college with a German Brother from that Province of the White Fathers, and to use a minimum of machinery. He inspected a property near Darnick called St Helens, but there was a clause in the Will saying that it was not to be sold to Roman Catholics. He also discussed with General Maxwell Scott the possibility of buying a house on the Abbotsford property, or a field of some 20 acres, but this was abandoned when he managed to persuade the tenant of Hawkslee, Mr & Mrs Douglas, to accept his price of £2,500 when his agent told him the property would cost him much more. Already in 1933, Brother Modeste had been busy preparing a kitchen garden there and a Mr Mullen, an ex-builder, had renovated the old Ploughmans cottage and turned it into a little chapel.
A wooden hut was bought and the first idea was that it should be the chapel, and the cottage would be a dormitory for the postulants. However the Health Authorities objected and the lads were to be lodged in the hut. On the 28th May 1934, mass was said early at Tweedmount Road. The Melrose community had risen at 5 am and the first lorry set out for St Boswells (named after an early abbot of the first Melrose Abbey down on the River Tweed bend). The property had been acquired through Mr Hunter of Alexander of Selkirk. The farm was renamed St Helens in memory of Mrs Helen Downie, who had provided the money for the purchase. Mr & Mrs Douglas vacated all the building except the newer Ploughmans cottage, on the righthand side as one came down the lane past the Kirk of Newtown St Boswells. They would run the farm until Martin mass 1935.
On the 22nd June 1934, Bishop Graham, auxiliary of Edinburgh and formerly a Presbyterian Minister, born at nearby Maxton, came with many priests and Catholic layfolk to bless a wooden cross on the site of the future chapel of the college. According to the original plans of the architect, Mr Cameron, the chapel was to be more to the north of the main building. After the war, the new architect Mr Gray brought the chapel and the site of the cross to the foot of the small staircase to the north of the building.
Mr Cameron was killed in an air raid during the war in London. In his sermon, Bishop Graham spoke of the Border Abbeys, the White Fathers Society, as well as of the past glories of the Scottish church, and in particular of Duns Scotus, the famous theologian from the nearby village of Duns. Mr Hughes, a retired builder and stonemason from near Saltcoats, offered to act as Clerk of Works on the following terms. He was to receive an egg for breakfast, an ounce of Warhorse tobacco, hot soup whenever he wanted some - a special pot was kept simmering on the side of the stove - and eight shillings (40p) per week. I think he also received his fare home from time to time. Later his son John joined him as joiner. A Mr and Mrs Hardy, who had a small daughter joined the building team which now included three Brothers from the German Province and of course the postulants who were now nine in number.
The Warhorse tobacco recalls an incident that happened on the building site, which was on the highest spot of the farm, overlooking Dryburgh Abbey and dominated by the Eildon Hills, once crowned the Roman camp of Trimontium. At the time some rough wooden sheds had been erected. An electric winch was housed in one and rust rails led right down to the River Tweed. A somewhat Heath Robinson trolley was lowered down to the river, where the workers piled on sand and gravel and it was then hauled up to the top. An old house at Wauchope near Hawick, was purchased later for £390 to be pulled down. An old lorry was acquired and this rumbled backwards and forwards over the 22 miles between the farm and the house, laden with lead from the roof, and with cut red sandstone blocks from the outwalls. There were also a number of granite columns from the inside court. Add to this two wooden crans (cranes to any poor ignorant sassenach) and really the site did look more like a battlefield than a beauty spot. One day as Mr Hughes was laboriously lighting his pipe - he smoked more matches than tobacco - a resplendent figure in red hunting coat rode up and surveyed the confusion and remarked several times Disgraceful. At last Mr Hughes looked up slowly from the important task of getting his pipe going and asked politely: What disgraceful? Ruining such a wonderful site as this! Then between puffs at his pipe, Mr Hughes asked the gentleman, Who built Dryburgh Abbey, who built Jedburgh Abbey? and so on with the Border Abbeys, and each time the man in red replied, The monks of course. And did the monks ruin those spots? he asked and again he replied Of course not!, Well then, remarked Mr Hughes Just you trust the monks today not to ruin this spot! Good Day, Sir.
But it must be confessed that the first section of the buildings was called The Jam Factory and certainly merited the title. However, the present buildings with the trees planted around them blend into the scenery much more perfectly.
Mr Mullen did not remain long, but Mr Hardy stayed on for a year or two as carpenter. He was later replaced by John Hughes, the son of old Mr Hughes, one other son of whose sons was a Mill Hill Father in East Africa. Mrs Hardy worked as cook at the farm for a time.
The first building on the college site was a long hut divided into rooms, and with a small kitchen and a toilet. The building team of the German Brothers, Mr Hughes and the Hardys moved into this hut, every piece of which had been cut by old Mr Hughes. One room became a chapel and another a dining room. Mrs Hardy did the cooking here. At the farm Brother Modeste kept the larder somewhat over supplied with rabbits; hens that failed to meet their egg target ended up in the kitchen pot too.
For a time, as well, the kitchen was in the hands of inexperienced postulants. On one well-remembered occasion the postulant did indeed pluck the feathers but failed to draw the giblets, which rendered the cooked bird somewhat less appetising.
The hut, as it was called, was made into a gym once the building team had dispersed, but some years later after the war a new stove was installed and the flue pipe passed through the wooden walls without sufficient lagging. One very cold day the fire was built up, and the flue pipe became very hot, setting light to the hut. It was a complete write-off but was replaced by the present gym. Another hut, at right angles to the hut and known as the Bungalow, was built before the war to supply four classrooms, but was mostly used as students rooms during the war or as staff bedrooms after the war. Here also there was nearly a tragedy, when Dr Prentice, already well into his 80s came to spend a few days at St Boswells. During the night he knocked on the wooden partition and called on the priest sleeping next door. He complained that he could not breathe. Luckily it was discovered in time that his flue pipe had set the wooden wall smouldering and a fire was prevented.
Before continuing with the story of the building of the college, perhaps we could mention that about this time the flat at 4 Monteith Place was bought with £500 presumably from the same Mr Downie, whose wife left the money for the whole St Boswells property in her will. Mary Gallagher and her sister were the first tenants and they paid all expenses, until Mary died in 1934. It seems that a couple of rooms were kept for Fr Walsh and Fr Drost if they happened to be passing through Glasgow. Later a Maggie Mooney was caretaker there.
In 1940, when the School of Philosophy moved into the farm buildings, Fr Drost appears to have taken up residence. The story goes, that after the worst air raid on Glasgow, Fr Drost turned up at St Alphonsus Church for his usual mass at 7 am and found everything locked up. He rang at the presbytery until a bleary-eyed curate came down in dressing gown and asked what was the matter. Fr Drost said the church was still locked. The curate stuttered out that there had been an air raid during the night. But Fr Drost, one of the most punctual of men, answered Yes! I know BUT it is time for my mass.
The Valuation Rolls were not kept up during the war years, so it is impossible to know when the flat and attached rooms were sold. There was another house in 18 Dublin Street, Edinburgh that was left to us in a will. But until her death Miss Bel McMullen was allowed to use it as a Boarding House. Both these properties were finally sold and the money used for the building.
But, to return to St Boswells, the postulants were busy digging the foundations of the new college as well as ten or twelve feet deep drains. Some 800 people were present including many priests, as well as Mr Barry, a great friend of Fr Walsh and Sir Walter Maxwell-Scott. More priests would have come but many were kept at home hearing confessions in preparation for the Eucharistic Congress about to begin in Edinburgh.
His Grace spoke of the life of St Columba, the patron of the new missionary College. From the account in the newspapers, the stone was placed next to the wooden cross. So it must be in the north-east corner of the basement under the present refectory. But it was covered with cement and its exact position is in doubt.
That year a Missionary Exhibition was arranged in one of the halls in Glasgow. It was also the year of the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary. There were celebrations in the village, ending with a bonfire, at which the White Feathers assisted. At the same time a certain Mr Cormack was stirring up trouble for Catholics and for His Grace, the Archbishop. A visiting French White Father thought his last hour had come when he was stoned in the streets of Edinburgh. A young White Father and a brawny young student from The Priory, Bishops Waltham, were walking down Albany Street, Edinburgh when they were greeted by the familiar cry of One, two, three, No Popery. They went on their way and ordered plates and cups and saucers from a warehouse and then crossed to the other side of the road towards the two stalwart defenders of Protestant Faith, who thought discretion the better part of valour.
This shows something of the anti-Catholic feeling that was fairly ramp in the Lowlands and Edinburgh. When the college started and the lads played football on a field next to the road to the footbridge to Dryburgh, a man came to patrol the road with a billboard saying The Wages of Sin is Death. The young lads from the farms roundabout took to lining the hedge and soon learned the names of our boys and cheered them on. Later during the war, lights were sometimes switched on accidentally during the night, and a bonfire that was thought to be out, blew up into flames under a sharp wind. The Fathers were suspected of helping the Germans and the farm buildings were searched for hidden wirelesses.
But gradually the relations improved, especially with the help of our neighbour Mrs Ritchie and our doctor Glover. After the war, the students joined in singing carols and put on a Christmas concert at the college. The local policeman enjoyed the concert but told the non-Catholic cook at the farm that it was a pity it was put on by They White Feathers. But by the time the college was sold to Glasgow Corporation in 1970 our departure from St Boswells was generally regretted.
Work went on steadily and in June 1936, Fr Marchant was appointed Director of the future college and Fr Taylor, newly ordained in Carthage, was appointed to be his assistant.
One could add here how Scots students in North Africa during the war, encountered Scots soldiers, who did not know what to make of these Scottish speaking wogs until our lads mentioned that they were White Fathers from Scotland. At that period they were wearing the white cassock and the rosary round the neck of the official habit. At once one of the soldiers asked if they knew a place called St Boswells and explained that they had been stationed in Scotland and had played football with the College lads.
Other games were played with local teams as well as the Polish Troops, for whom one or other of our priests used to say mass. Such matches helped to break down the local prejudice and prove to us what nice people the Borderers really are.
When Frs Marchant and Taylor arrived, one from The Priory, Bishops Waltham and the other from the Scholasticate at Carthage, the building still had no floors upstairs and no glass in the basement windows, nor, for that matter, any interior doors. So their first task was to glaze the windows and carry in the minimum of furniture available, as soon as floors were laid. Access to the kitchen from outside was up two loose planks. Work went on after the arrival of the students and it was far from unknown that workmen would push aside the curtains used as doors and walk through a class in progress.
One item of equipment kindly donated in those early days was a hand-wound gramophone and one single record Down on Misery Farm. Our mood was aptly expressed when a groove was worn in the record and it stuck on Misery, misery, misery, until a little push took it into safer waters.
The Diary covering those early days was presumably destroyed in the 1963 fire - one has to rely on failing memories in recalling the happenings of 48 years ago. Ten boys of all sizes and shapes turned up that September. Whiston, the brother of the architect of Nunraw Abbey was from Edinburgh, as was Dilworth, the brother of Dom Mark of Fort Augustus. Sutherland also came from the capital, I think. McCabe was from Tomintoul and one Christmas he went home only to return towards Easter, with the excuse that the roads were blocked with snow. The rest were sent with the blessing of Fr McGarvey of Glencraig or Lochore: Grimes, Bonner Dan Sherry who was the only one of that first bunch to persevere, and who is still working in Zambia, Central Africa. There were also the famous twins, Dewar and Flannigan, who always referred to their working boots as their pit bits. There was also Tommy Moran.
Fr Bernard Gaffney, then on promotion work in England, did his best to knock them into shape with a three day retreat. At the end of this he announced that a priest friend was bringing the man who built the Queen Mary, Mr Skeffington. When the Rolls Royce waddles up the muddy lane from the farm to the College, or rather to the quarter of it (the north west corner) that was more or less completed, the twins rushed forward to admire the car with cries of Smashing and then one noticed the occupants and told his companion Thats him that built the Queen Mary! To which his friend replied Garn! He couldnt build it on his own! Our illustrious visitor was not impressed. However once we got the boys into Hunting Stewart kilts and fed them plenty of porridge they all turned into mighty players of fiba though they did not take so kindly to Rugby, which Fr Walsh wanted the staff to teach them. So Fr Marchant raced about the field with a whistle in his mouth and the rule book in his hand and had to intervene to halt the warfare that broke out when one lad tackled another and brought him down. That definitely was not cricket!
Each student had a locker in the basement near the shower baths, a bed in the lefthand part of the L-shaped dormitory, the other part of which was curtained off to serve as a study hall and classroom. Here each boy had a table and a chair. Next to the study was a bathroom which often doubled as a spare room. There was also a spare room for Fr Taylor. Downstairs was a small room, now used for mending clothes, which was the Directors office, then a long room and corridor where the present dining room is. That was the chapel - the sacristy was behind the altar. There an altar donated by a neighbouring priest, with a tabernacle the roof of which had once been Mrs Loftuss fruit bowl. Mrs Loftus was the Headmistress of Galashiels Catholic Primary School. Her husband, who worked in a nearby paper mill, had made our tabernacle. There were also two plaster statues, which occasionally changed places at the side of the altar, telling us that Fr Walsh must have popped in to say his prayers. There was a squeaky old harmonium mostly expertly handled by Fr Taylor, but occasionally brutalised by the Director, when the regular organist no longer felt able to cope with the cacophony of his lusty Fifers.
The kitchen was in the same place as now but preceded by a small room which served as refectory and as Fathers common room. Fr Director slept in a curtained-off end of the upstairs corridor. The cook at the beginning was Br Dismas, who made delicious puff pastry, but otherwise fed us on porridge and mince, though eggs were quite cheap then. We used to buy hundreds from the farm at 10 old pence a dozen, i.e. less than 5p. We put these into a big barrel with preservative. They made good omelettes but were resistant to boiling. At breakfast on Thursdays and Sundays we had brawn for breakfast.
The truth of the matter was that our daily budget was one shilling and sixpence per boy and two shillings and six per priest and brother. That had to cover the buying of several tons a year of washed peas at ten shillings (50p) per ton. Now they are called Washed Pearls and cost much more. These had to be shovelled into a hopper by the Director, the only person free and able to do this heavy work, an automatic device activated a screw which carried the peas at regular intervals into the boiler. A powerful blast of wind was turned on at the same time. Regularly, large clinkers had to be removed with a long pair of pincers, and from time to time the fire had to be extinguished and the same Director had to climb inside and de-coke the tubes. After the war the boiler was oil-fired automatically and a large oil tank installed alongside the second wing added at the beginning of 1940.
A variety of cooks replaced the Brother. A married couple and their son Harry brought variety. The lady was dubbed by the lads themselves as The Duchess. She smoked all day long with the aid of a very long cigarette holder. As she read a paperback while she stirred the porridge in the evening, our oatmeal was occasionally seasoned with tobacco ash. On their first half day off they visited Gala and bought young Harry a toy trumpet with a piercing sound. This instrument of torture he loved to play outside the Directors study, ready to scurry to the safety of his mothers skirt as soon as the latter came out to suppress the nuisance. There was also a large tea urn which sat on the kitchen floor - large crowds of friends would come in of a Sunday and after a game of football and a look-round would assist at Benediction, followed by a cup of tea.
This receptacle was occasionally used by young Harry to save himself a visit to the loo. Imagine Fr Taylors discomfort when one day he somewhat reluctantly allowed one of our many temporary guests, to paint a new statue of Our Lady and Child which he had bought to put on his table. When returned, Our Lady had the face of the Duchess and Our Blessed Lord had been transformed into Harry.
Miss May Frizzell, with the help of two Irish girls, took over the running of the kitchen and the laundry, by now provided with a small electric machine.
Up to the war, only two classes were houses at the college, but numbers did increase till at the outbreak of the war there could have been forty or fifty students. When the two years were over the lads transferred to The Priory Bishops Waltham where they completed their classical studies and normally took the London Matric. A troop of Scouts, St Columbas Own with the Director as Scoutmaster was inaugurated, with the idea of familiarising the boys with the Scout movement, which they might be called upon to direct in the missions later on.
The German Brothers had returned home and two Canadian Brothers, Philip Neri and Romeo Lamourex took their place. For a time Brother Philip ran the farm until he took a sowing machine back to Mr Swinton, the butcher. He left the horse to graze by the side of the road while he asked the farmer where to put the machine. A passing car caused the horse to bolt and a number of vehicles were dented as the agricultural machine swayed wildly behind the horse, determined at all costs to return to his stable.
The two Brothers, with Mr Hughes, who had stayed on as carpenter, added three rooms at the beginning of the corridor going to the present chapel. That chapel was added after the war in the time of Fr Andrew Murphy, who was to become Provincial and later the founder of our houses in Australia. It contains a stone kindly donated by the authorities at Melrose Abbey and is placed at the back of the chapel with an inscription recalling that it had re-echoed to the chanting of the medieval monks and now to the voices of our students. It is still used as a Catholic chapel and still contains two fine wooden statues of the Sacred Heart and of Our Blessed Lady, donated by the Maxwell-Scotts, as well as a fine organ the gift of Lord Lothian when he replaced the chapel in the hut by an exquisite chapel in the tower. There were also two carved statues of the martyrs of Uganda who perished by the spear or on a bonfire in 1885 and 1886, and who were canonised by Pope Paul VI during the Second Vatican Council. The benches in the chapel were adjusted to suit the smaller building after having served for years in a non-Catholic edifice.
Round about the same time a second floor was added with a sloping roof. Later in the early 1960s the South and East wings were added but they were not completed at the time of the fire in November 1963. They were completed and the old part, destroyed by the fire was remodelled and the final touches were given to the new parts.
For completions sake, we must state that the 1976 Chapter decided to close down most of our Junior seminaries. So the whole property, apart from the farm, which had been sold to Colonel Peake in 1948, passed into the hands of the Glasgow Corporation who use it as a Residential School for young Catholic children from Glasgow.
Our thoughts, however, were far from all this as we moved in procession up the muddy lane from the farm to the college, for the Solemn opening on the 1st November 1936, by Bishop Roy who was at Heston, learning English to use in his new diocese or vicariate in Northern Rhodesia. Nor did it enter our minds that 27 years later almost to the day the part of the college blessed would be destroyed-by fire. So we sung away lustily at the Litanies as we avoided the worse holes, full of mud.
The event was filmed and shown on local screens, but one incident the Director had to rectify, was omitted. He noticed that the door of the college was wide open and people were flowing in and out all the time. So he had to go on ahead and persuade some people to stay inside. He then locked the main door and awaited the arrival of the Bishop, who solemnly unlocked the door and declared the college open.
Of course we had already occupied the building for several weeks before.
So life continued on its reasonably smooth way. There were a few hair-raising, not to say skin bruising happenings. Flannigan playing about with one of the cranes and managed to disengage the ratchet. The iron handle whizzed around, nearly disposing of Johnny, and at the same time the boom came crashing down and narrowly missed Whiston. On another occasion he found a ladder in place and scaled it on to the flat roof. There he ran about on the narrow ledge, leaning over and waving down till he attracted the attention of one of the staff, who quietly called him down and only manifested his wrath, once Johnny was safely on the ground There were other vigorous displays of dissent among the students, when half bricks lying around from the building operations were sometimes used as missiles. The staff had to react somewhat violently to put an end to such dangerous practices. But if the students were somewhat undisciplined to start with, most of them showed the same enthusiasm in their studies and in their prayers, and life began to flow more smoothly in the college.
St Columbas Own was inaugurated with 15 minutes vigil, followed by the making of promises before the Blessed Sacrament. There was the usual round of sessions of knot-making or amateur cooking and of camping in the valley. One trek to the Rubers Law near Denholm, Hawick nearly ended in disaster. The lads found it much farther away than suspected and had to be rescued by the Director, who managed to pack half a dozen lads with their poles etc, by opening the sunroof of his secondhand Baby Austin, acquired for £60.
Classes were given in the dining room and even at times in the heating chamber - at least it was warm there. Exams were organised, concerts arranged in the hut, and a good deal of work in the grounds. Trees were planted but most of them failed to stand up to the winds. At one time many hundreds of strawberry plants, donated by Mr Kerr of Ancrum were laid out in beds on the Northern slope behind the main building.
Examinations took place, the boys left on holidays, new boys arrived including Tom Dooley, who was ordained in 1945 and served many years in East Africa, Rome and Scotland. Young Scottish priests returned from Carthage with the oil of ordination still fresh on their hands. Fr John Bradley of Motherwell (died 1983) was one of these. He was a nephew of Fr Willy Bradley who had sent us several lads from Longriggend back in 1929.
The Superior General, Bishop Birraux, came from Algiers to see for himself and was somewhat disappointed to find only ten lads. But their numbers did increase and by the outbreak of the war there must have been about forty students in the two classes.
In Summer, coaches would bring down hundreds of visitors who would arrive to visit their college, as they called it. We had to feed them as best we could with the generous help of Mr Featherstone the village baker. For the first year there was a single bursar and the farm, and Fr Director was reprimanded for buying a pound of sausages without due permission from Fr Drost. This arrangement was made to keep spending at a minimum but it had its drawbacks and in 1937 Fr Taylor became bursar of the college but with no increase in budget. 8p a day may not sound much to feed a growing boy but one must remember that an unskilled worker was lucky to get more than £1 a week, that lambs sold for £2.50 in the market and that electricity was a halfpenny (old money) per unit.
The farm diary mentions the misdeeds of students who trod down the growing hay. Nearly all our boys came from towns and were convinced that milk was made in a factory. There was also the near breakdown in communications when the hedge clippings were not collected up and the postman suffered punctures in both wheels.
But by and large life proceeded quietly on its way. Many of our former students do refer to those days as the happiest of their lives.
We were not immune to the events in the world about us.
In 1935 Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pius XIII had presided over the Triduum when mass was said continuously at Lourdes day and night for three days to commemorate the l9th centenary of our Redemption. That same year George V had celebrated his Silver Jubilee amid great warmth, much to the Kings surprise. He died in 1936 and was succeeded by his son, Edward the VIII. He abdicated when the Baldwin Government refused to allow him to marry Mrs Simpson in a morganatic marriage and was succeeded that same 1936 by his brother George VI.
In the summer of 1939 it was decided to bring back the British Philosophers from Belgium who had studied at Autreppe after the very near loss of one complete class of British students at Kerlois. Fr Howell had done one years study at Columbier, which was the temporary home of the French White Father philosophers after Binson was destroyed at the end of the war in 1918. Owing to the increase in the number of British students and the growing danger of war, Autreppe was handed back to the Belgian Province and for the British students it was decided to re-open a school of Philosophy in Great Britain. Re-open because in 1922, Fr Prentice, after returning from Uganda, accompanied by two survivors from the Baganda Martyrs, to assist at the beatification, was appointed to open a school at The Priory, and Fr Howell did his second year there before going on to the Maison Carree, where as a novice he spoke to Archbishop Livinhac, the successor of Cardinal Lavigerie, the Founder.
The future Archbishop Hughes did one year of philosophy before going on to Kerlois with Br De Lusignan, a future parish priest of Hammersmith, to complete his course at Kerlois in Brittany. Autreppe, which had been the rest house for the Belgian houses, had been loaned to the British in 1924, and run as their School of Philosophy under Fr Onstenk and later under Fr J Egan. A large house with very large and modern stables, not far from the racecourse at Doncaster, had been purchased, and the staff had moved in. But at the outbreak of war the house and stables had been commandeered. So some twenty philosophers were sent down to The Priory with Fr Deletijk and Jack Maguire. At the end of 1939 they joined the French school at Kerlois.
When the German armies broke through in 1940 few realised that France would collapse and there was some hesitation before the British group travelled down towards the dividing line between occupied and unoccupied France. On one occasion they crossed a Ferry along with a number of German soldiers. But arriving at the dividing line they were warned that if they did cross, the villagers who had given them food and shelter for the night would be held responsible for their escape. So they walked back to Kerlois and there the non-Irish were interned first in Brittany and later in some old barracks at St Denis, near Paris.
They were released by the advancing allies in 1944. So accommodation had to be found for the 1940 class. The Priory was full and also dangerous. The staff and students spent many nights and even days in a long shelter which had been dug into the high back at the end of the football pitch nearest the top fence. Entry was from the football field and the roof had been strengthened with curved sheets of corrugated iron with the excavated dirt piled on top. So the Philosophers were sent to the farm. It appears that the postulants moved down to The Priory.
It also seems that the Promotion workers Frs Walsh and Drost moved into the flat at 4 Monteith Place. It seems that Fr Stanley Lea was in charge with Fr Taylor, though by 1941 Fr Egan was back as superior.
One should have mentioned earlier that in 1938 some so-called Jewish refugees from Austria came to Scotland and three of them were lodged at the farm. Later in 1939 two German White Fathers came to the College to learn English and were still there when war broke out. They were interned and sent to Canada.
Along with the German Brothers who had worked on the College building all this gave the impression that we were, if not Germans, at least on the German side. This, along with the incidents of the breakdown in the college blackout and the bonfire that blew up and burst into flames at night, led to the searching of our property for hidden wirelesses and the commandeering of Fr Drosts beloved maps - not much of a hardship as the maps of his British companions were left untouched. But he was a member of a country occupied by the Germans and was obliged to report regularly at Melrose Police Station.
By 1941 there were three priests, 9 students and Brothers Albertus, John Ogilvie and Fisher (John). Things were very tight at the farm and Promotion must have gone to Glasgow. Meanwhile, in the summer of 1939, Fr Marchant was appointed to Uganda and Fr (Taffy) Stanley had been appointed this time as Superior of the college. The farm and the college formed two separate communities. In 1940 the situation down South became critical and the students there evacuated to St Columbas College. It seems that the Postulant Brothers and a couple of priests, perhaps Fr James Smith who had returned from Uganda in 1939 or a year earlier, had stayed on in the Fathers House.
Accommodation at the college in Scotland was very tight, but the completion of the South West wing did ease things. In 1941 the second year philosophers moved up to the two huts and the new first year took over at the farm. At the end of 1942 the British scholastics in North Africa were able to return home, owing to the efforts of Fr Bernard Gaffney who after serving two years in Iceland, had accompanied the Allied Landing force to Casablanca and Algiers.
The scholastics, along with two or three priests who had been ordained at Carthage, had been unable to return owing to the German occupation of Carthage and Tunisia, or because of the earlier occupation of the North of France. These men now returned in the empty troopships, but - quite a modern touch with the evacuation of Beirut - Fr Gaffney, who became pro-provincial of Great Britain, was presented after the war with a bill for first class travel. The men from North England and from Scotland were fitted in somewhere or other.
Thus it came about that for a time in 1943, all the teaching facilities of the Pro-Province were concentrated at St Boswells. Scholastics, Philosophers and Junior Seminarians. In 1940 at the end of the summer term, all the students had moved up but by 1943 the Junior seminarists returned to Bishops Waltham. The College was handed over to the Philosophers, with their new superior Fr Howell and his assistant Fr Gerard Rathe. The farm appears to have reverted to its original rôle of farm and postulate for Lay Brothers. One who spent some time at the farm was Fr Pat Boyd, recently returned from Zambia to undergo an eye operation.
In 1943 Rossington Hall itself was returned to the White Fathers, though the army kept on the stables and the fields and maintained a large number of mules there. This greatly improved the fertility of the soil and made the feeding of our own cows somewhat easier. The students and staff were now under Fr Brown, who had been replaced by Fr Gaffney released from the army. They appear to have lived mainly on pigs that insisted in falling down the cellar and breaking their necks along with large quantities of sausages which had been filled, believe it or not, with herring fish. It is understood that this delicacy was unappreciated either by students or by staff. But the previous year the philosopher had taken over the College with Fr Howell as superior.
The English students had returned to The Priory, where they remained under various superiors until the 1967 Chapter decided on the closing of Junior Seminaries. Then for a time the English boys attended St Johns College, Southsea while living in a hostel under the charge of Fr Bill Smith.
The war years in the Province were one great game of musical chairs. However, while they were in Scotland, at least one of them sat for the London Matriculation in Glasgow, presumably as a wartime measure. The future Provincial, Fr Bernard Duffy, recently dead, is known to have stayed at 4 Monteith Place while sitting for his Matric. Some of the Junior Seminarians were transferred to the farm for some time. One of the events recorded in our mythology concerned a lad named Innocent. He was a well built young man and cut quite a figure in his kilt and sporran and this led to his downfall. The train driver caught a glimpse of him as two or three of our boys dropped small pebbles on the passing train, from the road bridge above. When Innocent was brought before the Beak, the local paper made great play with a title Innocent pleads Guilty. What the editor may not have known was that at the same time we had a boy called Gielty, and that he could well have pleaded Innocent.
But perhaps the most memorable event of The Priory Boys stay in Scotland was the death of Fr Dorus Rijkers. Dorus, as everyone called him, was born in the Netherlands in 1907, made his novitiate at Maison Carree in 1926 and was ordained priest in 1932. He taught for a time in Holland and then, partly for health reasons, he was transferred to The Priory and came up North with the students in 1940. He became a popular figure in the Border parishes, but in 1942 he was admitted to St Raphaels, Edinburgh and died there from kidney failure on the 27th April 1942. His body was taken to St Peters, Morningside on the 29th and from there brought by train to St Boswells Station. There both communities met the coffin and carried it in relays of Philosophers and Junior Seminaries up to the College. His Requiem was sung by Fr James Smith (in charge of the boys) assisted by Frs Egan and Lea as deacon and sub-deacon. Fr Walsh blessed the tomb in the new cemetery prepared on a site overlooking the old Abbey below.
Willy Griffin, one of the Philosophers, who had helped to prepare the cemetery and to dig Doruss grave, was himself destined to be buried there in 1957. He was one of that first group to be ordained by the Archbishop of Edinburgh in the little white church at Jedburgh. He had trained as a motor mechanic and was appointed as bursar to Bukalasa seminary. He became ill in 1956 and was brought home to be treated by his own brother, Dr Joseph Griffin in the Glasgow Southern General. He died in Knightswood Hospital on the 28th June 1957, which that year was the feast of the Sacred Heart.
The third missionary to be buried in that lovely little cemetery, so devotedly maintained by the present day staff, is Fr Balthazar Drost. In his own quiet way, by writing thousands of letters, by sermons, retreats and uncountable personal contacts, he will have been one of the most powerful agents of making the African Missions known in Scotland. He came to Melrose in 1932, and worked there, and at St Boswells, Glasgow and St Andrews till 1951. He spent three years at the White Father sanatorium, near Lourdes. In 1954 he returned to Rutherglen, at his own request. He then spent some time with the nuns at Kingussie, and later with the nuns at Haslemere, Surrey. He spent some time at Broome Hall, for he was never really happy outside his community, and finally ended his days with the Brothers of John of God at Scorton, Yorks and died there on the 1st August 1959: A truly great priest as Bishop Walsh said of him during his requiem mass at St Boswells.
Perhaps one could mention here the Scottish White Fathers who have died over the past 50 years. The first to give his life for Christ was Brother Gerard Monaghan from Wishaw, who at the end of his novitiate at Maison Carree, near Algiers, was sent to the Sanatorium at Pau and died there on the 17th December 1936. He was only 25 years old. Six years later his younger brother Pat died at Carthage on the 6th January 1943, during the German occupation of Tunisia. Later that same year, Pats twin brother Hugh was ordained at Carthage. He survived a bad attack of TB, the disease which had carried off his two brothers, and is at present working in the Presses Lavigerie at Bujumbura, Burundi.
The first Scottish priest to die with the White Fathers was Fr Tom Duffy of Motherwell, Lanarkshire (not Lancashire, as our records proclaim). Nor is it likely that his parents were Barnard Duffy and Marie McKenna. Bernard Duffy and Marie McKenna appear more probable names. Fr Tom was born on 6th June 1912 and ordained priest at Carthage on the 11th June 1938. He was appointed to Uganda and arrived there that same year. He was one of the volunteers to accompany Fr (the future archbishop) Arthur Hughes into the Gulu district to replace the Italian Verona priest interned in 1940.
John Moran was from Edinburgh and was born in 1909. Ordained in Carthage in 1938, he served in North Rhodesia and joined the army in 1940. He served with African troops with great distinction in the Middle East, returned to Africa and died on the 3rd September 1959.
The next to die was Robert McErlean from Dumbart, better known as Br Nic. He was killed in August 1964, as he stood by his motorcycle to let a military convoy go by in Oyo, Nigeria. He was hit by an overtaking jeep.
Br James Walsh had taken the name of Bro Mungo, who was professed in 1939 and served for a time at a large farm and vineyard in North Africa at Thibar. During the advance of the allied troops there, Thibar became a military hospital and Br Mungo, when saying his rosary in the vineyard at night frightened the daylights out of some soldiers, who were helping themselves to his grapes. They thought he was a ghost when he appeared suddenly in his white habit. Later in Central Africa he had to change his name as in Swahili, Mungo means God. Luckily all he had to do was to change his name to Kentigern and was known from then on as Kenty. He returned to Scotland in ill health and died in Glasgow in 1968.
The next year we lost Fr Paul Anthony (Sullivan) who suffered a heart attack while helping out the American Province. He had been made a special minister of the Eucharist and had distributed Holy communion shortly before he died on Christmas Eve 1969.
Fr Andy Murphy from Dumbarton had taught at The Priory after his ordination in 1943 at Jedburgh. He was in charge of St Columbas College after the war, and had been appointed Novice Master to the Brother at Monteviot. He became British Provincial in 1959. He assisted as Provincial at the 1967 Chapter, after which he was sent to open the Australia house at Erskinville N.S.W. He said mass in the parish and went to dine with a Catholic family of the parish. He had a heart attack at the end of the meal and died soon after on the 28th May 1972.
One of the great Scottish White Father characters, Owen (Podgy) McGhee had served in Central Africa, and as a chaplain with the African troops in Burma. In fact he had more or less won the war over there. Later he served for some years in Dorking and in Rutherglen. The last day of his life he assisted at the requiem for Canon Rooney the parish priest of Rutherglen, drove a friend down to Beith and back, and then collapsed during the night of 14th June 1974.
Fr Hugh Bonner, was another army chaplain with the African troops in the Far East. He was a renowned leg puller and turned up in one of our missions in his army uniform and said he was an Anglican who was thinking of becoming an RC. As he had only one night to spare the good fathers continued to discuss the matter till late at night and they were more than a little surprised in the morning when he appeared in a White Father habit and asked to say mass. After the war he returned to his mission in modern Zambia and after great deeds done for Christ as well as for the hell of it he died on the 21st March 1978.
In 1980 we lost three great Scots. Jack Robinson from Motherwell who worked so hard in Africa, Scotland and Ireland, as well as in the States, and who must be known to hundreds if not thousands of our friends, died on the 8th May. John McSherry from Paisley died on the 8th August and Danny McComisky on the 31st October, all three men very well known in Scotland and who had done valiant work in various parts of the world.
Fr Jack died of diabetes, Fr Jack McSherry of a heart attack, soon after returning from Lourdes, where he had been chaplain to a Scottish pilgrimage. Fr Dan had been working in a parish in the South of England and had come up to London for a short break. He had nearly died during mass in his parish but a doctor assisting at the mass saved his life. But this time, he went out to buy himself a pair of shoes, brought them back to the house and again went out for a short walk. He was picked up from the pavement and taken to a nearby hospital where he died shortly afterwards.
But we have overlooked Fr John Conway, who died of a heart attack in Uganda where he was working as the Cardinals secretary. That was on 1st November 1972.
All men who had remained faithful to their dedication to Africa. May they rest in Peace.
On the 18th June 1943 six of the scholastics who had escaped from Carthage before the Germans took over Tunisia, were ordained priests by the Archbishop in his cathedral at Edinburgh. These were Frs James Barry, the present superior of Rutherglen, Andrew Murphy who died in Australia, John McSherry who died in Glasgow, Geoffrey Sweeney still at work in Tanzania, Thomas Kane, the superior of Corfton Road Home for the Elderly and James Tolmie the Vocations Director at Ratho near Edinburgh. At the same time Fr Hugh Monaghan was ordained in Carthage. All of these except Fr Sweeney were from Scotland.
That same year Brother Joseph Sullivan (Paul Anthony) made his first profession. He too was born in Scotland. The next year in 1944 four more White Fathers were ordained in Edinburgh, two of them Scots, Fr Joseph Rice now at Rutherglen and Fr Francis Dickson at present on the staff at Ratho. Fr Pat Boyd, now working in Zambia was allowed a special privilege of being ordained in his home parish of Motherwell, along with his brother Fr George Boyd in 1948. In 1944 Brothers Lionel ONeill and James Sweeney (Cuthbert and John Ogilvie made their final oaths almost surely in St Columbas chapel). In the autumn of 1943 the philosophers moved down to Rossington Hall, Yorks, where the army handed back the main building. Fr William Brennan was ordained in 1946 by Bishop Poskitt of Leeds. He comes from Glasgow and is now in charge of our parish at Erskindale in Australia. The same bishop ordained Fr Steven Collins in the following year. It was Archbishop MacDonald who performed the Edinburgh ordination in 1948.
The scholaticate, now under Fr Moorman, had move up from Rossington earlier in the year. In this group were two Scots, Fr Thomas Conway from Govan and Fr Tom Dooley from Edinburgh.
But to return to St Boswells. Contact having been restored with the Mother House at Maison Carree in 1943, permission was obtained to organise a novitiate in Great Britain. Fr Egan was appointed novice master and he went to Sutton Coldfield where Fr Burridge had opened a house of promotion at 121 Lichfield Road. This house had also served as a hostel for our theologians who attended Oscott College nearby. In September 1944 a double novitiate was started there in very crowded circumstances. In September 1945 Fr Egan received the new novices at St Columbas College. However he fell ill and the last months of the novitiate were conducted by Fr Howell. These novices were the survivors of the concentration camp at St Denis, or rather the internment camp there. These men had managed to study some Philosophy and theology in the camp with the aid of their generous French Grandmothers. One of them had spent many months in a condemned cell awaiting execution for having, so it was alleged - helped an English soldier to escape from a civilian camp. They were all very thin and badly shaken by their experience. So they were given a year to recuperate before making their long overdue novitiate.
The novices had returned from internment extremely thin and in poor shape. One of their number had died of cancer in prison, but they had managed somehow to keep up their studies and had organised sporting events and concerts among the many groups of religious priests and brothers. Among these men were at least two Scots: Thomas Dooley, now working in Edinburgh, and Geddes Gerry, provincial bursar in London.
The next year Fr Egan went down to Broome Hall which had just been acquired from Mrs Piggot-Brown. The philosophers returned to St Columbas and stayed on till 1948.
To attempt to clarify the situation, at the beginning of the war the college counted some 50 junior seminarians under Fr Stanley. At the farm Fr Egan and Lea looked after one year of philosophers. In 1941 one year of Philosophy moved up to the huts near the college. In 1942, some students appear to have returned to The Priory and some moved into the postulants quarters. Fr Howell took over with Egan and Lea on his staff. From 1943 till September 1945 the Philosophers were in the college, with a few theologians from Carthage. The staff was Fr Howell, Frs Cassidy, McSherry, and James Barry with Br Cuthbert. In September 1945 the college housed the novitiate of the ex-internees with Fr Egan and later Fr Howell as novice master and Fr Kingseller and Dickson on the staff. In 1946 Fr Howell was in charge of the philosophers with Fr Gerard Rathe as his assistant.
The next year Fr Howell went to the General Chapter in Algeria and incidentally returned as Provincial, his old friend Bishop Durrieu having been elected Superior General. Fr Gaffney was appointed to Uganda where he did yeoman work as Educational Secretary for the Catholic schools.
When the British novitiate was incorporated with the international novitiate and scholasticate at sHerrenberg in the Netherlands, the Philosophers moved down to Broome Hall and in September 1948 the junior seminary returned with Fr Murphy as superior, with a staff of Frs Boyd, Houlihan, Briody and Conway. This was a great period of building, as mentioned earlier. First the chapel and then the extra storey to increase the dormitory space, and part of the old dormitory became the library. For various reasons it was decided to move the main chimney more to the south and this required building a slanting chimney and it was here that soot accumulated and finally caught fire in November 1963.
Many trees were planted under Fr Murphy. The farm had been sold off to Colonel Peake and the old lane from the farm was closed because too many of our visitors continued to arrive by the old road. One of them, our Catholic baker, was stopped one Sunday morning and asked, where he thought he was going. He answered with Border frankness: Where you ought to be going - to church! So a new drive was laid out on to the lane leading to Dryburgh and trees planted alongside.
In 1952 Fr Tolmie became superior with Frs Boys, T ODonnell, Duffy and Bro David, who was in Jerusalem during the war. Earlier, Fr John Conway had formed a choir which became affiliated to the Chanteurs de la croix de bois, so called because of the wooden cross they wore over their cottas. Fr Tolmie continued in the same direction by teaching some of the lads to dance Scottish dances.
In 1957 Fr ODonnell was appointed to run the college and finally Fr Stoker, who presided over the laying out of the football field. He was assisted by Fr Wynne. As novice master of the Brothers at Monteviot he had got to know Lord Lothian, and when the buildings at Monteviot were remodelled, Lord Lothian not only offered Fr Stoker the organ from the old chapel but also paid for the alcove in the chapel to be built to house it and also provided for the re-erection of the organ, which is still in the chapel today. Work was proceeding on the present South front and the south eastern extension.
On Saturday 1963, the students had assisted at mass and been up to the dormitory to make their beds. They had started breakfast when one of the lads fell off his chair and noticed smoke coming out of the dormitory window. The Fire Brigade was called from Galashiels but took some time to arrive. Meanwhile efforts were made to contain the fire with fire extinguishers, and whatever could be saved was carried over to the huts. When the Fire Brigade did arrive they found that the water pressure had been cut down over the weekend and the water could not be played on the fire from outside. All the college built up to 1940, i.e. the north wing up to the staircase, the kitchen and dormitory as well as the south west wing which house the chapel and study hall, were destroyed. Closed doors saved the sacristy and the new South block, including the present front door.
Mr Featherstone brought food for the boys and organised a bus to take them home. Meanwhile Fr Murphy, who was now Provincial, made an urgent search for somewhere to replace the college until it could be re-built. He was able to lease Danby Hall (unfortunately for 99 years) from Mr Scoope a land agent, one of whose ancestors is mentioned in one of Shakespeares plays. Eventually 15 students moved in there and another 9 went down to Oak Lodge, a property next to Totteridge Lodge, which had become the English-speaking International scholasticate for the White Fathers. This is now incorporated in the Missionary Institute London (MIL), while Oak Lodge now houses the 1st Cycle of Philosophy as well as an all-purpose complex with Fr Dicji Culcutt in charge.
In September 1964 Fr Donnelly was sent by the Provincial Andy Murphy to make a new start with the junior seminary. He had 24 first class students (i.e. Rudiments). These were housed in the parts of the building unaffected by the fire, and they had the use of the chapel - but by Christmas, the Provincial was having difficulties in staffing The Priory, Danby Hall and St Columbas, so the students went down to Danby Hall along with Frs Wynne and Ball.
In September 1965 Fr Donnelly was moved down to Broome Hall as Postulant Master. It seems that Fr Owen McGhee became superior but ill health and ministry kept him away for long periods and Brother John Ryan, who had stayed on as Clerk of Works for the rebuilding of the college, was put in charge.
For the next five or six years, the college saw groups of Young Missionary Associates arrive for a few days retreat, many a passing missionary and of course workmen and the architect. New water mains and main sewer works undertaken. There had been talk of the Prison Authorities buying the building as an open prison but the people round about raised a petition against this and finally on the 2nd July 1972 it was sold to the Glasgow Corporation to be used as a residential school for young Catholic children from that town.
It is indeed a great pleasure to see the fine completed building, of which we dreamed in 1936, crowning the hill top surrounded by fully grown trees, and with an orchard which keeps the children supplied with fresh fruit. The corridors are now carpeted and there are flowers everywhere inside and out. The grounds are beautifully kept and the cemetery a quiet, beautiful retreat in which to pray not only for those whose bodies rest there but for all missionaries Scots or otherwise who have given their lives to and for Africa.
One cannot restrain a little feeling of regret at seeing Fr Frank Walshs dream fifty years ago so splendidly realised - but not for us. But then we are missionaries and we have no settled home.
But to return to the farm. In June 1945 Fr Marchant was de-mobbed and appointed by Fr Gaffney, the Provincial, to run the farm and the Postulants. There were about seven postulants. Br John Ogilvie was in charge of the farm. Fr Taylor, then a sick man, was on the staff along with Fr Hugh Monaghan, still undergoing treatment for the TB that had deprived him of his twin brother Pat in North Africa during the German occupation of Tunisia. Later he was joined by Fr John Connolly, just back from the West African missions, and who specialised in raising hens, ducks and turkeys.
These turkeys did somewhat complicate matters at times. Not only did the large cock turkey rear up in a menacing manner which somewhat intimidated our visitors who were not used to such conduct, but money too was in somewhat short supply and his harem was left mainly to feed itself. When Christmas arrived not all our customers were delighted with their birds. The parish priest of Selkirk had invited Mgr Megettigan to lunch and complained that he had great difficulty in finding enough meat to feed his guests. But we did help him out. On his installation as parish priest he had inherited some two dozen hens, which he fed on the most scientific lines but received no eggs in return. On enquiry, he thought the birds might be five or six years old. We exchanged old lamps for new and replaced his old birds with young pullets, which were just learning the art of egg production.
In 1947 the last Chapter to be held in Algiers took place and Fr Howell was our elected delegate. Fr Howell replaced Fr Gaffney as Provincial. It appears that the Province was set up shortly before the Chapter. In 1948 the hostel was opened at St Andrews, with Fr Francis Walsh as superior, and his faithful secretary, Fr Drost, followed him there. The farm was sold to Colonel Peake and the Postulants went elsewhere, perhaps to Monteviot. Rossington was closed down and the scholasticate for English speaking scholastics moved to Monteviot where Lord Lothian granted us a ten-year lease. During that period there were ordinations at Jedburgh in 1948 carried out by Archbishop McDonald. The ordination of 1949 appears to have been carried out by Bishop Scanlan, a man well known to Bishops Walsh and Blomjous and who stayed at our Generalate in Rome.
Archbishop McDonald died in May 1950 and was succeeded by Archbishop Gray, who had known the White Fathers when he was parish priest of Hawick. Before we returned Monteviot House to its owner, Archbishop Gray had ordained 149 White Father priests of several nationalities; German, French, Canadian and British including the following Scots: Fr Geddes Gerry, Dan Sherry in 1949; Fr Herrity in 1954; Fr William Lynch in 1955; Fr Tom McKenna and Alex Easton in 1957 and 1956. Fr Hugh Regan was also ordained in 1957, while Fr Alex McGarry was ordained in 1958. To make the number up to 150, Gerald Wynne was brought home from North Africa where he had studied at the White Fathers scholaticate on the Byrsa hill where once old Carthage stood, and where St Louis of France died on one of the later Crusades - holy wars for Christians but wars of destruction as seen by Muslims.
During the 1930 Eucharistic Congress in Carthage, the children in the Eucharistic Crusade were dressed with the white robes of the old crusaders with a big cross on the front. Mr Bourgiba, still the ruler of Tunisia had never forgotten what happened fifty four years ago.
In 1958 a large ex-convent school was bought from NAAFI in Totteridge, in North London. This was arranged by a team of brothers to receive 100 students. So Monteviot was handed back to Lord Lothian, with the sincere expression of our gratitude to him for his many kindnesses. Before the farm was sold to Colonel Peake, Fr Walsh and Fr Drost had moved into Canmore Hotel opposite the Catholic church in St Andrews. The Rev Ian Gillan, a Presbyterian minister and a doctor in Classical studies had come into the Church through his study of Latin texts in North Africa. He had sought to prove that the church of St Augustine was Presbyterian but finally convinced himself that it was Roman and Catholic. He was staying with Belle McMullen in 18 Dublin Street. There he met the unforgettable Fr Walsh, who so kindly invited me to join the Canmore Community for the six months . . . before leaving for Paris (where he studied for the priesthood). Later he returned to St Andrews and was curate to Fr Hugh Gordon. He mentions helping Frs Bruls, Muller and Olthoff to improve their Latin before joining the University. He continues: As for the Canmore Fathers, I can call to mind a few only: Donaghue, McComisky, van Kessel, van Vlijmen, although from old Catsoc (Catholic Society) photographs, I can remember many more. On the other hand my general impression of the impact they made, both on the parish and on the University, remains vivid . . . . In the paris they supplied celebrations (often at most unsocial hours), preached, catechised, instructed converts, sang Gregorian Chant and simply made possible the Holy Week Liturgy according to the most strict Tridentine rubrics. An on other occasions they ensure perfection even where perfection is but rarely a deliberate aim. As an example I am thinking of the first student marriage I blessed. Contracted between a pair of newly graduated medics, it involved a full-blown Nuptial Mass and Papal Blessing. The couple wanted everything sung straight out of the Liber Usualis. Thanks to the Canmore WFs their wish was amply fulfilled . . . which brings me naturally from Town to Gown. Here the WFs mixed freely, as regular Catsoc members, with the students generally partaking in debates and so forth, and singing in University choral bodies such as the Renaissance Group, which specialised in Polyphony. The RG was continually performing Renaissance masses, where the Liturgical expertise of the WFs was much appreciated. This led to a request from its Director, Douglas Gifford, that, on occasion the Group should be allowed to sing at a student mass . . . . later it was regularly with the help of the RG that our mass of St Andrew was sung from beginning to end in Latin every 30th November . . . . Another tradition inaugurated by the WFs still survives: the tradition of Canmore, the house itself offering an Open Door to students of all sorts whatsoever.
The Brothers of Ploermel bought the house from us about 1958 but four years later sold it to Archbishop Gray as a Chaplaincy for the Catholic students. The price then was in the region of £12,000 below the market value at that time. It is now run by a community of Sisters. I think we sold out in 1958, about the same time as we returned Monteviot to Lord Lothian.
One last effort to train juniors for the priesthood was made when Danby Hall closed down as a seminary. The Provincial Council decided in 1966 to open a student hostel in the diocese of Edinburgh, in Ratho, a small village outside the Capital. There, a large house with ample grounds was acquired. Scotus Academy, a private school directed by the Christian Brothers agreed to accept our students. Our house was staffed by Fr Tom Conway and Frank Ball, together with Brother John Ogilvie. 25 students arrived in time to begin the school year in August 1966. Fr Hall was given a teaching post at the Academy and he travelled in and out each day with the students. The large house had been divided in two parts to accommodate two families and it needed a good deal of adaptation to provide classrooms, recreation rooms etc. The house also needed a great deal of painting and cleaning. Towards the end of 1966 Fr Conway was appointed to other duties and about the same time Brother (now Father) Mike Kelly, a fully qualified architect, took up residence. In 1967 Fr Frank Ball took up his post as superior.
The fees at the Scotus were a heavy burden on the Provincial resources, and in August 1969, the students were transferred to St Davids comprehensive school in Dalkeith. At this time Fr Ball was replaced by Fr Pat Boyd. Many difficulties were smoothed out: it was arranged for the school bus to transport our lads the 12 miles or so to Dalkeith, where they were very well received by staff and students alike. They like the idea of having seminarians studying in their school. As we had no member on the teaching staff, it was difficult to keep a check on the boys education. So it was arranged for one of the Fathers to visit the school regularly to see how our students were getting on. At the same time at home improvements were being made: a new gym was built mainly by volunteers from Hamilton, Glasgow and Clydebank.
In 1969 it was decided to divide up the Promotion work between Ratho and Rutherglen, handing over to the former Vocational work. This consisted of visits to schools and interviews with potential students. One weekend a month was consecrated to such interviews and in this way we built up a group of external students, lads who continued to study in their own schools, but who were committed to joining us once they had taken their Highers. At the same time we had to adapt the spiritual training we gave our students to the education they were receiving in a State school in Dalkeith. Three house groups were set up, each group being responsible for their own religious and prayer sessions. This in turn stimulated a healthy form of competition. The presence of our lads in a state school gave rise to problems which had not been faced before. Should our students be allowed to attend discos and visit other pupils homes? It was decided to allow them to play a full part in all that went on in the school, and this resulted in their becoming members of school teams and of the operatic society. The result was a sounder attitude towards the school and towards girls in particular.
But as time rolled on it became more difficult to recruit new students. This was partly due to greater competition from other missionary societies, but also by the school system which encouraged lads to specialise from Form III. Such subjects would not be continued when they entered our First Cycle (Philosophy). Father George Smith was posted to the missions in 1970. He went to Tanzania and was replaced by Father Liam Ludden. So he and Fr Boyd looked after the boys and carried on vocation work from 1970 till 1974. During which time most of our lads became involved in Social work, and the older boys became Venture Scouts. Some six or seven of them received Gold awards from the Duke of Edinburgh in Holyrood Palace - an extremely high percentage for so small a group. The lads formed a choir and were invited to sing in various hospitals and other schools. On one occasion they attended a Venture Scouts Jamboree at Scouts Headquarters near London. There were boys there from all over Britain. Our lads were placed third for their choir singing. In 1974 Father Boyd was posted to the Missions and Fr John Docherty was appointed to take his place. Ill health prevented him from doing so, and the post remained empty for quite a while. In 1975 the Provincial Council decided to discontinue the experiment. Fr Gerry who had been directing Promotion work at Rutherglen moved over with all his files and Fr Herrity was asked to do the vocational work. Father Dickson and Brother Cuthbert were added to the staff. Prospective students were invited to assist at monthly weekend sessions at Ratho. These and the now familiar Voc-Vacs (Vocational Vacation) were carried on here and in other houses, notably Sutton Coldfield and Totteridge. Meanwhile Rutherglen was extended and remodelled to receive our old Chelsea Pensioners. Fr Michael Kelly was the architect and made a splendid job of it.