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Mr 'Ted' Heath

Brother Peter Biewer
(Brother Aelred - brother of Derek Biewer)
Peter McKenzie
The Priory Graves
Fr Richard Cantwell
John Bowman
Jimmy Johnston
Fr Anthony Hames
Sister Alice Lynch (Sister St Patrick)

Mr 'Ted' Heath
1908 - 87
By Paul West, whilst waiting for contributions from those of you who knew him well

On a sunny afternoon in June this year, three ex-Priorians followed the clues and eventually arrived at The Coppice, a well-kept country cottage on one of the roads leading out from Bishop's Waltham. They were all in their mid-to-late fifties and the wrong sort of age for knocking on the door of strangers to ask unprepared questions about a previous tenant who lived there many years ago - when they themselves were 40+ years younger . . .

The current owners were taken aback at first. Who were these people on the doorstep, looking like retired policemen determined to solve an old case? We fumbled at first, and I'm glad now that we can't remember how we introduced ourselves, but the mention of Mr Heath broke the ice immediately. The lady had become a friend of the late Mrs Heath, who had taught Music at the local school. Doreen Heath had moved with her husband to the village of Twyford by this time and she obviously missed her old home.

Chris (Benton) and Tommy (Mackle) had both been to the cottage before - for choir practice when they were at the Priory - and they remembered the matching baby grand pianos that were set up in one of the rooms where Mr Heath and his wife played together (for hours at a stretch, apparently).

The garden at the rear is an absolute picture and equals anything featured in House and Garden, for sure. The Heath's were keen gardeners: the classic line of their design and the shrubs that they planted remain today.

Mr Heath - whose real name was John Enos Heath - died on 13th February 1987, aged 79, and is buried in the graveyard of St Mary The Virgin at Twyford. His resting place is at the bottom of this rambling cemetery, on the lefthand side as you walk down from the church.

You might have thought that someone who was so much a part of our young lives would have had marble angels, gilded trumpets and carved ivyleaf scrolls to mark his presence. Not so. The ivy is there, and the weeds of course, but so also is the serenity of a country churchyard accompanied in all seasons by distant birdsong. He was no mute-inglorious-Milton, anyway; he did his thing and he did it well.

Surprisingly, he wasn't a Catholic - the cemetery suggests 'High Church' - but you'd never have thought it. Ted worked tirelessly over the years for our community, pushing the choir to greater heights and helping to stage quite ambitious musical events. He was known to generations of us as a patient, talented, dedicated friend of the Priory.

No doubt he went home some nights exasperated with the strain of working with voices that could snap at any time, wondering if his perfect pitch would ever return and muttering dark things about an early grave.

Not so, my friend: you made it to seventy nine and we haven't forgotten you!

May You Rest In Peace

Mr Heath's Choir
Taken from The Pelican 1962 (Jubilee Number), by Christopher Carabine

On the first Saturday after the arrival of the new recruits from St. Columba's, you will notice a stranger, well to the new boys anyway, who will come and test your voices. That is Mr. Heath and he is in charge of one of the school choirs. Mr. Heath chooses some sopranos and altos from among the new boys and adds them to the tenors and basses of the year before.

You will probably want to know the function of Mr. Heath's choir. At Christmas Mr. Heath always has a choir ready to go down to Bishop's Waltham Youth Club to sing carols for the old age pensioners. Out of all the choirs that partake in the carol service: the Congregationalist, the Methodist and the Priory choirs, the Priorians always seem to produce the best. Mr. Heath's choir also always manages to produce a four-voice Mass for the Easter Vigil.

As it will be the Golden Jubilee of the Priory this year, Mr. Heath's choir are preparing to sing Hiawatha's Wedding Feast in four voices at the celebrations on July 16th. I would like to say on behalf of the choir that Mr. Heath deserves a lot of praise for what he does for the Priory in the way of singing.

John Heath
Taken from The Pelican, Summer 1960
by P.D.F. (Fr Pat Fitzgerald, Superior at The Priory)

It was in October 1946 that John Heath was first asked if he would “lend a hand with the singing” at the Priory. Fifteen years of fruitful work and harmonious relationship have followed that casual request. Little did the person who made it realise that he was tapping a source that was to prove remarkably generous and faithful.

That particular father went his way and was succeeded by a series of choir-masters; not one but has blessed him for his initiative in bringing to the Priory one who has combined the talent of a keen musician with the patience of Job and a sincere love of the Priory. For fifteen years now John Heath has come to the Priory each week to teach the boys nearly all the singing they know outside the covers of the Liber Usualis and the Westminster Hymnal, and to play the organ at High Mass.
The list of his achievements and productions is impressive and varied, ranging from many four-part Masses to the Pirates of Penzance and the Mikado. Aided and abetted though he has been by members of the Priory staff, the heaviest share of the labours has always been his. Carols in the village at Christ Christmas and in our own chapel, concerts in the Gymnasium for special occasions, all have depended upon him for their conception and successful issue.

For many years, while he lived in Bishop's Waltham, John Heath would climb School Hill of a Friday evening, in all weathers, and through all puddles, to hold his practices. When time was running short before a performance the visits were multiplied. In 1959 there was apprehension when it was known that he was to move to Twyford, seven miles from the Priory. All turned out well however. John Heath willingly agreed to come to us on Saturday evening, hold a practice on arrival if need be, play the organ for the Mass on Sunday morning, and hold his main practice after breakfast. So it has been now for over two years; so, we hope, will it continue.
From what has been written it will be apparent that devotion to the Priory and to music are the twin spurs that drive John Heath to give so much of his time and energy to this house. His enthusiasm remains as high today as it has ever been, and generations of Priory boys are grateful to this kindly, patient and encouraging tutor for the opportunity he has given them of discovering their own singing voice, and of making the acquaintance of good music.

On July 4th John Heath will celebrate the 25th anniversary of his wedding. That date will not pass unremembered at the Priory. It will give us an opportunity of expressing our appreciation of all he has done for us, and for the discreet and self-effacing way in which he has worked. It will enable us also to wish him and his wife (from whom we take him so often) many years of happiness. May the future see a strengthening of the happy and fruitful association between John Heath and the Priory which has already placed us deeply in his debt.

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Brother Peter Biewer (Br Aelred)
1932 - 69

Brother Biewer was born on the 23rd June 1932 at Middlesbrough (Yorkshire). Before entering the Society the age of 19 he worked for one gear for a forwarding company. In 1949 the Postulate was at Claughton Hall. Very soon the missionaries there realised that Peter was someone who would “make the distance”. Though a little shy and retiring, he proved himself to be as solid as a rock. He took the habit at Monteviot on the 26th April 1950 and made his first oath on the same date two years later. He went on from there to join the Brothers' scholasticate at Marienthal, where he stayed two years.

In 1954 Br Biewer was appointed to Blacklion in Ireland. Although he was not particularly good at mechanics, he made a great effort to study all the machines he had to look after in the new house.

He really wanted to learn and so increase his stock of knowledge. Anything he did was well done and one could have complete confidence in him. Peter was rather reserved in his ways, always polite and neat. He seemed to be really happy in his work and attached to his vocation.

In 1956 he was appointed to The Priory, Bishop's Waltham. His principal occupation was looking after the farm. He had never done this work before but he soon got to like it through hard work. In spite of this sudden change of occupation, Peter remained calm, and continued just as seriously as ever to live his daily life, in a supernatural spirit of obedience. He made his final oath on the 21st May 1958.

Finally in July 1959 Br Biewer received his appointment to the diocese of Mwanza. During his years of formation he had opened out more and more, and in the missions he showed himself as he really was. He had, of course, the usual difficulties of every beginner to find his feet, to adapt himself to new circumstances and to learn the language. The language in particular gave him plenty of trouble, but Peter succeeded in expressing himself reasonably well and in making himself understood. Thanks to his good brain and strong will, he made progress quietly and without fuss.

Up to December 1963 he worked at Misungwi. Sengerema and Kalebejo. Those living with him remarked his loyalty and his sense of duty . For him work had an apostolic meaning: tinkering about and wasting time had no place in his life which was entirely dedicated to the work of the mission. All the same, things did not always go smoothly for him as some people did not sufficiently appreciate the work done by a Brother. With the support of one of his brethren, who helped and encouraged him, Peter became a really useful motor-mechanic. His skill in mechanics made him feel useful and helped him to overcome his feeling of inferiority.

In December l963 the seminary of Nyegezi needed a bursar, on the death of Fr Kapps. Br Biewer was appointed to the job and it was here that he really came into his own. He liked the job very much and proved himself to be a very good, conscientious and zealous bursar. Both the teachers and the pupils liked him and appreciated all he did for their comfort. In community he remained the same quiet, rather shy but always charming companion. He was always ready to help others, at the drop of a hat. He lived very frugally. This became evident when we collected his few bits and pieces after his death.

Brother Biewer was deeply attached to the Society and loved to speak about it. He found community life very agreeable and in spite of all his work he always tried to be there at recreation time. He remained faithful to his exercises right to the end. His piety was on the traditional side and he even preferred the old form of the mass and the ancient rubrics. This safe, well-trodden road suited his temperament better.

In 1966 he went on leave and made his big retreat at Rome. When he got back to Nyegezi his main job was laying on a water supply. Those who know the complicated plumbing at Nyegezi will be able to understand better what this meant in the way of work for Br Biewer. He never refused to do something whenever one of the many inhabitants of Nyegezi complained about the water supply. Even during the night he was ready to help them. Just recently he was preparing to build a new reservoir and install a new pipeline. He had already finished the foundations at the time of his death. He will not have the joy of seeing finished this task into which he had flung himself heart and soul.

His cruel, brutal death on Christmas Eve 1969 caused profound grief to his fellow missionaries and consternation among the people round about. They flocked to his funeral service which was presided over by Bishop Butibubage of Mwanza. The conduct of his parents was admirable. There was no bitterness in the natural sorrow they felt when they heard he had been brutally killed. His companions on the missions were the ones to feel his loss in a special way, because of his kindness. his complete devotedness to duty and his readiness to help everyone without exception. Indeed it was this devotion to duty that was the occasion of his death: he wanted to render service by watching over the property of the diocese.

Brother Peter Biewer was found murdered on Christmas Eve, 1969, around 6.30 a.m. His body was found in front of the retreat house at Nyegezi (Mwanza diocese). He was very badly wounded at his head and on the right hand. For a month the brother had been on his own at night in the retreat house, to guard it. Intruders broke into the house by a window on the second floor, where the brother was sleeping. Probably the noise woke him up. But then, what happened? Perhaps the brother wanted to get help from Fr. Moroney, who was staying in another building. Perhaps he even recognised the intruders, and they wanted to make sure of their own safety by killing him? A blow from a cutlass smashed his torchlight, and cut off his thumb. The intruders took his watch, shoes and money he had on him. This murder has really upset the local people. That very evening a Requiem Mass was concelebrated with Bishop Butibubage of Mwanza presiding. Brother Biewer was buried in the seminary cemetery at Nyegezi.

May He Rest in Peace

Taken from The Pelican, Summer 1959

Brother Biewer, or Brother Aelred as he was known until recently, came to Bishop's Waltham in 1956. He had previously spent two years in Ireland, proving himself in that time a truly holy Brother and an energetic worker.

He came to the Priory at a time of transition. For almost as long as man can remember, three Brothers had cared for the farm and the grounds at the Priory—Brothers Modeste, Aubert and Patrick. Brother Aubert had died some years earlier; in 1956 Brother Modeste also received from His Divine Master the reward of his long service, and later in the same year Brother Patrick, after twenty-two years at the Priory, was appointed to Ireland.

Brother Aelred, as he then was, was one of those called to replace this famous trio. White Fathers are trained to expect anything, to be prepared to turn their hand to whatever task is assigned to them. Brother Aelred had received no special training in farm-work. Middlesborough is his native town, and that fine city provides few opportunities for country pursuits. Nevertheless Brother addressed himself to his new task with zest, and has now the satisfaction of looking back on three years of hard work during which he has raised the efficiency of the farm consider ably. He was largely responsible for the erection of the new byre, and he has never spared himself in attending to the many daily tasks of the farmer.

We are sorry that he is leaving us, but rejoice with him that he is at last being sent to the work he most hoped for. We wish him a prosperous time in Mwanza, whither our prayers follow him.

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Peter McKenzie
1945 - 1963

by Dr Andrew Coyle, one of his contemporaries

(Photo: Bernard Melling)

There are some dates which are forever seared in one's memory. For a small group of us one such date is 1 June 1963. It began as any other for those of us who were students at Blacklion that year. We had a normal day studying philosophy with Fr Kevin O'Mahoney and Fr Eugene Lewis. Fr John Maguire was Superior and Bro Paddy was in charge of the farm. We were a close knit group of philosophers, many Scots, including Kevin O'Connor, Tommy Russell and Johnny Boyle; an influential group of Irishmen, including Sean McGovern, who was a native of the 'Black', Seamus Watters and Jerry Galvin; a number from the north of England, including Bernard Melling; some from other parts of England, such as Bob Johnstone; and others, including, Eddie Wu, from further afield.

In the early evening a number of us made our way across the football field to the shores of Lough MacNean. The college had a boat, which was always at the side of the lough. We changed into our swimming gear, some took the boat into the shallows and others jumped straight into the water as we had done so many times before.

It was a few moments before someone spotted that Peter McKenzie had disappeared. At first we assumed that he was up to one of his tricks and we looked for him in a lighthearted way. Peter had jumped from the boat into the water and must have landed in soft mud. Before too long we realised that he really had disappeared. With increasing panic, we searched and called for him. He panicked as he rose to the surface several times . We realised that he was in difficulty and someone threw him a football to hang onto. Pete rolled over the ball and disappeared for the last time.

Someone ran to the college to summon assistance and to ask that the gardai be summoned. It was several hours later before Pete's body was found only a few yards from where we had all been swimming. It was hard to understand what had happened. Why had none of us seen him go under? How had he disappeared so quickly when there were so many of us around ? Why did we not find him immediately since he was so close to where we had all been relaxing? These were questions which remained with us for many a long day.

After the body was found we went into automatic pilot. His family were summoned from Glasgow. Fr John Maguire could not face the prospect of meeting them alone and asked Kevin O'Connor and me to accompany him to Belfast airport. The journey back in the car with them to Blacklion is forever seared in our memory. The links between the college and the village were at that point as strong as they ever were and the whole village turned out to the funeral in Blacklion church. Many of us broke down as we carried the coffin from the church across the road to the graveyard. The scene at the cemetery as Father Maguire led the burial prayers is recorded in photograph below.

Peter had died four days before his 18th birthhday.

After almost forty years it is hard to remember the short yet full life which was that of Pete McKenzie. There are a number of features which come immediately to mind. He was without doubt one of the finest footballers who ever played at inside left for a Priory XI. Without him we would not have come close to beating the scholastics from Totteridge who were six years senior to us when we played them at the Priory on Easter Monday in 1961. He was also very much his own person, unashamedly a son of Glasgow who refused to be changed by people whom he met at St Columba's in the Borders, at the Priory in the south of England or at St Augustine's in Ireland. In another life as a prison governor I subsequently met many people who must have grown up alongside Pete in Barlanark in the east end of Glasgow. There was the thickness of a bus ticket between the experience which led them to Barlinnie or Peterhead Prisons and that which led Pete to the White Fathers. That is something of which the White Fathers should be eternally proud.

In his death Pete had more influence on those of us who were students with him than he ever had in his lifetime. None of us who were closest to him ever became White Fathers. We made our own lives across the globe; many of us were successful in our chosen careers. None of us ever forgot. 1st June 1963.

(Photo: Bernard Melling)

Peter's memorial card
(Bernard Melling)


Peter McKenzie's new headstone at Blacklion,
erected at the end of July 2000 and generously
funded by Eugene MacBride

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The Priory Graves
as they are today

(Photo Eugene MacBride)

The cemetery at the Priory - which you would have passed on the left as you walked down the Burma Road. Buried here are Archbishop Hughes, Fr Travers, Fr Pierce English, Brother Modeste, Brother Aubert, Cornelius de Waal (deacon), Peter Murphy and Joseph Flanaghan.

Also: the remains of Major John Burdett Clark were interred by the cross at a ceremony attended by several Pelicans in June 2001.

After Mass on Sunday we buried the ashes of Major John Burdett Clark under the crucifix in the little cemetery where so many heroes of the Priory's story are interred. At Verna's suggestion, we started Sweet Saviour Bless Us (E'er We Go) in the chapel and processed verse by verse outside until Fr Buckley saw John's casket into the earth where in death he had wanted so much to lie".

(Taken from Eugene's Newsletter 35 - see the NEWS section).

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Father Richard Cantwell WF 1925 - 1999

By Fr John Hassett

Source: Chris Benton, who writes "Dick Cantwell came to the Priory in Sept 1958 . . . . Many of the students of Eugene MacBride's age who went to Blacklion will have known him there where he acted as Bursar."

The natural beauty of Valleymount and Lacken is matched by the gentle and tasteful elegance of the parish church in Valleymount - a fitting testimony to Dick Cantwell. As parish priest he constantly awoke within the community a sense of pride in what was their parish. On the day of his installation he said that he would "serve the people well". There was never a moment during the subsequent years that these words were mere platitudes.

As a student of the White Fathers in North Africa he became fluent in French but never felt the need to impress the rest of us with the absolutely correct pronunciation on the label of the French bottle of wine. Dick exercised his capabilities with discretion. And God knows he was a most capable man. Dick could have followed in his father’s footsteps and become an engineer. He had an innate capacity to design and form from what another might describe as material for the skip. When his father retired as an engineer he joined his son in Africa and there they worked together on many a project.

Dick could have pursued the career of historian or an archivist. He enjoyed few things more on his day off that to search out historical documents or to write up local history. One hour before the Archbishop received the remains of Dick in the church it seemed as if he was proving this very point of his career options. He had spent many months in search of a chalice, pix and candelabra from penal times that belonged to the parish. At 6pm on the evening of his reception at the church these items which were dated 1604 were placed behind bullet-proof glass in the sanctuary of the church. The parishioners experienced a tremendous sense of pride that Dick had discovered such an important part of their history.

But Dick chose to be neither an engineer nor historian. While parish priest of Aughrim Street, Bishop Dunne had a profound influence on him. Dick chose a ministry that involved his wholehearted commitment. He was not a person to engage in public displays of his spirituality. His personal spirituality was very much a private affair with the constant companion of his breviary.

Dick and his father returned to Ireland from Zambia where he look up the post of bursar at the White Father's headquarters in Templeogue. His first diocesan appointment was as chaplain to Portrane Hospital. From there he went to Castledermot where he was the driving force behind the establishment of a very successful Credit Union.

However it would be inappropriate to engage in the documentation of his many contributions to church and community. Dick would not look favourably upon such an endeavour. Suffice to say that he generously expended himself in the Lord's service.

May he rest in the peace which he so richly deserves.

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John Bowman 19 - 2000
By Eugene MacBride

John left the Priory for Broome Hall 1952. He told me he had been working 19 years in one of the High St banks and could barely remember a day; yet Bishop's Waltham memories were still vivid. He died of cancer about the end of April. A brilliant tenor; Nanki-Poo in the Mikado 1951; chief reader in the refectory; fine half-back.

May He Rest in Peace

Dates recorded in Peter Finn's database:
The Priory 1947 - 52; Broome Hall 1952 - 54; St Bonafatius (Netherlands) 1954 - 55

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Jimmy Johnston 19 - 2000

(Source: Eugene MacBride)

Jimmy at the Rutherglen reunion, October 1996.
(L-R) : Hugh Campbell, Frank Dillon, Fr Pat Boyd, Eugene MacBride, Jimmy Johnston, John Morton, the late Fr Dan Sherry, the late Eddie Mulraney, John Kelly, Mick Creechan (on floor).

(Frs Boyd and Sherry taught Jimmy, Eugene, John Morton, Eddie and John Kelly at St Columba's 1949 - 50).

Jimmy died 31st October 2000.
May He Rest in Peace

Dates recorded in Peter Finn's database: St Columba's 1949 -50, The Priory 1950 - 54, Broome Hall 1954 - 55

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Fr Anthony Hames WF

A Newscutting - probably from The Universe in 1974
Contributed by Monica Iles (née West)

"Fr. Anthony Hames WF, a noted figure in Catholic education: in Salisbury, Rhodesia, aged 60.

Born in llford, Essex, he entered the White Fathers in 1933 and was ordained in 1940. He spent seven years as bursar at the novitiate and scholasticate.

In 1947 he went to the diocese of Fort Jameson. Northern Rhodesia. In 1951 he returned to England as parish priest of Our Lady Queen of Apostles, Heston, Middlesex, a post he held for seven years.

He returned to Fort Jameson in 1958 and became secretary for Catholic education, particularly for African girls, and personally supervised the building of a number of schools."

•FR HAMES was a very popular parish priest at Heston and I wish that I had a write-up that does him justice. Any offers? Some of the priests at Oak Lodge knew him, if I recall.

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Sister Alice Lynch (Sister St Patrick)
1911 - 1996
Taken from The White Fathers - White Sisters magazine August/September 1996

SR. ALICE LYNCH W.S. 1911-1996
Born: 16.12.11 First Profession: 1.5.37 Died: 17.3.96

Inspired by a White Father uncle, Alice left her home in Northern Ireland to join the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa in Heston, Middlesex. She almost turned tail and fled at the sight of Eva Pick and Mary Lampard in the Postulants' long black gown and bonnet!

However, she stayed. In due course she went to Belgium, then Algeria for the novitiate. In spite of her imposing figure, tall and well-built as she was, her health was not good and the doctor said she would never be able to go to Africa. So the normal procedure would have been to ask her to leave the Congregation. It speaks volumes for the high esteem in which the Superiors held her, that she was given a choice: to leave, or to stay in the Congregation without the hope of ever going to Africa. She elected to stay. She is a wonderful example to missionaries outside Africa of how to keep alive our charism for the land of our adoption. Later, in the United States, she would say that all her efforts (and they were untiring) at fund-raising and mission animation, were her way of being a real Missionary of Africa in heart and soul.

The first 20 years or so of her religious life were spent in England, mainly as Superior in houses of formation. In 1960 she crossed the Atlantic and spent the next odd 30 years in the U.S. which she came to love. Here she made friends. People were drawn to this big, kindly Sister, with her Irish wit, who was so obviously interested in them and always ready to help.

She had a special love for the poor, and with the help of some well-to-do friends, she would make up large parcels of food and clothing for them to give away at Christmas and Easter. She also helped to deliver 'Meals on Wheels'.

In community she loved to share on a spiritual level and went well-prepared to community meetings. She needed and appreciated the support of her Sisters.

In 1990, like other sick Sisters in the U.S., she was invited to go to Sillery in Canada, to our Sisters' Home for the sick and elderly. She loved to visit her Sisters in her specially made wheel-chair and to welcome them when they popped in to see her.

But when all was said and done, her home was in the British Isles and she asked to return. In 1995 she went to Wickham Court Nursing Home in Kent. She was loved and admired by the nurses, staff and other residents. A missionary to the end, she unconsciously witnessed to the love of Christ, who had been the lodestar of her life. In the novitiate she had taken the name of Sr. St. Patrick and, fittingly it was on St. Patrick's day, 1996, that the Lord called her home.

May She Rest In Peace

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