More Mirfield Memories

Degs here

Sorry for my absence. Busy lambing 1200 ewes (Frankie, if you are watching the site, you and grandson are welcome to visit any time).

Several emails have reached the site which we would like to share with you. The vivid memories, both good and bad, are included below. Thanks to Peter Roman, GK, and Chris Hardaman for sharing their stories.

If anyone out there has opinions, thoughts or simply reminiscence that they would like to share please do. Comments can be left anonymously if you so wish, it is your input that is needed not your identity (although names do bring memories flooding back). You can also email us, like Peter, Chris, and GK have done.

Latest stats show several thousand hits since the blog began, with over 100 hits daily in our busy periods. So people are watching and listening. I would like to thank contributors old and new for their time and effort, producing some strong, entertaining and thought provoking pieces. (Perhaps Mrs Patterson, James Riddle and the other English teachers – whose names escape me – did not do such a bad job after all!!)

The site needs sustenance and diversity so any input would be gratefully received. Once again anyone on the other side of the tracks I would dearly love to hear your take on things. Please if you have any strength of character speak out for hundreds even thousands are listening.

All the best to watchers and contributors.

Degs

Footnote:
Mick Fieldhouse anything happening in 2013?

 

The stories:

Peter Roman – contributed 31 January 2012

Hi guys

I came across the blog a couple of days ago and found it very instructive and damn interesting.

Reading a lot of names that took me back to that time.

I am one of those that never was “interfered with.” I don’t know why I was spared. It is really enlightening reading some of the accounts on this site, especially as I know that I was there at the same time and knew nothing in any detail. I mean that it was like a sniggering in-joke what Romano and his godsquad got up to, but I only got chinese whispers.

To read that how much that time from long ago has had such an impact on those who had a bad experience is very sobering.

My memories are almost all like a “Boys Own” story… I felt so happy to be free of my loving parents for weeks on end, it was like a big adventure. The college was only 10 miles away from Bradford where I lived and had gone to school and now suddenly I was in class with all these exotic Scotsmen and Londoners.

I knew what a pain Cerea could be but I kind of got on with him, maybe coz I was cheeky to him and he kind of liked that.

Another memory is of Hicks telling us about his history in Belfast and how his home got raided by the Brits one X-mas and how his father and brother were stuck in jail for being Catholic terrorists. That didn’t go down too well at home when I recounted it…

I also remember a young woman French teacher that we had for a short time who wore a mini-skirt and I was always dropping my pencil on the floor… They got rid of her quick.

Mick Fieldhouse, whom I spoke to recently, transcribing the TOP-TEN from the radio at lunchtime in the refectory, coz he could write the fastest, haha.

“And now, new in at Number 1, Chuck Berry and My Ding-a-Ling.”

Gobbing a paper blob through a biro casing and hitting the French teacher on the forehead… I almost crapped myself but she acted as if nothing had happened.

Electrocuting bees in a sink of water with Patrick Gaydeckis’ 90 volt battery.

Gonna stop now because I realise that the more I write the more I remember…

All the best to everyone,
Peter Roman, 1969-1974

 

GK –  contributed 19 November 2011

I have just found the Mirfield site. I was a student there in the 1960s. My whole time there was one of non-stop abuse from many of the priests, verbal, physical and on two occasions sexual. I even on one occasion had property stolen from me by one of them.

A story of everything I endured there would be very long and horrifying. I had somehow convinced myself that my experiences were unique as no-one else seemed to mention anything similar. However there were very frequent and expulsions with no explanation given, but rumours that the reason anyone who made any complaint against a priest was instantly expelled.

The Rector at the time, Fr. Hierons used to hold a weekly “conference” and it was rare for one of these not to have threats of expulsion. These he said, would be accompanied by bad references, which would ensure that we were not taken back by our previous school and would ensure that when we left school we would never find employment. He was also fond of quoting the gospel that anyone who put his hand to the plough and turned back would not enter the kingdom of heaven. He said that what Jesus meant was that any boy who entered a seminary and left for any reason, including expulsion, would inevitably land in hell when he died. He said that Jesus was so specific about this that no confession, repentance or change of mind could change this. If he expelled you, you would be left uneducated, unemployable and would land in hell. Little 11 year old boys just out of primary school believed this and were absolutely terrified by it, so silence about any abuses by priests was ensured. On one occasion Fr. Hierons expelled two boys (and condemned them to hell by his reasoning) for admitting they were homesick. The vice-rector used to prowl the recreation room stopping and listening in to conversations, had overheard them saying they were missing their family, and had reported this awful crime to the Rector.

There were some decent priests at Mirfield when I was there. Fr. Grace was one of the and very popular with the boys. Fr. Ferracin was another well respected one. Two who were later accused of sexual abuse (one justifiably in my experience) Fr. Pinkman and Fr. Valmaggia were actually well liked, were cheerful and friendly, and seemed more human than the others. However Fr. Ceresoli, now a bishop, is the most cruel and evil man I have ever met, lying and inventing offences committed by boys to punish them for. I could fill a book with this man’s abuse alone. Fr. Ambrogio, the Rector who succeeded Fr. Hierons, is probably the coldest, a man who seemed totally indifferent and uninterested in what was happening to the boys under their care. Others made it clear that they wanted to be missionaries and resented being stuck in Britain (which they still regarded as their enemy, it having defeated their beloved Duce, whom many still openly professed admiration for) and seemed to blame the boys for this so made life miserable for us.

When I first joined all the teaching staff except one were Italians. None of the staff were qualified teachers. We even had two teachers who did not speak fluent English, so you can imagine the standard of education, being taught by unqualified teachers who knew nothing about their subject, but had been ordered by their superiors to teach it, and on top of this did not even speak properly the language they had been ordered to teach in. I very much later learnt that Fr. Hierons had taken a nervous breakdown through being in constant conflict with the Provincial Superior in London (whom I also learnt years later had been removed from the job for financial irregularities) over education standards, and this was the cause of his violent rages and irrational behaviour.

When during the holidays I tried to tell my parents about this I was given a row for criticising priests. They were old fashioned extremely religious types and genuinely thought that God would never allow a priest to do anything wrong, so any criticism of them was not only malicious, but also a serious sin. So I couldn’t talk to my parents about the problem, complaining to any priest about the behaviour of another would result in violent retribution so I was trapped there in absolute misery for six years.

 

Chris Hardaman – contributed 9 November 2011

A Junior Seminarian,

I was at the Junior Seminary from 1965 to 1970, when I left after successfully completing my o-levels.

Generally I have happy memories of my time at the college, mainly around playing football for the Junior and then senior teams. I always remember being proud to wear the Inter Milan strip which in the late 60’s was quite a novelty. I also remember winning a lot of matches both league and cup. It was a part of my life which made me the person I am today.

However, there was a dark and sinister side to the school which I guess will remain forever hidden or forgotten. I now choose my words carefully.

I “survived” 5 years and unusually became stronger because of it. I have been married for over 30 years and have two adult children, who are presently traveling the world and living their lives to the max. I know what happened at the college and am happy to face anyone, look them in the eyes and recount what happened almost on a daily basis.

The abusers I neither think of nor consider. I assume most of them have passed away, but to me they were pathetic, inadequate people. I told the Rector when I was in my last year at the seminary what I thought of the school and the community. I was asked to leave the college, only allowed to return to sit my GCEs.

I am happy to discuss any of the above with any former Midfield boys or, for that matter, any “officials.”

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10 responses to “More Mirfield Memories

  1. Hi Chris

    I remember you from the Verona Fathers and would be gratefulif you would make contact with me. My name is Bernard Berrell though everybody calls me Ben. I now live in Western Australia, also married, kids and grand kids

    • god you are so lucky

      i envy you being married with kids in australia
      i was there a few weeks ago,
      to believe you cld achieve such happiness and stability made me cry
      i can’t

  2. Hello Roberto,

    What is your connection with the Verona Fathers/Comboni Missionaries?

    Where you at one of their seminaries in Italy?

    Regards,

    Mark (Murray)

      • What year where you at Mirfield?

        I was there from September 1969 – Fraser, Russell, Heirons and Hicks were rectors during my time there – Luigi Cocchi, may have, had a period as rector at some point

        I knew of a Father Wilkinson, and met Maguire on more than one occasion. Neither of them were based at Mirfield during my time.

        Mark

  3. Is there anyone out there who might remember the reign of wilkinson and maquire….a reign of unspeakable terror, a compact contrived and brokered in the darkest hour of my life and I am certain of many others…

    J M .

  4. I stumbled over the blog site and what a welcome thing it is.

    I was at Mirfield aged 11. Now in my fifties, and after years of expensive therapy, my highly skilled therapist has decided that it is almost certain that I was sexually abused while there. However he says that it would be best not to go any deeper as if abuse were to be proved, what would I do with that knowledge and , in particular, the images it could bring up. The problem is that I have repressed almost every memory of that time. That level of repression, I’m told, can be hiding something horrific. I have few memories of any of the boys, or the experiences there,

    I have one memory of Fr Valmaggio – I had an initial medical examination when I first joined. There was interference with my penis, At that time I was so naive I did not register it.

    Before joining Mirfield and after leaving I was deeply asthmatic so I imagine I spent a lot of time in the infirmary. I have so few memories. I do recall that I refused to play football there. I have no reasons or recalls as to why.

    I visited the place a couple of years ago to try to resurrect some memories. I only went into the grounds. There is a new sloping roof. The hall is still there, next to the garage. The old house filled me with trepidation, even from the outside.

    I have no ill feelings towards the people who were in charge – what would be the point? But I have ended up a mess – it’s being dealt with but we are talking forty years later and it’s still there!

    Best wishes

  5. Hello Chris Hardaman, fully appreciate your words. I remember you. Weren’t you from Keighley? I recall a full head of fair hair. Have you still held onto it? I haven’t.

    Martin Leo Murphy

  6. Hello Martin. I had read of the abuse at Mirfield in one of the Catholic papers in Scotland last year. I was appalled. You may remember that I joined the Verona Fathers in 1969 joining you at Allanton House in Dumfries and again at Sunningdale . I often wondered how your life has gone. The last time we wrote to each other was in 1978 when I was beginning my Social work training in Edinburgh. There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then. It is sad to hear of the guys whose lives have been blighted by abuse. I came across this blog recently. It would be good to catch up. Take care. John McGarry

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