Your Christmas greetings are thudding on the doormat here so I had better get something away soon. This is it.
Ben Henze wrote to me that I must have had a lot of obituaries to record this year. It was only from the WF/WS magazine that I discovered Chris O'Doherty was dead. He was one of the group captured in France in 1940 but released by the Wehrmacht on the grounds of Irish nationality. I don't think there's any of the golden boys ordained at Jedburgh on 3 June 1949 left.
I don't know much about Chris's career. He may have been sent to study in Rome because when I caught up with him in 'sHeerenberg in 1956, he was teaching Moral Theology in the scholasticate.
I remember Pol Vonck telling me of a YES or NO test set by Chris along the lines of IS IT PERMIITTED TO KNIT OF A SUNDAY? The answer was a flat NO and you got no mark if you said otherwise.
His classes were not always 50-60 minutes of rapture but he could see the heads nodding below him and down came the lid of the desk like a bomb going off and we didn't half jump.
I was in charge of The Observer, a piece of A4, two sides, an attempt to help the Dutch and Germans eradicate their most common faults in English. I had to take each edition along to Chris for his approval, a hairy experience indeed, yet I cannot remember him asking for a single joke to be altered, not even an illustration of that scholasticate lovely, 'Miss Take'.
One thing he could not abide during the reading in the refectory was 'Mass' pronounced with a short a.
He left for Africa in 1958 and was quite hysterical when he got his appointment, talking over and over about an 'unsolicited testimonial'.
I think he taught in Blacklion in its last days.
And Tod is dead, Tom O'Donnell WF who entertained us at Preston on so many occasions, including the foundation meeting of the Pelicans in April 1992.
Tod was one of the St Denis PoWs 1940-44 and wrote the introduction to Kevin Wiseman's book. He was ordained in 1948.
When I arrived at the Priory in 1950, Tod was procurator, a very difficult job indeed, given the pittance that Pop Howell and Frank Briody allowed him per pupil. There were harmless jokes about Tod having baths in our butter ration and a revised Grace, 'We give thee thanks, almighty Tod...'
He taught us Scripture (OT) and we had to compare the building of Solomon's Temple with the various erections on the Festival of Britain site on the Thames south bank (1951).
I overheard him one day tell Cyril Brown how the priesthood virtually ensured your salvation.
I have a memory of him in overalls, cleaning out the blocked sewer near Tich Moran's door. He was not a pretty sight. Nowadays it would be a job for Dynarod but Tod was releasing the blockage with bucket and shovel.
Like his pal, Kevin Wiseman, he was a cyclist par excellence. He had a racer with an aluminium frame which he painted black as less likely to be stolen in Winchester or Botley.
He went to Broome Hall in 1954 and took over at St Boswell's in 1955, I think. Didn't he go to the missions in 1958? He was a very good friend to us Pelicans.
ARE YOU THINKING AFRICA? I watched a piece on the box recently how people throw away their pennies, twopences and fivepences as too paltry to bother with. They are not too paltry for Africa. Collect them, change them at the bank and make out a cheque to The Pelicans c/o Pat Gibbons, 84 Albert Road West, Bolton, Lancs BL1 5ED. Don't forget: you can NOMINATE a target for your bawbees be it a particular missionary or the Street Children of Africa. Anything goes. Just tell Pat and he will get your money out there without a farthing skimmed off.
ANYONE INTERESTED IN THE PRIORY REUNION AT PENTECOST 15 MAY? Fr Buckley told us last year, 'Come back, again and again!' but I fear enthusiasm may be waning. If you want to go, tell me, please: 01476-561890. I'll give you B&B details if you don't already have them.
I had a lovely visit from John Fowles in August and Leslie Croghan (Rhetoric 1950-51) is planning a return to Blighty this summer.
Yuletide bliss (if that's not oxymoron).
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