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Ex Student Alban Pinkney

Introduction

In 1943, Alban was one of the first boys to attend St Columba's as junior seminarians. At that time, the College functioned as House of Theology for students returning from occupied North Africa. Consequently, Alban and his fellow-students were housed in nearby 'St Helen's', separate accommodation that was situated in an adjoining field.

In the year that war broke out (1939), Alban had moved with his family from Jesmond, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, to Southall in Middlessex. Here, he attended St Anselm's Catholic School and was a regular altar-server at the Church until leaving for 'St Columba's' as a 15-year-old.

Recently, Alban wrote 'Endless Tide — A family Portrait' to serve as a family memoir. We are grateful to him for allowing an extract to be included on our website. These two chapters covers his time in Scotland and The Priory, Bishop's Waltham.





(source : Alban Pinkney)

Staff and students at St Helen's / St Columba's College in 1943
Click here for an enlarged version—including help with identifying those featured.
1943
I was to make ready for entry into the Seminary of the White Fathers, situated at Newtown St Boswells, Roxburghshire. But before final preparations were made, we had an horrendous electrical storm to live through, A flash of lightning occurred just about every second. This situation didn't particularly help the dermatitis of which I was suffering, which had apparently threatened my inclusion into the White Fathers. The storm continued well into the night and thankfully no severe damage encountered. My blotched face gradually improved so I would be on my way as planned a few days later.

At the London main line station I met, as arranged, two lads about the same age as me, Anthony and John. These two knew each other quite well; their families lived fairly close to each other in the towns of Carshalton and Thornton Heath in Surrey. We three were quiet and subdued as we boarded the train. It was the first time any of us had been away from our families, Our gaze was set against the window as the steam train pulled out of the station and when slowly gathering speed, my heart sank. Watching through the steam creating its many formations, I could see mum smiling with tear drops wetting her welcoming face. But of course they were my own tears I saw in the reflection, tears of emotion and yet in a kind of way tears of anticipation and tears of dread all engaged at the same time, We did our best to cheer ourselves up. Nevertheless it was a little easier for the other two in knowing each other, it must have helped.

Anthony Hegarty may have been one of the lads.

After what seemed an eternity, we chugged slowly into the station of St. Boswells. It was dark now. We were met by Brother John, and with the three of us trudging behind carrying, and sometimes dragging, rather heavy suitcases out of the station, past 'Featherstone', the baker, who will feature now and again later in the story — along a gravel lane boarded by a tall hedge either side, until at last in view, we spied an entrance to a farm.

Brother Albertus was also on the staff during this wartime period — though he may have worked mostly at St Columba's, when it functioned as Theology seminary.


(source : Alban Pinkney)

This was once the Chapel of St Helen's


Little did we know that this was a working farm as well as a self-supporting school. I can smell it now, as we passed by the cow bier and the milking sheds alongside a very large hay loft. But there, across the wide yard, was this beautiful chapel of St. Helen. It was only possible for a few fleeting glances as we were ushered straight into an upstairs dormitory consisting of six beds, Three of the beds were already in occupation, each incumbent reclining on its bed, each looking strangely lost and vacant. Maybe the way I felt was normal after all. However I must have drawn the short straw because the one remaining window view was quickly snapped up by one of us new itinerants. We possessed a small locker each for our towel and the rest of our ablution materials, the bed was hard and narrow but 'thank heavens' I thought - plenty of blankets! It was a cold and raw September, but why send us to frozen Scotland? Character building it must be!!

We were well fed; meals were beautifully cooked and presented by Nelly, the cook. Food was always on our minds, growing lads, you see. Before 'lights out', sitting on my bed, cogitating, I could hear tapping sounds. Gosh, that sounded like Mum tapping the chip container against the pan, Oh, how I wished for a few chips. I must pull myself together! But I did think it was Fr. Taylor having a sneaky feed-up in the kitchen below. This exercise of tapping continued always at the same time each evening, However, after a few nights I realised exactly what it was. There was no chip pan. As I stood up to change into my bed clothes I heard this noise again, it was 'Fatty Davis' tapping his toothbrush against the washstand, My hunger pangs ceased there and then. How stupid I felt! I told myself that this fact of the mystery of the chip pan must stay at the back of my memory and only brought forth for resurrection if I should ever write my memoirs.

Frank Davis

One of our long standing parishioners was a Miss Knight (a member of the Knights Coal Tar soap family) who left a generous legacy for the future training of priests and the religious life. I would like to think that a sum of money was made available to my parents in alleviating the burden which befell them when the decision was made to send me to join the White Fathers' Seminary.

Our school uniform was a 'Black Watch' kilt with jerkin and long socks and usual accessories. We didn't mind, we thought we looked 'the bees knees.' Mark you, only some of us had the legs for it. We would get well taunted by the great unwashed from the village, The local talent, I treat the word 'talent' in a loose sense, were brazen enough to enquire if we kept to the kilted tradition of their illustrious heroes, but we did not provide any proof of probability.


A few days had elapsed and we then realised that the 'honeymoon period' was over when Fr. Superior addressed us in a very sombre attitude, in that he acquainted us with the house rules. I prefer to call it the 'riot act.' It was in fact called 'The Grand Silence' which meant no talking from evening prayer until after breakfast the following day. In between times there was supper and morning Mass. Mass and prayers were conducted in the beautiful little chapel on site. I had the privilege many times in assisting at Mass, joyous occasions indeed. We were also informed that breaking this 'Silence' could bring about expulsion from the Seminary. However I can humbly state that yours truly, and one other unfortunate were caught 'red-handed' as it were, just at 'lights out' at about 9.30pm.


On the morn we were hauled in front of the (Kommandant) Fr. Walsh, our Superior, to explain our delinquent behaviour. We could not of course do so to his satisfaction. He said he would report this incident to Fr. Gaffney, the Supremo now based in Heston, Middlesex - or he might wait until Christmas when Fr. Gaffney would make his annual visi

Fr Francis Walsh and Fr Bernard Gaffney (Right)

I must confess that at the time our Superior was very unkind and I resented him holding this matter over our heads for such a long time. I suppose in those days discipline was of a different nature; maybe sometimes it works but not always. Anyway, the outcome arrived on St. Stephen's day with Fr. Gaffney addressing the gathering of impatient young men, impatient because we were all standing astride our suitcases in readiness for the holidays.

He wished all a wonderful time and safe journey home. At this point he beckoned me over to him along with my fellow recalcitrant. All he said was "Do not break the grand silence" and then winked. "Now be off with you and give your father my best wishes." At this point I thanked him profusely and glanced back momentarily and detected a not best pleased look from our Superior who I think expected a rather sharper rebuke. On reflection it may have been a case of who you know, etc. My dad was a good friend of Fr. Gaffney and of course I knew him also to a lesser degree. Dare I say, it helped.

But happy to report that all was well upon our return in January. I must admit therefore that my previous experiences had sharpened my senses somewhat.

Already ensconced at the White Father seminary in Newtown St. Boswells, us lads were given the afternoon off. A rare occurrence indeed, because it was in the middle of the week. We had worked out a scheme in which if the feast day of one of the Fathers fell at an advantageous time it would be exploited, in that we were given a half day off from studies, to our collective delight.



On one such afternoon, four of us had decided to climb the three hills named the 'Eildons'. These hills could be seen from far and wide, but sometimes were enveloped in a not very inviting mist. However, the time seemed perfect for an ascent. Now this climb of three hills had to be achieved in one attempt  in order, according to native folklore, to be called a true 'Boswellian.' We were eagerly informed that a short walk was needed then to reach the starting point — but it was more like a country mile or five. Nevertheless, after a lot of huffing and puffing we reached our objective.

The climb was mostly of slate and shingle I remember. It was really difficult because of the nature of the course. You would move forward three steps and return two. "Will we ever make it?" was the cry! Oh Heck, we thought, there were still another two peaks to conquer. But if any Scotsman can do it, then most certainly an Englishman can. I gave little thought to the fact that our party consisted of one Irishman, one from Jersey, my pal George, one Englishman and even a Scot.

We achieved it somehow, much to our delight. We didn't want the indigenous lot to scoff at the foreigners from across the border. The real daunting thing that suddenly occupied our minds was the long walk home. Buses, I don't think we were on a bus route. Even so, I don't believe a driver would accept a promissory note, for none of us ever had any money.

I had mentioned earlier the craft we engaged in, in order to obtain time off from our studies. Well we learned very quickly that the Superior was one step ahead of us in this battle of wits. This particular feast day, which coincided with one of our tutors, was to be a working afternoon. When it was fully explained how we should be employed we looked forward to it with great anticipation.

Brother John had decided to clear up the rest of the now depleted hay stacks situated opposite the cow byre and barn. Thinking back, they did make the place a tad untidy. Now to accomplish this onerous task we were each handed either a hayfork or spade in order to catch the varmints that lay hidden in their nice warm beds. One unlucky lad only had a broom to use. We did not realise at the start of operations that there would be so many rats and mice to catch and stab. We lads were poised to attack as the first of the hay was lifted clear, but then still no sign of any movement from within. Suddenly all hell broke loose; these creatures were hitting the fresh air from all parts. There was stabbing, stamping, shouting and squealing for ages, and just as suddenly, silence. This was now a non- haystack and where it had been, stood a neat row of dead rats and mice, all displayed in a soldierly fashion i.e. from the smallest to the biggest.

Brother John was highly delighted with our efforts, but he did warn us to be more circumspect because he explained that twice his 'Toetectors' had been under attack due to the enthusiasm of it all.

The two stacks remaining were demolished in no time. The line of 'deceased' grew ever long. I believe we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon off. Of the 'lately departed', well they were given a burial, a deep one, with due reverence, I don't think.


(source : Alban Pinkney)

This was once the cow barn

Nelly, the cook, always a wonder at the oven —and ably assisted by Fr. Taylor, — brought over a pile of jam scones and a great jug of lemonade, all of which were devoured with amazing alacrity.

A priest with a penchant for the outdoor life and fresh air 'to boot' had a sudden thought whilst gorging on a large plate of porridge, at an early Saturday breakfast. "Paper- chase" he uttered loudly. "Oh dear, oh dear" we all muttered. "He wants us to go out again for extreme exercise."

A Scottish Spring was not always a mild Spring, as we were wont to find out. The day chosen for this exertion was no exception. Shorts and thin tops were the only clothing allowed, apart from footwear, that is. "What about gloves?" someone had the temerity to enquire. Sometimes the best answer given, is to ignore the question. So it came to pass as we all lined up in front of the chapel awaiting orders. Well it was better than sitting in classroom at study, (yes we had lessons or study periods even on a Saturday) but this still beats it any day.

Four sides of three were chosen. I was one of the chosen leaders, as one of the senior pupils, by age. Heaven help us. This enthusiastic innovator known as Fr. Robinson, I never found out what his first name was, but I bet it was pretty apt and innovative. He had secreted the clues along the fields by the college, down lanes and across the river Tweed onto Dryburgh Abbey land. So we had quite an area to cover. Each team commenced from different starting points.

Above photo : Fr John Robinson

My team of one junior and one older boy, were racing ahead, so I called them back and said "We must space ourselves, otherwise we may not have the energy for the final push." They just stared at me, and must have realised that I was already out of puff. So eventually our running became trotting and then a sauntering, then stone-dead, because suddenly by the gate in a field adjacent to our farmland, our gaze was overly fixed onto a horse pretending to munch away at the grass about him. We knew that he had one eye concentrating on his lady friend making a teasing walk toward him, and that was so because a timely 'pulse of nature' was evident.

We stared awhile transfixed. I then suggested, and not before time, we move on with alacrity. I should honestly admit here to an occasional look back. We learned a great deal about farm life, especially some of us.

Further down the lane we found our first clue, a cryptic one I remember; not very helpful I have to report. However the youngest in our party, a bright spark if ever, conceived the notion that the next clue could possibly be, by or on the bridge, a swing bridge in fact, which spanned the very fast and shallow river beneath.

This river Tweed, what a beautiful stretch of water. In particular, I can recall, especially on the Dryburgh side, where there was room to laze and dream by its bank. However, enough of day dreaming, must get on. It is a salmon river and of course a keen fisherman can be seen in waders with their rods and nets and standing sometimes precariously, in the centre of this fast moving waterway. One may actually spot the fish moving swiftly between the massive rocks embedded below and dodging just as swiftly from the eager would-be captors as well, a sight to behold.

Sure enough, on the bridge was the next clue, tied to one of the massive hanging wire beams holding this huge structure in place. Upon absorbing the meaning in the clue we reached the old abbey of Dryburgh, which incidentally looked magnificent through the rich foliage which surrounded it. (Alas, now in ruins). The abbey was founded in 1150 by The Canons Regular of the Premontre, an ancient order, which in fact still survives to this day. In fact this spot was known as a sacred place as early as the 6th or 7th century.

In the 1940's and possibly until recent times, anyone could saunter around at will; no one was there to relieve you of your money. Those were the days before 'get rich quick merchants' had spotted an opening to our wallets. This was in order to 'support,' their words, the upkeep of ancient monuments, etc. But in so doing many of our treasures may not be seen by the majority on account of the extortionate amounts of cash required to get through the turnstiles. "Turnstiles" mark you. I would never pay any such fee to enter similar ruins or indeed cathedrals. A donation is fine but not if the request for such, as in many instances, is thrust at you on entering.

I remember a few of us lads on our infrequent half-days off would nip over to the ruins. On occasions we would still be clothed in our farm-workers smocks. The colour of such I suggest would be described as off-white with a bold red cross emblazoned on the chest, and when a group of school children were being shown around we would hide in the many darkened alcoves, which were a main feature of the cloisters.

When the time was right, in so far as the girls, for instance, were quite a healthy distance towards the centre, we would all of a sudden make an appearance. There followed screams in every known key possible. We then made ourselves scarce of course. Later on, we were feeling very contrite and hoping we wouldn't be blamed for any psychological deficiencies or flaws found in these girls as a result of our prank. We were all rather silly kids anyway and must admit rather disrespectful to the environs. But we thought at the time, all good fun!!

Anyway, back to the paper chase, we hadn't, that is, my team hadn't much luck, I was loathed to admit that in our search for the 'Holy Grail' or whatever it was, it wasn't a food parcel for sure. By now we were a tad hungry, so with food always uppermost on our minds we decided to return early and risk admonishment from our Seniors. As we strode wearily toward the bridge, I need to mention the massive statue of the Scots hero, in the name of William Wallace, lording over the whole area. In his time there were regular skirmishes with the 'Old Enemy,' — whom other but the English, of course. History has it he would hide and seek sanctuary in the Borders area and in the nearby Ettrick Forest, away from the English marauders.

I have to admit that my memory fails to extend to the full length of the paper chase; after all it has been more than sixty years since. But what I do remember, is that my team turned up last at base, empty-handed naturally, and there we were being worried about being first back. What a farce. There were no prizes; not even a 'wooden spoon.' In the evening whilst we had a short time to relax and chat before supper and night prayers, we had the other teams in raptures when we related our experiences seen in the nearby field. That was a learning curve for some. 'Sorry', I said 'no time for questions' thankfully the supper bell had rang out.

There was the time when we challenged the local Home Guard (Dad's Army) to a game of football. They were not sure if there was an ulterior motive afoot for this sudden gesture of goodwill. However, in keeping with the good old British spirit they accepted the challenge, so a match was arranged to take place in early evening. The only field large enough for a match had recently been deprived of thistles, which had abounded. Pupils like myself spent many 'penance' hours as punishment for our misdemeanours working as unwilling slaves in the harvest — for inattention at class, for lateness, lack of lacuna or for even more minor indiscretions.

The big day arrived and all of us were dressed in various outfits. At least the away team kept their uniforms on. Their goalie was told to stop playing with his rifle, it made us, the home team, unnecessarily nervous. So having persuaded him to abandon his provocative stance and stay between the sticks, we commenced proceedings.

Joe Featherstone, Sergeant and master baker by trade from the village, was there: I could reminisce all day in extolling his skills in bread baking, the taste was out of this world, I have not tasted the like since. Sorry, must get back to the game.

Click here to see reference to Joe Featherstone and the fire at St Columba's. (Histories Page 15).

Joe was also a big fellow to boot, boot being the operative word. In fact it was a boot that caught me on my right leg, my shooting leg of all things. For a brief spell I thought my leg was broken, however when it was seen that I was standing unaided, and a stretcher was not required, hostilities recommenced. The memory of this incident still remains in the shape of a hairless patch on my leg. Thank you Joe.

The game continued however without much adherence to rules and eventually abandoned due to fading light. Neither side won. But there was one other thing I well remember, it was the amount of swearing by the Home Guard of course. The game was littered and punctuated with "Sorry Father, sorry lads" again and again. But it was so amusing rather than in anyway bothersome. Mind though, the few priests that made up our eleven, could certainly dish it out, meaning, the odd foul or three or more.

The evening ended with beer and buns distributed, and eagerly consumed, by the brave soldiers of the village. I and the other boys, each had a glass of lemonade. What fun!

  It was on a Friday I recall when we were told that a chicken had been chosen for our Sunday lunch. It was suggested that one of us brave chaps would catch one "And then what?" we asked of Fr. Taylor.
(photo, left)
"Why, wring its neck of course" he countered. As we were a bit shy and rather daunted at this prospect, we started to back away. But then Francis (Fatty) Davis stepped forward. "I'll do it", he said. And he did, after chasing the poor bird up and down, over and under its personal space she once called home. Fatty then grabbed it and in no way could she escape from that moment because the weight of 'Fatty' was indeed evident. But then the final act: our victor made it with one twist of its neck - the deed was done. The bird was now at peace. But then the now dead bird started to run backwards, for a few yards only. It was the funniest sight I had ever seen. But not an unusual one I was told. I still had a lot to learn about farm life in general.

The following week features Brother John again. He explained that one of the heifers in the right frame of mind (well that is one way of putting it) was to be introduced to Dan, our one and only Jersey Bull. Dan was growing quite quickly and getting a little scarier to be with. Until recently it had been quite safe in crossing, with confidence, the small field which housed him. He would practice butting us with his horns, about the size of thimbles; it had been great fun for a while. But this particular day he ran up from behind and chased us to a corner by the awaiting gate. The scaling of the escape route was performed with such speed, not previously exhibited. We now decided to treat our one-time 'pet' with a bit more respect. On our return to the barn we related this happening to Brother John. "I know, he tried to mount me" said he. We, being a little naIve were not sure what he meant. Hey, Ho.

Brother John had already decided to put Dan to work. So a makeshift staging was put in place in the barn to assist the still small Jersey daddy-to-be. This was made clear to us because the heifer in question was older and a goodly bit taller than her impregnator-to-be. All of us, to a man, were waiting with great anticipation for this lesson (in birds and bees). But no such luck; we were all 'shooed' away. Anyway before the barn doors were shut against our excited eyes we had all noticed that Dan too was excited, bless him.

We were informed later that day that all went well and to plan — these words coming from our Brother John. We knew he was correct in his assessment, because returning down the cart track from St. Columba's nearby, the senior college, we couldn't help but admire the aerobics that Dan was performing. My, he was a happy chappy.

During 1943-45 St Columba's housed Theology Students who were returning from occupied North Africa to finish course.

Opportunity Spurned
It was annual holiday time and I looked forward excitedly to being back home with the family. However, there was to be a belated return, due to the untimely arrival of Denis at St Boswells. I wasn't best pleased! Three weeks had been arranged for his stay (to get away from the Doodle-bugs I was informed). "Fair enough" I thought to myself, then we shall return home together. Nevertheless we did enjoy ourselves immensely.

Soon the time arrived for the long awaited journey. I still had about four weeks left of my 'hols' to enjoy and enjoy I did, mostly watching cricket at Lord's. I let Denis wear my kilt on the return journey and it raised quite a few eyebrows and giggles especially from the young lassies.

One Sunday evening towards the end of the war, there occasioned a musical treat in the church hall, from which the money collected would be handed over to 'The Widows and Orphans Fund'. The need for this grew ever greater by the day, as you can imagine.

They had managed to get together a varied set of musicians and singers, one of which was my own sister, Veronica. She sang two evergreens, 'The Last Rose of Summer,' being very apt for the season, and the old favourite 'Cherry Ripe'. She sang them very sweetly I remember. The world famous virtuoso Leon Goosens was for a short time a member of our parish. He very kindly entertained us all by playing various pieces on the oboe, Father Ward, adept in the art of cello playing, complemented the evening's proceedings. There were other artists displaying their skills to varying degrees,so a good time was had by all. Ginger Beer and biscuits were freely distributed.

No sooner had September arrived, when the pace 'hotted up' for my continuation in religious studies. Anticipation mixed, I think, with misplaced fervour.

The drive from Winchester rail station to Bishop's Waltham was a little dangerous. There were many pot holes and much debris in our way, placed by German bombing or by the incessant manoeuvres of which the American army was very fond of playing.

Every Serviceman and native of these parts looked eagerly forward to the 'Harvest-Night' dance to be held in the village hall this particular Saturday, in grateful thanks for another bumper crop. Some others were harvesting their own misdeeds, I am sorry to relate. The ever-so-friendly Americans, still located nearby, were also pleased to content the ever-so-friendly but gullible indigenous female species in particular. Nylons and chocolates were their currency, we were given to understand; it was the keyway to extra union. It happened that husbands too were flattered to receive cigarettes from these generous allies. After all, were they not offered in a spirit of 'entente cordiale'? Did not their spouses bother to ask how and why their women acquired them? They weren't bothered but they knew what went on.

But in being so incautious it also happened to be a learning curve for the more adventurous. But in some cases a few daft 'birds' got lost in this shroud of frenzy, which by the nature of things landed them with a short holiday in the local infirmary. All this in order to reward their undoubted energy in the search for sexual enlightenment.

I understand a bit of frantic movement by the American personnel was put into motion as a result of their recent unlicensed fusion. However, now many American forces were gathered to fight bigger battles elsewhere and mostly overseas. Bigger battles 'for all of us' in this insane world of ours. God go with them!

Twenty four of us young men had gathered to start the new term. To get us in the mood we were offered a bonus in the way of a 'Retreat' which lasted three days. I believe it advanced our minds somewhat — to higher things.

Lo and behold, I believe the real bonus came from Mrs. Rogers, the Cook: she wanted blackberries. Who could resist blackberries? I remember we ate as many as we handed over to the kitchen. It was work we attended to from time to time to supplement the larder, and was better than sitting in a cold classroom anyway.

Norah Rodgers was part of the domestic staff during 1943-1961

The R.E.M.E. which had replaced the Americans, who, a little earlier as alleged guardians of our property, retreated to new barracks and left our buildings in a much needed T.L.C. situation. For one thing, the boilers stopped working, which reminds me, there was a time when a science class was on the curriculum. It was 11.00 in the morning, and ten or so eager learners sat in class, some of us shivering, at least I wore my woollen gloves in hiding under the desk top.

We were told at the time that we needed to toughen up and understand harshness and discomfort that we would encounter, most assuredly, in later life as a missionary. But please in a warmer climate, not in the frozen North or as a matter of fact as in Bishop's Waltham at present. However to our delight, in the meantime, information leaked out that the R.E.M.E. made good the pipes etc. so once more we would sit in reasonable, only reasonable, comfort I might add, for meals and learning. (In that order of course).

There were occasions when soccer was the order of the day. The games against the R.E.M.E. were usually explosive. We treated these matches as 'payback-time.' In one memorable match we won by 7 goals to 3. The opposition had at least two professional players, one from Aberdeen and the other from Preston North End. During the war many club professionals played for the Services, and when they could, for any nearby F.A. League sides.

It was a cold, very wet afternoon and indeed very muddy, especially in the goalmouths. I was the centre forward for the White Fathers and my moment of glory came late in the game. The ball was hurtling towards the enemy lines and stopped on a 'sixpence' by the penalty spot. Then happened a scene from the Keystone Cops. The Aberdeen goalkeeper and I raced through the sludge, slipped and fell headlong, 'A' over 'T'. But then I found myself erect once more but in a state of shock; this was the first time I remember being active. However I pulled myself together, faced the empty goalmouth, kicked for goal. I had to lift it for fear it got stuck again. I scored. But the memory of the goalkeeper stuck fast in the mind with his arms flailing — a memory still fresh in my mind. But I scored and all of a dozen spectators cheered. What bliss!!



(Source: Eugene MacBride — taken from a photocopy)

Some of Alban's contemporaries at The Priory in 1945
Paper chase again!

(L-R) :
On gate : ——, Joe O’Hare, John Slevin,——
Standing : Maurice Potton, ——, Francis Davis

With Christmas holidays done and dusted, we returned once more to our seat of learning. But one certain activity had to be attended to. The indigenous 'yobs' from the village had pelted us with scores of snowballs already piled up like cannon balls not far from the entrance to the Seminary. It would be true to state that we were totally unprepared for this attack. However there was always another day which those youths found to their cost, or rather their pride.

The snow had quite readily and easily refurnished the battle area between our gates and the village high street. All of us lads at this' Senior Thinking Establishment', together with at least four priests, helped with the ammunition needed to beat back the marauders. The local lads had got the message that we meant business. In the distance they could be seen working like little beavers through the snowy mist which had formed a white shield between us. The clock in the College tower struck three times. We advanced through the gates, armed to the teeth and to the elbows with snowballs of the hard kind. At a convenient spot at the edge of the High Street, both camps paused. Then, as one ball fizzed over our heads, we knew then that hostilities had begun. The temerity of these villagers believing that they could beat back their 'betters' took some believing indeed.

For the following fifteen minutes it was 'Even-Steven'. Then happened a signal from our team captain. "Charge!" he shouted. We did. Panic ensued, the enemy were running in reverse and eventually only mist was evident where once an active yokel army had encamped. We won, we drove them back. Wonderful feeling!

Later we learned that the command to "Charge!" was made by a priest who wished anonymity.

However, everyone thoroughly pleased with themselves, got cleaned up, and made ready for Sunday Benediction.

Back home
Upon my unexpected arrival at the back door of the family home in early 1945— this in the middle of term at the Priory — a surprised, as a surprised Mother could be, delivered an expression of complete astonishment. My dear Mum was absolutely at a loss for words; "Speechless" would be nearer the mark. When at last speech was restored, I was asked so many questions at a rapid rate that I was unable to answer with any profundity. Eventually I simply explained, that "I have changed my mind about training for the Priesthood, and decided to 'up sticks' as it were and surprise you this way'

Fortunately I can't remember the retort that was uttered after my feeble reasoning, excepting for the remark "wait until your Father learns about this."

This situation did distress both my parents and I know I did wrong by leaving without their knowledge or permission. Dad must have written to Fr. Lea, the Superior, for an explanation of the circumstances but he never let on to me about the content of his letter or of the letter of reply from Fr. Lea. I had often wondered about this.

Nothing further was said about my untimely visit. The long awaited cup of tea and egg on toast went down a treat. I believed Mum was softening up but I still had to face Dad! Silence did last for a few more minutes and then Mum came out with a 'peach'. "You and I are going to pay a visit to the Labour Office (Job Centre) to get you into work in the real world" she warned me. "Do not think you will have an easy time at home. You will start earning straightaway."

I remember starting straightaway, a Friday it was, unbelievable. Only one day and a bit was my break from the 'learning centre' to yet another.

However the induction into office work wasn't too bad, apart from being called 'Holy Joe' and 'God's spy', isn't it amazing how word can get around about one's earlier employment so quickly. Did someone closer to home 'help'? If that was so, I believe the intention was to toughen me up.

But it didn't take long to make friends with some of the lads and join in football kickabouts during the lunch break. The work was easy enough, collecting and delivering bits of paper from one department to another, but it was useful because it enabled me to learn so much about how an office worked and in this case how a heavy machine factory did their operations. The employer, now extinct, was A.E.C. Ltd. in Southall, Middlesex, the makers of London's buses.

(Extract from "Endless Tide" by Alban Pinkney)


Memory joggers—to help identify people featured below:



Alban is 4th from the right at the back.
Bro John (Ogilvie)
is s tanding on the left.
Fr John Robinson, seated left, next to Fr William Burridge.
Fr Walsh sits next to the bearded Fr Drost.

•Is that Fr Dan Sherry or Fr James Smith on the right?

Below are some names of other staff and students that might have been at St Columba's during lban's time

Staff at St Columba's Dates
Students from that era
Bro Albertus 1941- 45 1941
Fr Frederick Gerard Burton 1939 CAMPELL
Fr Bro Cuthbert — 1940 COLDHAM Peter Wilson
Fr Balthazar Drost 1936 -1959 CONNOR J
Fr Edmund Gottfried 1943 GALLAGHER Michael
Fr Alfred Ernest Howell 1941 - 45 HIGGINS Francis
Fr Leonard Marchant 1936 -1940 HOLLAND G
Fr Stanley Lea 1940 HUGHES G A
Fr Donald Murphy 1940 - 45 HUGHES Patrick
Fr Romuald Nicole 1935 — MALONEY G A
Bro John Ogilvie   MURPHY James Henderson
Bro Phillippe de Neri (Pierre Weiss) 1936 O'HARE Patrick Joseph
Fr Jean-Marie Rijkers 1940 - 42 PRICE G
Fr John Robinson 1943 - 45 1943
Fr Michael Ryan 1940 - 42 DAVIS Francis ??
Fr James Smith 1941 - 42 HEGARTY Anthony Stephen
Fr Sidney Stanley 1939 - 41 PINKNEY Alban
Fr Edward Taylor 1936  
Fr Leo van der Hoeven 1942  
Fr Francis Walsh (later Bishop Walsh) 1936 - 39