Hello is there anyone out there ……………..???.

Comboni Missionaries

It has been quite along time since I have posted on the blog. I suppose like a lot of us I view the blog most weeks and read recent posts and comments with interest, always promising myself that “next week” I will post or comment myself.

Next week turns into next month …….

Mirfield Abuse

A fire needs feeding or the embers will turn to cold ash. Most of the traffic on the blog these days concerns the abuse that occurred at Mirfield all those years ago. It is a good vehicle for this purpose, but it is still a good way to reminisce and renew old friendships and create new ones.

I have heard a few comments that people need to get “over it, put it behind them and get on with their lives”. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Comments from whatever quarter are welcome,they are the catalyst for debate. To this end I will post a bit more regularly.

Abuse Suffered at School

Some months ago a family member approached me with the revelation that the daughter of a cousin on my wife’s side of the family was struggling alone to come to terms with abuse she suffered at school.

She has set up her own blog as an aid to closure. I had promised to post her details on the blog to gain some support for her so here, “better late than never”

Dave, they are http:/hummingbird02.wordpress.com/author/blueswift82/
Thanks for looking ,comments appreciated.
All the best Degs

Ps thanks for all, too many to mention , who contributed to my ,”This is your life book “for my 60’th birthday (thought I had managed to slip that one under the radar!!!!

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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.”

A Post-Holiday Update

Hi, Degs here.

First off just a few tips for navigating the site. There is now quite a bit of dialogue in the comment area, which can be found at the top of the right hand column. The latest blogs can also be found there by clicking on rss posts. This may seem obvious. However if you are a bit of a IT philistine, like myself, then we need all the help we can get.

Recent comments are very heavy, with a portrayal of lives of misery. I have nothing but admiration for those old boys who have once again visited their dark times at Mirfied. They have revealed the faults and failings of the order to myself and the majority of old boys for whom the Mirfield experience was free from such trauma.

The consequences of such revelations have had a deep impact on me. They have blighted, and rightly so, what was a very influential part of my life. As I have stated before, people that I have always held up as true, good and honest examples of humanity I now find to be complicit in the abuse, sexual, physical and mental, of some of their charges. I believe that apologies have been asked for, perpetrators confronted, but all to no avail. Silence in itself speaks a thousand words.

There has been very little input as to the more positive side of the Mirfield experience which in itself is puzzling. Before the initial disclosures I had looked upon my Mirfield experience as a totally positive one. The adventures, experiences, characters and camaraderie were second to none. The stuff of brilliant childhood fiction. For those of us who still wish to remember it that way this site is here for that too.

Even those of us who are involved in exposing the less digestible side of Mirfield could do with a few lighter moments to try and achieve a balance.

Remember that this can be done with complete anonymity. I hope that the actions of a few perpetrators will not be seen as a reflection of the order as a whole and that the representatives of the order will seize the opportunity to put right the wrong doings that were done in their name and seemingly with their blessing.

I hope that you all had a good xmas and look forward to an interesting 2012
DEGS

ps. Sniff if you’re out there it would be good to hear from you: kevindeignan@live.co.uk

Feel Free and Feel Safe

Degs back again.

Welcome to all the new contributors and thanks for comments and input. People are beginning to find the site. I cannot imagine the strength and courage it must have taken to post some of these, my heart goes out to you. My hope is that through this site some steps towards closure may be achieved. There are people who are listening to you on this site. Remember that you are not alone and through unity there is strength.

Reading some of the comments concerning harsh treatment by some of the priests I have come to the conclusion that it is not the severity of the act but the impact that the act had on the individual that counts.

My experiences with Cerea consisted of several harsh words and on a few occasions a backhander across the head or face. One occasion comes to mind. Cerea caught us mid-water fight down at the greenhouse, so he frog marched us around to the incinerator where we had to kneel down in the ashes in a line. I was at the front of the line and another big lad, Melvyn Thompson, was at the back. Between us two there must have been about six or seven other lads. As I remember, Melvyn was always a target for Ched, he was always the fall guy in the Latin class.

Ched began to berate us in his normal fashion, telling us how disappointed our parents would be, etc. But while he did this he walked back and forth. When he reached the front of the line he would slap me across the head and on reaching the back of the line he would slap Melvyn, with the boys in-between cowering but remaining untouched. I remember Ched made several trips up and down the line that day!!

Events like that did not have the same impact on me as similar events had on others. Was I thicker skinned or just thick? The point is that, as an adult, Ched should have been aware of the effect that his behaviour was having on individuals and moderate it accordingly. His teaching technique was quite primitive with only the academically bright lads achieving. I seem to remember that he did have a 100% pass rate in GCSE due to the fact that if you were not a sure bet you were persuaded to drop the subject, which by that time you were only too willing to do.

Once again my heart goes out to all the Mirfield boys who did not have the same shared experience of the majority and who had to suffer the darker side of Mirfield in isolation. I cannot begin to imagine what you have been through. My thoughts are with you and I hope in some small way that the fact that you can talk about it on the site will help.

As a foot note I was there when Ched lost control of one group of lads in the early seventies who managed to see through his diguise and expose a rather insecure little old man who broke down in tears incapable of relating to and molding these boys rather than beating them into submission.

All the best to everyone and once again feel free and feel safe to comment, criticise or simply walk down memory lane here on this blog.

Degs

Use this Blog to Support, Engage and Argue

Some young men at Mirfield have managed to incorporate, and thus dilute, the darker time at Mirfield with the good.  I believe that some have kept that dark time separate in order not to contaminate the good.  All of this needs closure for some of us.

How can we meet up in the years to come and still chew the cud over a pint without putting this to rest?

Use this blog to help and support, engage and argue because we must all come to terms with the fact that we went through this together and somehow after all these years we are still Mirfield Boys.

Finally, to those of the order who are aware of this blog please feel free to post opinions.  Come out from behind the collar and reinstate my belief in humanity because I would like to think that my judgment of character could not be that far off.  To those old boys who had not been affected by or were not aware of these episodes at Mirfield, please remember and support the lads who were.

These are my own personal thoughts and opinions if you know any different or can offer alternative explanations please contact me.

kevindeignan@live.co.uk

Degs

In Loco Parentis

I had not suffered these experiences, what right had I to feel the way I did?

However the sense of betrayal that I feel and that I believe we all should feel, is immense.  In such a small community behaviour such as this could not have gone unnoticed.  However no action was taken and therefore I have drawn the conclusion that there was collusion.  One can offer as a weak defense that the perpetrators of these acts were sexual deviants driven by some mental disorder.

But how do you come to the defense of the bystander?

These people helped shape my life, these bystanders were ‘in loco parentis,’ our surrogate parents who failed in their duty of care.

People whom I held as role models and shining examples of humanity I find to be flawed.  They are men just like you and me, but they can hide from the real world behind their cassocks and collars with impunity.  Through the court of confession they can be judged and sentenced by one of their own and on leaving the smallest of courtrooms be admonished with a prayer or two and a promise to be repentant, released with a once again unblemished copy book .

I regret the fact that due to my youthful naivety and blind faith I was unable to see what was happening and help and support my friends.  These were boys who through no fault of their own were singled out. They were not victims, they were vulnerable.  The God Squad was a group of devout young boys whose deep religious beliefs were manipulated against them in the perfect environment and this was allowed to happen in full view.

Disclosure and Abuse

What does someone do with that type of information?

Well this someone sat on the fence.

Could it have been the casual way that the abuse was talked about and the seeming insignificance of some of the acts, such as inappropriate touching, that made my feelings ebb and flow?  Normally in our house disclosure and abuse are talked about in professional but passionate terms.  These conversations draw deep feelings of revulsion and anger towards the perpetrator and compassion and sadness for the victim.  So could it be that it was the time lapse or the almost flippant way that these things were talked about that made me non committal?

I now realise that perhaps people that have held onto this for such a long period of time and in this unique environment, need to test the water or even that our indoctrination by the church still pervades to the point of denial (it is better to bury our heads in the sand than to confront the awful reality of what was being said).  It was only at further reunions when more disclosures were made, generally in the same casual manner, but by closer friends, that I started to feel strongly that I had to do something.

But what?