Comboni Missionaries – How I Became a ‘Bad Boy’

Conduct Marks

Twice a year we were all assembled into the Junior Form room to be given our Conduct Marks out of ten. I remember two of the marks which were for Diligence and Obedience. The other one might have been for Good Manners.

I think an organisation can be judged on how they mark and judge others. They give rewards or marks for what they think is important. So, these were the three things that they considered most important in a boy going on to the priesthood.

I’ll let readers judge themselves whether they think these are the three attributes most needed in a successful missionary priest.

Marks in First Year

Everyone wants to do well. Everyone wants high marks. My first ever marks were 6, 5, and 6, which was not too bad but were a little on the low side. I remember the ‘good boys’ got a lot more. They tended to get 8’s and 9’s and David Glenday, who went on to become the first ever British leader of the Verona Fathers got 10, 9 and 10.

I don’t remember my second set of marks in first year but I do remember that I did get at least one 7. It might have been 7, 6 and 7.

The first set of marks in 2nd year had been similar. I now waited for my second and final set of marks for the year.

No one was ever given a failure.

The marks were read out by Father Rector but had been prepared by Pinkie.

Second Year Marks

I settled to down to hear then when my turn came. Most of the marks were in the 6-8 range with the Good Boys getting in the 8s and 9s.

My turn now.

“Five” said Fr. Rector. There was an audible communal gasp in the room as the mark was announced. This was low.

“Four” said Fr. Rector for the next mark. All eyes in the room were on me now.

“Five” said Fr. Rector for the last mark.

What Happened?

I couldn’t understand why. What had I done? Wasn’t I 2nd top of the class? Wasn’t I Fr Cerea’s favourite pupil with some calling me his pet?

When the marks ended, people came over to commiserate with me. They were as surprised as I was. “What did you do?” was the favourite question. “Nothing” I said bemusedly. They thought I must have done something as they couldn’t see anything that could cause those low marks.

One of the older boys then told me that this was probably the lowest set of conduct marks ever in the history of the school. He had been talking to some of the other older boys and none could remember anyone ever getting such a low set of Conduct Marks before.

If I didn’t feel bad enough already I really felt as low as the Dead Sea after that.

Worst Boy Ever

Was I really the worst boy who had ever walked up the driveway at St. Peter Claver’s College, wanting to do his bit for Africa and to become a priest?

I couldn’t believe it? How could I have got this bad? How could they think I was this bad? Was I this bad?

I couldn’t work it out at all. After all, I was processing the data through a twelve-year-old’s brain.

Looking at it again through the eyes of a 53-year-old I think I can now.

I got the worst conduct marks ever in the school’s history.

I was devastated at the time. I wear it as a badge of honour now.

Soon, however, Pinie was going to reveal a plan for my redemption.

6 responses to “Comboni Missionaries – How I Became a ‘Bad Boy’

  1. From Jim Kirby:-

    Gerry…marks were for application, diligence and general conduct. I hated getting them. They were horrifically divisive, embarrassing and set by a man who had an agenda.
    Looking at them now you say through the eyes of a ’53’ year old… this you writing or someone else or was your observation made some years ago…’re not that age….surely 63 or thereabouts?

  2. I remember that day Gerry. And I recall the gasp. We stood up to hear our score and then sat down when he proceeded with the next name. Fr. Abmrogio just stared at you then left a longer than usual pause before moving on. That delay must have made the score seem like a death sentence (the folder he read from was black) to you. That 3rd score was for diligence. I never knew what that was then. My best was. 7,7,8 my worst was 676

  3. I must have wandered around in a daze. I cannot remember conduct marks. Or maybe we were the subterranean lifeforms that werent even worth marking and were past redemption hahahah.I know this much the thought of these low lifes marking me leaves me with the shivers. Time to turn the tables and hold our score cards up. zero-zero-zero. Sorry no appeals process hahahaha

  4. Another piece of fiction from Gerry McLaughlin. Marks of 5,4,5 lowest in the history of the college? Don’t make me laugh,I regularly got 3’s. I wish some of the posts on the website were not based on fiction. I have seen Gerry refer to Maurice Eaton and him getting into escapades in 1966, when Maurice had long left Mirfield. I wish some of the contributors to this site would get real and not exaggerate would went on at Mirfield. Having been a seminarian from 1962 to 1967 I have a good insight into what went on at Mirfield and some of the stories written are pure fiction and exaggeration.

    • Hi Joe, I must say that I’m very disappointed by the tone of your comment. From my memories we always got on well at the college and I even stayed at your family home for the weekend once. At the reunion you came to, around 10 years ago, it was the same.

      As regards the Conduct Marks, I had no access then or now to historic coduct marks to compare mine. What I was pointing out was my feelings on the day when I got a low set of conduct marks and one of the other boys told me that it must be the worst set of Conduct Marks in the history of the school and he asked what I had done – as it was as big a surprise to him as to me. That’s why I believed myself to be the ‘baddest boy’ ever in the school. That’s why I felt bad. If it turns out that what the other Boy told me was not correct that doesn’t change what I felt on the day.

      As regards it being Maurice Eaton or not who went to he bonfire with me after hours, my member is that he Was there in 1966 and I’ve spoken to others who agree. However, I agree that it is possible that it was not he who came back in the window with me. It’s possible that it was John ‘Titch’ Carey who was definitely there along with Mick Palmer and Mick Wainhouse.

      I have published dozens of articles from my time at Mirfield but you were only able to bring up this one. If this is the only one you could find that MAY be incorrect I would be pretty happy with my ability to conjure up memories from 50 years ago and would not expect to be hit by Alzheimer’s anytime soon.

      It’s an old trick, much used by politicans, i.e. to find one or two flaws in something and then say that this proves that the whole series of articles are fiction. They most certainly are not. What I do wonder about is your motives.

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