Illusion Ripped Apart

The picture that I have painted of my life on the whole is a happy contented one.  I met the right woman, lived in some beautiful places and have shared good and bad times with our caring and supportive family.  I am a lucky man.  I have even dined out on my life story, giving several after dinner speeches.  Mirfield is always a well received part of my talks.  Once while regaling 150 “ladies who lunch” about Mirfield, I declared that I would have no hesitation sending an 11yr old child of mine into the same environment.  Unfortunately that statement may no longer hold true.

I have sung the praises of many individuals who were responsible for our care, spent many a night at numerous country inns talking to friends about the huge characters who influenced and helped shape my life and made me the person I am today.

Several years ago I attended a reunion that ripped this illusion apart.

At this particular reunion several disclosures were made.  These were talked about and touched on in a very casual manner, just a few old friends chewing the cud over a pint at the White Gate.  They fell in and out of the conversation between football canoes on the Calder and the Duke of Edinburgh Award.  It was only when I arrived back home  that the full implications of what had been talked about hit home.  My wife who has a good deal of experience of disclosure of abuse had always been skeptical of my belief that nothing of that nature could ever have happened at Mirfield.  My blind faith in the church and its custodians would not allow me to believe that such things could happen.

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A Pastoral Life

Hi, Degs again.

Just found a few minutes to share some thoughts.

I am sitting in the kitchen of our tied house that we have occupied for the last seventeen years looking out at the tree dotted ancient parkland of Baggrave Hall Estate where I work. Today is a good day, the sun is shining on the autumn leaves that are being tossed around in a stiff breeze, two buzzards wheel above in a clear blue sky calling to one another.  My day’s work was to fell and clear two ancient chestnut trees that had finally succumbed  to disease.  I started the chainsaw first thing this morning and a deer broke cover and bounded over a fence into a wood.  Later on in the day I was entertained by a stoat as I sat quietly on one of the two now horizontal chestnuts.  He appeared from a grass verge carrying a dead pheasant poult twice his size and weight and proceeded to drag his prize, with much effort, across the road and into the undergrowth opposite.

I often work alone and in remote parts of the estate, but today I was working by the single track road that bissects the estate.  This resulted in frequent stoppages as friends and acquaintances pulled up for a bit of a chat.  We know and are known by most people in the area.  Our family motto has always been “you only get out as much as you put in” and we have been fortunate in as much as where ever we have lived from Scotland to England, Wales and Portugal we have always become accepted and involved with the communities.

Our family unit is a tight one and on the whole contentment reigns.  I find this remarkable due to the stressful nature of most of the family’s employment, three out of the five of us are involved in social work at the sharp end of things.  I have been involved in agriculture as a shepherd over the last 30yrs or so.  It is ironic that I left one pastoral vocation for another so to speak.  However when I return from the old boys reunions it is amazing just how many of us went on into some type of vocational careers:  social work, nursing, teaching, counseling, paramedics; so perhaps the recruitment did in fact manage to gather together a group of unique characters of good morals who cared.  To this day I cannot quite put my finger on why there is still a gel that holds us together.

Rules of the Road

These last few posts and comments have been pretty hard core.  My memories of Nado are of his peculiar appearance which was matched by his even wierder behaviour.  I always looked upon him as a religious fanatic.  He would always take the literal meaning of the bible which seemed unusual as the literal meaning was meant for cultures that existed many centuries ago and needed some kind of reinterpretation to have a similar impact in the modern world.

I remember on one occasion being driven by him to the A1 to hitch-hike home .  We were behind a lorry and Nado insisted on driving with the bonnet of our mini clubman underneath the rear of the lorry.  When I pointed out that this was a slightly dangerous manoeuvre, Nado replied that as Jesus was always with us there was no need to be afraid.  His driving was ledgendary always at 100 mph.

Can any one remember the trip to Scarborough??

It started off by driving down a one way street in Leeds against the flow of traffic, being stopped by oncoming police and turned around.  Just a verbal warning that time, remember ‘Jesus was with him.’

Next was a game of chicken with a large tractor and cultivator on a single track country lane. We approached the tractor head on at mach 1 and as God was always with us the tractor ended up in a ditch as our transit flew by.

The next incident occured as Nado attempted a very poor hill-start and rolled into the car behind us.  Obviously Jesus was not in that vehicle as he was always with us.  So we pulled away and left them to it.

The grand finale happend in Dewsbury.  We were trying to set a new land speed record at night down Dewsbury high street, in a transit van.  On passing a stationary bus at a bus stop a pedestrian stepped out in front of the bus and into our path.  He glanced the side of the Transit and was flung onto the road.  Here is the dilemma: was God with him or with us?  I believe that his God was with him because by rights he should have been killed.  However God the father, son, and holy ghost were traveling that day in the Transit with Nado and us.  On stopping to help the poor man it soon became obvious that he was an illegal immigrant.  He refused any offers of help even though he had a serious injury to his leg.  He tore up witness statments that one of the boys had taken and sent us on our way.

So ended our day trip to Scarborough!!

In my youthful naivety Nados behaviour was eccentric but now I am older and wiser and from what I have read I realise that there was a darker side to this man.

He’s Hit an Artery!

Hi Degs again,

Just been away on the south coast for a few days, but now back to the grind stone. It reminds me of Mirfield, mucking out pigs, collecting hens’ eggs and even killing chickens for feast days.

Who can remember preparations for Parents’ Day?  All the corridors had to be cleaned, polished with big concrete bumpers, even hanging out three stories up with rag in one pocket and bottle of windowlene in the other!

Speaking of Parents’ Days, there was always that sense of excitement when families would come to visit, but also on some occasions a sense of disappointment when boys whose parents couldn’t make it would have to serve high tea to the lads with their families, as I did on several occasions. Then there was always the joy of helping father Wade with the vegetable garden, or when he was made bursar and, on his return from one of his several shopping trips, helping him unload his little van full of either food supplies or such strange, miscellaneous pieces of equipment as ex- MOD boxing gloves, javelins, medicine balls and gymnastics horses etc!  The following few weeks would then be taken up with groups of boys practicing boxing, but not quite with the marquis of Queensbury rules, resulting in several epic bouts!  One that sticks in my mind would be me and Brian Gardner.

The javelins were surplus to requirement as I can remember manufacturing spears out of kitchen knives and broom shanks, which resulted in Nicki Wilson getting a six inch carving knife through his leg!  A trip to the infirmary followed with Nicki screaming, “He’s hit an artery, I’m going to die!”

Hope this stirs a few memories, I will write a bit more when I get a bit of time.

Mirfield Memories

Hi, to those who know me I’m Degs to those who don’t I’m Kevin Deignan, ex seminarian old boy of Mirfield junior seminary. Having attended several reunions in the past I feel that it is time that I begin to put some thoughts and memories down in writing. These can be added to, criticised, commented on and if need be corrected, but hopefully enjoyed.

What I am hoping to achieve from this blog is to find out why our experiences at Mirfield created such a unique bond  that year after year people who have not met for several decades  come from the four corners of the UK, and even further afield, to reminisce and catch up. I am especially interested in people’s experiences from outside my year group and the experiences of those who were there at the last gasps of Mirfield.

I was recruited from St Patrick’s Parish in Felling, Gateshead in 1966/67. The promise of endless games of football, Duke of Edinburgh award schemes and a display of shields and spears persuaded me that this would be a good life choice. On receiving the vast list of things that I should be supplied with including: 12 pairs of underpants, several pairs of socks, sheets, pillow cases, plimsolls, football boots, scores of handkerchiefs etc. my Mother dispatched me with a least half the required amount!

My years at Mirfield were the transitional years from strict dress code and crocodile lines up to Hearts head post office and Robertstown shops where we were made to stand outside and enter two at a time to spend our weekly allowance to disappearing to Bradford ice rink on a Saturday night or hitch hiking to Bolton Abbey for the weekend. For those of us who occupied Mirfield at this time we will remember what a weird and wonderful, if sometimes slightly scary, experience this was. Academia was not my strong point and my 3 O’Levels of English, Biology and of course Religious Knowledge will testify to this. However, the life skills that I acquired whilst there have stood me in good stead. The teaching methods at times could be unorthodox but were always entertaining, who could forget Rory Hicks burning the skin off the palms of his hands whilst demonstrating that phosphorus will burn in oxygen, which is a chemical change and not a physical change! (Phosphorus once burnt forms phosphorus oxide). Mirfield made Hogwarts look quite tame if I think back at some of the things we used to get up to. It would be nice to hear from any ex old boys to share our tales of Mirfield. P.S. the film and book rights belong to me.