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Michael Goodstadt Lasting Impressions
Fr Ben Henze The Laughing Jesus
Mike Mearns Fond Memories of Fr Geoff Riddle
Mike Mearns It was only an English textbook but . . .
Maurice Billingsley Brown Enamel Teapots

Michael Goodstadt

My reminiscences about the WF house in Holland Park: I can still feel the emotional wrench that I experienced when my father left me at Heston in September, 1951.

At that time, my family was living in Shoeburyness, Essex, which was a the “end of the line” in most respects.

The plan was that I (along with Terence Pettit and David Sole) would board a bus that would wend its painful way northwards to St. Columba’s College, picking up WF students at all the watering holes throughout England.

I have three memories: first, I remember being very upset (perhaps I secretly cried!) on that first night away from home, in this totally strange place in Holland Park, London.

Secondly, not being the best bus passenger, I remember the 15 hour bus journey as excruciatingly long and boring—this was before the fine coaches we now have, with toilets etc.,

Thirdly, my one clear overriding positive impression was of the warmth shown by Father (Stevie) Collins which, in later years, I came to appreciate as one of his consistent human qualities.

A Southdown coach from the fifties

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Fr Ben Henze MAfr

While working as Head of Religious Education at Chipata Teachers College, I built up the tradition of having a short drama each week during the Monday Assembly. Each class took it in turn once a term to produce a sketch on some moral or spiritual point. The groups developed some skill in writing short hard-hitting pieces. The Monday Assembly was never boring, often educational, and sometimes very amusing. I was very happy with the work done by the students and staff in this matter.

   Spontaneous Laughter


Then a new Principal was appointed. A few weeks later, there was an excellent piece of drama which made its point amid a burst of spontaneous laughter. After his notices, the new Principal pointed out that the Assembly was a religious exercise during which there should be no laughter. He announced that all sketches by the students were banned. From then on, there should only be readings from the Old or New Testament, followed by a prayer.

A version of the Laughing Jesus

Resources for Teachers
About twenty years later, I began a termly magazine called RESources for Teachers. This was to try to support Religious Education teachers in the field and to encourage them to teach better.

Although it had only eight A4 pages of text - black and one colour - we tried to have something practical as well as something theoretical. When we asked the teachers what they needed most for teaching, a number asked for photographs that could be used in the classroom. So we decided to have an A3 sized photograph or drawing on strong art paper as an insert in the magazine.

Parables full of humour
I discovered a drawing of the laughing Jesus and used it as the centre spread. This became a great discussion point not only with teachers, but with people of all denominations. Most Christians were surprised and some were shocked by such cheerfulness. Yet the parables of Jesus are full of humour. For example, the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector is hilarious. Jesus used the comical to drive home his teaching. So how is it that so many Christians are surprised and startled by this wonderful drawing?

As Keith Ward puts it, "Any interpretation which depicts God as vengeful, vindictive, exclusive to just a few chosen people, or purely retributive, falls short of the Christian insight that God is love, and that God's love knows no limits.

What the Bible really teaches, (SPCK, 2004:270.

Fr Ben Henze, MAfr

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Fond Memories of Fr Geoff Riddle
Mike Mearns

I enjoyed Geoff Riddle's autobiography. (see the Histories section).

My years at St Columba's (1953-55) coincided with his first two years there. After getting an MA in English and French, he was assigned to teach maths. In my own case it was a hopeless assignment. This is illustrated by a score on my Christmas 1954 arithmetic exam of 14/100. My arithmetic did improve to the extent that when negotiating salary increases as a union representative, I was a whiz at percentages.

I have another recollection of Fr. Riddle. He had formed a carpentry club that met in the basement of the Rec Hut. Bernie Kinsler and I were on the fringes of the club and hung around in the carpentry shop: sawing, chiseling and nailing.

In January 1954, one Wednesday afternoon when the snow lay on the ground and the wood stove was lit in the shop, Fr Riddle had had enough of the two of us and tossed us out for some disciplinable behaviour. We left, but climbed on to the roof of the basement where it jutted out from th Rec Hut and started putting small amounts of snow down the chimney of the stove.


Nothing happened for a few minutes, but when Bernie lifted a chunk of ice about a foot long out of the gutter and slipped it down - WOW. Fr. Geoff erupted from the basement with a roar, he saw us as we scrambled off the roof and yelled at us as we ran away. But what a good guy he was though - neither of us suffered any consequences. In my own case, since I was a prefect at the time, they could have been dire.

Out behind the Rec Hut there was an area where garbage was burned. When there was a fire burning, there were usually several students hanging around adding bits and pieces to keep it going ( sometimes fiercely - what is it about young males and fire?).

On one occasion Fr . Riddle joined the group and offered to jump over the fire. We all stood back as he ran up and in fine form - gandourah, burnoose and rosary flying - he cleared the fire with room to spare. None of the students followed his example.

Bless him.



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Mike Mearns


Dear Paul

I can hear the Angel trumpets from here! I know how long your search has been [for that textbook].

I know that Oliphant shaped my speech and writing in later life. It is not often that teachers experience students reading ahead in the textbook but with Oliphant I'm sure many of us did. My own particular favourite was:

So she went into the garden to cut a cabbage-leaf to make an apple-pie; and at the same time a great she-bear, coming up the street, pops its head into the shop. “What! No soap?” So he died, and she very imprudently married the barber; and there were present the Picninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Garyulies, and the grand Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at top, and they all fell to playing the game of catch as catch can till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots.

Quoted in Oliver Cromwell, Daniel De Foe, Sir Richard Steele, Charles Churchill, Samuel Foote, a book of biographical essays by John Forster, Third Edition, 1860.

Thanks, Mike.

Do you also remember other such 'classics' as "Three girls went for a tramp; the tramp died." ?

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Maurice Billingsley

I've told the tale often enough, but not to The Pelicans, so far as I recall.

Perhaps it was a result of the wider horizons of Saint John's and wandering the streets of Southsea at lunchtime; maybe the iron discipline of the Good Old Days was slipping, and certainly we had a particularly effective School Captain in the person of Sean Hughes, though I think he was aided and abetted by Peter Johnson and others. As a fourth year I was very much in the supporting cast, but I played my part.

Those big brown enamel teapots that still rule the back kitchens of church and village halls were well known to the last generation of Priorians, as much a feature of our gastronomic experience as tables topped in red lino, or those centimetre thick mugs that would bounceback when accidentally tossed from the top kitchen window.

All accepted as part of life; what was less bearable was the tradition of sending the tea up in the lift with milk and sugar already mixed in. Not the best way to serve the national's breakfast drink.

Protests about food and drink were unlikely to gather much sympathy from the top table, who received their tea black and unadorned. This was not Blacklion, where those on serving duty could spear a few 'things' - rounds of black or white pudding - on the way to the fathers' table, and it was not an Oliver scenario of 'Please, Hank, we want some more', but we wanted something less. Was black tea that a lad could adjust to taste really a luxury?

No, black tea was penitential! That was the message: some of us conspired to propose giving up milk and sugar for Lent, as in the previous year the calorific Arctic Roll had been passed up to help the missions. Did they benefit from the sugar we went without? Who can say, but I was duty bound to drink my tea black for forty days, and developing a taste for it, I still drink it black today.

It took another twenty years before a health conscious work colleague finally weaned me off the sugar though!

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