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in Cavan by Bro Fitzgerald
College Day (at St Columba's)
Years Ago by Fr James Smith
Survey of the Year by Fr Pat Fitzgerald
Taken from The Pelican Summer 1956 - Bro. Fitzgerald
The Londoner who comes to Blacklion will find it rather different from his native
city. Yet these two have at least one connection. They both possess a Marble
Arch. The connection is only in name, however. While one would hardly think
of camping out under London's famous archway, Ire land's Marble Arch is a wonderful
place for a day's "tinkering".
Marble Arch is the name given to a large system of caves about five miles from
the college. It lies in a pleasantly wooded valley, watered by the fast flowing
stream that has formed the caves. The system takes its name from a set of three
boulders which, in the form as it were of a Druidic archway, straddle the stream
near the main entrance of the caves.
The cave system is a very fine one indeed, not from the point of view of stalactites,
of which there are very few, but as regards the number of passages and caverns.
The most accessible group form the great Marble Arch cave. It consists of several
passages, some of which seem to have been deserted by the river for a vast number
of years, while others still form active stream courses. It can be likened to
a house which has been flooded, whose ground floor rooms are full of water while
the upstairs rooms are quite dry. This dry, upper portion of the cave has, in
fact, been called the Grand Gallery.
The return to the surface can be made by one of a number of exits which open
off the Gallery. However, if a more complete exploration is preferred, a way
can be made along the lower passages to an exit some 250 yards distant. But
this necessitates wading, even above the waist in some places, and it could
only be attempted when the river is low.
The final farewell to Marble Arch is made as one passes along the road beneath
the vast cliff called the hanging rock, the guardian of the caves and a local
landmark. Tradition has it that the huge boulders which can be seen at the base
of the cliff cover the remains of a waggon and 17 men! They were buried by it
when it broke away from the cliff one night. There is also a legend about a
small child who fell from the top of the Hanging Rock . . . and survived. You
can believe it or not, but Marble Arch is certainly a wonderful place.
(N B.: Actually Marble Arch is not in Co. Cavan but over the border in Co. Fermanagh.
It has been included in this series because it is popular and within easy reach
of St. Augustine's).
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by Kevin Gregson (Form II) at St Columbas
Taken from The Pelican, Summer 1960
At ten to seven in the morning, the College day begins,
With "Benedicamus Domino" and claps like rattling tins.
After a wash, it's morning prayers, and then to Holy Mass;
The beds are made, and breakfast starts, with a crash like exploding gas.
Ten minutes play, then classes (a word the boys do hate),
Until, with the bell at half-past ten, we come out like a river in spate.
It's in again at twenty to, For pure torture once more,
Until the bell for Chapel, Then a rush for the refectory door.
After dinner it's recreation, Till the old bell tolls again;
Now it's time for Manual Work, (The thought gives me a pain).
Following this is classes, And then a break for tea,
The boys dash down the stairway, so happy to be free.
After this more classes, And then comes study time,
Two Latin Exercises and a vocab, So much is just a crime.
The handbell goes, and once again, We dash off down the stairs,
Till after Visit and Rosary, We're seated again in our chairs.
Supper begins at quarter to eight, What a din in my poor head!
Now I don't really care what anyone says, At last it arrives 9.20, Bed.
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FORTY YEARS AGO
by Father James A. Smith
Taken from The Pelican, Summer 1962 (Jubilee Number)
Forty years ago you could go to any railway station in Great Britain and ask for
a ticket to Bishop's Waltham. Although you would certainly have to change trains
on the way, the various companies seemed to work together to make sure that you
did not have interminable waits, and no matter how late your train might be in
the Southern Region the "Botley Express" was always to be relied on;
it would wait for you to arrive before setting out on its four-mile trip, and
when it deposited you at Bishop's Waltham there was only School Hill to negotiate
and there you were at the Priory. This was indeed the only way to get to Bishop's
Waltham, for the regular bus services were not yet in operation; when they did
come, they provided an open top deck for lovers of fresh air and scenery.
The Priory compound was not so extensive as it was to become later, and the buildings
were fewer. The college building towered in forbidding isolation on the hill,
with the staff quarters in its shadow and there was one small bicycle shed standing
on the ground that was later occupied by the gym. This shed sheltered motor-cycles
with names little known to-day, like "Douglas" and "Osborne",
and as for bicycles, who now ever hears of the "Kynoch" ? Yet these
were the bicycles which served generations of Priorians and which Father Marchant
strove to preserve for posterity by some embalming process which he had learned
from Mr. Bob Symes.
The farm existed, but in miniature. The orchard the pride of those who planted
it, was in full production, and everything outside was under the able management
of the two stalwart lay Brothers, Modeste and Aubert. Nearly twenty years were
to elapse before Brother Patrick, with his enthusiasm for modernisation, was allowed
to introduce some of the time-and-labour-saving devices required by the growth
of the farm. In the meantime, the two Brothers coped with all that was to be done
with an efficiency and a devotedness which was always a source of edification
to Priorians. During the hay making season they made no bones about getting up
at 3 a.m. and setting to work to scythe the hay before meditation, and, during
the same season they would work until the light of the long summer days faded.
Again who will ever forget the wonderful lay-out of the lawns with their closely
cut grass, the rich variety of roses, the banks of crocuses and irises, the tropical
luxuriance of the dahlias, not to mention the tulips, all the work of Brother
Modeste? And the secret of all this? If you were a privileged person, then you
would be allowed to enter Brother's room to discover that it was there that he
grew all his seedlings, there that he carefully preserved his bulbs, there, in
short, that he had his hothouse.
It was a time when Father Bouniol accompanied by Brother Aubert, would attend
all the auction sales in the district in search of much-needed articles of furniture
for the house, and many were the bargains that they picked upbookcases for
the library, show-cases for the parlour (then a museum), bales of wool destined
to be "teased" and used to replace the straw of the mattresses. More
than all these things, however, something else was needed, something additional
to the "covered quad" was necessary for recreation during the bad weather.
"The Hut" was the first acquisition. Before its arrival at the Priory,
it had served as part of the Military Hospital at Netley. It was bought as you
buy a horse, standing, so that the work of dismantling and transport was the purchaser's
responsibility. A few privileged boys were allowed to go to help in the work of
taking it down, with strictest orders to make sure that nothing of value was to
be destroyed or rendered unserviceable. In due time everything was transported
to the Priory and the hut was erected under the direction of Brother Aubert, complete
with glass-covered verandah and its freshly-painted supports. The hut served its
main purpose: it was a place where one could take some recreation during bad weather;
there were billiards there, and cards, and darts and boxing, and even concerts
to which the public were invited.
Playing fields? Well, that's another matter. For a long time the Downs served
as the training-ground for those who were to introduce soccer to various parts
of West, Central and East Africa. Every Wednesday, immediately after lunch, all
went up to the dormitory, changed into football togs and slung their football
boots round their necks; they then trotted off to the Downs, played a pre-arranged
game of football, trotted back again, and then changed to arrive, breathless,
in the refectory for tea. Occasionally the same thing happened on Saturday, but,
more often than not, that day provided other attractions. The Meon Valley Football
League was in full swing at that time; Bishop's Waltham stood well in the league,
but the struggle for leadership was always fiercely contested and a tussle between
the locals and their near rivals, Botley or Shedfield or Wickham, offered an afternoon's
entertainment as well as opportunity for a study of the local dialect.
Cricket, during the period when the slope of the playing fields did not differ
much in gradient from the School Hill, was a real thrill for the adventurous,
an ordeal for the enthusiast and a grave danger for all. Any batsman at the bottom
end would have preferred standing up to a Larwood or a Voce than to any bowler
coming down hill. The full toss was about the only thing you could confidently
deal with; for the rest you trusted in God and your God given instinct of self-preservation.
It was quite a change to meet the local team at the Chase or the gentry at Upham
where the wicket was usually in excellent condition. Best of all was an invitation
from Father Prentice to accompany him to the Dell or the United Services ground
to see Hants play Yorkshire or Lancashire or Kent with Frank Woolley batting or
bowling or fielding it did not matter which; one was always sure of being served
with the choicest delicacies that cricket has ever been able to offer.
At least one feature of the regime was considered Spartan, and that was getting
up in the morning at 6.15, with study at 7 a.m. and Holy Mass following at 7.45.
It certainly could be an ordeal at times, especially in winter if the boiler was
out of order or if the Procurator thought that the temperature had not yet sunk
low enough to justify turning on the central heating. Nor was the lighting too
good in those days; l can't remember now whether it was produced from gas or from
electricity generated on the spot. As for study itself, the system was that each
class was preceded by a period of study of the subject that was to be treated,
and very often the period following the class was reserved for a written task
on the matter dealt witha number of problems in Mathematics, for example,
or a Latin exercise. There were frequent tests as the monthly marks came round,
and each term ended with examinations; the whole course was rounded off by sitting
for the London Matriculation. Up to 1924 the passage was from the Priory to Kerlois,
in Brittany, for philosophy; in that year however Autreppe in Belgium became the
philosophicum for English-speaking students.
Was there any sort of contact with the missions when Bishop's Waltham, so remote,
was the only house of the White Fathers in England? Well, first of all, we had
Fathers on the staff who had had a long experience of Africa. Father Travers himself,
the Superior, had spent a number of years in Nyasaland, and from Uganda there
was Father Prentice who still remembers seeing Henry Morton Stanley on his way
to the Guildhall to receive the freedom of the City; Fathers Dery and Boucansaud
had also been in Africa. Each in his own way would speak of Africa and of his
experiences there. One thing I think we all learned was that African boys were
far more attentive than we were! Visitors from the missions were rather rare,
although the fact that the Priory was our only house in England meant that any
visitor from Africa would be almost sure to come. Certain guests remain in the
memory: Bishop Livinhac, the Society's first Vicar-Apostolic and Superior-General,
who had known the Martyrs of Uganda intimately, but whose English was so weak
that he had to use Father Travers as interpreter; Mgr. John Forbes, who was trying
to raise money needed for the building of Rubaga Cathedral, and at the same time
to trace his Scottish ancestors; Father Laane, a man of mighty stature who would
dwarf the Village Blacksmith and whose name is still proverbial in Uganda. Though
we did not know it at the time, it was Father Laane who was later to found the
Society's second house in England at Heston. 1 remember too Mr. John Nsubuga,
who was being conducted round the British Isles by Father van Hove, another stalwart
from Uganda. These are some of the men who fired our imaginations with the ideal
of responding to the missionary needs of an Africa which could then still be referred
to as the "unknown Continent".
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A SURVEY OF THE YEAR
by Father Superior (Very Rev Father Patrick Fitzgerald)
Taken from The Pelican, Summer 1960
These lines will doubtless be read, if at all, when the holidays have begun. They
are being composed in a brief lull before the storm of the public examinations
descends upon us. Much will happen in the interval that would give added interest
and relish to an annual glance-over-the-shoulder; how ever, since life's events
will not conform to man's timetable I must, of necessity, give the picture of
the past year as seen at this moment. The rest, as far as the pages of this issue
of The Pelican are concerned, is silence.
So great is the emphasis laid on success in examinations today that even in a
seminary constant vigilance is needed if first things are to keep their priority.
With us those first things must clearly be the formation of character and the
strengthening of al love for the missionary vocation. The Priory is a seminary,
not a school. Naturally, then, the past year has seen a great deal of activity
devoted to the spiritual, missionary formation of the students, ranging from Biblical
vigils to missionary films, and talks from visiting missionaries to visual aids
in the classrooms. The elevation of the Bishop of Rutabo, Mgr. Rugambwa, to the
Sacred College of Cardinals served a valuable purpose in reminding the students
of what has already been accomplished in the mission territories confided to the
Intellectual brilliance may not be essential for a future priest (nor is it frowned
upon ! ) but what the minimum ability is has caused much scratching of heads and
searching of hearts in the past twelve months. We have come to the conclusion
that a student who cannot pass five subjects at Ordinary Level of the General
Certificate of Education cannot normally be considered apt for priestly studies.
Even here, however, strong compensating qualities of a moral order mayand
no doubt willmake us think for a long time before asking such a student
to give up the idea of the priesthood. On the brighter side we can expect our
best students to leave the Priory with three Advanced Level passes and eight Ordinary
Level. The students of average ability should go on to the house of Philosophy
with between five and eight passes at Ordinary Level.
Among the subjects prepared up to Ordinary Level is General Science. A few years
ago a bunsen burner would have been an object of curiosity at the Priory. Now,
thanks to the efforts of Father .Moody and Father Fowles to secure a place for
science on our programme and the equipment to enable the students to penetrate
some of the outer mysteries of that world, we can offer a course up to Ordinary
Level that has already proved itself in public examinations. The discreet infant
of three years ago is now a lusty youngster and the laboratory s wide open spaces
of that time are now crammed with equipment and apparatus of most impressive appearance.
Our results last year were good; this year the death of Father English disrupted
the science course in part, but we are fortunate in having a teacher of Mathematics
who is also a scientist. He is filling the gap, more than adequately.
What has been said of the development of science can be said also of Geography.
Perhaps the external evidence of progress is less spectacular, but the work done
has been no less impressive, and our results in this subject last summer were
no more than a just reward for the endeavours of Fr. Thompson over the past four
Naturally there are times when a missionary teaching in a Junior Seminary in Europe
thinks that something has gone wrong with the Providence that gives us all our
corner of the vineyard in which to labour. With Africa crying out for missionaries
it may seem a pity to keep valuable men exiled in Europe, and the possibility
has been considered of bringing competent lay-teachers to the Priory to enable
one or two of the fathers to go to Africa. In fact our first lay-teacher will
join the Priory staff next September, and we all hope that this experiment will
meet with success.
There is no great danger of sport being neglected at the Priory. Soccer has always
been popular of course, but in the past few years a wider sporting interest has
been evoked and now we find our students enjoying prestige among schools of the
district in cricket and on the running track. Members of the staff who hardly
know one end of the javelin from the other were agreeably surprised when this
and such-like events were won by our students at a recent public meeting for local
Of course it is to be hoped that a boy's interests will embrace more than sport
and one can think of visible and audible proof that this is so for most of our
students. The bird-lover, for example, can find an outlet for his interest among
the aviaries that nestle under the wall of the gymnasium, while the science enthusiast
and music-lover are not without opportunities for stimulating and sustaining their
interest and of deepening their knowledge.
The bodily health of the students in the past year has not given us much cause
to worry. Thanks to a devoted kitchen staff the food has been plentiful and well-prepared.
Anyone who does fall under the weather soon falls also under the vigilant eye
of Fr. Cantwell, our infirmarian, and anon under that of our physician and friend
Doctor Steel, whose affection for the boys and unfailing solicitude for their
health place us heavily in his debt.
At the end of this school year we hope that thirteen of our fifty students will
be accepted by the seminary of Philosophy in Ireland, their next stepping-stone
to the priesthood. It is more than possible, too, that some of the present staff
will bid farewell to the Priory and find their way, at last, to Africa. No doubt,
as these words are being written the urns of destiny are being given a last shake-up
in the Eternal City. Many within these walls would know the end of the year's
business ere it come, but it sufficeth that the year will end, and then the end
is known. We are perhaps entitled to think that if the end is in keeping with
all that has gone before there will be little to regret and much for which to
sing a grateful Te Deum before we all disperse.
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