Leader of The Great Escape
Someone had told me about it. I can’t remember whom (it might have been Leo Murphy). I was in 2nd year at the time. The Boy told me that Pinkie thought that someone was trying to organise some great escape from The College. Supposedly I was the ringleader.
It was so ridiculous that I just said something to that effect and didn’t think any more of it. I was in 2nd year. If had wanted to go home I could just have stayed at home the last time I was home for Summer, Christmas or Easter. So could the other boys in the supposed ‘escape plot’.
Why would I, ‘the mastermind’, be putting so much thought into the Great Escape when I could simply stay home next time I was there? Why would I also arrange a mass breakout and escape? Why wouldn’t I just go on my own? Everyone could make their own decisions.
Many Miles from Home
It would be different if we were in our first term there and our ‘homesick’ letters were being ripped up.
For God’s sake I had to get myself 400 miles to Glasgow and then another 26 miles to Greenock after that. And I had to do it without any money. Even boys who lived just 20 miles away hadn’t made it.
It just didn’t make any sense at all.
I wrote it off.
Father Pinkman’s Approach
That was extremely stupid.
One evening Pinkie grabbed me and took me into the Form 1 / Form 2 classroom area. He said he had been ‘reliably informed’ that there was going to be a mass escape. Not only that, I was the ‘brains’ behind it and had been planning it for a while.
I mean, let’s forget, for a minute, that this was in a democratic and free country called Great Britain and that this was a school where anybody was free to leave or stay as they wished.
This wasn’t a prison camp in Nazi Germany or a Gulag in the Soviet Union. This was a bloody school in Yorkshire where boys who had volunteered to train for the priesthood were schooled.
Let’s forget all that.
When he accused me, I, of course, denied it as it was absolute rubbish. Pinkie refused to accept this at all. He had completely reliable information. This was ‘a fact’ and there was no point in denying it.
He wanted to know the names of the people who were involved and when it was to take place. Of course, I couldn’t give him this information as it didn’t exist.
He was determined to have it. He launched into a diatribe about me being a ‘bad boy’ etc. I can’t remember now all that was said but it was constant like an interrogation, and I remember bursting into tears and sobbing uncontrollably.
This didn’t stop him though. He continued the interrogation. He went on and on demanding the names as I continued to sob and sob, but he wouldn’t stop. “I’m not letting you go until you tell me” he said. It was incessant. It really was like an interrogation. He was completely heartless. He was completely cruel. All he wanted was the information and I could go.
Father Grace Enters
Suddenly, someone burst in the door. It was Fr. Grace. He was a highly respected priest and he went on to become Fr. Rector later. He had been a ‘convert’ from the Anglican religion. He was not one of those people who had been taken away as a boy of eleven and trained for the priesthood but had seen a bit of ‘the other life’. He was highly respected amongst The Boys.
He was the English Literature teacher and damned good at it.
“What’s going on here”, he demanded in a very concerned and raised authoritative voice. I suspect now he might have been listening outside for a few moments.
Pinkie made some excuse but it was clear that Fr. Grace didn’t believe him. He seemed quite contemptious of him. One had always thought that the priests would always stick together – but that wasn’t what was happening here.
Fr. Grace asked me to explain what had been happening but I just said “Nothing”.
Sent Pinkman on His Way
He must have thought that Pinkie’s presence was intimidating me (which it most certainly was). He turned to Pinkie and sent him on his way, to go to his room.
Looking back on this and looking through the eyes of an adult it is obvious that Fr. Grace was well above Pinkie in the pecking order. Pinkie must have been around 23 or 24 and Fr. Grace must have been about 15-20 years older.
I don’t know what Fr. Grace thought was going on but he sure as hell knew something was up – and he knew it was Pinkie’s fault and not mine.
Father Grace Asked Again
When Pinkie was gone he asked me again what had happened.
“Nothing” I replied.
“Come on, you can tell me. I can make sure that if you tell me that he won’t give you any problems again”.
“Nothing” I said.
He tried to convince me that he would make sure I would be all right if I told him what had happened.
Could Have Done for Pinkman
This should have been my moment. Looking back on it now, if I had spilled the beans it might have preempted events by at least a year. I might even have survived at The College. I might even have become a priest.
But I didn’t believe him. In my world Pinkie was the king. He was supreme. What he said went. Reporting him to another priest would be tantamount to ‘vocational suicide’ as I saw it.
I did think about it. My judgment, though, was that Fr. Grace couldn’t stop the all-powerful (in our eyes) Pinkie.
I was wrong. Horribly wrong.
There was nothing Fr Grace could do. I could see he wanted to. He ruffled my hair in a fatherly way which made me sob even more. It was perhaps the first and only tactile kindness I had been shown in my whole time at the college by a priest. I burst into tears.
“OK, off you go then” he said.
I went upstairs to go to the toilet.
Guess who came in?
Yes, you’ve guessed it. It was Pinkie rubbing his hands together very animatedly.
“Not you again!” I said with disbelief at the reappearance of my tormentor while bursting into further tears.
That really was more than you could say to a priest but I was getting beyond reason expecting my ordeal to start again.
Surprisingly, Pinkie seemed a bit taken aback and on the defensive. He wasn’t the aggressive tormentor of a few minutes ago.
Needed to Know
He wanted to know just one thing. “What did you tell Fr. Grace?”
“Nothing”, I said.
“Are you sure” he said.
“Yes” I said with exasperation expecting a telling off.
“Good” said Pinkie and slunk off through the toilet door.
If I had only known. I had him by throat and didn’t realise it. He knew it though. That’s why, even though he had been sent scuttling off to his room, he had to stick around to know what I had said.
He knew the game could well have been up for him. He needed desperately to know.
However, I had told Fr. Grace nothing – and Pinkie had survived.
Pinkie wouldn’t have just made this up. He sincerley believed it, ridicuous though it was. He always knew everything that was going on. He had his network of ‘spies’who told him everything that was going on. We used to oke about it. It was often the boys who used to go to his room on a regular basis. One of those would have made up the story and told him about it. I never did discover who.
It wasn’t me Gerry. This escape story is fascinating but I have little recall of it. Maybe it was Frank?
It’s not you, nor is it Frank as a subsequent follow up article will show. This one is only half way through. Pinkie didn’t leave it there.
Oh Leo, I can fleetingly feel the cold hard steel of that dagger, as it bounces off my back 🙂 Frank