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.
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!
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.
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.