It is football which brings back the most powerful memories. For many years I lost my interest in football. More recently I have been attending games at Celtic Park. I am not certain whether it is the hooped jerseys, the awful weather, the sheer tribal atmosphere or even the combination of all three which causes me to remember how much St Peter Clavers’ School Teams were viewed as outsiders and disliked by the other local teams: and how our isolated position generated a unity, pride and determination for the Verona Boys to win.
If the Mirfield Boys and their often rebellious zeal were a comfort to me, then the Mirfield Priests who were often cold, distant and aloof were a poor substitute for the loss of my parents. Whilst, in general, I looked up to and admired almost all of the Comboni Fathers – after all they had not only been through the seminary process but had also served in the missions and witnessed unimaginable poverty and suffering – forming supportive relationships with my religious guardians proved difficult for me. A tall Irish Brother with Prince Charles ears once yelled at me for crying and yelled again the next day when he discovered I had wet the bed. It was Father Cerea’s repetitive question, “Are you stupid, boy? Are you stupid boy?” that was the catalyst for my final departure from Mirfield.
I vividly recall how I enjoyed our irreverent jibe song when we all sang “Steni and Ched, two Fathers of Verona” to the tune of ‘Bonnie and Clyde’. No serious harm was intended or implied in the words. To sing it was not only fun, it was also an affirmation that we were the boys “united” and they, the Priests, were not part of our unique club. They were our stern and distant superiors, but for the duration of the song at least we did not care.