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A Trip To Rome in 1959 and other memories
by David Walker

The Trip To Rome (as recorded at the time in The Pelican)
by P Maggiore, I Netton and D Walker

Galley Down by Andrew Coyle

The Happiest Days by Fr John Maguire




    A Trip To Rome in 1959 and other memories
    by David Walker
    Taken from an email that he sent recently from Berlin (January 2001)


It was quite eerie looking at all the photos in the Gallery after 40 years!!! I even found myself on one of the photos, Gallery #4, picture of the whole Priory school taken in front of the building. I was seated on the ground, extreme left, front row. I was at the time one of the juniors in the III Form which was the youngest year.

Next to me was my best friend, Peter Johnson, who left the Priory at the end of his 5th Form in the Summer of 64 to become a Benedictine Monk - known as Fr.Cuthbert - in Quarr Abbey, IoW. We started together at St.Columbas in 1959. He is now the Abbot there, but I havent seen him since I visited him in Quarr middle of the 70's when I also lived on the IoW. He played the organ at my wedding in 1970 in Ryde.

I started at St.Columba's in 1959 and did the obligatory 2 years there. The highlight was the trip to Rome Christmas 1960 to attend the Pueri Cantores Congress including a New Year's Papal Mass in St.Peters celebrated by John XXIII. We represented the UK. There were 4 choirs in total, but St.Columba's was chosen as the flag carrier for the UK among the 4. The choir had been formed by an Irish priest Fr.Conlon (?) in early 1960; He had been forced by recurring malaria to return to the UK and had a fantastic experience of Renaisance polyphonic and Africa native church music. He quickly turned the choir into an unbelievable success with 2 hours HARD training a day.

My greatest wish is to get a copy of the record that was made of a concert in what had been the Olympic Boxing Arena of Summer 1960.

The concert was also broadcast via Eurovision live around the 6.January 1961, the day before we returned to the UK. My copy was destroyed in the fire at St.Columba's in 1963 before they could be distributed to us. The journey to Rome was done by train taking 3 days in total. On the way we did concerts in Westminster Cathedral (overnight stay for all 30 of us in Totteridge), Notre Dame in Paris; and got stuck for seemlingy endless 6 hours after an avalanche on the railway line at the entrance to the Mt.Cenis tunnel at the border between France and Italy. 30 bored choristers went on the rampage and I got my first experience of wine (& cigarettes?) in an illicit drinking spree.

What else do I remember of the journey? A glimpse of a sea so blue near the Gulf of Genoa (it was my first trip outside the UK), and the Tower of Pisa flying by the window of the carriage. Lots of little Fiat 500's (seemed to be the only car on the market in Italy at the time) and thousands of Vespas. Strange food (Italian restaurants were new in the UK at the time). We were put into a pilgrims' hostel near the Vatican and I remember that I shared a room with David Ritson (from NE.England, maybe somewhere on the Tyne, possibly South Shields) who shows up in the Gallery now and then) and Paul Maggiore (who I remember was the son of a large Mercedes Dealer in Sunderland). We 3 were great buddies - the other 2 were the hard core of the sopranos, and I was the leader of the altos.

We arrived very tired after 24 hours in the train and I remember that David (I think) was bursting , and never having seen one before mistook the bidet for an italian toilet (the only other possibility was a hole in the floor, but that cant be a toilet surely??). I also remember a mass riot which nearly got us thrown out of the hotel, a wonderfully succesful Papal Mass in St.Peters with Palestrina polyphonic music and 12,000 singers from all over the world!! Also other concerts in St.John Lateran and St.Maria Maggiore, visits to the Roman Forum & Colosseum.

All in all a visit that influenced me greatly. Whatever became of Fr. Conlon - he was a truly great man and formed me immensely in my later life, together with the Fr.Superior of that time, Pat O'Donnell, a man of great gentleness and dignity. Other names that stick in my memory - George Dunlon, Andy Coyle, Sean McGovern, Adrian Moran, ? Dempsey and many more from the Gallery. Also the Valley camping holidays and the Eildons.

In Summer of 1961 I went to Bishop's Waltham , did all the usual things and (prompted by the Website) remembered the many wonderful days in Galley Down. I think about this time, rugby was introduced and we quickly had 3 teams. I played for the 1st XV (I think) but we were always getting beaten, particularly by the Merchant Navy Training College at Warsash, for whom we were a joke team obviously.

I remember the introduction of Science lessons into the curriculum by John Fowles. At about this time the curriculum was drastically modernised. There was also a shortage of available academically qualified staff within the Society and this led to the introduction of an external 5th form year at St.Johns, Southsea. I was in the first intake for the academic year of 1963-4. I think that this was an innovation of Fr.Fowles as Fr.Superior.

I seemed to remember a very old bus being bought for the daily trip to Southsea, which often broke down. During this time, my friend Peter Johnson converted from the piano to the church organ (we had a recently overhauled instrument in the Chapel at the Priory). I spent many hours sitting next to him watching him master the instrument and turning the pages for him. Boy, could he make that instrument go!! Widor's Tocacata & Fugue was his favourite piece. I remember him going to Quarr Abbey at Easter 1964 for further musical training and was so taken by the life there that he left the White Fathers in Summer 1964 to become a Benedictine monk. I attended his ordination, and as said previously he is now the Abbot of Quarr.

Could go on like this all night long. If there is anything you would like to know, let me know! with best regards.

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The Trip To Rome
By Paul Maggiore, Ian Netton and David Walker
Taken from The Pelican, Summer 1961

Our Group, officially called the "Little Singers of the Celtic Cross", was chosen to represent Great Britain at the International Congress of the "Pueri Cantores". Seventeen of us then, together with Father Conway, our Choir-master and Father McKenna our Infirmarian, assembled in London on St Stephen's Day—Boxing Day. All four nationalities of the home countries were represented—we even had a Welshman, J. Mattock! We spent most of the day resting from the first part of our journey at the Scholasticate at Totteridge, London, where we had supper altogether, sang Benediction for the Scholastics and gave them a small concert which included our signature tune, "Gaudeamus Igitur". Fr Provincial and another Father drove us all to Victoria Station where we were to catch the Night Ferry for France.



Punctual to the minute at 9.30 a green flag waved, the Guard blew his whistle and we were off on one of the most memorable journeys of our lives. We completed everything the Customs officers on the train asked us and soon we were in our bunks and fast asleep. Some of us woke again about 3 a.m. The bright glare of a lighthouse was illuminating the whole train while huge French engines shunted up and down. We were in Dunkirk—but so soon! Back to sleep again until the Fathers woke us for French Breakfast—rolls, butter and coffee! We had no sooner finished than we were in the Gare du Nord, Paris: 9 a.m. We transferred our luggage first of all to the Gare de Lyons where we were to catch another train for Rome that afternoon.

Then, when this was completed, we set out for the Basilica of Notre Dame where the Fathers were going to say Mass for us. At 11 a.m. Father Conway said Mass at the Blessed Sacrament Altar which was also the shrine of Notre Dame de Paris, and Father McKenna at the altar of St Denis, another Patron of Paris.




After Mass we visited the famous treasury of the Basilica. As we did not have much time we had a quick look round before making our way to the other end of Paris to the White Fathers' House where lunch had been prepared for us. But who cared about eating when there was cider and wine on the table!

At 3.30 p.m. we were on the platform at the Gare de Lyons to board one of the three special trains taking the "Pueri Cantores" to Rome. We left at four o'clock, going right down through the length of France, crossing the Franco-Italian Frontier at Modane. The journey, though long and tiring, was, nevertheless, a very pleasant one. We mixed with the other members of the "Pueri Cantores" amusing them with our attempts at French while we chuckled with glee at their no better attempts to master the English Tongue. Imagine their disgust when we sang Frere Jacques for them, but with our own version! While all this was going on, we didn't realise that our chances of ever getting to Rome at all were very slim. The Italian Transport Union had called a National Strike for the following morning at 2 a.m. Nevertheless, with the help of the Army and Police Force we arrived on the dot in Rome at the Stazione Ostiense, more like a Roman temple with its massive pillars and fountains than a station.

A coach was waiting for us to take us to our hotel Institutio Madri Pie which was run by Nuns. After a quick meal we walked around St Peter's Square which was only a couple of minutes walk from the Hotel, but as it was getting late and we had completed a 27 hour journey from Paris we needed no coaxing to get into bed for a fine night's sleep.

The following day, after Mass in the chapel in the hotel, we had a quick trip to the Headquarters of the "Pueri Cantores" and then started to look round that part of Rome before returning to the hotel for lunch. One thing that attracted us very much was the immense Victor Emmanuel Monument called by the Romans the "Typewriter" or the "Wedding Cake". After lunch we went by coach, sight-seeing, visiting the Basilicas of St Mary Major and St 'John Lateran among other things. We saw the Scala Santa on this visit but unfortunately had no time to climb it. We arrived back in St Peter's Square and rushed into the Basilica to join in the common practice for the Papal Mass. We were late —for the first and last time during our stay in Rome!

Next day we all went off to the Basilica of St Paul out side the Walls where Cardinal Lercaro, Cardinal-Archbishop of Bologna said a special Mass for all the "Pueri Cantores" and where we all went to Holy Communion. We too, of course, were among the 4,500 communicants and for the first time in Rome we wore our choir dress—white albs with hoods, green girdles and the silver celtic crosses on a gold cord.

This day too was very full. In the afternoon we had to travel to the outskirts of Rome to the Palazzo della Sport (where the boxing competitions took place during the Olympic Games) for a general rehearsal for the International Concert which was to take place there that same evening. Besides the two pieces we had prepared, as the representatives of Great Britain we had been asked, on our arrival in Rome, to sing Silent Night in English.

After the Papal Choir had opened the concert in the presence of the President of Italy, several Cardinals, numerous Archbishops and Bishops and a vast audience of thousands of people including our own Superior General and thirty-odd White Fathers from Rome, four choirs took the stage to sing Silent Night. It was sung in Flemish, French, Italian ,and we sang it in English. Later on we sang our own two pieces, "The Keel Row" and the "Seven Joys of Mary". The whole concert was given live on Italian Television that evening and was also filmed for Eurovision. We have since learnt that it has been repeated twice already on Italian Television. This was all, of course, a wonderful experience despite the fact that we reached the hotel the following morning at 1.30 a.m.

Saturday, after the hectic events of the previous day, was fairly quiet. We had Mass in St Peter's and after that, apart from another general rehearsal of all the singers for the Papal Mass, we were free. We spent the time, naturally, sight-seeing. One ambition was not realised. We were all going to climb the Dome of St Peter's . . . until we found out the cost! With that news we sacrificed the adventure. That night—New Year's Eve—was anything but peaceful. As is the Roman custom, crackers, bangers and all sorts of fireworks were being continually let off. All the rubbish which had collected during the past year was thrown from the windows of the houses into the streets and it was with these noises, together with that of breaking glass, that we went to sleep to herald in the New Year with the Papal Mass.

One thing should be mentioned. By another custom, every New Year's Eve the Holy Father receives the street sweepers of Rome in Audience.


How they managed it we don't know, but Father Conway and Father McKenna found themselves in the middle of this (some even say that they carried the banner) and it is rumoured that nobody even noticed!

New Year's Day, 1961! We didn't delay in getting ready. We had early Mass in the Hotel Chapel and early breakfast. Then dressed in our albs we walked down to St Peter's Basilica to take up our places for the Papal Mass. The Fathers left nothing to chance for they had us in the front row and in our places an hour and more before the time for Mass. As it was, with 4,500 other singers, we had to fight to keep our good places, but with the practice we have had at St Columba's we were more than able to hold our own. As the Pope was carried in on the Sedia Gestatoria, we sang the Credo with gusto and we were struck by our first sight of Christ's Vicar. He has a most kind face. Mass began, but it was more difficult than we realised for, of course, we were all very anxious not to miss any of the Holy Father's actions and could hardly concentrate on the music. One thing in particular stands out how the Papal Gendarmes, Swiss Guards and the others at a single command, dropped on one knee to salute the Blessed Sacrament at the Consecration. After Holy Mass, the Holy Father spoke to us in French, and al though it wasn't really necessary for us, it was translated into English and half-a-dozen other languages ! What a moving experience ! It was as if the Pope spoke to each one of us individually. The whole ceremony was on Eurovision live— at the request of the Holy Father himself—but we never even thought of it. This was a day that would stick in our memories for ever.

After Mass we were taken to Via Aurelia to the Generalate of the White Fathers as the Superior General had invited all of us for lunch. Once again, though on a greater scale than in Paris, we were received with the greatest of kindness and the simplicity of the Superior General showed him to be a real Father to all of us. Having congratulated us on our singing at the International Concert, he took us in to lunch. All the Assistants were there, together with about 50 Fathers and Brothers. After all the excitement one would perhaps think that we would be unable to eat. What a strange notion, but even we could not demolish all the wonderful things that had been prepared. During the meal we sang various songs and Carols for the Community and afterwards went to the parlour to do the same for the good Nuns and their willing helpers in the kitchen. After this we were shown round the Generalate and were very interested to find in the crypt the resting place of the first White Fathers who were martyred in the Sahara. We would like now to thank Very Reverend Father Superior General, Father Walsh, Father Robinson and Father Kooiman and all the other good Fathers who were so kind to us.

The following day was the last of our stay in Rome. After Mass in St Peter's we made a thorough visit of the whole Basilica. Then after lunch another tour of sight-seeing under the guidance of two Fathers from the Generalate in which we were able to see the Coloseum, the Forum, the Arch of Constantine and many other places of interest. But alas! It had to come sometime, and that night at 7.30 we left the Eternal City behind us—dull in the rain that was falling, but never to be forgotten.

The return journey was all too quick. Names of stations were now familiar to us and we knew, approaching Pisa, to look for the famous leaning tower. Genoa, in contrast to the last time we saw it in bright sunshine, was enveloped in darkness.

The trip too was not without its worries. We should have had over three hours in Paris on our arrival— more than enough to get from one station to the other to catch our boat-train for London but we were held up for more than three hours by an avalanche not far from the French Border. Having made up some time on the way across France —French trains really travel—we had approximately 20 minutes to cross Paris. Dashing through mounted gendarmes and all those who had come to meet the train at the Gare de Lyons, we rushed through Paris in the Underground and staggered into the night ferry with our suitcases, puffing and blowing but with a feeling of relief that we had made it.

Once again we needed no persuasion to get into our bunks and we woke the following morning somewhere between Dover and London. Father Provincial was at the Station to meet us and with the same kindness he had shown us on our outward journey and which we had experienced everywhere, drove us back to the Provincial House for breakfast and drove us to the various stations where we split up to go home for the remainder of the holidays.

We could not close this article without a very big "thank you" to Father Superior, without whose help, financial and otherwise, we could never have made this trip which will stay in the annals of the College and in our memories for many years to come.

 




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GALLEY DOWN

By Andrew Coyle
Taken from The Pelican, Summer 1960


Galley Down! To all Priorians these two words are words of magic. They stand for freedom from Latin, French and Maths., freedom from authority, and freedom from the strain of everyday life at the Priory. Outsiders are unable to understand the pleasure we get from Galley Down, and are apt to regard us as people to be pitied, or perhaps even feared, when they see us dragging great bundles of wood through clearings, or plunging through the undergrowth. Only those, who have themselves been Priorians can really understand just what Galley Down means to us. Generations of White Father students have camped at Galley Down, and the procedure has always been the same.

For the benefit of the uninitiated, this procedure is as follows. The boys, who intend going camping, split up into small groups; five or six is the best number for a group, but usually there are more. The group arrives at Galley Down at about half past ten, having walked the two miles from the college, via the village, thereby giving the villagers something to stare at. We certainly must look a queer crew, with saucepan handles protruding from the knapsacks on our backs. As soon as we arrive, the work starts. One person goes for water from our hygienic reservoir; others collect wood; while the less fortunate peel the potatoes. After enough wood has been collected, a fire is started. I think that I can honestly say that I have still to see the person, even if he has been a Scout, light a fire with only one match! Once the fire is started, usually half an hour and a box of matches later, the cooking begins. One person, not always the most gifted, is appointed cook. If there is a gourmet in the group who, being a cut above the common horde, desires a special dish, he is quite welcome to have it—if he cooks it himself !

 

However, there are not usually many gourmets in the group but almost everyone is a gourmand ! For about half an hour, silence reigns, as vast heaps of potatoes, beans, sausages and eggs disappear. After dinner the sensible people have a nice quiet snooze and allow their dinner to settle. The size of a person's dinner is always in proportion to his siesta. As Confucius says, He who eats most, sleeps longest.Some people sleep all afternoon, but most wander off after a while. Some play football in the deep carpet of dead leaves; others go off to explore in the undergrowth; while others again just wander round, for, in Spring especially, there is no place more beautiful than Galley Down.

At about four o'clock, a gradual return is made to the cooking-pots and a light meal is partaken of (light by Galley Down standards!). After that the dishes are washed up—more or less—and preparations for the return to college are made. The crafty members of the group get away before the others, so have nothing to carry home ! Thus an ordinary day at Galley Down ends and the campers arrive back in time for a good wash before supper.

To the ordinary person, this probably does not look the best way to spend a day's holiday, but to the Priorian, this is the best way possible. He likes this holiday, partly on its own merits but mainly because of what it represents. For him it is a link with all the past generations of boys who have passed through the Priory and who have camped, if not at Galley Down itself, then in the neighbourhood. Of late, Galley Down has lost some of its popularity due to the advent of bicycles and the increase of possible places to be visited. However, it continues to hold its own.

May it continue to do so for many years to come!




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THE HAPPIEST DAYS. . .
By Father John Maguire
Taken from The Pelican, Summer 1962 (Jubilee Number)



The Priory was entering upon the second period of its existence when I arrived there in September, 1927. Father Travers, the Founder of the house and its first Superior, had died a few months earlier and his successor, Father Bouniol, had just taken over when I appeared to join three members of my home parish who were already Priorians—Fathers Ryan, Burridge and Beckwith. Father Bouniol had been at the Priory since its foundation, and by 1927 he was already something of a tradition, not only in the house, but throughout the diocese. We all stood a little in awe of him, for despite his kindly heart and ready sympathy he was a strict disciplinarian, capable of reducing a boy to complete submission with a few well-chosen, though often mispronounced sentences. He was a man of deep humility, and when one of his outbursts had pulverised a lad would often take him aside and apologise for being so hard on him. The few private words would soon dispel any feeling of resentment, and the boys would all have cheerfully undertaken any task for him. When therefore he decreed that a football pitch was to be cut out of the sloping field adjoining the house everyone turned out in force and maintained their efforts over a period of long and weary months; our flagging energies would be restored and our enthusiasm renewed by his words of encouragement and by his own generous example with spade and pickaxe.

Father Howell, the first Old Priorian to join the staff, had been teaching at the Priory for a year when I arrived, and he was joined in the same month by Father Hughes, fresh from ordination at Carthage. They were the first-fruits of the Priory's early years, and they were both destined to accomplish much both for the White Fathers in England and for the Church in Africa. Father Howell I never had in class, and it is his prowess on the football field that I recall most vividly. The fact that rumour credited him with having played for Woolwich during his army career made him an idol in our eyes and House teams vied with each other in an effort to obtain his services for a match. Father Hughes was not the athletic type and appeared but rarely on the sports field. It was academically that he excelled, though I must admit that at this distance
I can recall only the general impression of an interesting teacher: the actual matter he taught has become blurred. For all his small stature and gentle ways Father Hughes knew how to impose his authority on his unruly charges and it was not long before he had an attentive and disciplined class. One youngster destined to become a "dashing Colonel" in the Second World War, tried to put him to the test but was quickly reduced to silence, and indeed to tears, by the quiet but determined little priest. Neither of the two English priests remained long at the Priory, for with the foundation of Heston in 1928 their services were required in the parish and on promotion work.

The remainder of the staff was mostly made up of young French-Canadian Fathers. There was one exception, Father Roy, who was a Franco-American who used to amuse us by repeating at intervals, in strong nasal tones, "I am the only member of my family who does not speak through his nose." Father Bolduc was somewhat older than the others for he had served in a parish in Canada before joining the White Fathers. He struck us as a very solid sort, very intense about anything he took up. He carried this earnestness even on to the football field, and used to shout as he stood in the goalmouth "Pass the ball, my boy, pass the ball, I say!" He returned to Canada after a few years with us and became something of a legend as a propagandist being credited with strange powers which could move the hardest of hearts to give generously in favour of the Missions.

Two future Assistants of successive Superiors General were at the Priory in those days: Father Côté, who joined the staff at the same time as Father Howell, and Father R. Walsh, still a student in Syntax. Father Walsh was a great sportsman until an attack of rheumatic fever laid him low, and he had the distinction of being elected Captain of the School while still in Poetry, as the Fourth was called in those days.

Father Côté was Father Bouniol's successor as Bursar of the House, and the many journeys which his work entailed were made on a motor-bicycle combination which became a familiar sight in the neighbourhood. I well remember the day he pulled up outside the Superior's office at daybreak and produced a youngster from the sidecar whom he ushered into the Superior's room.

This youth had decided that his stars were calling him elsewhere and instead of arranging matters with the authorities had set off on his own only to be caught near Andover and brought back in disgrace by the Bursar. He stayed on for a while but eventually left in a more regular way. I last heard of him as a stalwart member of a praesidium of the Legion of Mary in the Middle East, where he settled after the war. While engaged in teaching on the Seminary staff Father Côté was allowed to follow a Teachers' Training Course at Southampton University. Whenever one of his inspectors was due, we would be coached in a particular subject, and it was made clear to us that we were to co-operate fully with our teacher. We were forbidden to open our mouths while a French inspection was taking place, which we considered a slur on our ability in that language!



As the "Roaring Twenties" were drawing to a close, we welcomed to the Priory two new members of the future British Province, Fathers Marchant and Keane, ordained in North Africa in June, 1929. Father Keane immediately took over our instruction in Latin and Mathematics, and soon came to the conclusion that we were in need of a reforming hand, which he supplied. Father Marchant had an immense store of energy and enthusiasm, and we realised that it was all used for our benefit. From him I learned, the hard way, that prevarication does not pay, and that it is better to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.

Thursdays were entirely devoted to the study of English, and in this subject we had the advantage of the expert knowledge of a neighbouring parish priest, Father (now Canon) J. P. Murphy. We always felt very important in his classes, for he insisted on addressing us collectively as "Gentlemen" and individually as "Mr. So-and-So". He knew how to encourage ability and to draw out latent powers, and to him we owed our appreciation of the English language. He could deflate anyone whose knowledge of English did not equal the opinion he held of it. On one occasion he went painstakingly through a collection of our essays, all obviously based upon a common source, until he came to the one exception. "Ha, Mr. X, you have not used the common source, I see." There was an ominous silence as he turned over the pages of the essay, and then, with a dry chuckle, he continued: "Rather a pity, I think, that you did not keep to the well trodden ways." It was the tone of voice rather than the words themselves which left the unfortunate essayist in no doubt about the worth of his production.

We used to marvel at the unfailing way in which he appeared to be able to pick out the likely questions for the Matriculation. Word would be passed on from year to year to wait for the indirect reference he would make to the examination, and careful note was made of the clue, for it was sure to be found in the examination papers the following June. Rumours reached us from the Fathers' recreation room that he was an enthusiastic and able performer at billiards, and could hold his own against the best of the Fathers then on the staff.

I cannot end these few reminiscences without mention of the two Brothers, Modeste and Aubert, who by the late twenties had become part of the Priory scene. Inseparable companions, we thought them, as they went about their daily duties without fuss or bother, always ready for a joke with the boys. In temperament they were very dissimilar, for Brother Modeste was inclined to be serious whereas Brother Aubert pretended that nothing was to be taken seriously, himself least of all. They were a shining example to us all, both in their religious life with the exigencies of which they never compromised, and in their fidelity to their labours on the farm. The sentiments of affection expressed in 1929 on the occasion of Brother Modeste's jubilee were sincerely felt for both of them. Humble and self-effacing missionaries as they were, their influence on the life of the Priory was profound; God alone in His Providence knows how many graces were showered on staff and students because of their hidden life of work and sacrifice.

Many priests and Brothers have passed through the Priory since the days of which I write, each bringing with them their own valuable contribution to its work. None of them, I am sure, will envy those of earlier years their special title of glory in the annals of the cradle of the Province.

 

 

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