40: April 2002
a review of Peter Finn's "History of The Priory, Bishop's Waltham".
We had our first St Columba's reunion April 19-21, staying at the Dryburgh
Abbey Hotel: Chris and Josie Benton; Mrs Christine Hughes; Mike
Byrne; John and Margaret Morton; Zelda and I.
Left to right: John Morton, Mike Byrne, ?? and Zelda (with
apologies because I wasn't there!)
John Morton (outside the hotel?)
A splendid weekend. We visited the cemetery and said a decade of the rosary
in honour of Frs Drost, Rijkers and Griffin.
Left to right: The graves of Frs Drost, Rijkers and Griffin
We went up to the college but could not gain admission. Mass was at Galashiels
where I heard the best homily in umpteen years (on the Good Shepherd).
Christine is 93 but stayed the pace the entire day. A lovely lady and a great
Peter Finn had to pull out at the last moment.
A sad thing was the death of Joe Clyde just before our arrival. May he
rest in peace.
The Bishop's Waltham reunion is May 17-19 (the Pentecost weekend). I look forward
to a good turnout. It's 90 years this year that Fr Travers and his team
first moved into the Priory. I think we should try to do something special to
commemorate a great White Father. We'll see what we can do. If you've got a
splendid idea, bring it along.
What about Andy Coyle then? He told me he'd do his best to get to Bishop's
Waltham. Instead he's running a jail for Palestinian VIPs in Jericho.
The following was written on the eve of our
first-ever reunion at St Columba's:
This is a little review I've done of Peter Finn's book :
My last visit to the Priory was on 1 April 1989. I parked the car and went on
tour. The building was all boarded-up, an absolute abomination of desolation.
I did then what I have only ever done in dreams : I walked out to Galley Down
in the spring sunshine. This was 3 years before the Pelicans came upon the scene.
By 1994, the Priory was no more, not a stone upon a stone. It is 90 years now
since Fr Travers discovered the house for the Society ergo more than appropriate
that Peter Finn (school captain 1951-52) should bring out his splendid history
of this landmark foundation of the White Fathers in Britain.
The biggest disappointment of this wonderful book for me is that I did the proof-reading.
I feel that in my own regard, I destroyed its powerful originality. Peter's research
has been profound and vast. You follow Fr Travers almost step by step from 1912
until his premature death and then Fr Bouniol until his recall to France in the
year of Munich, 1938.
It was quite a surprise to realise with how many of the Priory superiors I had
been in contact : all of them, dear Heavens, bar Stan Lea and Fr Travers
himself. What! You knew Fr Bouniol? Yes, he was on top table at St Columba's
the day I joined-up on 8 March 1950. Tom Moran was the astutest man I ever
met in my life. If you had secret thoughts, no way were they ever safe from 'Tich'.
I was in charge of lighting Johnny Cassidy's fire in the superior's office
in the spring of '54. Morning after morning I could not get the anthracite to
start and I broke the wee man's heart and my own as well had he only known.
Peter touches on the cultural crusade waged against the Glasgow and Lanarkshire
boys by Johnny Cassidy and my beloved Pat Donnelly. The British Empire
might have been founded by Scots but it was ruled by Oxbridge Sassenachs and to
be all things to all men we had to learn to imitate their mode of speech. West
of Scotland recruits were regarded largely as social misfits.
It came as a huge surprise to learn that Tom Dooley WF had been to the
Priory. He told us : 'I was not bitten by the bug.' In a cod martyrology on St
Cecilia's Night 1954 at Broome Hall, quintessential Englishman, Ricky Beaumont
(Downside) was commemorated as having been 'hanged by the old school tie in the
reign of the Emperor Priorian.'
What about Mr Heath? I still go round aged 65 singing the Kyrie from two
truly melodic Masses he taught us. It's a delight to see a great Priory servant
remembered in the way Peter does Mr Heath (and Mrs Heath) in this history.
Have you bought this book? It reads so well and it feels the way good books do.
It's a labour of love with a lot of weight on 'labour' and a whole lot more on
'love'. On top of my bookcase, I have a print of Mike Bolan's auntie's
painting of the Priory. Peter's book now complements my print.
I'll tell you about Peter Finn. 'Twas Finn produced the magnificent Mikado of
1951 (you should have been there!). Jim 'Dougie' Wallace gets the credit
but 'Dougie' couldn't do it. He was preparing his Matric. 'Dougie' couldn't do
it. Pete Finn did it! Look for it in the book. It isn't there. The man writes
himself out of his own book. No wonder he commands the total respect of those
of us who knew him away back then.
Hands to pockets, lads! You don't have to dig so deep. A cheque for £12.99
to Hedera Books at Alderbook, Springvale Rd, Winchester SO23 7LF. Go for it!
God bless Eugene
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