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Wim Hofman The lake at Broome Hall  
Mike Mearns Dancin' the Evening Away'
Gerard Lenaghan The Ghost of Father Icas
Mike Mearns A Pressing Matter
Gerard Lenaghan A Seasonal Reminiscence
Paul West On a Wing and a Prayer
Eric Creaney MAD Day

as remembered by
Wim Hofman

Vlissingen  August 2010


From time to time I look at the Pelicans website and I always go to the Gallery of photographs. Now I saw some photo’s sent in by Eric Creaney (Page 344), showing diving and swimming novices but also photographs of a canoe with Pat Shanahan and Henk Jansen in the water. Another picture shows people with an iron tube  with them is Father Bernard Joinet who liked to canoe in the lake of Broome Hall. 

I know what is going on. In the lake was one good canoe, the one Father Joinet liked to take. Another one was an old, leaking one and as I liked to canoe too I had the intention to repair it. I came from the shipbuilding town Vlissingen (Flushing). 

Teun Thomeer wanted to help me so we went along the little roads around Broome Hall to collect tar from the side of the  roads with a wheel barrow. We collected too much. Near the workshed, near the orchard, we made a fire to melt the tar. I did that with the help of a  ladle  with which we smeared the tar over the bottom of the canoe. We put the canoe in the lake. It floated, yes, but the thing was instable and heavy but there was space for two persons. So we paddled around the lake carefully and sitting upright, till we met the other canoe and the two novices in that one started to throw  water into our nearly sinking canoe. As to defend ourselves I tried to throw water lilies at them but our canoe capsized, so we had to swim to the shore. 

We turned the canoe right so that we could put on our shoes but then I realised that I had lost my glasses.  I  promised  the swimmers at the shore that they could make a lot of cigarettes if they could find my spectacles somewhere in the lake.

Henk Jansen and Pat Shanahan wanted to take the old canoe to go back to the spot where my glasses could be. As they could not find it, Henk thought about a heavy metal pipe so they could hold on so they could stay longer under the surface of the water.

Father Joinet did not dive, he wanted to fish and claimed the best canoe.  But they found my glasses, they were hanging in the plants!

Later Father Joinet stood upright fishing catching something and by pulling the fish or the old tree, we never know, pulled himself into the water. That evening father Van den  Bosch came a little bit smiling with canoe regulations.

Later I made a crucifix  with some chicken wire and of the rests of the tar. It had a SF-look.  (Hank is now working in a prison In Holland as a priest).   

Page342 features David Airley, John Bloem and me on occasion that we got the magazine: Katholieke Illustratie for free. The reason that we got the magazine from the Dutch redaction was that I had sent a letter in the magazine about driving at the left  or the  right  side in  Great Britain (there was a discussion going on about it at that time). The letter was published.

I had to come to the room of the novice master as he wanted to know all about my doings but I explained him that we handed all our letters to him before they went to a mail box  so he could have seen my letter to the magazine too. He agreed.

I am not sure if he opened letters, but I think he thought he had the right to do so. One day he asked me to hand over my diaries. He told me to stop writing a diary and after that I burned them. I like fires. I do not think it is a pity.

I remember all kind of things very clearly.

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as remembered by
Mike Mearns

The two YOUTUBE videos below remind me of the days spent at St Boswells. As Superior, Jimmy Tolmie decided that we should all absorb some Scottish culture.

Dance teams were selected, they got kilts (I remember Jim Youdale arrayed in all his splendour!) and we were all given special instruction.

However all of us clumsy mutts were not left out. At evening recreation (after supper up to night prayers) the Study Hall had all the desks pushed against the walls, the gramophone was cranked up, Jimmy Shand came on and we all danced 'The Dashing White Sergeant'.

I remember one occasion when the kitchen staff — Mrs Petilla (from Ancrum) and the others — came up and joined us. What fun! Good to know that people still get together to dance and have fun ( viz Strip the Willow).

Strip the Willow was a more sophisticated dance and only the special dance teams performed it.

Jimmy Shand and His Band -
The 'Dancer's Delight EP'
The Dashing White Sergeant  

And below are the sessions to which Mike is referring (with thanks, again, to Jim Youdale) :

(source : James Youdale)

The country dancing 'A' team at St Columba's 1954

Spot the face from the following list :

Manus McGuire, John O'Donell, Gerald O'Byrne, Jim Youdale, Patrick Cassidy
Arthur Dominic Capitano, Chris McGuire, Desmond Boyle

At the back, on the left, is Edward Harvey—and who is the priest ?

Fr Pierre Aucoin
identifies the priest as Fr James Tolmie (Feb 2008)

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(source : James Youdale)

The 'A' team 1954

(L-R) :

Back :
Manus McGuire, John O'Donell, Gerald O'Byrne, Jim Youdale
Front :
Arthur Dominic Capitano, Chris McGuire, Desmond Boyle and Patrick Cassidy

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(source : James Youdale)

The 'B' team, 1954

(L-R) :

Back :
Bernard Kinsler, Gerry Cannon, John Lyden, Rob Griffin
Front :
John Tierney, Edward Harvey, John O'Donnell and Patrick Rice

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(source : James Youdale)

St Columba's 1954

(L-R) :

Back :
Desmond Boyle, Patrick Cassidy, Arthur Dominic Capitano,
Front :
Gerald O'Byrne, Jim Youdale, Manus McGuire
Standing : John O'Donell and Chris McGuire

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The Ghost of Father Icas
as experienced by
Gerard Lenaghan

One of my childhood memories of St Columba’s has just been shattered.

As a young fledgling newly arrived at St Columba’s College in September 1963 I was told of The Ghost of Father Icas who walked through the dormitories on the anniversary of his death . . . Tonight was the night.

I had only been there a matter of days, terribly homesick, and now I was faced with ghosts.

It was late. I must have already been asleep but was awoken by the sound of footsteps, and the click of leather soles on the hard floor echoing through the dormitory. Slowly, but oh so slowly, the steps came closer, the clicking of the rosary beads hanging from his waist clearly audible in the silence of the night.

I was petrified. Trying to wake up the boy next to me with a whisper had no effect. I was alone. Hardly daring to move and attract attention I slowly retreated under the bedclothes and there I waited until the footsteps faded and disappeared.

I have told this story countless times to my own children and to the thousands of children I have taught through the years. My visits to St Columba’s are quite frequent at the moment as I am in Scotland on a weekly basis and so walk the dog through the grounds and along the River Tweed en route back to Newcastle.

Last week we walked down the pathway to the gravestones of the 3 White Fathers buried there and then I saw it. Father Rijkers. Of course – this was my Father Icas. This was the ghost I had lived with all these years.

Died 29th April 1912. It wasn’t September at all — to coincide with gullible new boys in the First Year. I had been tricked. I have been trying to think who duped me in this way and have a sneaky suspicion it was my brother Michael in the Second Year!

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A Pressing Matter
Mike Mearns

I was pressing a pair of trousers the other day and it came to me that we still had sharp creases in our Priory days — despite the absence of an iron. This was achieved by placing a piece of corrugated cardboard  between the bedsprings and your mattress, laying your "best`" trousers on the cardboard and presing them by sleeping each night, until they emerged on Sunday. All that was needed then was to dip your clothesbrush in water, shake it, and then brush down your blazer, making sure to darken the paler, worn areas. You were then "sharp' for morning prayers and Sunday Mass.

Better scroungers had a piece of plywood instead of cardboard. I had one but I think that I inherited it from someone in the year ahead of me.                                  

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A seasonal reminiscence
Gerry Lenaghan

Following the fire at St Columba’s the First Year boys were sent to Oak Lodge at Totteridge whilst the Second Year went directly to Danby Hall.

What struck me as odd was that my brother in the Second Year at Danby Hall returned home for Christmas but we First Year boys at Oak Lodge were not allowed home for the holidays until after Christmas Day. The consolation was, I remember, that each boy was given his own personal Christmas cake – a good size cake covered in white icing.

My memories of Oak Lodge are quite vague. We were there only a very short time but I do remember this ……

As a follow up to our Religious Education lesson (or am I right in thinking we called it Scripture?) we were given our ‘homework’, that being to draw a picture of the scene at Bethlehem. Now I took pride in my drawing and, in fact, went on to do A Level Art so I was not daunted by such an assignment. On the contrary, I took pleasure in sitting down to compose my picture of the stable at Bethlehem.

Despite my modest flair for drawing I was conscious that I struggled with figures. However hard I concentrated, drawing people was not my forte and not wanting to submit an inferior piece of work I felt compelled to make a few minor modifications to the drawing. Finally it was complete. A double page spread entitled ‘The Stable before Mary and Joseph arrived.’

My intentions were quite sincere. I had in earnest produced a picture to the best of my ability but Fr Wynn, I think it was, was not amused. As a punishment I was to be excluded from the outing to The Planetarium and Madame Tussauds and was made to clean out the drying room instead.

Oh, how cruel life can be!

Robbie Dempsey writes (21-03-2012)

I read Gerry's piece with amusement - as I'm reminded of all the horde of Irish currently over at the Cheltenham Festival and thus obvious empty stables in Ireland. So I had to google: empty stable

Proverbs 14:4 says: An empty stable stays clean, but no income comes from an empty stable !

It's an interesting theme Gerry lighted upon - one of expecting visitors. At least he only had the drying room to clean out and not some dirty stable.

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On a Wing and a Prayer
by Paul West

One evening in February 1956 a tiny rubber-band-powered plane flew round and round the Priory quad in the dark, launched from the top left window.

Time and again it circled round and down, cheered on by an increasing mass of onlookers.

On the following evening this magnificent, frail little champion took a deep breath and tried again. To our delight it burst from the window immediately the propellor was released, rejoicing in the surge of freedom that it felt.

It flew straight out and up, then tilted gently down, skirting the walls in a graceful parabola. Then, without warning, something deep inside it snapped (probably the rubber band) and it fell tail-down to its death on the gravel below.

Life is so sad, isn't it?

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Mad Day
by Eric Creaney

50 years ago today, Sunday, 28th. October, 1962!

The first documented instance of the threat of mutual assured destruction (MAD) being discussed as a determining factor in a major international arms agreement.

In St. Edward’s Senior Seminary, Totteridge, North London, most of the students knew of the tension gripping the world as the Soviet ships continued south towards Cuba.

However, normal Sunday routines were in force with the ‘Grand Silence’ in force until the hopeful ‘Deo Gratias’ sometime during breakfast.

After the long morning meditation and before breakfast there was a short interval for housekeeping chores.

I remember being so concerned and worried that I slipped into the external recreation room and crawled past the windows to the radio and turned on the news quietly wondering if we would still be around to hear the news during the evening recreation.

No TV and not even newspapers and very limited access to radio allowed in those days before Vat 2! (and, of course, no computer or internet.)

Below is the Rec room from my room window and the sole radio was in the corner at the back left corner of the room.

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