Comboni Missionaries |I Could Have Been a Contender

I could have been a Contender

I reckon I could have made a good priest. I was certainly up for it. I was keen to help Africans by letting them into the ‘God’ secret. I think the Verona Fathers were quite keen to have me too. I had been top of my class in Primary School and got the Dux Prize (as they called it) for being the top boy in the top class in the school.

As I have said elsewhere, I didn’t realise that only about 1-in-20 boys made it through to the priesthood. I thought that once you had volunteered and been accepted that all you had to do was the training.

I think they thought of me as a ‘good catch’. I was keen on them too.

Keeping the Rules

But it was so difficult to keep the rules. They were so strict. And they judged you not on your sensitivity or how good your heart was or how good you were with people but on how well you kept the strict rules.

For instance, you were not allowed to whistle at all. That was completely banned. You were also not allowed to talk in the corridor or run in the corridor. Those in the Junior School were not allowed to talk to those in the senior school on most occasions and especially if you met them in the corridor.

You were not allowed to talk in Study. It seemed all designed to crush your spirit.

I’m sure that you are all working out here that these weren’t rules created for your own good or to help you towards God or to become people who were suitable priesthood material.

These were simply rules that adults created to suit themselves. They didn’t like noisy, unruly children who shouted and talked and whistled and they were in a position to prevent this – and they did.

Crushing the Spirit

It was all about control. I’m afraid they simply try to crush the spirits of those who, like Maria in the Sound of Music, had a bit of spirit in the first place. Wouldn’t Maria have made a good nun? I bet she would have. She wouldn’t have been dull. She would have attracted far more people to the Catholic Church than all those drudges who get through to become nuns.

At the Verona Fathers reunions I meet people who I think would have made great priests but too many of them couldn’t allow their spirits to be crushed to get where they wanted to be.

Those of you who are Catholic (and I would think it applies to other religions too) when you hear the dreary sermons from your local priests you should pause to reflect that the reason that you are bored out of your skull at most of the sermons is that these are the people who managed to survive the spirit crushing because they simply obeyed the rules without question. They are the ones who managed to survive the system.

I’m sorry to sound so negative but these are the people who had little spirit in the first place.

Choosing Between Candidates

I remember reading once what Tom Peters, the workplace quality guru said. He asked some Human Resource people who they would pick between two candidates. The first had a First Class Honours degree and had come straight from University.

The second candidate had a 2:1 degree and had not come straight from University but had taken a Gap Year out and had gone to help people in Africa or South America.

Of course the Human Resources people all plumped for the first candidate who was better qualified and was not a bit of a maverick like the second candidate.

Tom Peters told them that they should grab the 2nd candidate every time. That person will come into your organisation and will try to be innovative. He will try new things. As he said, either they will make a difference to your organisation or they will go. You won’t have to sack them. They won’t cling on.

Staff Turnover

Again I am reminded of a company, who had a high turnover rate of staff, that got in an outside firm to construct a psychometric test so that they could find out which candidates were more likely to leave them and which ones were more likely to stay.

They adopted the programme but abandoned it after two years. The lesson they learned was that the people most likely to leave are the ones that you most want to keep at the company. The ones that are not likely to leave were the ones that you didn’t want in the first place. The first lot were reliable but stodgy. The second lot were innovative and would leave anyway if they were not successful.

I’m sure if Tom Peters, or somebody else, was brought in to do a consultant’s job to let them know why the Catholic Church (or other Churches) were losing ‘market share’, he might well say to them “See those guys that you think are great who never whistle in the corridor, who at the age of eleven always walk and don’t run, who never get into trouble with the teachers, and who always have their homework done on time?”


Dump the Lot

“Dump the lot of them. They won’t be able to relate to your ‘customers’. What you really want are some of the guys who ‘bend the rules’ a little, who at the age of eleven sometimes have to run, to whistle, to shout with excitement. They’ll understand your customers and your customers will relate to them.

“They’ll give exciting sermons and they’ll enthuse people about God and your religion. Instead of your churches being full of old people and sullen youngsters who have been forced to attend, you might just get yourself a vibrant religion which related to young people rather than just those who feel it is time to book their slot in Heaven”.

Of course they won’t and they can’t do that – and as a result they have lost ‘market share’ to the Evangelicals.

A Bad Boy

I really did want to become a priest at the time but I really couldn’t keep all those rules. I tried to keep them and I did keep them for 98% of the time. But I couldn’t keep it up for every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day, of every week, of every month of the year.

I really tried – but I couldn’t.

So they told me I was a Bad Boy.

Father Pinkman Wants to Examine Me

Groin Injury

I loved a game of football. I loved playing for the school.

This particular day we were playing football on the lower pitch. I’d had a bit of a groin strain before but it really went this time. Down I went. I was in quite a bit of pain. Pinkie said I should go back to the dormitory. As I couldn’t play on it seemed a good option.

I went back to the dormitory and went to bed. Not long after Pinkie arrived. Now, this surprised me a bit. He was supposed to be supervising the game and those playing it.

It seemed very nice of him to take such an interest in my footballing injury. After all, he was our substitute dad – although I had to share him with around 55 others.

Bottom of the Bed

He stood at the bottom of my bed in the dormitory. Even though I was just 12 years old I could smell something that wasn’t right. There was something about his demeanour. He didn’t seem relaxed. He said that he needed to examine my groin injury. I wasn’t keen on anybody examining my groin.

He was rubbing his hands together in a nervous fashion, which was his wont. Something didn’t seem right even to a 12 year old who had never heard of sex.

I didn’t want anybody near my groin, thank you. But his arguments were quite compulsive. He said that he needed to see what was wrong with me and he could probably fix it. I still said ‘no’. He said “How are you going to get better? Do you want to stay like this?”

I didn’t. It was quite painful. His arguments were beginning to seem winning arguments and I was starting to think that it might be very embarrassing but that it might be necessary to let him have a look – when he suddenly changed tack.

Weighty Question

He asked me if I’d been weighed yet by Fr. Valmaggio the Infirmarian. I thought this a strange thing to ask. How would my weight affect my groin strain? I was only a slip of a thing.

We seldom got to see a Doctor or a Nurse. Fr. Valmaggio was in charge of the Infirmary (a grand name for a room with six beds). I learned later that he was a keen ‘weigher’ of 11-14 year old boys. Why he needed to weigh them no one ever asked (till much later). One never asked why in those days. Children did what they were told then. Adult power was pretty much absolute – and you know what they say about absolute power.

Winning Argument

So, Pinkie quit just as I was wavering. Lucky I didn’t show it. One wonders if life would have been very different if he’d had one more attempt.

Jim Kirby met one of the boys in Mirfield in London’s West End some years ago. The boy was a few years his senior. That boy told Jim that he felt his homosexuality had been induced by what happened to him by serial abuse by two of the priests at Mirfield.

Jim thinks the boy may have been embarrassed by admitting he was Gay, as this meeting took place in the 80s and it was still early days in the age of enlightenment and attitudes towards the Gay community.

The boy expressed astonishment that Jim was not Gay as he felt that the treatment meted out to the boys by the abusive priests would have made many of them Gay in distorting their thinking and attitudes towards sexual activity because of that abuse.

The boy was of course, by then, a grown man and was himself obviously very confused and even distressed even at that age by what had occurred at Mirfield. Some years later Jim did make contact again with him and asked him if he wanted to make a statement about the abuse. He said he didn’t as he had closed that part of his life. He was living abroad, in fact on another Continent.

I suspect, though, it is far harder to become a homosexual than that. But I don’t know and I’m glad I never had to go down that route to find out. I am not anti homosexual, but like pretty much all heterosexuals whether they are gay bashers or very sympathetic and empathetic to gays, they are very glad they are not one themselves.

Handed Over to Father Valmaggia

So, Pinkie suggested that the best route for me was to go to see Fr. Valmaggio at the Infirmary. It seemed a great suggestion. It never occurred to me that it was out of the frying pan and into Fr. Valmaggio’s Infirmary.

So, I went to see our resident ‘medical expert’. I explained the problem and he said that I needed to stay in the Infirmary for a few days.

Fair enough!

I spent the next 8 days in there. Being in the Infirmary was pretty good. You didn’t have to do any school or work and you got your food delivered to you. If I remember right it was of better quality than the normal fare.

They even had a radio and I got to listen to a European title fight involving Walter McGowan, the pocket Scottish boxer.

Anthony Summers

The first day was fine. Already in the Infirmary was Anthony Summers who was in the year above me. He said that he was in because he had swallowed biro ink. He said that it caused him to have sudden blackouts.

Several times when he was sitting up in bed he would suddenly ‘black out’ and fall ‘unconscious’ on his bed and pillows just to prove what he said about the sudden blackouts. It wasn’t a convincing performance though. Even as a 12-year old I could see through it.

I was just about to reach the age of puberty. It would happen later on that summer when I was at home during the holidays. However it hadn’t quite happened yet – which was pretty lucky for me.

Despite Summers’ ‘serious blacking out’ illness he was booted out of the Infirmary after a couple of days, leaving me on my own. He protested saying that he wasn’t any better. “Get out!” yelled Fr Valmaggia and he went.

Start of the Treatment for a Groin Injury

Then came the real start of my treatment. It seems that the best treatment for a groin strain (instead of rest) was to rub coal tar over the testicles and penis of the injured person. It seems, also, that the treatment would work better if the penis of the injured person was erect.

Being on the verge of puberty this was something that I was sometimes able to do (to a small limp degree) but most times not. It was also a bit of an effort and a bit annoying to keep trying to do it. I knew it was for my own good but most times I couldn’t do it. It was such a mental effort.

I’m not an expert on puberty but even though (at great effort) I sometimes could get my penis erect the pleasure gland (or whatever it is) had not arrived yet – so he might as well have been massaging my big toe with coal tar.

He got a little annoyed that I couldn’t always ‘get it up’ which he deemed necessary to cure my affliction, but I also noticed that there was other times when he seemed annoyed with himself for doing it and would suddenly stop. It seemed a little strange but as I didn’t know about sex or puberty at all there was no way I could piece any of it together.


How different the kids are now. Surely it can’t be bad that they know about sex and paedophiles etc. The fact that we didn’t, made us all potential victims. My parents subscribed to the view, that was common then, that children should stay children as long as they could.

One feels that this ‘common view’ was more because they had a fear of the ‘adult world’ and couldn’t cope well themselves in this complicated world. There was a great desire to keep children as long as possible in the Age of Innocence. Unfortunately the implementation of that wish gave children no tools or knowledge for when the predators came hunting. Their innocence and naivety made them perfect victims.

There may be problems with the world now for children but we surely don’t want to go back again to the ungolden ‘Age of Innocence’.

Ben’s Pilgrim’s Journey

Pilgrim’s Journey

Hi Everybody

I am hoping to return to the UK in 2017-18 from Australia. The purpose of this visit is to walk along the pilgrim’s route which takes you through England, France and Italy. I would be very interested to catch up with anybody who would be interested to meet with me on this journey. Just getting my ducks in a row on this end and then onto what I think will be a marvelous experience. I am anticipating that it could take about 3 months. Not intended to be a religious experience. Have had enough of them.

Ben Berrell

Comboni Missionaries | Bungalow Bill

Bungalow Bill

We used to get visits from someone in the Verona Fathers who was a Monsignor Monsignor Cave I think his name was. He had been quite a catch for them as he was a convert and had had a reasonably high position in the Church of England. He was getting on a bit but I was never quite sure what he did.

Whenever he came he always had a slide show and it was always about one thing – him shooting tigers from the back of an elephant. He tried to give a sense of the danger that he was in when out in the jungle looking for tigers with his native helpers. However, even at the age of eleven I couldn’t see where the bravery came from in shooting at tigers from up top a huge elephant.

Slide Shows

The Boys loved to go and see his slide shows. In fact they loved to go and see anything that was in the TV room that would add a little fizz to their day. I wonder how many of them were thinking the same as I was and were sympathetic to the tiger and hoping it would get away. I couldn’t see the point of them shooting it and what the pleasure was in it.

The highlight for the Monsignor was the slide showing his native helpers carrying the tiger away upside down hanging limply from a pole. What were the Verona Fathers doing encouraging him to do this?

He looked more like a great imperialist rather than a priest sent out to help those in need. I think the order looked at him as a great capture who reinforced their own beliefs about the superiority of the Catholic faith to all others and so didn’t want to do anything that might upset this apple cart.

It seems he used to take the slide show around places. It seems if he wasn’t shooting tigers he was showing people slides of him shooting tigers.

I wonder if he had ever taken the slide show to a school in Liverpool. When I first heard the lyrics of the Beatles song Bungalow Bill, released in 1968, it was the Monsignor I immediately thought of. It seemed to have been written for him.

“The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill”

Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

He went out tiger hunting with his elephant and gun
In case of accidents he always took his mom
He’s the all American bullet-headed Saxon mother’s son
All the children sing

Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

Deep in the jungle where the mighty tiger lies
Bill and his elephants were taken by surprise
So Captain Marvel zapped in right between the eyes, zap!
All the children sing

Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

The children asked him if to kill was not a sin
“Not when he looked so fierce”, his mummy butted in
If looks could kill it would have been us instead of him
All the children sing

Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

[Eh up!]

Comboni Missionaries | How I was Immersed in the Organisation

On the Committee

It was soon after this that Pinkie decided to set up an Ideas Forum for the lower school. People were to put in ideas (anonymously) about how to make things better. There was a Suggestions Box and people put their suggestions in there.

I was really pleased when I was picked by Pinkie to be on the Committee. In fact I was to be the guy who was actually to pick out the suggestions from the Suggestions Box and read them out.

What power!

I had really arrived. I was becoming part of the inner circle.

Suggestion Box

Making the Suggestion Box anonymous was a huge mistake. Repressive Systems don’t like anonymity – and not just repressive regimes.

It is not only the repressive regimes who are trying to remove anonymity for those who post on the Internet. Anonymity is the great enemy of those in power. Anonymity means that people can say whatever they want.

How horrible must that be to those who are in power? It is not just repressive regimes who want powers to find out who is doing what and who is saying what on the Internet. It is the US, the British and leading European democracies who are trying to stop us saying what we want under the guise of anonymity.

First Meeting

At the first meeting, held in the adjoining First and Second Year classrooms, the Committee (Pinkie, myself and a couple of others were at the front). Now, when organisations have Suggestion Boxes, the real reason they are having them is so that they can find suggestions that benefit themselves. However, staff (or pupils) sometimes get the wrong idea and make suggestions that are for the benefit of those who work for the company or the organisation.

This is mainly what happened here. The suggestions tended to be not to have the horrible porridge that we had for breakfast (which I actually liked) but to have Cereal instead. Another suggestion was to for the sisters to stop putting huge amounts of pepper in the dandelion leaves soup (picked from the grounds) that they were always giving us. Surprisingly these two ideas were implemented.

Regime Criticism

However, there were several ‘suggestions’ and criticisms of the regime put into the Suggestion Box. To my great shame I picked them out, but instead of reading them out, I handed them over to Pinkie with a disapproving look as if I was handling a rotten fish.

The first one or two came as a big surprise to Pinkie and he gave a stern lecture about the kind of person who would make suggestions like that. However, when the next few came out he simply put them in the bin. I can’t remember what they said now but I wonder if any of them made criticism of Pinkie and what he was up to with the boys.

I think under any regime when you give the people an opportunity to say something without the fear of being caught and punished a lot of true feelings and grievances will come out.

Helped the System

I was glad I was able to help the system by intercepting some suggestions from what I saw as some very sad boys who didn’t appreciate what was being done for them.

Pinkie seemed to appreciate what I had done. I could be trusted. Things were looking up. I was in Pinkie’s good books. Better than that, he appreciated what I could bring to the organisation. I was pleased. The future was looking very bright indeed.

It is a shame that this was the last ever Suggestion Box meeting. It was scrapped after that. The boys had been given an opportunity and they had abused it.

Comboni Missionaries | Becoming a Collaborator

Catching Escapees

By the beginning of second year, Pinkie seemed to be taking a bit of a shine to me and was giving me more responsibility, which I appreciated. I knew from the previous year that the reason that we were told to leave our outgoing letters unopened was that Fr. Rector would read them first before sealing them and sending them out to our parents, friends, or anyone else.

It seems that when some of the eleven year old boys, who came from all over the country, experience what it is like both to be away from their parents, family and friends for the first time and experience the harsh unchanging regime, that they immediately ‘lose their vocations’ and wanted to go home.

They, of course, told their parents this in their letters of the first few weeks at college. They were sad and lonely. They missed their Mum. They missed their Dad. They missed their favourite brother or sister. The missed their dog. They missed their friends and the places they grew up in. They wanted to come home immediately.

Not Allowed to Leave

However, they couldn’t abandon their vocation just like that. God had called them and this was just a temporary weakness on their part. Once they settled down and got used to the place they would be all right.

So, the parts of the letters where they said they were completely miserable and just wanted to come home were censored by Fr. Rector’s stamp. If it was the theme of the whole letter then the whole letter was simply binned.

All incoming letters were also opened and read. If the content wasn’t approved they were inked out or binned altogether.

Wanted to Go Home

I knew when I was in first year that several of the boys were distraught that all their entreaties to their parents to come and get them were simply ignored. The letters that they received from their parents ignored what they told them of their loneliness and their despair and their wish to come home. Little did they know that their parents knew nothing of this at all.

These eleven year old boys were, in effect, prisoners in the heart of Old England in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Some of them actually tried to escape and were caught and brought back. This was a children’s Colditz in West Yorkshire – and nobody, even a hundred yards away, knew it was happening.

Collaborating With Pinkman

As I said, previously, Pinkie was starting to give me more responsibility by the start of second year and I was very proud of it. He seemed to be taking me into his inner circle. We had only one Dad to share between all of us and I was very happy that it seemed he was starting to favour me.

Anyway, he took me aside and told me he had reason to believe that one of the new first year pupils might try to escape. My job, he said, was to watch him at all times especially during periods when we were outside, for instance at recreation. I wondered how he had got that information. How did he know that the boy would try to escape?

The Police State

However, the state knows everything. The poor boy must have been pleading desperately with his parents to come and take him home. The powers that be there would have been aware of that from his (censored) letters home. They would also know, from past experience, that boys who were in despair because their parents seemed to be ignoring their pleas to come home would eventually try to escape.

The boys never had much chance. Many came from parts of the country perhaps hundreds of miles away. He would have had no money as we had to hand that in at the start of term. It could only be spent at the inhouse Tuck Shop. Even those who lived a mere twenty miles away couldn’t have made it.

They were doomed but they were desperate. No one ever successfully escaped in all the time I was there. It had a better record than Colditz. It had a better record than Alcatraz.

Part of ‘State Aparatus’

I didn’t really expect the boy to try and escape. However, I was now a privileged part of the ‘state apparatus’ and I kept my eyes on him at all times. I couldn’t believe my luck when on the second day after I had been told to watch him, the poor guy looked around and then made a break for it up the driveway from the lower school recreation area.

I immediately darted in and got Pinkie. What kudos I would get for that. I was now an accepted part of the establishment I felt. He would be so pleased that he had picked me. He could see how I had performed.

The priests immediately got their cars and went into operation. They grabbed the guy less than a few hundred yards from the college. I can’t remember the guy’s name. To this day he still wouldn’t have known what happened.

He must have been astonished by the ruthless efficiency of the system. He had waited until there were no priests around before he made his break for freedom. How could he have been caught so quickly?

Repressive Systems

The truth is that in all repressive systems you never know who is the informer. He could never have guessed that I had been recruited into the state structure and that it was I who was spying on him and who had ‘handed him over’.

Even though I was only twelve years old when I was ‘recruited’ I still feel a little guilty that I succumbed so easily. I suppose that it was the desire to fit in, to be a valued member of the system. I suppose it is this that causes people who live under repressive regimes to become informers on their own friends and colleagues.

I learned a valuable lesson there. I have always rejected all attempts by systems elsewhere in my life to suck me in and make me a part of it.

It was a terrible thing I did and I’m thoroughly ashamed of it. How many people who were informers under the ex-Soviet bloc, and the dictatorships in South America must now feel the same.

At least I was only twelve years old when I was recruited.

Comboni Missionaries | Groomed by Father Pinkman

Father Pinkman and the Cold Showers

I used to wet the bed when I was at the college. I had ust turned 11 years old.

I tried to cover it up in the first few days when I was there but nothing gets covered up there. Within days Fr. Pinkman approached me and said he knew about it and that I should take the sheets down to the nuns whenever I did it.

There were two of us but I’ll spare the other guy by not naming him.

I never ever did see a doctor about it but Pinkie used to feed me advice about what the doctor was advising. I have no idea whether there was ever a doctor involved but I believed him implicitly.

Why wouldn’t I? Why would he lie? He was there to look after us. All the time that I was there I never even questioned for a minute whether he was telling the truth or not.

Different Answers

As I’ve said before in other parts of the book, it is strange re-inputting the data that was previously only put through your 11- and 12-year old mind again and processing the information with an adult brain.

My conclusions are obviously very different now.

His first theory was that I should sleep with extra blankets and to keep adding blankets until it stopped. The warmer I was, presumably, the less likely I was to do it. I remember, at one point, that while the other boys were sleeping with just two blankets, that I was actually sleeping with twelve blankets on me.

Supposedly the ‘doctor’ had said that this was what I should do to cure it. It is possible that he did. However, it seems more like something a layman would advise rather than a doctor.

Cold Showers Best

However, when the warmth didn’t work the ‘doctor’ gave completely the opposite advice.

Indeed Pinkie said that what the doctor was now recommending was that I should have a completely cold shower as soon as I got up at 6:35 in the morning. We were now well into the winter and it was bloody freezing to be frank.

Not only that, I shouldn’t have the shower where the other boys were washing but I had to have it in the basement, in the single shower that was down there. There was never anybody about at that time of the morning down there.

Except, of course, Pinkie.

Pulled Back the Shower Curtains

I remember on the first morning of the cold showers Pinkie suddenly pulling back the shower curtains. Why he needed to watch the ‘treatment’ I don’t know but I never questioned it at the time.

I didn’t even know about sex at all at the time, didn’t know heterosexuality existed never mind homosexuality. I had definitely never heard of the term paedophile.

However, I sensed something was not right as he stood there rubbing his hands over and over again. He seemed just too intense.

He told me I had to use soap as well. Why soap was part of the ‘treatment’ I don’t know – especially as it was only the normal carbolic. What curative values did it have?

Offer of Help

“I’ll do it for you” he said.

Even though I was eleven years old and we were completely captive to those in charge of us and especially to Pinkie, I said “no”.

I had been very, what they used to call ‘modest’ in those days. I really instinctively didn’t like being seen without my clothes on. Even more so, I wouldn’t have liked to be touched without my clothes on.

Just before I came to the college I had had to have a medical where I had to lie on a table and the nurse checked my testicles, presumably to see if my balls had dropped. That was excruciatingly embarrassing and was still fairly fresh on my mind.

I wasn’t having it.

Not Streetwise At All

I think that this actually saved me from Pinkie. I think he took it to mean that I was extremely streetwise compared to my peers when the opposite was actually true.

He actually said that when he gave me the sheet with the facts of life on it when I was in second year. “You probably know all this” he said, “you’re a lot more streetwise than the others”. He said it with a good deal of malevolence and scorn in his voice.

Father Pinkman and the Facts of Life

It seems that the ‘facts of life’ revelations session was one of the major times that he used to compromise the boys. After all he needed to explain some things by showing them what he meant using their bodies as illustration.

I was one of the last ones in my year to get the ‘facts of life’ from Pinkie. By this time he really had it in for me. There’s no anger like a paedophile priest who has been scorned.

He came for the first few shower sessions but then came less frequently. However, I had to continue this morning by morning. He never ever told me to stop. It was just a case of I started to skip it more and more and he never did anything about it.

How I managed to leave the college without being seriously molested by Pinkie, I think was mostly down to luck.

I’ve joked about it since on our reunions. I told the other ‘boys’ that I hadn’t actually been booted out like some of them but had only been suspended for a year. They would ask why I didn’t go back. I would say that after the year was up I considered it and thought to myself “I’ll be buggered if I’ll go back there”.

My Favourite Comboni Missionary – Father Cerea

Father Cerea

Some of the priests we only rarely saw outside class. Virtually our only contact with them was when they taught us. Some of them lived mainly in the old house, which was where the Bronte sisters used to go to school and later taught.

It looked very nice and comfortable there but we generally only got in there to clean it. The library and TV room (which we didn’t get to see much) was just inside the old house as was the infirmary and Fr. Valmaggio’s surgery.

Fr. Cerea live in that part.

He taught History and Latin.

We didn’t do Latin until second year so it was only History he taught us in first year. I didn’t hit it off with him at all at first. Whenever he asked me questions I wasn’t able to answer. It was more nerves than not knowing the answer, although it was sometimes both. There were three of us, Kevin Benn was another, who were considered the dunces in the History class.

Luckily Fr Cerea had read the report from my school which was good and he frequently said that he couldn’t understand the difference in performance in his class and what he had expected from me – otherwise I might just rotted there as I had completely lost confidence.

Sent to the Front

One day, after I couldn’t answer another question he suddenly said “come up here” and he put me into a desk right at the front of the class. It was the best thing that could have happened to me. There was a sea change in my performance in History. Suddenly from being one of the dunces I was up at the top of the class.

I remembered virtually everything he said from then on and got on with Fr Cerea very well. Indeed I was sometimes accused by one boy of being his pet. He was almost like a father to me (with a small ‘f). History became my favourite subject and Fr. Cerea my favourite teacher. It pleased him a lot that I remembered everything that he said next time round.

One boy, in particular, never used to like it. He was always top of the class overall at the end of the year and was a good hard studier and it annoyed him more than a little that I avoided studying at all costs.

Extra Point

I remember one time Fr Cerea was so pleased at an answer I gave him that he said he was going to add on a full extra mark at the next test we did. I didn’t really understand about the mark. Was it an extra mark at the next class test we would get or the end of the year exams. I wasn’t sure, didn’t enquire and didn’t really care as it wasn’t a big deal to me.

However, it was a big deal to this boy. He mentioned it a few times to me saying that it wasn’t right or fair for me to be given an extra mark in a test for something I got right in the class.

He even came up to me when we were on our walk to enquire about it and whether I thought it was fair or not. I don’t think anybody else in the class cared except this boy, and I certainly didn’t care if I got an extra mark or not. What was most important to me was that Fr Cerea was delighted by what I had done and that was far more important to me than a mark in an exam.

Favourite Son

As I said, he felt almost like a father to me and I looked forward to his classes and, to be honest, he treated me like a favourite son and always smiled with great pride when I got a hard question right.

It was a very important relationship to me. I’m sure some people reading this will be thinking “I wonder if there’s something funny about all of this” but there wasn’t on either side. It was just a favourite teacher / favourite pupil relationship.

When you are living away from home at the age of eleven you need something like this. Looking back, I was very lucky. Even away from home I inherited a father. There were loads of other sad, lonely boys who never did. There weren’t enough priests to go around and many of them weren’t interested in this kind of relationship anyway.

This made it easier for Fr Pinkman, whose job in charge of the junior boys gave him close contact with the youngest of the boys in the school between the ages of 11 and 13.

Lured Into Pinkie’s Net

Perhaps if I hadn’t had that father / son relationship with Fr Cerea I might more easily have been lured into Pinkie’s net that many of the other small boys were lured into. I did want to get on with Pinkie as he was our appointed father who had to be shared by about 55 boys in the junior school. The fact that the other priests didn’t see much of us outside class made it very easy for him.

I got on pretty well with Pinkie in first year – but perhaps I wasn’t quite ready yet. The technical definition of a paedophile is someone who has sex with someone below the age of puberty. That wasn’t Pinkie as far as I know. It was under-age boys who had just reached puberty that he had an appetite for – and this fox was in sole control of the whole hen coop at St. Peter Claver College.

The boys he did lure in, many of them were very badly hurt by it even into later years of their lives. Some were never fixed.

However, there were others still who Pinkie didn’t lure but who weren’t able to have a father / son relationship with any of the priests there. The senior boys and junior boys were kept apart and led mostly separate lives, unable to talk to each other except at certain times. Some of the junior boys of eleven and twelve must have been lonely. After a while the other boys there became their brothers and so that relationship must have helped them through.

My emotions about the place are mixed but mostly positive. There were a lot of good things about it.

Comboni Missionaries Seminary | The Daily Grind

Comboni Missionaries – The Daily Grind

One thing that struck me at the reunions was how well many of the Boys had done. Many of them had become successful entrepreneurs or had become successful within their chosen professions. When you think of it, it isn’t really surprising.

Here is a bunch of people, who, at the age of eleven volunteered to leave behind their families and friends and to move to a part of the country that many of them didn’t know, to live with a bunch of strangers with the end result of joining the priesthood and going out to the missions in Africa.

That’s got to take a bit of balls. I’ve got a 16-year-old daughter and by her age I’d already done all of his and been kicked out and was back in the system again.

I’ve also got a 11-year-old son who is a few months older than when I volunteered for this lifestyle and I couldn’t dream of sending him off to another country away from family and friends to live amongst strangers, to live amongst them for many years, only coming back to visit during the holidays and then going off to a life in the missions of Africa. I couldn’t even think of volunteering him for that or even approving it of he suggested it himself.

So, it’s not surprising that many of those who did volunteer for just such a thing at the age of eleven became entrepreneurs or pursued successful careers.

If people were looking for potential risk takers of the future that would have been a good place to go hunting.

Mick Wainhouse

One guy, who became an extreme risk taker but in a different way, was Mick Wainhouse.

Mick was actually a bit of a quiet guy in school and a bit of a gentle giant but he went on to join the Paras in Northern Ireland, got kicked out for robbing a Post Office whilst pretending to be the IRA, serving five years in jail.

He went on to become a mercenary in Angola serving as Captain with the notorious mercenary Colonel Callan, dispensing rural justice and shooting to death at least one inexperienced mercenary and then fleeing Angola whilst Colonel Callan and others were being captured and sentenced to death.

Verona Fathers Regimented Life

Mick would have fitted very well into the very regimented life of 1st Para after the grounding he had at the Verona Fathers. Every weekday was the same. It went:-

6:35 – Bell goes and everybody gets up and washes. Bedclothes pulled down
7:00 – Mass
7:45 – Bedclothes pulled up, get changed into shorts, T shirts and plimsolls and run around the building down to the seniors playground followed by PE in the cold morning air
8:15 – Breakfast
9:00 – School starts
13:-00 – School finishes
13:00 – Lunch
13:40 – Work
14:15 – Recreation
15:00 – Study
16:00 – Meditation
16:20 – Tea
17:00 – School starts again
19:00 – School finishes
19:00 – Supper
19:40 – Recreation
21:00 – Evening Service
21:40 – Wash and get ready for bed
22:00 – Lights Out

It was a little different at the weekend when he would have been allowed a lie in till 7am.

Mealtimes at the Comboni Missionaries Seminary

The spartan food would also have been an ideal preparation. Mick was tall for his age and even the smaller boys went a bit hungry.

There was a priest in charge of the junior boys, a Father Pinkman, who was later to be moved from his duties after some of older boys led a deputation to the Spiritual Advisor to prevent him doing to the new junior boys what he had done to some of them when in the juniors.

Let’s leave it at that for the moment!

Fascist Sympathies

The rules were very strict. The order was Italian and many of the priests at Mirfield were Italian including the Father Rector. Some of them expressed Fascist sympathies. After all, this was only 18 years after the end of the Second World War.

They liked rules. Indeed, they liked strict rules.

It was only really during Recreation, Work and Mealtimes that you could talk to one another.

Books at Mealtimes

Even during Supper they would get a guy to read from a book for a while before the two priests, the one in charge of the Junior Boys and the one in charge of the Senior Boys, rang a bell to say you could talk.

Even when the book reading finished they sometimes delayed ringing the bell and even made motions as if to ring it before pulling back. It was all about power and control.

The books were always boring and they would be about things like Good Manners and Etiquette. We were dying to talk. When the book reading had ended everyone had their eyes on the two priests to see when they would ring the bell and they could then start chatting with their pals.

Great swathes of the day were spent with The Boys unable to talk. It was a great release when they could. As you can imagine a lot of whispering was done.

No Talking or Whistling

You couldn’t talk in the corridor. Whistling was completely banned.

The senior Boys and the junior Boys were not allowed to talk to each other even though they often encountered each other. They would be in the Refectory at the same time but with the juniors on one side of it and the seniors on the other.

They would also be in church at the same time – but with the seniors on one side of the church and the juniors on the other.

They had separate recreation Rooms and had separate dormitories.

Seminary was Good Training for Paras

When young guys join the Paras, many of those who do may have come from home comforts to a strictly regimented regime – but for Mick it was very much a home from home.

Mick used to team up with a guy called Mick Palmer who was in the same year as he was. When he moved up to second year the two of them teamed up with a guy called John ‘Titch’ Carey who was from Doncaster.

The three of them were inseparable. As you can guess ‘Titch’ was one of the smaller Boys. It was strange to see them walking around together. Mick was slightly above medium height but it was like seeing a Little, Medium and Large walking around.

Gentle Giant

Mick Wainhouse was very much a gentle giant, though. He seldom got into any trouble or scrapes. He was a nice guy and I don’t think anyone disliked him at all.

It still seems very strange that he later joined the Parachute Regiment, went to Northern Ireland and his regiment were involved in the Bloody Sunday massacre of unarmed Catholics on a peaceful protest march.

An embargo has been put on the names of the Paras who were actually engaged on Bloody Sunday so we won’t know whether Mick was there on that fateful day or not, but as he was in the regiment and there at the time of Bloody Sunday, it is almost certain that he was.

It is even more strange to think of him as one of the big four Angolan Mercenaries. Indeed Colonel Callan, Costas Georgiou, even made him his captain.

It seemed totally unlike the Mick Wainhouse that we knew and liked.

The Comboni Missionaries Paedophilia Apology Will Come

Comboni Missionaries Apology

It will come,

it will come.

It may not be by the current leaders of the Comboni Missionaries Order, whose hands are steeped in cover-up, but by a new generation of Comboni Missionaries who are not tainted by the paedophila and the cover-ups of the past.

David Cameron apologised for Bloody Sunday. Previous generations of Conservatives would not have, as they were involved in the cover-up. It will be the same here when a new generation takes over.

The current generation will not be well-remembered within the Order. They will be seen as part of an ugly past and a blight on the good name of the Order. The current leadership will be consigned to the dustbin of history by the members of their own Order.

Future Generations

They will be an embarassment to future generations of Comboni Missionaries who will condemn them and their activities and who will seek to turn the corner after a shameful past.

What sort of people would not react angrily when confronted by the fact that young boys as youg as 11, in the care of the Comboni Missionaries, were serially abused by a multiple of priests in the Order over a couple of decades.

I would like to see them meet the parents (those still alive) who sent away their young sons into their care so that they would become priests.

I’d like to hear them tell the parents why they covered up the abuse on their young sons and gave them no help afterwards. I’d like to hear them tell the parents why some of their sons were sent away, with their vocations destroyed, in order to cover up rampant paedophilia in the Order.

Apology Will Come

However, future generations of Comboni Missionaries will apologise for them, i.e. for the paedophiles and for those who covered it up.

No matter what else they have achieved in their careers at the Verona Fathers, no matter how high they have risen, after they have gone, their lives will be remembered for their cover up of the paedophile priests.

Indeed – no one will want to remember them at all.

Why would that not make them angry? it makes everyone else angry.

The apology will come!

The apology will come!