For several days we have been getting ready for the holiday to come; there is so much to docooking pots to be acquired by some means, perhaps extra rations in the shape of parcels from home; groups have to be made up, and destinations decided on, though, in the latter case, there is seldom any discussion; the automatic choice for a camping day is the Valley.
Straight after breakfast the lists are handed in to the Father-in-charge, and the leader of each group queues up for his rations, distributed by Father Boyd. The kitchen resounds with protests and pleadings. "Is that all we get for six?" "Can we have some more potatoes, Father.' "Father, are there any old pots left", "Go on, Mrs Petrie, give us some fat; we want to make chips". Soon all the groups are served, while an advance party has gone on to grab the best sites in the Valley.
Wood is collected, water carried, the potatoes peeled; the cook is appointed and begins his duties by lighting the fire. The others scatter, to play games in the bushes, look for birds' nests, or walk along the river bank. From all over the Valley, coils of smoke drift up into the air, from the fires of the various groups. Then, about noon, the banging of a tin is heard; some group's dinner is ready. A shout, "Come and get it", informs the members of that lucky group, and they gather from all sides with appetites sharpened by fresh air and activity. The sight of the food diminishes the appetite a bit, and the cook is over-whelmed, not with praises, but with questions as to what each dish is. However, no matter what the appearance, the food does not last long; soon the plates and cooking tins have been scraped clean, and the boys have scattered again, leaving a new cook to prepare the tea.
More often than not dinner and tea form one long meal; then a last game, clear up, and all climb up the hill to the college to change and get cleaned up for Benediction. At the supper table there is a marked lack of appetite; but it is made up for by the amount of conversation as all discuss the day's adventures and experiences.
ROBINSON CRUSOE 1954
By Richard Calcutt
Taken from The Pelican, Summer 1955
A visitor to the Priory during the weeks preceding Christmas would have been astounded to find on entering the gymn a group of Natives in all their savage splendour dancing around a large cooking-pot bearing the ominous inscription "Yum-Yum" on its side, and a frightened boy within. Whatever his first feelings may have been the visitor would have been reassured by the sight of a tall white-clad figure who appeared to be directing operations. He would have been enlightened when, on asking the meaning of these wild antics he learned that the jungle scene was from the pantomime "Robinson Crusoe" which the boys were producing.
The cast for any pantomime is always hard to choose, and Robinson Crusoe was no exception. After many rehearsals and voice-tests the final cast was decided upon. John West took the part of Robinson, Richard Calcutt that of Mrs Crusoe, and Philip Harrison that of the Demon King. Other characters included some rolling sailors, the afore-mentioned natives and a very Oriental Genie and his fairy princess, and last of all, silent but effective, Crusoe's Teddy played by James O'Toole.
Rehearsals began as soon as possible owing to shortage of time for long rehearsals and after a few weeks the pantomime began to take shape.
But a pantomime without any music or songs is almost sure to be a failure, so the help of Fr. Thompson and J. O'Toole was called in. The latter gave a pleasant rendering of "Robinson Crusoe is saying his prayers" while Fr. Thompson provided a very effective and realistic piano accompaniment to the sinister plottings of the Demon King. The sailors of course provided a shanty and the Cannibals a pre-luncheon ditty.
Altogether five performances were given and it would be true to say that all the actors played remarkably well. The success could not have been achieved however without the patience of Fr. Conway, the producer. Giving up much of his spare time (so called!) to the pantomime he inspired all the actors by his example with the confidence that is so essential if the show is to be a success. Without him the pantomime could not have been the success it was and both audiences and actors thank Fr. Conway for his generous work.
Thanks are also due to Mr L. Pond who, seeing that the gymnasium badly needed a new coat of paint for the pantomime, gave up many of his evenings to freeze, paint brush in hand, in a gymn, that his efforts finally made worthy of the pantomime.
Now, in the heat of summer we give little thought to pantomimes, for they belong to the cold winter months, but we of the Priory will not forget our pantomime, the first produced in our gymn. May it have many successors, and may their producers and actors be as competent and devoted as those who made a success of Robinson Crusoe.
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Thosre happy days we spent at the Priory in 1926-7. I had to spend only one year there, having pretty well completed my studies at Beulah Hill in London. In those days Latin was not on the programme at that school, and so when Father Scriven and I decided, at about the same time, that we wanted to become White Fathers, we were told to go to Bishop's Waltham to follow a crash course in Latin. It was our first experience of a boarding school, and, apart from the inevitable bouts of home sickness we both had at the beginning, we enjoyed ourselves immensely.
On the staff in those days were such famous men as Fathers Bouniol, Cote, Bolduc and Richard, and the first products of the British Province, Fathers Howell and Hughes. Brothers Aubert and Modeste were there of course, as they had been for many years and as they would be for many years longer. The community was completed, I think, by Brother Marcien, a Canadian.
The special status that Gerry Scriven and I had as "extravagant" students gave us some privileges of which we took full advantage. It is pleasant in a school not to have to follow the ordinary routine; that was one advantage another was the fact that Gerry frequently received large consignments of food from his numerous sisters, so that we both put on a lot of weight in a very short time. Gerry was already showing signs of the talents which were to make him famous later on, and it might be news to some of you that the father, or grand father, of THE PELICAN was born in his year at the Priory. It was called the Priorian and as long as we were there it used to come out regularly under the editorship of Gerry Scriven.
Another innovation of this period was that the prefects decided that they should wear tassels on their caps as a mark of their authority and office. As for football, I think we had one of the best teams of all time, for we were rarely beaten. There were two really first-class footballers in the forward lineBarney Hudson and Hugh Higgins, both from Yorkshire. The centre-half in those days was none other than Richard Walsh, now of the Generalate. I have memories of frequent Wednesday and Saturday trips in an ancient bus, based on Bishop's Waltham, to hire which the players of the first team used to club together. If Priorians still sing a battle-cry on football excursions (it goes something like this"Hushabula, hushabula, rah, rah, rah!") let them take a minute of silence in respectful memory of those of 1926-7 who composed it. The local Hampshire teams had a wholesome respect for the Priory team in those days; it had a reputation for robust football, but in that respect we would certainly plead self-defence.
The tactics of a team in Eastleigh, whose name I forget, are imprinted on my memory; we regularly limped home after playing them, badly maimed but victorious.
As for cricket, the Priory in those days consisted mainly of Celtic fans and other northerners who looked askance at us Londoners who actually preferred it to football. Luckily we had some sympathisers, amongst whom: Father Howell, an excellent bat who often helped the first team in outside matches; Father Hughes, quite hopeless with both bat and ball, but a real cricket enthusiast with an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things connected with first-class cricket and Mr. Primmer, a village patriarch who, had he not existed, would have been invented. He was the acknowledged authority on cricket and his word was law. Incidentally the Priory hit its biggest score off Mr. Primmer's bowling and were delighted when he refused to take himself off.
The Village Green, complete with Cricketer's Inn, might have come straight out of a story-book, the only snag being that the grass in the outfield was never cut so that it was extremely difficult to make any runs.
And so the year went by for Gerry Scriven and myself. A little Latin, lots of football, an occasional cross-country run, some most pleasant walks in the delightful Hampshire countryside, a trip now and then to Southampton, Portsmouth or Southsea.
And all the while Father Bouniol and his men were working on us and trying to make future missionaries out of the raw material which we were, a work which Father Onstenk continued with much zest in Autreppe. The virtues we developed may not have been visible to the naked eye, but doubtless they were there. I have often thought that few religious societies had a seminary system so pleasant and varied as the White Fathers had in those days. It started at the Priory, it took us across the channel to Belgium, where we learned some philosophy and quite a lot besides, this being our first contact with foreigners; then a year in Algiers, which to us resembled the Thousand-and-One-Nights, to finish up with four years in that delightful Carthage, the memory of which is cherished by all who have been there. And, to cap it all, an appointment to Tanganyika. What more could any man desire?
I wish you all at the Priory as much happiness as I knew there, and I hope that many of you may have my crowning privilege, once you have completed the whole cycle, of being appointed to Tanganyika, and more especially to Kigoma diocese, where you will be received with open arms.
by L.G. & Fr Bernard Duffy, Superior at the Priory 1961
Taken from The Pelican, Summer 1962 (Jubilee Number)
We were sorry indeed to lose Mrs. Smith early in the school year; she was a real friend of the house and gave to us all without stint the benefit of her skill and generosity; but in the present cook Mrs. Scott, we have found a worthy successor who continues to look after us all with truly devoted interest. The boys even leave food on the table now!
Ten years ago that would have been unthinkable. One is tempted, inevitably, to pass judgment on the boys and compare them with those of our own time, but here one must tread warily! I think one can safely say that they are in some ways different from us; physically they are more developed and seem to mature earlier, and in character too they seem more adult, less riotous and more independent than we of the preceding decade. But perhaps this is imagination; certainly, when one sees the stampede for letters after lunch, and their insatiable interest in food, and hears the hoarse cries on the football field and contrasts them with the timid squeaks in chapel, one feels that it is still the real Priory of old after all.
To sum up my recollections of the Priory as a boy, I would say that it was in some ways rather rough and ready, but it was a happy house where we learned much more than Latin and French and the rest, and that it sent us forth into the future well equipped both for this world and the next. May it always be so!
The last ten years of the Priorys half-century may be reviewed quite quickly. From 1952 - 1954 there were three Superiors, Father Donnelly, Cassidy and Egan, who each made a steady contribution to the continued happiness and efficiency of the house. Father Moody, who had already spent a year here as Prefect of Discipline in 1953 - 4, returned from St Columbas in 1955 well-equipped to take over the task of Superior. He had under him a good team of men, three of whom were to remain at the Priory for many years: Fathers Fitzgerald, and Thompson had both arrived in the preceding year and Father Fowles had been here since 1953. Together these Fathers and their colleagues inaugurated a period of valuable stability at the priory, and in particular set a good academic standard which has since been maintained. It was during these years that Fathers Dixon and Monaghan, after exceptionally long and faithful service at the Priory, left us for other duties. After three energetic years as Superior, Father Moody was at last allowed to go to Africa, and he was succeeded by Father Fitzgerald, who left an enduring mark on the house during his years as Superior. He left us last year for Romeand ultimate Eminence, no doubtand Father Duffy, now happily reigning, took over his office. Father Thompson left us last year too, much regretted by boys and community, and Father Fowles is still with us, teaching the Science which he so ably introduced to the Priory and which he continues so successfully to teach.
Next year will see a major change, for only the Third and Fourth Forms will be taught here: the two top classes will travel every day to St Johns College, Southsea. But the Priory has shown itself equal to the changes of fifty years, and there can be no doubt that she will continue to remain the well-loved home of future priests and missionaries