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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.
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.
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.
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.
BROTHER PETER BIEWER by JOD
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 PrioryBrothers 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
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.
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."
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
Johnston 19 - 2000
Jimmy at the Rutherglen
reunion, October 1996.
(Frs Boyd and Sherry taught
Jimmy, Eugene, John Morton, Eddie and John Kelly at St Columba's 1949 - 50).
Anthony Hames WF, a noted figure in Catholic education: in Salisbury, Rhodesia,
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
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!
May She Rest In Peace