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Fr Pierce English
Fr James Tolmie
Fr Pierre Bouniol
Fr William Burridge
Fr Herb Herrity
Lunch was just over. We, the Priory boys, worked in a busy silence amid the clatter of stacking plates. The Superior (Tom Moran WF) had just intoned the Miserere and led his fellow Priests and Brothers out of the refectory, down to the chapel, to pray for the dead of the Society. It was my first day at Bishops Waltham. Throughout the meal my back was to the Fathers Table. I was unaware of the one staff priest present I had still not encountered. Nor did I realise we were working in such a severe silence because the operation was under his unique surveillance. I piled the last of the greasy cutlery, turned round to await dismissal and in amazement beheld James Tolmie WF for the first time. The White Fathers I had met to date were all , smiling men. To say I was startled by Jimmys first impression is to describe an experience which will remain with me until I die.
At St. Columbas, on the banks of the Tweed, back in the spring, Andy Murphy WF had warned us of the inflexible disciplinarian who would so utterly outstrip him for strictness when we transferred to the junior seminary in Hampshire. I gazed awe-stricken at Moaner. Totally self-possessed, the priest who was a Priory legend, stared us down from behind the Fathers table, back to the tall windows and the early afternoon sun. Truly it startled me that a man of God, a White Father, could look so rigid and hard. Six months later, on a March night after supper, I stood in the queue outside the infirmary area awaiting the official attentions of the Prefect of Discipline. He came briskly upstairs, crepe soles squishing on the stone, acknowledged stoically and swept on into his sanctum to discard his bournous and prepare for action.
I had been caught (allegedly) infracting the Grand Silence. Sentence was pronounced: See Father Tolmie. As victim I was immediately guilty as charged without mitigating circumstances. Moaner I caned me hard, two on each hand. His role at the Priory 1948-53 was that of the Pharaoh who knew not Joseph. Yet he never threatened the cane. He used it, under obedience, on behalf of others. There was a lot more to him than the job that nightly he did so well.
Before I left the White Fathers at St. Columbas in March 1950, my parents accepted cheery assurance that even if I gave up training for the Priesthood, I would still have had a good education. The White Fathers conferred many benefits for which I am eternally grateful but it was only in my final year at the Priory that we were taught by a priest with a degree. Jimmy had no degree. As he said himself: In my day, the only letters we wanted after our name were WF. Yet I never met a finer academic. His first mission was the Priory to teach Latin and English. It is hard to say how university might have enhanced his grasp because he had expert command in both fields. I do not say he was the best of teachers. He was a product of his times and Jimmy expected boys either to cope or flounder. As 15-year olds he plunged us into Cicero contra Catilinam. Even the best of us were lost utterly with no idea how to construe the classical Latin prose. There were no print-outs, not even chalk marks on a blackboard. Jimmy worked entirely from the book. But dullness was no hallmark of his classes.
In English, he was an assiduous marker of the weekly essay (red ink, a dip pen, a small neat hand with lots of loops). He would comment aloud, perceptively and sagely on work as he handed it back. He seldom awarded more than 70% for writing. 53% was a typical essay mark. He gave us the best series of Spiritual Readings I was ever at during the Lent of 1951. He had each days Mass ready in advance and I still remember his homilies on Susannah and the Elders and The Man Born Blind as splendid examples of how to keep your narrative vivid and alive with characterisation and dialogue.
He was a master of the fascinating digression: he told us one night of how the news reached Carthage about Operation Torch, November 7 1942. So as not to break the Grand Silence but because he could not restrain himself, he had gone from room to room of the British scholastics at Maison Carree pushing little notes under the doors: The Allies Have Landed! The Allies Have Landed!
Pat Donnelly WF took over as Priory Superior in September 1951. Jimmy was appointed our class tutor and it is for this I asked permission to write an obituary. He revealed a side to his character which I had no idea existed. The glitter in his eye became a twinkle. We became very important to him, we suddenly mattered to a Priory priest. He was an expert photographer both in colour (slides) and black and white. We became the special objects of his study. We posed for him as a Vienna Boys Choir, then as carol singers in cottas and cassocks with lanterns. He played football for us, he whacked bowling all over the bottom (cricket) field for us. He painted us a class shield which was a masterpiece in itself.
Above all else, he taught us to sing in chorus. He started us off with a class anthem in Latin: Eia, Quartani (Quintani) omnes ... which in high middle age I still sing and I hope they will perform at my funeral. He would teach us in an upstairs classroom after supper. He would write out the words for us to copy and many of us still have them carefully preserved, including Bishop Michael Fitzgerald in Rome. For Jimmy, the tune was all important, the words (and this scandalised some) far less so. Thus we sang Aupres de ma blonde (quil fait bon dormir), a double entendre which they tell me nowadays refers to no more than a bottle of beer.
More unforgivably perhaps, he taught us Die Fahne Hoch, the battle hymn of the Sturm Abteilung, Hitlers Brownshirts, a masterpiece of its kind. We did not know what the words meant. Essentially Jimmy was teaching us a melody that kept (Fascist) feet on the march. Years later I heard Hugh Carleton Greene request it of Roy Plomley on Desert Island Discs; it was the Devils Tune but he wanted it so as to conjure up the memory of Berlin in the thirties.
I have one memory of Jimmy singing solo. I was at the top of the Fathers house one bright Ascension Day dawn, a brilliant camp at Galley Down in prospect. Below me, the crepe soles squished across the brown lino. Their owner was singing blithely: O, what a beautiful mornin, O, what a beautiful day ...
Jimmy Tolmie left the Priory in 1953. He spoke to us in the refectory at a formal do to commemorate his departure. I dont remember all he said except for these few word: Partir, cest mourir un peu (to leave a place is to die a little). He went on to be Superior at St Columbas. I have heard he wasnt half the force he was as Prefect of Discipline. When last I saw him he was wrecked by Alzheimers. I told him he was the best teacher I had ever had. He died on January 20 last. He had a horrendous Litany of the Dying he used on First Fridays to terrify us. I dont know if he believed in it himself but I hope it ever entered his head at the last. May he rest in peace (if he wants to).
May He Rest in Peace
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(Source: Eugene MacBride)
Brother Modeste ("Moddy") famous for the beer that he brewed was 82 when he died and was buried at The Priory.
Taken from his
memorial card :
PRAY FOR THE SOUL of Brother Modeste WF
Who died on 22nd February 1956, fortified by the rites of the Holy Church in his 83rd year and in the 51st year of his Missionary life.
Quis nos separabit a caritate Christi.
Inveni quem diligit anima mea, tenui eam, nec dimittam, donec aspiret dies et inclinentur umbrae.
Golden Jubilee of Brother Modeste
Taken from The Pelican, Christmas 1954 by Michael McDonnell, Form V
On Tuesday the second
of November, everyone at the Priory was busy and excited over their final
preparations for the Golden Jubilee of Brother Modeste. Many visitors were
expected from other houses, among whom would be Reverend Father Provincial.
Brother himself must have been very excited, for one of his greatest hopes
was about to be realised.
At last the great day arrived, quite a sunny one for the grim month of November, and it soon proved an exciting one also for us all. Even before High Mass, many visitors arrived and were received with a warm welcome.
High Mass was sung by Very Reverend Father Provincial, at which Brother Modeste, who was in the sanctuary, received Holy Communion. At the end of the Mass a fervent Te Deum was sung.
When everyone had left the chapel, there was much excitement and happy conversation between the visitors from other houses and the community of the Priory. It was a wonderful opportunity for the boys to make the acquaintance of many more Fathers of the Province.
After a visit to the chapel, community and guests assembled for lunch which afforded many delicious things for all. The family spirit which reigned over the whole gathering was most remarkable and very inspiring for the students.
When there was very little more than empty dishes left on the tables, entertainment was provided by the choir, who sang airs suited or adapted to the occasion. Much talent was shown and there were one or two particularly fine solos.
After the songs, Brother Modeste was offered gifts by Fathers, Brothers and boys, and many were the compliments paid him in the speeches of Very Reverend Father Provincial, Reverend Father Superior and Brother Patrick. Brother Modeste himself was too moved to speak, but his emotion told its own story.
The happy company came together again for high tea, at which Brother refused to cut his cake until an extra holiday had been granted to the boys. Needless to say, the boys' champion prevailed and then the cake was cut.
After tea and Solemn Benediction, there was a very enjoyable film show to conclude a very happy day. The boys retired to bed that night tired, but very contented, and pr pared to enjoy the next day's holiday. For all privileged to be at the Priory on November the third, the Golden Jubilee of Brother Modeste will always remain a precious memory.
By James Lee, Form 5
Taken from The Pelican, Christmas 1954
Perhaps no one person has done more in the foundation of the Priory than Brother Modeste. Brother is a short stocky man of four score and three years. His merry features belie his age. His twinkling eyes and handsome beard take ten years from its actual tally.
Last November he celebrated his Golden Jubilee, surely the climax of his missionary career. Never having been to the mission fields of Africa, Brother found his Africans in the pleading faces of Priorians begging for apples. And what better example of the ideal missionary could we have? Not only is he always ready to help us but his example is an inspiration to us all.
Many a Priorian has satisfied his thirst in a huge glass of Brother's beer. By the way, he laughs at our crude French, but always understands the two words pomme and biere. No matter what he is doing, he will always go out of his way to please us with regard to pomme and biere.
In him we have an unrivalled model of punctuality. He is never late. He still serves Mass and still sings lustily at Benediction. His many fine qualities are a proof of many talents.
He has spent fifty years unselfishly in God's service, and the sense of humour which he still retains gives one some idea of his interior happiness.
His love of nature's beautiful gifts is apparent in his beautifully trimmed flower beds of roses and chrysanthemums. Perhaps in this, Brother's work, is symbolised the importance of his activities at the Priory and throughout the Province.
Brother has spent almost forty years at the Priory, an appointment which is surely a record for the British Pro Province, if not in the history of the whole Society.
The Society, while in its infancy in this Province, depended on such men, as did the legions of missionaries who have passed through the Priory.
Looking back over those past fifty years of his religious life, perhaps we take too much for grantedonly God knows the value of Brother's magnificent and unflinching devotion. Surely he can now say with full confidence: " I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course."
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Taken from The Pelican, Summer 1958 - by an anonymous contributor
It was my good fortune to know Fr. Bouniol not only when I was a student at the Priory, but also for a few years after my ordination. The impressions I received as a youth of a great man were not only confirmed but strengthened in later life. I count it as a privilege to have been asked to write these few lines about him.
As a new arrival at the Priory, I soon learnt that Fr. Bouniol was a man of authority. Some people are fortunately blessed by Providence with certain physical aids to help them in inspiring obediencepiercing eyes, beetling eye brows, or a resounding voice. He had none of these. When needed he just showed his displeasure and that was enough. At times this displeasure would be accompanied by some withering remarks which made the poor culprit wish that he could be transported elsewhere. He did not believe in delaying his remarks, and on those occasions when corporal punishment was considered necessary it was administered then and there. There was no waiting about for painful interviews. Yes! Fr. Bouniol inspired a reverential fear.
It came therefore as a surprise to me to learn after a few months that he also inspired confidence and affection. I remember very well one of the senior students telling me, "Look here, if you have something on your mind tell Fr. Bouniol about it." I went along to his room one evening and was obliged to queue up. Before his appointment as Superior his confessional was always crowded on Saturday evenings. All this is a very long time ago, but I well remember how patient, kind and sympathetic he was every time I went to see him.
There was no doubt about Fr. Bouniol being a man of energy. During the afternoon recreations his usual companions were pick and shovel. His appointment as Superior of the Priory in 1925 seemed to unleash new sources of energy. In practically no time he had started the White Fathers' magazine, edited the first book on the White Fathers in English (he would never admit that he was the author) and arranged a system of collecting boxes for benefactors. At the same time he was taking his full share of classes.
In those days the football field at the Priory was the side of a hill, good enough for kick-abouts, but pretty hopeless for proper matches. One father was heard to remark, "It would be a good idea to level the field." Soon afterwards Fr. Bouniol with tape and level was to be seen amidst an admiring crowd of students making certain incomprehensive calculations and measurements. Suddenly the decision was made, "We begin here" and he promptly filled the first wheel barrow with earth; the work of levelling the football field had begun. His enthusiasm was catching and not only fathers but also students were to be seen day after day digging furiously.
Such untiring energy and devotion to the task committed to his care was based on one thing aloneprayer. We did not need lengthy conferences on the value of prayer. We had before our eyes a living example of solid piety.
Finally Fr. Bouniol instilled into us all a great ambition, namely to work on the missions in Africa. Being a White Father he had an ardent desire to go there himself. However his superiors thought that he was needed elsewhere and so he realised his ambition through us. We left the Priory with one ideal, Ad Salvandos Afros.
William Burridge WF 1909 - 2000
Taken from the White Fathers - White Sisters magazine, May 2000
Many regular readers of 'The Universe' will no doubt remember the articles, on the Missions, the Church, Ecumenism, and a variety of other subjects, written over a period of almost 30 years by Father William Burridge who died on 13th. January, at Nazareth House, Hammersmith, aged 90.
Father Burridge was born in Portsmouth in 1909. He entered the White Fathers' noviciate in Maison Carree, Algeria in 1929 and was ordained a priest in Carthage, Tunisia in 1936.
For the first twelve years of his priesthood, Father Burridge was teaching in seminaries in this country and he also had the unenviable task of trying to raise funds for the training and upkeep of future Missionaries and the work of the Missions during the War years when Britain and Africa were cut off from the support of occupied Europe.
After the war, he was asked by the Mother House, to set up and run a course which would help prepare non-British missionaries to work in the fields of education and administration in what were then British colonies in East and West Africa.
In 1960, Father Burridge was asked to take over as Editor of the White Fathers' magazine and it was in this capacity that he learnt and perfected his skills as a journalist, building up a vast network of contacts and lasting friend ships with other Catholic journalists, while contributing articles, book reviews, and translations to a multitude of Catholic publications in this country and abroad, although the greatest part of his work at that time was for 'The Universe'.
Father Burridge never actually worked in Africa as a missionary, but in the early sixties, 'The Universe' was one of those responsible for sending him to visit the newly independent countries in Central and East Africa, to use his contacts to find out how the Church was coping with the changes at the grass-roots level. He became a kind of 'foreign correspondent' and sent back a series of weekly articles from wherever he happened to be. He was actually in the Congo at the time of one of the uprisings and had to be evacuated along with other missionaries by UN forces.
As he got on in years and his health declined, Father Burridge's literary output diminished, but he kept up his contacts with the world of Catholic writers and for many years served on the committee of the Catholic Writers' Guild.
Father Burridge's funeral was held at Nazareth House on Tuesday the 25th. January, 2000.
who was better known to most students as Ebby, went to the Priory in 1947
as a boy of 13. We first met in 1950 when I myself went to the Priory. Even
at that early stage he was showing a keen interest in the Arts especially
Music and Painting which were to become his lifelong obsession. I well remember
my first introduction to Classical music listening to Beethoven's Pastoral
symphony on Mike's old 'wind up' gramophone.
From the Priory Mike went on to Broome Hall to study Philosophy. As with most students he loved his time there after the rigours of the Priory and spoke about this period with great affection. He went on to complete the Novitiate at s' Heerenberg .
After the Novitiate he was sent to Carthage to complete his Theological studies. He found the regime and the climate difficult to adjust to in North Africa but he applied himself well to the changed environment. His artistic skills were developing and he produced a number of striking water colours of Thibar and the surrounding area. Examples of these can be found on the Pelican website.
By 1959 he was having serious doubts about his vocation and he decided to leave the White Fathers just prior to the Diaconate and return to England.
Following a traumatic few months he decided that his future lay in teaching and he completed a course and qualified as an Art teacher. He spent many happy years teaching which was the ideal vehicle for his great talent for communication.
Mike was married for a number of years and had a son. His Art work and Poetry became central to his life and he held a number of successful Art exhibitions throughout the country. He retained a great interest in Theological matters and held strong views on Church Authority and Celibacy. Eventually these led him to leave the Catholic Church and he became an Anglican.
He had a boundless enthusiasm for life despite its ups and downs and always remained uncomplaining and positive. Mike had a wide circle of friends and was the ideal person to invite to any function.
He was extremely gregarious and usually the last person to leave from any party. In the latter stages of his life he became a Pelican and enjoyed the opportunity of meeting so many of his friends from the past.
By 1996 a brain tumour had been diagnosed and he died peacefully on the 25 th April 1996. He was buried in sight of his beloved Lichfield Cathedral.
May He Rest in Peace
Herb Herrity WF (1928 May 4th 2000)
Taken from the White Fathers - White Sisters magazine, June-July 2001
Born in Glasgow on the 16th. March, 1928, Herbert Herrity had long wanted to become a priest but he kept his thoughts about his vocation a secret from his family until on completion of his 'Highers' he immediately asked to enter the White Fathers' seminary.
It must have been a difficult time for everyone. His father had died in 1937, leaving his mother to bring up the family of three boys and a girl; and the years he spent in secondary education in St. Mungo's Academy in Glasgow corresponded almost exactly with the war years.
Fr. Herb had done well in his examinations but he had never been given the opportunity of studying Latin at school, so he was sent to the Priory, the junior seminary of the Society in Bishops Waltham, to acquire what was in those days an essential prerequisite for study for the priesthood, before beginning his Philosophy at St. Boswells and later in Dorking. He received the habit in 's-Heerenberg in 1949 and also did his scholasticate in Holland. With him at that time were two Germans who had fought on the Russian Front, a Scotsman who had sailed on the Murmansk convoys, airmen from both the Luftwaffe and the R.A.F., and others who had spent the war years in occupied France and Holland. For Fr. Herb, as he said himself, it was a lesson in mutual acceptance.
(photo source: Petit Echo N. 917)
Although the courses were in English, Fr. Herb picked up a smattering of Dutch and struck up some friendships in Holland which lasted all his life.
At the end of his studies, Fr. Herb returned to Scotland, and on 10 June 1954 he was one of twenty-three White Fathers ordained priest by Archbishop, later Cardinal, Gordon Gray of St. Andrews and Edinburgh. After ordination, Fr. Herb was asked to go to Heston, a parish run by the White Fathers, near Heathrow Airport. There he got some pastoral experience and was popular with the parishioners.
Then, a year later, he got his appointment to Ghana. After a short period in Tamale, Fr. Herb was sent to the parish of Damongo. This was a completely new area being opened up and Damongo was only the second parish in what is currently the Archdiocese of Tamale and the Diocese of Damongo combined was a vast area, but in those days still sparsely populated. From then on, for the best part of thirty years, Fr. Herb alternated between spells of mission animation in Scotland and periods in the Archdiocese of 'Tamale, mainly at the Cathedral. Other place where he worked were Bole, Jirapa, and Holy Cross Parish in Tamale.
One day, in March 1987, while he was Parish Priest of Holy Cross, Fr. Herb awoke to find that he could not see out of one eye. There was no suitable treatment available in Ghana and Fr. Herb was advised by the Eye Specialist in Kumasi to return home for treatment. That was effectively the end of his work in Africa. He lost the sight of that eye and subsequently had problems with the other.
In 'Doodles in the Dust', some personal meditations on his life in Ghana from 1955 to 199l, which he had printed in 1994, Fr. Herb describes how he arrived as a newly-ordained priest among the Gonja and Dagomba people in 1955. He tells of his great desire to make many converts and to build up the Church find vocations there. However, things did not work out as he had hoped: "There were no mass conversions among the Gonjas, and truth to tell, there was not much sign at that time that we would ever make much impact on them. It is in that situation, when there is little sign of progress, that disillusion can creep in with disastrous consequences.
It was at this point that Fr. Herb met some people who were living the Focolar spirituality. "I feel that I could have grown into a soured old priest had I not had the great fortune to meet up with friends who helped me to understand that I had just one task in life, and that was to love with the love of God himself. It was not a question of achieving anything.
Because of ill health and encroaching blindness, Fr. Herb spent the last few years of his life in Scotland, first at the Promotions House in Edinburgh in 1991, and then, after the session retreat in Jerusalem in 1994, in Rutherglen. However, his missionary spirit remained alive and well as he explained: "Now that I have returned to the home country with limited vision, I find that I am not less a missionary. I may not be a missionary in Africa, but I can still be a missionary to God's love wherever God puts me . . . It gives me great joy and, please God, it will do to the end."
The end came perhaps sooner
than Fr. Herb was expecting it, although in letters to friends while he was
waiting for a heart operation, he showed that he knew full well how serious
it was. When he eventually got an appointment for the operation, his confreres
went with him to the hospital, made sure he was settled in, and said goodbye,
promising to come and see him afterwards. How great was their shock, then,
when the surgeon told them two days later, that Fr. Herb had not survived
The crowded church at Dennistown in Glasgow for the funeral of Fr. Herbert Herrity was a fitting testimony to his life and to the network of relationships he had built up during his forty six years as a missionary priest. In his sure and unobtrusive way Fr. Herb had touched the hearts of hundreds of ordinary people, both in Ghana and in his native Scotland. In fact while his funeral was taking place in Scotland, a great 'celebration' of Fr. Herb's life was also taking place at Holy Cross Parish in Tamale, Ghana, his adoptive country, at which the Archbishop presided.
May He Rest in Peace
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