The Blue Dog Key Company

Liam Gribben

I received this unexpectedly through email and thought I’d share it.

March Newsletter

Blue Dog was formed by Liam Gribben, who emigrated to the United States from Scotland in 1978. After living in Maine with family for several months, he became a sales rep for Cole National, his first step into the key blank business. In 1982 Cole filed for bankruptcy and Liam began selling keys independently, becoming an Ilco distributor. He actually sold Blue Dog once to take on other work, then bought it back and continued the company until 2016 when he passed away unexpectedly.

Liam was known as a unique character by his customers, having an uncanny expertise in trivia and known to his friends as a remarkable ballroom dancer. While he loved to travel, he detested flying and always made sure he had a friend along on any trip that required an airplane. His customers always found a Trivial Pursuit card or two in every order.

At Framon we plan to keep the Blue Dog Keys story going, researching the hard to find, unique and rare keys that locksmiths need access to. As a key machine manufacturer we will continue to sell our machines and products through our network of locksmith distributors, while Blue Dog will sell directly to locksmiths as it has in the past. The focus of Blue Dog has always been as a secondary supplier to your normal locksmith distributor, specializing in small quantities (there is never a minimum order) of blanks and precut keys. Keep Blue Dog in mind the next time you are looking for a blank that you just can’t find…as Liam used to say, “Yeah, We Got That!”.

Contact us in any of the following ways:
Framon Manufacturing Company, Inc
909 W Washington Ave
Alpena MI 49707
Phone: 989-354-5623
Fax: 989-354-4238
E-mail: phil@framon.com
Web: www.framon.com

Blue Dog Keys
Same address/phone/fax
E-mail: sales@bluedogkeys.com
Web:www.bluedogkeys.com

Michael Riddle – 4th Man of Mirfield – Gentlemanly Paedophile

by Brian Hennessy

Michael Riddle – The Gentlemanly, Grandfather Paedophile

The Comboni Missionary Order has no record, it seems, of the Fourth Man of Mirfield.

Whether that is the convenience of a failure of memory, or a contrivance, or simply because they have decided at some point in time to destroy his records, I cannot even guess.

One thing is certain and that is the Fourth Man of Mirfield did exist.

He was none other than Mr Michael Riddle – a secretive and discreet, gentlmanly paedophile with a penchant for small boys on the brink of their pubescence.

Boys whom, perhaps, he suspected of having a gay orientation, of which the boys themselves were quite unaware at the time – due to the innocence of their own immaturity.

Irish Riddle

Some say that Mr Riddle was Irish. We understand that he was married and he had a daughter and the family lived in York.

He also had influential friends in the Catholic Hierarchy and it appears that that may have assisted him in obtaining notable appointments in his career as a teacher of English Literature.

The general concensus is that he arrived at Mirfield from Ampleforth. It has even been stated that a one time Comboni Missionary Priest, Father Francis McCullough, was sent to collect him at Ampleforth and that he drove him back down to the Seminary.

The Ampleforth connection is certainly one of the stories that Mr Riddle told of himself. It cannot remain ummentioned, of course, that his transfer to Mirfield was at a period in Ampleforth’s history that was tainted with the widely broadcast facts of sexual abuse of its students by both Priests and Housemasters of that Benedictine establishment.

Ampleforth Connection?

All attempts to discover if he was truly at Ampleforth have failed, it is true to say.

They are silent about the matter. Perhaps, conveniently, they have no record of him either! Grandfather Riddle told other stories too – that at some time he had been working in East Africa in colonial appointments.

He even had a photograph of his house boy it is said – and he told tales of how he used to beat the boy because the boy preferred girls to old Grandfather Riddle. Who knows where he truly came from?

Perhaps it is all true. Perhaps none of it is true.”

Father Robert Hicks

Quite what credentials and letters of introduction Mr Riddle produced to Father Robert Hicks, the Rector of Mirfield, at the time of his arrival, we do not know.

Had there been any such references at all?

We do not know that also – as there are no extant records of his existence.

Perhaps it was all agreed on the Catholic Hierarchy’s “old boys net” – and a hand shake and a “nod” had secured his new position.

We do not know either whether any thought or care had been given to the personal credentials of the new arrival.

Child Safeguarding

Child safeguarding did not exist at the time.

Clerics appear not to have been that much bothered about their pupils being sexually abused.

Certainly, the whole extended hierarchy of the Comboni Missionary Order – who had drafted Fathers Pinkman, Valmaggia and Nardo off to other climes where they would have had the opportunity to continue to abuse children for decades at will and unnoticed, did not much care.

They had ignored reports of abuse for a decade and more by the time the Fourth Man arrived at Mirfield – and so what the Fourth Man might do to their pupils was clearly of no concern at all.

Bronte Sister Former School

So Mr Riddle was accepted into the community with open arms and was allocated a room during term times in the old house of the famed Bronte sisters’ former school.

He would have enjoyed the thought of treading the same floor boards that those gifted Victorian novelists and poets had walked upon before him – as he was very fond of books as well as of small boys.

His room was situated between those of Father Cerea and Father Wade on the dark corridor at the furthest point in the old house from the boys’ dormitories.

The corridor leading to it would have been on the left as you came through the door from the new section of the building on the upper floor, adjacent to the Infirmary which was said to have been the Bronte sisters’ room.

The Ghosts of Mirfield

Proceeding onwards from that point, small boys bound for Riddle’s room would proceed through a dimly lit corner on the first floor with only one pendant light.

The dinginess had a distinctly Dickensian feel about it.

One of the Bronte Sisters wrote of the ghost of a servant woman who haunted those corridors – when the building was called “Miss Wooler’s School for the Daughters of Anglican Clergy”.

That was more than a century before, but a sensitive boy on the way to Mr Riddle’s room might have hesitated momentarily as the wooden floor boards creaked when you walked over them. In the day time, a little natural light crept into the corridor from the internal quad that it overlooked.

Mr Riddle’s room was also dimly lit despite it having two windows.

The curtains were drawn when the boys were the guests in that room.

The furnishings were minimal: a sink in the corner of the room, a table next to the bed and a radiator under a window.

Shadows of Mirfield

Mr Riddle’s nature has been described as charming.

However, he was a man in the shadows at Mirfield. He was not a member of the Order. He kept to himself.

He was well read and caring, but slightly effeminate and was known by those whom he abused to have had a liking for silk underware.

Yet, his outer clothing was more traditional – cream trousers and blue checked shirts were his standard attire.

He was not a dashing figure, however, being relatively small in stature, with slightly bucked teeth and a distended stomach on a generally wiry frame.

Grandfatherly Figure

The boys thought he was a little “creepy” as his eyes darted about behind the lenses of his round spectacles as he habitually and closely studied them at a distance during morning exercises.

Nevertheless, he was “grandfatherly” enough to allay their fears and because of that age difference, the boys accepted his physical closeness without much apprehension.

So when the boys were invited to his room for an exercise in reading literature they were not on their guard.

The extra tuition took place in the late evening after the boys had already changed into their pyjamas and donned their dressing gowns and slippers – and then made their way through the dingy corridoors of the old house to Riddle’s room.

Mr Riddle would usually be similarly clad – and often lying propped up in his bed, be-spectacled and reading. They would get a friendly greeting and climb on to the bed beside him.

Reading Aloud

The boys would read aloud – and he would be attentive – occasionally gently correcting their diction and phrasing.

In this process, however, it is alleged that Mr Riddle’s hand nearest to the boy became active and it would gently caress the puerile bodies of these innocents – whilst his fingers sought out the openings in the boy’s nether garments and eventually found ways to the physical features of the boy’s anatomy in which those fingers found such delight and gratification.

Threat of Exposure

The boys would be alarmed initially, but his tenderness towards them soothed them – and his gently delivered threats of exposure sealed their lips.

Technically, in legal terms, he raped them.

Some were induced over time to engage in more demonstrative sexual behavour, but Riddle was always attentive and affectionate and careful not to give offence.

So much so, that one recalls how Riddle would always brush his teeth before he inserted his tonge into the boy’s mouth. How thoughtful of him!

Michael Riddle’s Reputation

After the lapse of years, of course, Riddle’s reputation has changed – as the mature minds of his Victims think beyond the benign mask of the Fourth Man of Mirfield, Grandfather Riddle.

Now he is seen for what he truly was: calculating and predatory.

His grooming was outrageously obvious.

He would even ask parents if he could take his favoured boys on a driving holiday – for example to Ireland – and when that opportunity was denied he would write caring letters to them during the holidays when they were separated from each other.

Riddle’s Letters Still Exist

Many of those letters still exist.

Even at the time of the abuse, the eleven and twelve year old Victims began to sense that what he was doing to them was wrong because of his insistence that they would both get into trouble if “their secret” was ever disclosed.

Riddle was even more direct for he would warn his boys, until they were convinced, that if they squealed on him, he would be removed from the college himself, which he said, sorrowfully, that he would not be able to bear.

From that the boys naturally sensed, also, that in some way their own destiny would also depend on their total loyalty to the kindly old man – and so their silence became guaranteed.

Paedophiles’ Control

The seductive threats of Mr Michael Riddle had been a distinctive sign of the control that paedophiles exert over their Victims.

The loyalty of the Victim is essential – and paedophiles work on that incessantly.

Thus, whilst the boys held the old man’s destiny in their hands – their solemnly enforced “secret” had become a sacred pact that was never to be devolved to another.

The cost of breaking the pact would have been the immediate and grave exposition of their secret – and the expulsion of both from the establishment. The abuse became a daily ritual, but the boys’ silence was assured – for they were trapped in the old man’s snare.

Riddle’s Room

I have spoken to three Victims of Riddle’s abuse and seen the Witness Statement of the fourth. I have been told of other Victims also – and it has even been said by one Victim that he was present in Riddle’s room at the same time as a second Victim.

For most, the abuse was continual over extended periods of the time that the boys were present at Mirfield and almost daily during term time.

There came a point, however, that discovery or reports to the Superior of the Seminary by one of the Victims, was increasingly likely. He could not get away with his abuse forever.

He would have known that himself – and so his cautious threats to the young boys would have certainly been recounted regularly to avoid that prospect. Well, ultimately, that moment of discovery and separation, did come.

The Rector, Father Robert Hicks, whom we all know has an exceedingly bad memory and so he probably cannot recall it, called an assembly one day and he forbade all the boys to visit Mr Riddle in his room again.

The witness to that assembly is a priest today, but he was a boy then. He has stated in a witness account that he was also abused by Mr Riddle.

Michael Riddle Dismissed by Father Hicks

The result, ultimately, was that Father Robert Hicks dismissed the Fourth Man of Mirfield, Grandfather Riddle, from the seminary.

We know this for certain, too, because one of Mr Riddle’s favoured boys received a letter from Mr Riddle following his sudden disappearance from Mirfield – in which he stated this as a fact – and that letter still exists.

Father Martin Devenish

So that is just one more nail in the coffin of the statement to the UK press persistently made by Father Martin Devenish that there are priests alive today at Mirfield at the time of the abuse, but they have no knowledge of the abuse.

Is it not about time Father Devenish corrected that statement to the press?

As for Mr Michael Riddle, we know very little of Mr Riddle’s life after Mirfield – but we do know that paedophiles do not stop their activities against innocents.

Active Paedophile

Once a paedophile – always an active paedophile – unless subjected to constant treatment and monitoring.

The Fourth Man of Mirfield, I understand, died, a widower at the age of 93, at his birth-place in Ireland in 1999. I just hope that he made amends to his God, despite having made no amends to his Victims, before his death.

For other Victims of Mr Riddle that may read this story – and who thought, as so many Victims of abuse do, that they were the only child to have been abused by their Abuser, be assured that you were not.

Child Victims

Be also assured that there is no such thing as complicity of child Victims at the hands of a paedophile.

Child Victims suffer from unrelenting, emotional blackmail on top of the sexual abuse perpetrated upon them. Irrespective of what abuse young Victims came to habitually accept at the hands of a paedophile, they are never complicit.

No Judge will ever accept a challenge in a Paedophile’s defence that a child was complicit. In law, even as it stood in Mr Michael Riddle’s time, a child was not able to give legal consent to any form of sexual abuse if the child was under the age of sixteen years.

My Happy memories of Mirfield

by Frank McGinnis

More Good Memories

These stories bring back many of the happier memories of Mirfield.

Feast-days were good as we ate well for a day (not so good for the farm pigs/chickens) and all washed down with real fizzy orange juice.

Having no singing voice my job on such days was to hold one of the six enormous candle-sticks at the special Mass. I was always placed to the immediate left of Eddie Roberts as he swung the incense-belching orb thingy.

Every fifth or sixth swing he would let it ‘just touch’ my hand to ensure the hot overspill from my candle would flow down my arm.

I can still hear his sniggers, a brilliant guy, oh happy days.

Mirfield Priests

I hated Fr Cerea, but he started it. The only nice comment I can muster is the memory of the rich tobacco aroma he emanated as he thumped the back of my head (often).

I liked Fr Grace, he looked ancient & content.

His Anglican minister to Catholic priest story puzzled me.

As a product of the West of Scotland I was sure it was against the rules.

Jumping-ship was unheard of, you had to stick to what you arrived with, you were either Catholic or Protestant.

Father Grace

An Indian kid started at our Primary school when I was about eight, no problem.

He was a Muslim but assured us he was a ‘Catholic’ Muslim. Clever wee guy.

I eventually just figured that Fr Grace must have got fed-up not getting his prayers answered whilst in the wrong outfit.

He was keen to see the Tories win the 1966 General Election so his Catholic prayers didn’t work all that great either.
We had a three day ‘Silent Retreat’ early in 1967. The good memory there is that Pinkie was unable to talk to wee boys about his unique interest in explaining the facts of life. Oh happy three days.
PS We have moved on in the West of Scotland since those days. One is now simply either a YES or a NO. But don’t worry we NO who they are 🙂

If anyone else has any good or bad memories of Mirfield just stick them in the Comments section after this article.

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

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?