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Wim Hofman My noviciate at Broome Hall 1961-1962
Paul West After Q.224 I knew I was a gonner . . .
John Conlon John Remembers His Days In Malawi
Mike Mearns Bedlam, Movies and Leaving




























After Q. 224 I knew I was a gonna . . .
by
Paul West


This is probably not the version of the Catechism that I had as a child. The paper cover of mine was a deeper red, as I recall : it was the cheap edition, re-printed during the war, when a penny was a significant find for those of us who assiduously scanned the pavements for coins on our way to school and back.

It is a regret of mine that I no longer have my own copy of that Catechism. Somehow, I allowed it to disappear from my consciousness at the same time as my Liber Usualis and Latin Primer slipped away. In recent years I have sought to buy one from antique booksellers and e-bay chancers, but without success.

My search for The Little Red Book was given a new impetus this week, however, on reading Libby Purves' memoir entitled 'Holy Smoke'. She devotes a whole chapter to this wartime version of the Catechism and writes with hindsight, horror, affection and humour of the possible effect that this penny dreadful had on young, impressionable lives. But be warned : she is made of stern stuff and has no time for self-indulgent liberals who look for scapegoats to blame for unfocused, unfulfilled lives.

She badly made me want to get hold of my own version—to see how I, as an adult, would now react to that interminably long list of questions and answers. Would I have forgotten most of the content or would it be as fresh in my mind as the day on which I committed the responses to memory—as we all had to, in preparation for the major events in our religious lives ? Would it still resonate and does it still play a part in the way in which I think and live my life?

This time, my search was partially successful, as you will see, from the link supplied further down the page. I found a computerised copy of the text itself. It varies only slightly to the one that I had owned, on account of being issued in the United States.

Hence the following entry :

Q. 231. Which are the Holydays of Obligation observed in the United States ?

The Holydays of Obligation observed in the United States are :
The Solemnity of the Holy Mother of God, January 1;
the Ascension;
the Assumption of Our Lady, August 15;
All Saints' Day, November 1;
the Immaculate Conception, December 8;
Christmas Day, December 25.


If you feel that the above is an unfair memory-jogger, test your Pavlovian response to Page 1 :

1. Who made you?
God made me.

2. Why did God make you?
God made me to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this
world, and be happy with Him forever in the next.

3. To whose image and likeness did God make you?
God made me to his own image and likeness.

4. Is this likeness to God in your body, or in your soul?
This likeness to God is chiefly in my soul.

5. How is your soul like to God?
My soul is like to God because it is a spirit, and is immortal.

6. What do you mean when you say that your soul is immortal?
When I say my soul is immortal, I mean that my soul can never die.


See how it all comes flooding back ?

And does it make you think that the Catechism was also created to help parents answer any question that might be put to them by their offspring ? Picture the scene at the average Catholic Sunday dinner:

Son : Is the Pope infallible ? (Q. 92)
Dad : Yes. the Pope is infallible.

Son : What do you mean when you say that the Pope is infallible ? (Q.93)
Dad : When I say that the Pope is infallible, I mean that the Pope cannot err when, as Shepherd and Teacher of all Christians, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals, to be held by the whole Church.

Son : But, but—; (starts on Question 94)
Dad : That's enough Son. Now eat up your greens as your Mother says.

Well, at least you knew where you were in those days. Here it was, in black and white, the answer to all the questions in the moral universe. Something like the Highway Code. A 'Super Highway' Code, if you like. As long as you were willing to let the years pass until you understood the bulk of it. (Q.224. How does that work ?)

Anyway, don't let me spoil the experience for you. Click here and read it for yourself.


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Reminiscences of my noviciate at Broome Hall 1961-1962
by Wim Hofman



Arrival
It must have been September 1961. I was one of a little group of Dutchmen that went to Broome Hall near Coldharbour Lane in Surrey, England. A Zeeland Company ship took us from Hoek van Holland to Hull. From the ship we looked down to the family of some of us who could not stop waving. And we saw how our luggage went into the belly of the ship, green metal trunks like on the first pages of the strip album 'Tintin in Congo'.



We were all trained by the White Fathers and wanted to go to the noviciate (a duration of one year). We went by train to London and then by bus southwards to Holmwood where we had a little meal before walking to the house where we should stay for a year and we were wondering how it would be to meet other fellows coming from different parts of the United Kingdom.

Our English was not too good because most of us had only studied passively: we could translate texts but we did not have much practice in speaking that foreign English. It was a nice walk to the house; the weather was nice and even warm. We had to carry some baggage. I had my old brown valise and my banjo in a black case that had provoked some admiration from the Customs people when entering England. They even looked inside the instrument and smiled when they found not only spare strings but also socks and a tooth brush, a nail brush and other useful things. They put a sign on the luggage with red chalk. They had also looked in the pockets of my raincoat, whereupon they found nothing. I had a fancy coat because people had told me that in England it rained every day.

I got a little room on the first floor at the south side of the sandstone building. There was a window that I could open. You could look out on to a terrace, a kind of lawn, a lake with a diving tower and a nice landscape with rolling hills and trees here and there. From time to time there was mist hanging over the land, the trees showing just their tops above the white clouds. I loved it immediately and I liked my little room. There was a little table and a chair so that I could read and write—also, a small bed and a cupboard with drawers. In the room there was fireplace as well, but when I tried to make a fire once the whole room was full of smoke. The chimney had not been swept and when I tried to clean it a little bit down came a lot of little branches and a dead bird. Later that year we started to clean some of the many chimney pipes (a dozen or so).

My neighbour was David Airley, who came from Dundee. He was a good piano player, but I didn't know that yet. I had to share a bathroom with him. It was a nice bathroom, a Victorian one, with a copper plate before the tub, to warm your feet and pipes to dry towels. The apparatus worked only a few weeks later, when the heating was on.

Being a novice was serious business. We had to rise rather early in the morning. Someone walked around with a bell, he said something and we, so was told, had to answer: "Deo gratias". Some of us did.

Then we had gym. The British novices called it P.T. But it was introduced by the Dutch that stayed in the house before us, they told us. We ran around and did exercises. Some of us were appointed to train us. After that we had religious exercises, prayers and meditation in a room where there was an altar and pews with kneelers.

There was also a harmonium. I remarked that David was the one who played the instrument and I was always glad when I saw heard him play. I asked him from time to time to play a little melody for me and he was so kind to do that. So I remember that he played some lines of 'Take the A-train' or trying to stir in a little bit of boogy-woogy during the service.

We Dutch had to learn to sing some English hymns and we smiled when we sang 'Holy God we praise Thy Name', because the melody is used in our country to sing "Mother our crow is death" ( Moeder onze kraai is dood). There were also new Vespers to sing. But often we sang Gregorian chant. Our conduct in the chapel had to be very strict and pious, particularly when Father Van den Bosch was celebrating. He was a precise man. He was not a good singer. At the end of a high mass he sang: ite-we-we-we -we we etc. He was very serious, observing each of us thoroughly through his clean glasses.

I do not remember how long those religious morning exercises took but I think we were glad when it was time for breakfast. We sat at long tables. The staff, consisting of Reverend Fathers and Brothers, were sitting at a separate table, with Father Van den Bosch in their midst. But often he was sitting alone, cleaning the clean tablecloth with his rolled-up napkin. Out of the kitchen came the smell of bacon and eggs. An English breakfast was new to us Dutchmen. After prayer was said, the porridge came in. Some novices rolled it in on a trolly that made a rattling noise because the the wooden blocks of the parquet floor were loose. Most of the novices ate this water-cooked porridge sprinkled with cold milk and some sugar. I saw Dave putting a lot of salt on his. He explained to me that he was a Scotsman, not to be confused with as an Englishman. He was glad to meet Dutchmen he said, they were more like Scotsmen. But I put salt on my porridge only once.

Jimmy Brown
agreed with Dave. He came from Scotland too and was reluctant to hear my dog-r. You talk like a Scotsman, he said. He asked me if I liked bagpipes and when I agreed, he said "I'll show ye."
One day he showed us his bagpipes. He had even a Scottish dress, a kilt and a cap and stockings and he started playing Loch Lomond. They told him to play outside and I went with him because I wanted to hear and see him playing. But when he played outside they told him to climb on top of Leith Hill to play from there.

He showed me how bagpipes work, how to blow and explained the function of the reeds. I never asked him to play with me, he on his bagpipe and me on my banjo. I proposed Dave to play together. In the room where we gathered for classes and spiritual readings (given by Van den Bosch) stood a nice piano. When Dave started to play "Happy Days Are Here Again" it became clear that there were special rules about playing music at Broome Hall. Only on very special occasions was civilised music allowed.

We had the impression that our noviciate became more severe from day to day. It will change, some of the novice told us, after the Thirty Days Retreat.

We had classes. French classes were given by Fr Bernard Joinet, a Frenchman who spoke English rather well but with a strong French accent. I remember he told us about the Algerian war and posed us the question if in wartime it is permitted to torture people. Probably he had been a soldier in that war. He explained to me that you could see everything as a symbol and he pointed to the sun that was setting. "Look!" he said "The symbol of the sunset!"

He liked to play tennis and put us to work to make cement to build a tennis court. But the result was not a good one, the day we put down the concrete it was raining cats and dogs. He also liked to fish in the lake and to canoe. In the winter he went away for a few days to ski somewhere in Scotland.

A recent photo of Fr Bernard Joinet can be found on Page 99 of the GALLERY (taken 2002)

There was an awful lot of work to do in the gardens, clipping bushes, mowing grass, weeding, cleaning, and digging out the roots of brambles and trees. We had to work in the vegetable garden too. Brother Albert Gardner gave us instructions. But there was Mr Yeomans also. I remember endless rows of parsnips we had to thin out. Mr Yeomans explained to me what parsnips were and how to thin. I remember also that I had to go to pick some cabbages. Armed with an iron basket and a kind of sword I went to the vegetable garden and cut off some nice round heads of red cabbages. They had to go to the kitchen. We had to work there too. We had to peel potatoes and clean big aluminium pans.

Henk Jansen wanted to wax the floors in the house. We used melted candlesticks . We worked like madmen. The floor never became shiny.

Henk also started to prune the fruit trees in the orchard. He was the son of a greengrocer and told us he knew about apples and pears. We dug holes and connected up a water pipe to the caravan where the lady who did a lot of washing and ironing stayed . We collected a lot of leaves and made some compost heaps. Some novices made Stations of the Cross of coloured concrete and put them in the park.

We had to set the tables. We did it quickly because this gave us more free time. We ran along the tables with forks and knives etc. Often there was a spoon or knife missing. We were too much in a hurry. The person who had no fork or spoon or knife stood up and went to the kitchen to pick up an utensil.

Often there was silence during meals. Someone stood at a desk and read from a book. At a certain moment Father Van den Bosch was giving a sign. He was annoyed. You could see that he was cleaning the very clean linen table cloth with his napkin. He explained that there was no running any more during meals. A novice who had no spoon should stay at his chair and not have soup. The next meal he, the novice master himself, had no spoon next to his plate. He knew immediately who was the one who had taken away the spoon. He ordered me to get a spoon. It was a dangerous moment.

After dinner I had to go to his room. He wanted to talk. He was kind to me. I had to become more serious. And he had noticed that I was often writing. He asked me what I was writing and I showed my diary: two big notebooks. He wanted to read them. And after some days he gave back my diary and he asked me to burn it and I burned them underneath the washing boiler.

At that time I was very obedient. Obedience was the highest virtue. He had seen also some drawings I made and that is why I was appointed as 'florist'. I had to put flowers and branches with leaves in vases and I did my best to make nice creations for the chapel, also decorating the special altar in the conservatory for Holy Thursday (when there were prayers the whole night long).


(L-R) : Emmanuel Gielen, Anton Oostveen, Ben Moelands, André Blewanus, André Postma, Fr Siwinda (?), Piet van Heijst

Just before Palm Sunday, we had a storm and an enormous branch from the blue cedar came down near the house. We sawed off branches that we could use for the procession in the garden. But there was a lot of wind and I had to put some stones on the linen on the little table that was used for the ceremony and the pile of branches was nearly blown apart. I remember Fr McSherry was the celebrant. The branches were difficult to hold straight during the procession. In fact they were rather big and difficult to manipulate (we had a branch in one hand, in the other we had to carry our Liber Usualis with its rather thin paper. But that was nearly at the end of the big Retreat.

But first we had to get our white clothing. As I was not very rich, I had simple cotton clothing, nice when new , but the gandora soon became rather short after some washing and shrinking. I found the shrinking had a rather practical result .You could move faster and run the staircases up and down with a short gandora.. But Father Van den Bosch ordered me to slow down and move in a more civilised way and to take the stairs step by step.

We Dutchmen got also some explanation about British etiquette and at the end we knew how to eat green peas with a fork in the British way and we even knew that we should not clean our plates at the end of a course. That was a pity because the food was either good or excellent. I remember the stews and the parsnips and the warm desserts: cakes with syrup or gooseberries with cream. Not everything was new for me. I was amazed to see in the kitchen the jam tins. I had seen them when I was little: I had met British troops at the end of 1944. They stayed in my kindergarten and we children were allowed to move among the soldiers and saw them shaving themselves in the morning and and eating toasted white bread with marmalade or red jam that they took out of big jam tins . . . .

There was more in Broome Hall that reminded me of the Second World War. In a cupboard I found a pile of magazines called CHOIX, in which there were short stories and poetry written during the war in France and in Great Britain. I started reading them, and so I read poems of French poems, French and English poems. I remember how exciting it was to read reading the poem 'LIBERTË' by Paul Eluard, or the poems of Dylan Thomas. I found also texts about the artist Stanley Spencer, an extraordinary painter I never had heard of in the Netherlands. I remember also reading Chesterton's 'Orthodoxy' and the children's poems of Hilaire Belloc and Edward Lear, the life of Cardinal Newman, the amazing poems of the Jesuit, Gerard Manley Hopkins.

That year there was much fuss about a book of a certain Bishop Robinson who wrote that you had to find God in yourself. I did not read his book. I read also some Rodriguez. S.J. He explained in his book that if you want to straighten a bent stick you have to bend it thoroughly in the other way. He had a rather negative idea about mankind, I thought.
Sometimes I went to a room that was called the library not to read but to mend my white stockings. In that room the music records were also kept, along with the pick-up. I remember I often put on the symphony of César Franck.

Often I had big holes in my stockings.


Fr Beckwith, Fr Van den Bosch and Bro Mullen in the recreation room at Broome Hall

Christmas was a nice time. The British idea of Christmas was quite different from ours. There was an emphasis on much food, minced pies, pudding, a lot of sweet things, joy and feasting. I remember the ballons and crackers. It was a nice winter. We cut a lot of wood for in the fireplace in the recreation hall, where we had put up a Christmas tree. With Henk Jansen we had made a Christmas stable made out of roots of trees, and I had made pseudo stained glass window with paper images of angels, one with a banjo.

There was a piano in the recreation room, but the instrument was not tuned for years or could not be tuned.. We had sing songs , I think animated by Pat Shanahan, a lively and helpful man. He helped me to improve my English. At Christmas time I was still not able to speak the language very well. There was not much time to speak. I remember Brother McLeod putting the Christmas tree on the fire. There was huge flame and we had to use the fire extinguisher. A lo of white foam made a very white end of that Christmas time.

There was snow and then the lake froze. Some people went for a swim in the ice cold water. There was some betting. We climbed Leith Hill in the snow and from there the whole world seemed white. It was amazing also because coming from the Netherlands I was not used to hills.

Some left us, one of them Larry Shine, I believe. There was no explanation. Perhaps he smoked at times when it was not allowed. There were only special hours or moments for smoking. A lot of us smoked, cigarettes, shag. I had my pipe but no tobacco. There were small packets of Player's with 6 cigarettes in it, but they were very expensive for us and I didn't like cigarettes—certainly not the British ones that had a sharp taste and made you cough a lot.

One day I was put into another room, in the new wing, next to a pond. I liked the ponds, especially the oval one. There was no water in it but a lot of sun and it was a fine place to sit in: sun and no wind.



André Postma (left) and Kees Neeft at the 'little pond', Broome Hall

I was reading a lot at that time and thinking about life and vocation and as a romantic young man it was not difficult to get religious thoughts and feelings at that nice place near the peaceful North Downs.

The Thirty Day Retreat was like being brainwashed. You did it yourself. There was silence and there were exercises. I took it very seriously. You had to start to close your windows and to descend into hell and to go to the light at the end and it was definitely an exercise in imagination. I think it influenced me deeply and not only me: we were all very tired at the end. I remember I could hardly manage the wheelbarrow. But the exercises were planned on a splendid moment: it ended with Easter and spring and sunshine and more free time.

I remember nice walks in the hills and tinkering. I can still see still Maurice Cunningham picking up mushrooms along the paths climbing Leith Hill. He cooked them later in his pan. He carried always a rucksack during walks, with ladles and pans hanging off— and he made noises like a walking disco. We walked to Abinger Hammer, to Shere, even to Guildford and Horsham. Mike Kelly told me about the Roman roads all along England. And he showed me one in the neighbourhood of Capel. He told me also that during night you could hear the Roman legions walking through the hills from time to time.

One afternoon there was an alarm. We had to close our windows. A huge swarm of bees came to the house. They did not enter by the windows but along the dining room chimney with its dark golden ceiling. We stuffed some of our grey blankets up the chimney and we went up to the roof. Alf Harrison, who was always whistling, said that it should take days to get the bees smoked out and Charley Bingham wanted to stay on the roof and camp there.

In the lake there were two canoes. There was one good one and one with a leak. We got some tar from along the roads and made a fire and melted the tar. With an old ladle, Teun Thomeer and I put then tar on the bottom of the old canoe. There was no leak anymore but the thing was not in balance, floating deeply and nearly sinking. Somewhere on the lake the good canoe attacked us and threw waterlillies towards us. We capsized and so I lost my spectacles and because I did not want English glasses I asked swimmers to dive for mine. Amazingly, they found them. After that it was forbidden to canoe.


Fr Joinet though took the best one and wanted to show us how you use a canoe. He had studied in Canada. He wanted to go fishing and he was standing up in the canoe while paddling. Standing upright, he started fishing but when he threw in his line he fell into the water. End of canoeing.

In the meantime I was writing—no diary any more but stories. And I was drawing and painting. I have still some drawings from that time, some done on blue writing paper; and the stories were published in 1969.

Because they knew that I painted, I was set to paint walls. I noticed the British taste was for colours such as light blue, light yellow, pink and light green. I had to paint the wall in what I call 'classroom light green'. But the wall showed several brown spots due to humidity so I painted here and there things in metal (aluminium) paint first. It was fun to do. At the beginning I painted some dots but soon I was painting figures, sun and moon, faces, ships, birds etc. Then this paint had to dry. Father Van den Bosch was astonished, but before his spiritual reading started, he gave the novices five minutes time to admire my creations. The next day I painted the wall light green. There were more painters. Two of them were busy in another room, painting the ceiling. They used a ladder and suddenly I heard some betting was going on. I bet you do not dare to fall with your bucket of paint. After that I heard a lot of noise and when I ran towards the room I saw someone lying on the floor in a big splash of white paint.

From time to time we were doing some washing. We boiled our overalls and other things with some soap in a boiler. You poured water in it and burned wood underneath the thing. We threw some clothing in it and I remember we also added a red carpet. The result was purple overalls and some pink burnouses, a kind of mantles with a pointed hood with a little tassel at the pointed ends. They sure were useful in winter. In summer they were a burden.

We Dutchmen noticed that each time the name of Jesus was pronounced, novices like Maurice Cunningham, Joseph Mullen and other Irishmen bent their heads. Even when we used the word Jesus as a stopgap, like people do in Holland. We tried to be careful. I think the Irish were more pious than we were. They also said the Rosary more often and although they had a rosary around their necks they used smaller one they carried with them in their pockets. They also explained to us what the shamrock meant to them.

Meals were enjoyed in silence, but from time to time there was no reading and records were played instead. We had a small selection of classical music and so we heard Mendelsohn and Grieg (who was Scottish, according to Dave) and for much of the time there were rather romantic concerts. But one day someone put on 'Le Sacre du Printemps' (below) and the rather rhythmical parts had a special effect on the novices who were eating their meat and potatoes: they started following the tempo of the music and were moving their forks and knives, following Strawinsky's obstinate rhythm. At a certain moment all of us started laughing. Father van den Bosch asked for another record. He tried not to smile.


(L-R) : André Blewanus, André Postma, Fr Siwinda (Nyassaland), Tony Henry (brother novice), Kees Neeft,
Jimmy Brown (brother novice, later in Marienthal, Luxembourg), Piet van heijst, Fr Van den Bosch,
Kenneth Slide (brother novice), Anton Oostveen, Michael Foley, Fr Kamya, Paddy Russell, Emmanuel Gielen.

At the end of that special year we were more or less separated. And we said goodbye to our fellow novices, Jim and John and Joseph and Eddy and Maurice and Charley and Alf and the little brother Hammond with his red hair, and to Mike and Michael and to Dave and Pat and Father Van den Bosch and brother Casimir and Mrs. Sterling and Mrs Fox, the cook, and all the others. A lot of the novices went to Totteridge, a few had to go to Vals, in France and John Bloem and I left for Heverlee in Belgium.

We went back to Holland by Dakota. I think it was Teun Thomeer's idea. The plane was full. The stewardess had to sit on the floor after having sold a lot of cigarettes. We wanted to get rid of the British coins, pennies, shillings etc. On my lap I had the black case with my banjo which I did not use really during a whole year.

Wim Hofman
Vlissingen November 2007

Stravinsky's Rite of Spring can be seen (and heard) via Youtube:
Le Sacre Du Printemps by Pina Bausch Wuppertal Dance Theater
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXVuVQuMvgA

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John Conlon remembers his days in Malawi

Taken from the BBC series 'Days Like This—a day in your life'

I spent 5 years working in Malawi as a priest. However I did not own a camera and never thought of taking photographs of my life there.

Most of the time I lived in local villages where villagers gave me a hut to sleep in and I ate with them. The people I worked among were the Achewa the largest ethnic group in Malawi, and the language I spoke was Achewa—one of the many Bantu branches of languages spoken in several countries in East Africa. We all ate out of the same bowl with our right hands. The staple diet was, and still is, Nsima made from maize cooked in water with the consistency of dough. This was served with some kind of side dish, wild leaves, eggs boiled till they were black around the yoke, perhaps on a good day a pigeon or a chicken.

In season roasted ants were a favourite dish. The season for these was early in the rainy season which started in November. When it was time for the ants in the large ant hills to mate, they developed small wings and a fat body. For days and days they streamed out of holes in the ant heap like a stream of water. The easiest way to catch them was to put a bag in front of one of the holes so that they flew straight into them. The other common way was to throw water on a patch of ground and to put a light on it. They were attracted to the light in the dark like moths and when they landed on the wet ground their wings got wet and they were unable to fly off again until their wings dried so that it was easy to scoop them into a container. They were roasted on a piece of tin over the fire. They had a crispy taste and were quite nutritious.

[As explained in my story] I continued to collect proverbs and stories, attach relevant passages of the Gospel and devise 5 or 6 questions to generate discussions on a wide variety of issues in everyday life. I had regular training sessions with village leaders helped by the ten catechists we employed.

People also continued to write their own religious sons and music which was totally based on beat. Some of the songs were adapted from existing songs such as wedding dance songs.

The main idea was not to come with the fully packaged version of Christianity that we had inherited from two thousand years of European history which included answers and dogmatic teaching for every small bit or our lives. This included our Canon law which often had little relevance to Achewa life and customs, our hymns our rituals etc. instead it was an effort to go some way towards coming to Malawi in a way that God came into our world – a tiny vulnerable baby, powerless and naked as a baby but with a power that attracted rather than prescribed. The core wisdom of the Achewa had been handed down through the generations through their proverbs and the stories attached to them – much as ours was when we were a predominantly oral society. My aim was to work with the Achewa to enable them to marry their core wisdom with the core wisdom of Christianity which comes to us through the gospel so that they could build a Chichewa Christianity rather that have an alien European version superimposed on them.

After five years I met Mary Ann who had come to our local hospital to work as a volunteer. We decided to get married and moved to Northern Ireland. We have 11 children – six long term foster children, one child adopted and four birth children. We have children from six different families in our family but two of our foster children who were disabled are now dead.



John as a young priest before going to Malawi


John as a young priest before going to Malawi

A recent picture of John Conlon and Mary Ann


Listen to John Conlon by clicking here.

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 Bedlam, Movies and Leaving

by Mike Mearns


Bedlam
. . . Something that always springs to mind at this time of year  is Christmas Eve 1955.  All the Fathers were away (hearing the confessions of maudlin drunks?)  leaving only Fr Burton, the parish priest, in the house.  The result was utter anarchy as pillow fights broke out,  students were in the village and rumours were that  the sixth formers were in the pub! 


Movies
Two weeks ago I sat down to watch the 1958 western — "The Big Country", starring Gregory Peck, Burl Ives, Jean Simmons and Carole Baker. 

 

As the story unfolded, I realized that I had seen this movie when out on a Prefects’ holiday on 28 October 1958.  There were six of us students — Albert Shanahan, Charlie McLaren, Nick Kendellen, Dessie Smith, Pat Gibbons and me, together with Alan Thompson, the Prefect of Discipline. 

“Thatch” (Fr Thomson) had obtained a vehicle from somewhere and we all took off for our day out.  I know the exact date because we ended up in the early afternoon in front of a black and white TV to watch England demolish USSR 5-0 at Wembley, with Nat Lofthouse demoralizing the Soviet goalie, as only he could. 

After some grub we saw the movie and stopped for a pint on the way back to The Priory.  Very understanding was our “Thatch”, although it illustrates the tolerance for alcohol referred to by Peter Finn on page 170 of his book.  ('History of The Priory').

I recall that on another Prefects’ outing we saw a film entitled “Whirlpool” starring Juliette Greco — now there’s a name to conjure up distant memories. So how did we get to be Prefects?  I remember that everybody had a vote at the beginning of the year, but we were all sure that the ultimate selection was made by the staff notwithstanding the ballot.

Then last weekend what should be on tv but Hamlet, starring Laurence Olivier.  Another rush of memories from my sixth form days (1958-59). Those of us preparing for A-level English Literature had Hamlet as one of the set books.  John O’Donohue was our teacher and ensured that we saw the film when it was screened in Winchester.  It certainly brought the play to life for us. 

My wife, Kay, marvelled when I started reciting speeches along with “Larry”, but that was just how much of an impact John and the film made on me.


On Leaving
I read with interest Wim Hoffman’s account of his noviciate year (1961-1962) since I began that year and remember Wim, but faintly.  I limped out of the WFs (literally, as I had sprained my ankle during a football match) during the initial 8 day retreat described by Wim.

He remarks that people left without any references being made to their departure I recall this strange attitude. It was as though one became a non-person.  A friend of mine, an ex-nun, told me that the same thing happened in her community.  She said that it left her forever with an urge to always find out the reasons people had for their actions. 

Luckily, I do not have the same compulsion as she has, but I wonder if any of my fellow Pelicans are similarly afflicted.

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