The following selection has been taken from a White Fathers / White Sisters magazineof August 1958,
lent to us by Robert Clyde


The Father in charge of Schools


Prisoner-of-War (by Fr Tom Dooley)

The following article was taken from the White Fathers magazine, Issue No. 105 dated August 1958 :


The month of May saw the ordination of seven British and two Irish White Fathers,
and we are pleased to introduce these young priests to our Readers who have
helped us so much to bring them to the AItar of God.



Father Thomas Bradley hails from Newry, Co.Down, Ireland, where he received his early education from theIrish Christian Brothers. Mter leaving school he was associated with the St. John Bosco's Boys' Club at Newry, and it was there that he found his vocation to the White Fathers, through Father John Robinson, W.F., who often visited the club.

Father Eugene Lewis is another Irishman but from Co. Clare on the banks of the Shannon. The Christian Brothers educated him too. He came to the White Fathers through reading the 'Wopsy' books of the late Father Gerard Scriven, W.F. As he himself says: "A little story called' Wopsy' helped to clothe my missionary dream in a white gown." He has twelve brothers and sisters, of whom one is a Holy Ghost Father, one a Cistercian monk, one a Franciscan to be ordained next year, one a Sister of the Good Shepherd in Ceylon, and one a Brigidine Sister.

Father Alexander McGarry has his home in Glasgow, and he attended St. John's and Holy Cross Primary Schools before coming to the White Fathers College at Bishop's Waltham. He was introduced to the White Fathers by one of their students on holiday in Glasgow.

Father Patrick Menzies is also from Glasgow, St. James' Crookston. The first White Father he ever met is the present Bishop Walsh of Aberdeen to whom one of his teachers presented him. He did his secondary studies at the White Fathers College, Bishop's Waltham.
Father Brian Garvey is a Londoner and is the third priest in his family, two of his Brothers being secular priests in the Archdiocese of Westminster. He went to St. Ignatius College, Stamford Hill, and came into contact with the White Fathers when Father Gerard Rathe, W.F. visited the school. He said his first Mass at the Church of St. Anthony of Padua, Anerley.

Father Gerald Corcoran went to school at St. Mary's, Chorley, and to the Salesian College, Bolton. He was attracted to the White Fathers through hearing one of them preach, and afterwards reading a copy of the Vocational Number of our Magazine.
Father Francis Nolan was at St. Mary's Primary School, Burton-onTrent, and then at the Grammar School there. His uncle, the late Canon de Capitain, who was Parish Priest of Sutton Coldfield knew the White Fathers very well, and introduced Francis to the late Father Scriven, W.F. He has a brother a Secular priest of the Archdiocese of Dublin.
Father John Gregory Morrissey is the sixth child of a familv of nine children and comes from York, where he attended St. Blossom's School. Thence he went to our College at Bishop's Waltham. His home Parish is now Acomb. He came into contact with the White Fathers by meeting Father Newman, W.F. on leave from Tanganyika. Father Newman had the great happiness of attending Father Morrissey's ordination.
Father John Sandom came from Dartford, but his home Parish is now Byfleet, Surrey. He went to school at Our Lady's Convent, Dartford, and then to the Salesian Colleges at Burwash and Cowley, Oxford. He became interested in the Missions through reading a Magazine of Medical Missions and was introduced to the White Fathers by a Seminarist of Southwark Diocese.

Maurice Billingsley writes (September 2008) :

"Brian Garvey and Frank Nolan did not have Mission postings as they were sent to Oxford, and thence to The Priory to teach us, possibly via St Mary's at Strawberry Hill. Brian took over from Mr Heath as director of Music. He was stumped by trying to teach me to bowl, but took a few of us to Fenner's ground to watch the Uni play MacKenzie's Australians."

Return to Top

The following article was taken from the White Fathers magazine, Issue No. 105 dated August 1958 :

The Father in charge of Schools
On my travels in Uganda I often met a strange sight. A priest. on a motor-cycle, a "Boy" on the pillion and they both and the machine festooned with all kinds of objects like a rag-and-bone man. The priest was always the Father-in-charge of Schools and he had and has my sympathy.

I should like to tell you why. It goes without saying nowadays that Education is of prime importance on the Missions. Africa cries out for Education and the Church is making a noble effort to provide it. In Uganda all the Primary Education is in the hands of the Missions. We also train our own teachers. The Primary school is the foundation of all Education; and the foundations form the most important part of any edifice.

It is, therefore, the avowed intention of the Church to continue to provide at all costs, the Primary Education of its children, and this is where the Father-in-charge of Schools comes in. Consequendy while in each diocese there is a priest who supervises Education in general and who carries out the liaison work between the Missions and the Educational Department, in each Mission there is a priest who organises and develops the work of the Primary schools in his Mission, the 'Father-in-charge of Schools.' He may be one of three Fathers in a Mission which has around 20,000 Christians; sometimes many more. He has to help in the ordinary work of the Mission, but less is expected of him so that he might also look after the schools of the Mission.

At the present state of development a parish of 20,000 souls would probably have six or more full Primary schools and probably up to forty schools slowly but surely evolving into full Primaries. These will be spread over an area of roughly 30 to 60 miles in each direction from the Mission.

To understand how these schools evolve, and the part which the Father plays, let us follow his trail of dust as he sets out this morning to visit a corner of the Mission area where he intends to start off a school in response to the repeated requests of the people there.

On arriving he first speaks with the two or three catechists of the district. They have already gathered some trees and are ready to start a modest building of a couple of classrooms and a store. They hope that the Father will see the chief and apply for a piece of ground which they have in mind. The priest inspects the proposed site, and satisfied with it, he sets the various balls rolling: sees the chief, encourages the catechists and the people and sets off again for home.

The ground obtained and the school built, the Father has to find a teacher. This is not always easy, since he has to find also the money to pay him and he cannot afford a fully qualified Primary teacher. Eventually the school starts. In a couple of years, if all has gone well, a third classroom has to be built and the next year a fourth. The time has now come to apply to the Government for approved status. This implies bringing the buildings and furniture up to the required standard and improving the quality of the teachers. Approval having been given, after much coming and going of inspectors, a fifth class is now added and eventually a sixth; the teachers are now paid by the Government.

I have already said that the Fatherin-charge has forty of these schools in their various stages of development, as well as the fully fledged Primaries which are in some cases developing into double Primaries, and he is wondering whether one or another cannot now be developed further into a Junior Secondary School. And that is why I always sympathised with the Fathers-in-charge of schools. They were unaware of my sympathy as I watched them paying their teachers at the end of the month, struggling with their accounts for wages, grants and all the rest of it and setting off on their motor-cycles for some corner of the Mission where there was trouble at one school or another or where still another modest beginning was to be made with still another future full Primary.

God speed them and prosper their patient hard work.

As time goes on, more and more help comes from the Aricans themselves. The Headmasters of the schools take on more and more responsibility themselves, helped often by a 'Council' composed of the Staff and some of the parents. In a large proportion of the full Primaries now in Uganda the Headmaster, helped by this Council, runs the school financially, thereby taking the material worries from the Father in Charge, and leaving him free to develop the less fortunate fchools. He is thus free also to give more time to the even more important task of instructing his pupils and teachers in their religion. The day is still far off, however, when all material worries can be left to others and the Father can restrict his work to general supervision and religious instruction.

Is this object of my sympathy an old experienced Missionary? Usually he is the youngest Father in the Post and his job is regarded as a sort of apprenticeship. Never was there any job on this earth with a more difficult and trying apprenticeship, nor with more willing apprentices. Perhaps that was the reason for my sympathy because, when all is said and done, the older Fathers had perhaps even more trials and tribulations in their work, more calls on their time, and with less hope of passing one day their work into other hands. In their case the other hands would have to be those of other missioners and the day seems far off indeed when the Bishop will be able to give four or five priests to a mission to do the work which is there for twice that number but which in the meantime is being done by the three as best they can.

Return to Top

The following article was taken from the White Fathers magazine, Issue No. 105 dated August 1958 :


Our congratulations and good wishes go to the following
White Fathers and Brothers who have been appointed to the Missions :

Fathers :
Fr J Hughes to Abercorn, Rhodesia
Fr Francis Moody to Mwanza, Tanganyika
Fr Steve Collins to Mbarara, Uganda
Fr Gerry Burton to Bukoba, Tanganyika
Fr John Morrissey to Oyo in Nigeria
Fr Gerald Corcoran to Rubaga, Uganda
Fr John Sandom to Mbarara,Uganda

Brothers :
Brother Basil (George Francis Littlejohns) to Rubaga, Uganda
Brother Vincent Francis (Patrick Chambers) to Kabgayi,Ruanda

Return to Top

by Fr Tom Dooley
(written in August 1984)

(L-R) : Tom Morton, Tom Dooley and Tom O'Donnell

(Source : Celia, sister of Fr Kevin Wiseman)

The St Denis Internees

A few days ago, 25th August to be exact, my memory was stirred by the fact that forty years had passed since we were released from St. Denis. But memory was not stirred as much as all that . . . there are still a lot of gaps. A group of us together would be able to dig out quite a lot. But I am on my own. Still you can have what I can give.

For a good number of years the British province (it was not yet a province at that time) had a house at Autreppe, in Belgium, for the Philosophers of the province. In I939 it was decided to close this house and open another house in England, near Doncaster, for this purpose. So the house in Autreppe was duly closed (or returned to the Belgian province) in July and the philosophers told to report to Rossington at the beginning of September. But war was declared on the 3rd September. In spite of this, a number of us were invited to go to Rossington to get it ready for use, the others having their holiday extended.

After about six weeks a halt was called and we were told that we would be going to Kerlois to complete our philosophy. I do not know what exactly had happened: whether the WFs had found the opening of a new house beyond their financial capacity and so were willing to let it to the army, or whether the first approach had been made by the army and the WFs were financially incapable of refusing their offer. Whatever, we were invited to go home and wait for further instructions. The instructions arrived: we had to assemble at the Priory to wait for transport to France and to do a little bit of study. I do not think my parents were particularly worried. I know that I was not unduly upset but perhaps I was a bit green. Tod O'Donnell and I went to sleep while we were still at anchor in Southampton and woke up as we were approaching Le Havre. But it was in the days of the phony war when nothing much was happening.

With hindsight, I suppose we could say that nothing really prevented us from escaping after the breakthrough at Sedan. But we had no foresight. The French superiors at Kerlois were convinced that it was just a temporary setback: 'Ils ne passeront pas'. We did one day hear strains of 'South of the Border', a popular tune in those days, coming from a road near the seminary. They were British troops heading out towards Brest. We did ask permission to try to join them but we were ridiculed by the Superior. I do not say this with any bitterness or with any desire to share out the blame. As I said, we had no foresight. We did try to get to the unoccupied territory and thereby hangs a tale with many ramifications. Quite interesting really, but only for those involved and on the whole an enjoyable time with the occasional adventure. However, once again authority intervened in the person of the priest in charge of the group. Progress was becoming more difficult and dangerous, not only for us but for those whose help we needed. And so we returned to Kerlois on foot. We had crossed the Loire at Angers (ferried across by German troops) and it was from there that we returned to our point of departure, on foot, as I said, since the Germans had by this time taken over the railway stations etc.

We were not long back at Kerlois, perhaps a couple of days, before we were ordered to repot to the German Kommandatur in the village of Hennebont. The emotions of  the group? Difficult to say.  A certain amount of apprehension but no hysteria. The guard was changed while we were in the office and some of us thought it was the firing squad. I think that in situations like that the mind and the emotions do not work in parallel. We could accept the idea of a firing squad but emotions would not have started registering until we were looking down the barrels. Or perhaps we were just plain dumb. So I have to come back to 'apprehensive but not hysterical'.

Those with Irish passports were allowed to return to the seminary and the rest of us were told that we would be detained . . . just like that.

We were then marched off to a military camp. We were the only prisoners there and, of course, many came to stare at these strange specimens dressed in douillette and shovel hats. We were not badly treated physically but all those who could speak a bit of English were only too anxious to convince us that we were the scum of the earth. One officer and one Feldwebel were particularly obnoxious but we survived.

Next day we were moved to a proper prisoner-of-war camp, within hearing distance of Kerlois. We were taken as we stood but shortly afterwards we were allowed to receive some clothing and odds and ends from the seminary. As far as I remember we were in five camps before we eventually arrived in St. Denis. This took roughly three months. Looking back it seems a lot longer. You can well imagine the problem the Germans had to face when they discovered that they had hundreds of thousands of prisoners on their hands. Accommodation and food were very poor but I would not hold that against our captors. They had a tremendous job to get things organised and they and we were very fortunate that the weather as exceptionally mild.

As far as I understand, the Grande Caserne of St. Denis was built to house the occupation army (British) after the Battle of Waterloo. And as far as I know it was never used for anything else other than as an army barracks. Certain adjustments were made and as time went on a number of huts (cf photo you sent me) were built to accommodate the internees. I suppose that our numbers fluctuated between 1200 and 2000.

The structural alterations were the responsibility of the Germans but the tennis courts, football ground, boxing ring were all the work of the internees themselves, with a fair amount of co-operations from the Germans as regards material. Within the camp there was a committee of internees responsible for order and cleanliness. I have forgotten how they were appointed. I think we had some kind of election. Each room or hut had a room corporal who was responsible for the inmates and for keeping the place clean. These room corporals formed a sort of committee for the internal running of the camp.

I cannot remember clearly how the first news of our situation reached home. I believe some news came to the WFs in England from Portugal. The news was brief enough . . . . 'all alive and well in the hands of the Germans'. It took about six months or more before we had direct contact with our families. From our side we were allowed to write letters of twenty-five words on special forms. Later we were allowed to write normal letters but on special forms. And, of course, our families used the official forms for prisoners of war. Once things got a bit organised we were allowed to write three letters a month. There was no regular postal service, in the sense that you could expect an answer to your letter within a certain period of time. It seemed to be a haphazard sort of business. Maybe there was some sort of planning but I never noticed it. And for the six months before our release we had no communications with our families.

I suppose it was nearly a year before we started receiving parcels regularly from the Red Cross. I am rather vague about that, though the parcels were an important feature in our lives. A distribution of parcels gave a tremendous boost to our morale. The general idea was that we would receive a parcel every week. At times it did work out that way but there were many interruptions and some long periods without anything at all. The parcels came mainly from the Red Cross but we did receive them too from other countries, especially Canada, America, S. America . . . . The spice of life. We have always been very grateful for what we received from these organisations. More than a few of us would not have made it without them.

Our families were allowed to send us individual parcels of clothing. This did not work out too well. Many of the parcels went missing and some were pillaged before they reached us. We received cigarettes from the Red Cross. When things were going well we would receive a ration of fifty per week. Needless to say we often missed out on them. We were also  allowed to buy a ration of French cigarettes - sixty a month. We had some money. Once again it took some time to organise but eventually the British government was lending us £I.50 per month. Of course the buying power was much more than it is today but I just cannot remember the price of the goods available for sale from our canteen. But the loan was enough to buy our cigarettes once a month and the half litre of very poor quality wine we were allowed each week and other odds and ends like soap and razor blades. The money we received was a loan but nobody ever asked us to return it.

It seems easy to say that morale was always good. But I do not honestly remember a time when we were all fed up to the teeth at the same time. And, of course, some individuals were more pessimistic than others but on the whole the morale was good. We always took it for granted that the allies would win the war some time or other. The only question 'was how long it would take. Strangely enough, I simply cannot remember whether there was free access to newspapers. I do not think so but, of course, newspapers did turn up from time to time. And we were never short of information about what as happening outside the camp. There were a few hidden radios in the camp but the big problem was to dig out the reliable information from the oceans of rumour that that were constantly on the move.

I have already pointed out that those who held Irish passports were not arrested as internees. Fr. D'Arcy, Fr. Brennan, Fr. Houlihan ( and I think another whose name escapes me at the moment) held British passports and so were part of our group. However, the Irish Consul in France, a Count O'Kelly, was willing to issue Irish passports to those who could establish a claim. The above named were able to establish such a claim and were duly released. But they were not able to return to Ireland. They were eventually sent to a WF house in the unoccupied zone of France and then later to N. Africa. Just in passing I should say that we were in constant contact with the WFs in France and they helped us in many ways.

When we reached St. Denis the two priests in the group started to organise a course of study for us. We made up two groups: one had already completed Philosophy and were to start Theology and the other still had a year of Philosophy to do. During our four years as Hitler's guests we covered a two-year course of the main subjects (major courses). We thought a lot the Frs. Maguire and Moran who kept our noses to the grindstone in spite of all the difficulties. The Philosophy group had their books sent to them from Kerlois ( which was eventually taken over by the German army). Books on Theology were not so readily available . . . . we had to manage on one copy of Arregui's Summary . . . for students and professor. Eventually we were able to get some books from Germany through the good services of the German commandant of the camp. In spite of that we were always short of reading matter. So we were out of normal seminary life for a period of five years but our studies in the camp counted for two years. A loss of three years. But strangely I have never heard anyone bemoaning the fact. We were not too enthusiastic about doing a full novitiate when we got back but even there I think our grousing did not go beyond the normal.

We were photographed from time to time for official purposes (I still have my identity card).  Many of the visiting officials arrived with cameramen. But generally speaking we were not allowed to have cameras. I say generally speaking since it is possible that permission was granted for special occasions. It is more than forty years ago!
There was a character in the camp who from time to time would go around like an Old Testament prophet shouting 'Another three weeks'. We tolerated him because he was saying out loud what most of us thought or at least hoped. And if you keep saying 'Another three weeks' well the day comes when you are right. We had all the news of the Normandy landing (together with clouds of rumours) and of course expectations grew. The build-up in Normandy took a very long time, at least from our point of view. And then came the breakthrough. It was the film of the I940 Sedan breakthrough running backwards. And then one night someone came running into the room waking us up shouting 'They have gone!'.  And that was that. My stomach heaved; I did not realise I was so physically keyed up. But they had gone.

We stayed on at St. Denis for two or three days. The military situation was extremely confused and there was still a lot of fighting going on and where could we go. The problem was solved by a WF turning up with a coal lorry. We laid our hands on everything movable and set out for Paris and the WF house at rue Friant, passing de Gaulle who was entering Paris from another direction. The British Embassy was opened with a skeleton staff and they undertook to get us back to the U.K. But it took a month. On arrival in one of the London airports we were interrogated by CID or something. When they found a long line of us were giving the same answers to their questions they cut it short and we were taken to a rest house in the heart of London. We were well received and well treated. We were able to send telegrammes to our families and were given travel warrants. Next morning Fr. Gaffney turned up to tell us all to go home until further notice. (We already had our travel warrants in our pockets). And so home after nearly five years absence.

I am much of the opinion that there is a credit side. It is not the experience that I would have chosen for myself or for anybody else and obviously I cannot guess what manner of man I would have been without that experience. But I have no regrets and I have not heard any of the others voice such regrets. But to be more specific about the credit side is more than I can do. I think one is constantly being made by one's experience . . . made or unmade, since there is something more than the objective experience involved. For example, I have often wished I had been sent straight to Africa after ordination, to a bush mission station, instead of being involved in teaching. Or if I had to be involved in teaching I would have liked a spell at one of the universities first. If you like to put it that way perhaps I regret that one or other of these things did not happen to me. But I do not regret having spent some time as a prisoner.

Be charitable enough to say that I have a very bad, uneducated typewriter and that I am a very busy man. I have not answered your questions about unusual characters and unusual happenings. There  were plenty of both. If ever you get the chance to listen in when a few ex-St. Denis men are together you will hear plenty. And there should be room to join us because the rest tend to leave us to ourselves. Perhaps they have heard all the stories before ad nauseam.

Tom Dooley 1984

You may also like to read Fr Kevin Wiseman's account of his harrowing
experience as a prisoner of war, reproduced in the Publications Appendix.