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Mike Mearns, who has been living in Canada for many years, has come up with
some more flashbacks to the past. He has found a copy of the Golden Jubilee issue
of the 'White Fathers' magazine which, amongst other things, celebrates the fifty years
of Priory history. Two of the extracts from that issue —reproduced below — cover bits
of the past that you will find elsewhere on the website (and in Peter Finn's excellent
publication). I have chosen to reproduce them here, however, because they were
written at a time when, largely unknown to the authors, major changes were just
around the corner that would write the closing chapter to that history.

This is 1962 and it's fifty years on ; it's time to remember the sacrifices that have been
made, to chart the achievements and to raise a toast to the future.

(Thanks, once again, Mike).

Click on the article you wish to read :

"From Our Letter-Tray" : a 1962 forerunner to 'Home and Away'
"Chosen Men"
"Our Fifty Years"
A letter to the parents of Priorians : Summer 1956






 



1. "From Our Letter-Tray"
Taken from the Golden Jubilee isue of the White Fathers magazine, as it was knwon in 1962

(contributed by Mike Mearns — with photos taken from the Gallery)

Chatting about events of the past year, a member of St Patrick's parish, Leeds, recalls as a highlight a scouting holiday in Ireland. There the scouts found an old St Patrick's parishioner, and an old scout at that, to give them a warm welcome. He was Fr P. Walsh, W.F., who is the Procurator at our college at Blacklion, Co. Cavan. The scouts camped in our grounds there. Secretly, Fr Walsh says he hopes to meet some old St Patrick's boys one day in Africa ... as White Fathers!



Another St Patrick's man, Fr Thomas Stoker, whose brother is parish priest at Attercliffe, Sheffield, has been busy directing the work of improving the grounds at St Columba's College. Visitors next summer will find the place more attractive than ever.


Left : a photo of Fr Stoker who was Superior at St Columba's 1960 - 63


From Scotland also there comes news of Fr McGhee's excellent progress since his illness last year. He is back at Rutherglen, where the community has a brand new member in the person of Fr Patrick Martin (left), of last Ordination.
Fr Henze (left), also of last Ordination, was appointed to Sutton Coldfield, where the community is well and truly installed in their new house a little further down the road from the old one. (129 Lichfield Road instead of 121).


Well and truly installed likewise is the new house of studies at Templeogue, Dublin. His Grace the Archbishop generously granted permission to open this house to meet the urgent need of sound academic and Catholic teacher training for those responsible for education in Africa. A group of African students was ready to walk in as soon as the house was ready. Fr Christopher O'Doherty has been brought back from his teaching duties in Africa to be in charge at Templeogue. Brother John Ogilvie, until recently at the Provincial House, is with him.

At the celebrations in Dublin for the Independence of Tanganyika Fr O'Doherty preached at the Solemn High Mass in the University College Chapel. In London, a Solerrm High Mass was sung in Westminster Cathedral. The Celebrant and Ministers were African priests from Tanganyika The sermon was preached by Fr Bernard Brown and the singing was provided by the choir from our scholasticate at Totteridge.

At Totteridge, Oak Lodge, close to the scholasticate, has been the scene of intense academic activities during the past months, under the direction of Fr James Smith and Fr John Egan and with the collaboration of an impressive list of lecturers. But now the house is almost empty, pending the arrival of the next batch of students, for the young Fathers who had been attending the courses have now gone off to their much desired destinations in Africa.

With them at Oak Lodge was Fr Alan Thompson (left). After his seven years teaching at Bishop's Waltham he is at last in the missions! Our next issue will include a fascinating article from him on his first days in Tabora.

Tanganyika at the moment is not living up to the usual conception of sun-scorched Africa. So we gather from Brother John Kempston at Mwanza. He says the rains have been so heavy that many roads are out of use and that the journey into town is full of hazards unknown to him when he was at Palace Court. Mwanza Social Studies Centre, he tells us, is still developing according to plan. Eventually there will be as many as fifty buildings on the campus.

Bishop Blomjous, W.F., who is the founder and promoter of the Centre, was in England recently in connection with the Sword of the Spirit conference on Africa. Also present were Archbishop Kiwanuka from Uganda and Archbishop Hurley from Durban. It is these important missionary personages who appreciate more fully than anybody the devoted work of the Sword of the Spirit members for Africa, particularly indefatigable Miss Margaret Feeney.

News also from Bukoba of Fr A. Donoghue who speaks of 800 Confirmations and 200 children making their First Communion. The Fathers have been busy with retreats—six for the people at the mission station and as many in out-stations. We have had first-hand news of Bukoba—and in what glowing terms—from Fr Gielty who returned home on leave recently after his first period in the missions. His Bishop is already counting the days to his return!

Brother Kempston's remarks about Tanganyika weather at the moment are echoed by Brother George Ascott from Bugene, Bukoba. Fortunately he spends a good amount of time under cover at present, studying Kiswahili.


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2. "Chosen Men"
Taken from the Golden Jubilee isue of the White Fathers magazine in 1962

(contributed by Mike Mearns)

It is always a wonderful thing to see how Providence selects the men to launch great undertakings for the salvation of souls. This is especially so in the case of founders of Orders and Congregations but it is also true of the important developments in their history.

Two names are remembered with reverence in the fifty years of history of this Province. They are Fr Peter Travers and Fr Joseph Bouniol, both of them members of the first community of the first house of the Province, at Bishop's Waltham.

Fr Travers was one of a family of eight children whose parents never tired of telling them that nothing would give them greater happiness than the grace of vocations in their home. Three of the children were to receive that blessing. Peter and two of his sisters. All three became missionaries in Africa.

Peter was born in 1874. Very early in his childhood he set his heart on the priesthood and the thought of it filled his life from then on. Later, when he was at college, a White Father came to give the boys a talk on Africa. Young Peter's interest was roused and he soon resolved to be a White Father himself. His parents tried to persuade him to go on for the diocese, but he had given himself as firmly to the missionary ideal as to the ideal of the priesthood.

So in 1896 he entered the novitiate. He made his Profession on St Patrick's day 1899 and was ordained on March 30th, 1900.

For the first four years of his priesthood he was teaching in the Seminary of Philosophy. Then, in 1904, he had the happiness of sailing to Africa where he had been appointed to the Vicariate of Nyassa.
This was still a young mission. Only a few years before, the first bishop, the famous Bishop Dupont, had faced the fiercest of tribesmen and had so won them over that they made him their king. When Fr Travers arrived there were only seven mission stations in the whole of the vast vicariate.

One of the bishop's greatest worries was the lack of resources for his work. The poverty of the missions and missionaries was very real indeed. Everything, even the essentials had to be drastically rationed. Two years after his arrival Fr Travers was made responsible for the finances of the missions—or, as he would put it, the lack of finances! In later years he always spoke with admiration of the wonderful selfsacrifice with which the missionaries faced up to the situation, and they for their part never tired in their praise of his devotedness and charm in carrying out his administrative duties. Throughout the rest of his life he never lost the practice of poverty acquired during those Spartan days. Ever after, for instance, his sermons, study notes, memoranda, were all written, in his small, clear hand, on the inside of envelopes, neatly cut open and folded over.

In 1910 he was made Vicar General and two years later he was elected a delegate to the White Fathers' General Chapter. It was from there, in 1912, as we have recalled earlier in this magazine, that he was sent to found the Priory.

As everywhere, he here rapidly won the esteem and affection of everybody. He was much sought by the clergy of the diocese and they took occasion of his jubilee, in 1925, to show how deeply they appreciated him. The impression he made on them and on his community and students was essentially that of a priest—in his own life, in the solid instructions he gave and in the smiling happiness he radiated.

The priests who were at the cathedral in Portsmouth at the time he first called to see Bishop Cotter, used to tell of the deep impression he made on them. One thing they always remembered. He had been travelling across the Continent and by boat to Southampton all the previous day and night and had come straight on from Southampton to Portsmouth, only to find that the bishop would not be at home until 11 o'clock. At 11 o'clock the Bishop saw him and after the interview Fr Travers asked if he could say Mass. (It was of course the days of fasting from midnight). It was not just the long journey and fast that impressed the priests: it was as though the fact that he must still arrange to say Mass at that late hour was his one great preoccupation, even with the important business meeting with the bishop, on which a future foundation depended, on his mind.

It is easy to imagine how great the sense of loss was when, in the afternoon of Easter Sunday, 1926, he died, after a painful illness at the age of 53. He had guided the Priory through the first fifteen years of its existence, with the exception of a brief absence and illness in 1915, when Fr Forbes, later Bishop Forbes, of Uganda was acting superior.

Fr Bouniol was Fr Travers' right-hand man from the start and succeeded him as Superior. He remained in charge until the end of 1937.

It would be difficult even to list all that Fr Bouniol accomplished over and above his absorbing routine duties as teacher and, later, as superior. He was always full of ideas for improving the school and for furthering the interests of the African missions. The building of a gymnasium and an extra recreation hall, terracing the playing fields planting avenues of trees, extending the farm were all amongst his undertakings. And everywhere it was Fr Bouniol in his habit and blue apron, turning his hand to work on all these projects himself. Fr Bouniol, pushing a wheel-barrow of sand or cement on his way to lay a bit of path somewhere, was a familiar sight. In his mind's eye he always saw the picture of missionaries out in Africa coping with their priestly ministry and with their many material chores, and he never forgot his solidarity with them.

At the same time, from his desk came a monumental tome, "The White Fathers and their Missions" (see the Publications Appendix) and it was he who launched the magazine and built up the first wide circle of the friends of our missions. Many readers will still remember the early numbers and the letters they had from him. And with all this, there always seemed to be priests and lay-people calling to see Fr Bouniol. It is true that it would have been impossible for any one man to do all these things, as extra occupations, entirely by himself. But he had the gift of finding collaborators and enlisting their help and it remained he who directed and inspired their work. He knew, also, how to get the best out of his students and deepen their attachment to their priestly ideal. There was never so radiant a Fr Bouniol as when one of his past students came back to the Priory a priest.

It was indeed a hard cross for him when the Superior General appointed him to administrative work which necessitated his saying good-bye to the Priory and all the work and connections which he had built up during his long years there. He was only to return there on three brief occasions. He died in 1950.


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3. "Our Fifty Years"

Taken from the Golden Jubilee isue of the White Fathers magazine in 1962

Beautifully written but no author's name is given. Was it one of the priests who worked at The Priory ?
(contributed by Mike Mearns—extra photos taken from the Gallery)

DID you ever hear of a seminary whose foundation stone was laid by royalty and blessed by an Anglican Bishop? That in fact is what happened in the case of the White Fathers' missionary college at Bishop's Waltham, though, be it said from the start, neither royalty nor Anglican prelate dreamt that the stone on which so much royal and ecclesiastical ceremony was lavished would indeed one day be at the foundations of a Catholic seminary !

This is the Story of It.

In the wave of humanitarian undertakings of last century, some good people hit on the idea that a hospital was needed at Bishop's Waltham : the hospitals at Portsmouth and Southampton were just that much too far away to take the less serious cases and something was needed to "provide for the poor of the district those comforts in time of illness which can only be secured for them by an organised establishment". So they resolved to build a small hospital, to be known as the Royal Albert Infirmary. A site was chosen overlooking Bishop's Waltham. It was certainly an ideal spot, with commanding views of the wooded countryside for miles around.

The prime mover of this scheme was Mr. Arthur Helps, who had a country house at Bishop's Waltham. He was secretary to the Privy Council and was the author of a collection of memoirs and speeches of the Prince Consort. Amongst his donations to building the new infirmary were the proceeds from the sale of his book. When the time came for the laying of the foundation stone, Mr. Helps was able to solicit the presence of royalty for the ceremony. So it came to pass that, in August 1864, the main street of the little country town of Bishop's Waltham was gay with bunting and high above the small-paned windows of its country shops, towered a triumphal arch of evergreens and flowers. Across the top of it a broad banner saluted the Queen.

The Queen herself, however, was far away at Osbourne House in the Isle of Wight, plunged in her endless mourning for Prince Albert. But she had consented to be represented and when the bells in the grey flint tower of St Peter's echoed across the chalky red tiles and hard blue slates of the jumbled roofs of Bishop's Waltham, it was to ring out a welcome to Prince Leopold. He was accompanied by Princess Louisa of Hesse and the Earl of Grenville. It was his first public engagement.



Amongst the personages under the awning on the building site were the mayors of Portsmouth, Winchester and Southampton. The young prince went through the formalities of laying the foundation stone, the Bishop of Winchester said a prayer and, almost an unwittingly prophetic touch, the hymn "All people that on earth do dwell" was sung.

The following year, in November, royalty were there again for the formal opening of the building and the unveiling of the statue of Prince Albert in the niche over the entrance. This time it was young Prince Arthur who came for the ceremony, with Princess Helena and Princess Louisa. A painting of them, now in the National Portrait Gallery, commemorates the occasion. Rarely can such a modest establishment have been launched with so much dignified ceremony and notice. And rarely could any institution have been so short-lived. For within a few years the whole idea of a hospital was dropped. The statue of Prince Albert was removed, leaving a gaping niche between twin badges of royal orders. The property was sold and became a private residence. Its new owners called it "The Priory"— its style was vaguely reminiscent of monastic rather than domestic architecture. With the disappearance of even the name Royal Albert Infirmary to keep alive the memory of its brief regal occasions and its place in the annals of public benefactions, Bishop's Waltham resumed its rural retirement in the hollow of the wooded Hampshire hills. Shepherds drove their close-packed flocks in from the downs, brewer's dray and farmer's wagon ground ponderously over the gravel roadway, oldest inhabitants succeeded each other on the seat round the old oak opposite the harness-maker's shed. Trees grew steadily round "The Priory" to give greater seclusion to its terraced lawns and rose gardens even in these tranquil surroundings. Just four times a day the quiet air was stirred by the muted clatter of the railway engine drawing its single coach slowly over the level crossing to come to rest in the tiny terminus station with a discreet, almost apologetic hiss. So the years went by.

Then, one day in 1912, two bearded strangers alighted from the train. One was from North, the other from Central Africa. They were two White Fathers in search of a suitable property where they could found a missionary college. "The Priory" was on the market again and they had come to Bishop's Waltham to look at it. It proved to be just what they wanted — a house big enough to make a start with and plenty of ground for building. Bishop Cotter, the Bishop of Portsmouth, had already given them permission to look for a place and was only waiting the opportunity of consulting the Chapter before authorising the foundation. By September 17th this had been done and "The Priory" had become the property of the White Fathers. On October 2nd Father Travers, one of the original two, with another Father and four Brothers moved in. Ten days later two more Fathers arrived. So it was thus on the feast of the Motherhood of our Lady that the business of launching the new foundation began in good earnest.

The old coach house and stable were turned into a carpenter's shop and the Brothers set to work to make desks, tables, cupboards, bookshelves, altars, vestment presses. Soon a small farm was started to provide the needs of the Community. Almost immediately plans were put in hand for the college buildings.

By December 13th 1913 the new building was ready for Bishop Cotter to bless. It consisted of a three storey block parallel to the old house and providing chapel, study, classrooms, infirmary and dormitory, and linked to the old building by a section containing the refectory, kitchens and recreation room. The old building now became the Community house and the new, of course, the school. In the empty niche over the main entrance a statue of our Lady was placed to preside henceforth over the training of future missionaries, and in the miniature belfry high on the new building, a bell rang out the Angelus for the first time in these parts. It was a thin voiced bell, the kind that comes cheap, but it had its vigorous say among the mellow peals floating from the towers of half-a-dozen pre-Reformation village churches far across the woods and fields. It was heartening, too, for the few Catholic families in Bishop's Waltham. Until the White Fathers came, Bishop's Waltham only saw a priest a couple of times a year, for their parish church was eight miles away. The Fathers gladly brought the people their priestly ministry, as what missionary would not. Since those early days Bishop's Waltham has been made a separate parish and one of the Fathers is appointed Parish Priest. It is a large area of countryside with a small number of scattered Catholics. Even so it has produced two priests — one, a convert Anglican clergyman, now a Jesuit, the other, Fr. Miller, a missionary in Uganda for thirty years and a nun, Sister Mildred, at present stationed in Liverpool.

The missionary college, then, was well and truly founded by the end of 1913 and hopes were high of filling it with students before long. But within a few months the 1914 war had broken out with all the disruptions it caused. It was certainly not the most favourable time to inaugurate such a work as this. Material difficulties worsened steadily throughout the country and the staff came and went, especially with the growing problems in the missions in Africa under war conditions. In the end it was realised that there was little hope of making headway until the war was over.

And indeed when peace did return, the Priory began to build up slowly and steadily. It opened in 1918 with seven students and one Brother postulant. Amongst the students were Alfred Howell, who was to make such an important contribution to the development of the Province in later years, and Arthur Hughes, destined to become the first Papal Internuncio to Egypt. By 1925 there were sixty students and the number soon rose to eighty.

But the increase in missionary vocations was much greater than that figure suggests, for in the meantime another missionary college had been begun to cater for the lower half of the school, so that the Priory now housed only the boys in the top forms. This new foundation was St. Columba's College at Newtown St Boswells. It had a double distinction: it was the first, missionary college to be founded in Scotland and Fr Walsh, the priest to whom the founding of it was entrusted, was ater to become a bishop. Fr Walsh's story has something unique about it. As a boy he lived in Aberdeen and went to the seminary for the diocese. Ordained at the Scots College in Rome after winning a doctorate in Philosophy and in Theology, he was appointed to St Mary's, Inverness. It was from there, in 1929, that his desire to work for the missions in Africa led him to the White Fathers' novitiate. After his novitiate he was on the staff at the Priory for a year. This brought him to the time for his profession with high hopes of a speedy appointment to Africa. But Providence had planned otherwise.

He was appointed to Scotland to make the White Fathers better known and to explore the possibilities of a foundation. With the blessing of Archbishop MacDonald of Edinburgh, he first settled at Melrose, in the valley near the old Abbey ruins. A house was rented awaiting the time when property could be found suitable for a college, and a small community moved in — Fr Walsh himself, Fr Drost, who had been on the staff at the Priory many years before and was to win the esteem and affection of many hundreds of Scots friends of the White Fathers, and Brother Modeste, one of the early members of the community at Bishop's Waltham. A suitable site was found in 1934, some three miles further along the Tweed, at Newtown St Boswells (the saint in question being Boisil, a monk of the seventh century Celtic abbey of Melrose, the nursery of many missionaries). So the little community left the house at Melrose and moved into the small farmstead on the newly acquired property, converted a byre into a tiny chapel (the homely peace of it will always haunt the memory of those who knew it) and, whilst keeping the small-holding going, busied themselves with the task of interesting Catholic Scotland in the proposed missionary college.

It was not until a year later that the foundation stone of St. Columba's College was laid and regular work on the building began. Meantime Fr Walsh spent himself tirelessly finding friends and donations to make the work possible.

In September 1936 part of the building was ready and the first of the St Columba's students arrived. Work progressed spasmodically but of necessity came to a standstill during the war. The architect met a tragic death in an air-raid during a visit to London. After the war the project was entrusted to one of Scotland's leading ecclesiastical architects. New plans were drawn and important additions have thus been made, in particular the chapel, blessed in 1954 by Fr Walsh himself, by then Bishop of Aberdeen.

Although plans allow for further extensions, St Columba's College already forms a complete and arresting building worthy of its magnificent surroundings. Standing on a hill above a bend in the River Tweed it is visible from many points in the famous Scot Country.

It was as well that we had the farm and some of the building done at Newtown St Boswells before 1940, for the time came when we had to evacuate the students from the Priory. The Jesuit Fathers at Mungret generously gave hospitality to our Irish boys and the others went to St Boswells. There, too, the Philosophy students came, for the war deprived us temporarily of the Seminary of Philosophy at Rossington Hall in the south of Yorkshire.

Many temporary measures were, indeed, imposed on us by the war. Amongst other problems was that of providing a transitional arrangement, for two years, for a group of students in Theology. This was solved by acquiring a house at Sutton Coldfield so that they could go from there to Oscott College daily to follow the lectures, an arrangement made through the kindness of Archbishop Williams of Birmingham and the Rector of Oscott. After this the house at Sutton Coldfield was used briefly as a novitiate and finally it became the house for Fathers lecturing and preaching on the missions and so on in England. This it still is.








Key


1. Monteviot House
2. St Columba's
3. St Andrews'
4. Broome Hall
5. Brothers' Noviciate
6. The Priory

Taken from an undated issue of "The White Fathers" magazine (sic) — loaned by Mike Byrne















Rossington Hall, regained, became the scholasticate but it was really quite unsuitable, low-lying and not in the healthiest of areas. So at Whitsun 1948 we took advantage of an opportunity of a favourable market, sold Rossington Hall and migrated to Monteviot House on the banks of the River Teviot some ten miles from St Boswells. We rented it for ten years until we acquired St Edward's, at Totteridge in north London, where the scholasticate, with all its youthful zest in prayer, study and manual work, is now finally established.

With the Priory and St Boswells for the younger students and the Scholasticate well provided for, there remained the need of a permanent home for Philosophy and for the Novitiate. Shortly after the war Broome Hall, some miles from Dorking, in Surrey (originally the home of the first editor of "Punch"!) was acquired. This has proved to be the ideal situation for the double novitiate, for Cleric and Brother novices, whilst St Augustine's College at Blacklion in County Cavan is the Seminary of Philosophy.

Further housing problems arose in providing for the young Fathers doing university studies or working for the Oversea Diploma in Education. It was to meet this need that we established a community at Heston, in 1927, though at the same time we undertook to found a new parish there. It was one of those small country places amongst the orchards on the outskirts of London, which it was planned to engulf in the huge housing schemes for Greater London.

Later, Heston also became the Provincial House and this continued until, in 1950, a more centrally situated house was found at 47 Palace Court, the former home of the Meynall family, where they once harboured Francis Thompson and where many famous men of letters, including G. K. Chesterton, were often to be found. But the number of Fathers engaged in studies increased to such an extent that the whole house was needed for them. The Provincial therefore migrated and eventually, in 1960, a new Provincial House was found at 14 Holland Villas Road.

By this time all our other work had been moved from Heston except the care of the parish. It seemed a pity that at a time when diocesan priests were volunteering for periods of work in Africa, a White Father should be permanently assigned to parish work in London! And so Heston, now a flourishing parish, was, by arrangement with the Cardinal Archbishop, taken over by the diocese.

The Fathers lecturing and preaching in Scotland, who had been housed at St Boswells since the time Fr Walsh had begun there, moved into quarters of their own at Rutherglen,in 1953.

Alongside the Scholasticate at Totteridge is Totteridge Lodge, where pastoral courses are given to the young Fathers before they leave for the missions.

Lastly, at Templeogue, Dublin, is the house of studies for training in education for Africa.

So, after these fifty years of history, the Province has eleven houses where Priests and Brothers are being trained and Fathers and Brothers work in administration, teaching, writing, study, all concentrated no the one great purpose to which their lives are dedicated — the furtherance in every possible way of the Kingdom of our Lord in Africa.


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4. A Letter to the Parents of Priorians

A copy of the original letter, sent in Summer 1956, by the Superior Fr Paul F Moody :
(contributed by Mike Mearns)





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