RateMyPriest – My Mirfeld Marks for Comboni Missionaries

Conduct Marks

When we were at Mirfeld we were given three Conduct marks twice a year. They were in Behavious, Good Manners and Diligence. Now I’d like to give my own overall marks to the priests who were there in my time. You are welcome to add your own markings in the Comments section at the end of the article. Maybe we can end up with Favourite Father of the Sixties and Favourite Father of the Seventies.

OK here goes:-

Mark – Priest

10 – Father Cerea – I had almost a father / son relationship with him. I was at the front of the class and he used to smile proudly when I got a History or Latin question right. I was astonished to hea rother people say that he physically assualted them with slaps or cuffs on the head.  I don’t remember any of that – but maybe I was wearing rose-tinted glasses. I would actually put him in my list of the Ten People I’m Most Glad I Met.

9 – Father Grace – I would have given him a 10 except I had to make space between him and Father Cerea. I can’t remember anything bad about him – only good. He was kind and had a good heart. When he interrupted Pinkman’s interrogation of me in the junior classorm when I was in second year and told Pinkman to get out, I could have ‘done for’ Pinkman then if I had told Father Grace all about it as He was telling me to. “I can handle him” he said dismissvely and scathingly. However, I stupidly didn’t believe him and told him nothing. If there hadn’t been a Cerea then Father Grace would have been a 10.

8 – Father Columbo

I don’t remember that much about him except that he was a chain smoker with stained hands and that he was a load of fun. He went to the missions when I was not that long there, somtime in my first year. However, my perceptions of him are positive and I remember that he was friendly, fun and open – the very antithesis of someone like Father Ambroggio.

8 – Father Fraser

I liked Father Fraser immediately. He was from the West of Scotland like I was. He also turned the regime there upside down. He threw over all the old stern rules. It was like being present at the Fall of the Berlin wall being at the college at that time when all father Amroggio’s harsh, stern, austere rules were cast aside..

Where previously we were only allowed out once a week to make a tour of ethe surrounding countryside with the head boy at the front and Father Pinkman at the back to make sure we didn’t buy any sweets at local shops and we had to spend all our money at the tuck shop it was now totally different.

Previously we had had to hand in all our money at the start of term. Now we could keep our money, go for walks or into town in groups of at least two, spend money in local shops and could go home for weekends sometimes. Those truly were heady days.

Unfortunately, Father Fraser listened to Pinkman and suspended me for a year. I didn’t go back. Pinkman told me beforehand in a gloating fashion what was going to happen. I didn’t believe him but it came to pass.

On the downside, he was told about Pinkman by Frank Mcginnis, amongst others, but chose not to believe them. Indeed he called Frank McGinnis a liar when he told him in July 1967.

7 – Father Pinkman

Belive it or not I actually liked the old ‘monster’. I suppose that is what grooming does for you. I was very disappointed when I came back on Parents’ Day in 1968 and found that he had been sent away. He gave me the lowest Conduct Marks ever in the school and shortly later he asked me if I wanted now to become a “Good Boy”. I should really reciprocate his ‘lowest marks ever in the school’ that he gave to me. However, I have to put what I felt at the time – before I was able to piece it all together as an adult.

6 – Father Wade

Father Wade was fine but a bit of a sensitive soul. I used to crack jokes in class. If he liked them he laughed. If he didn’t like them he sent me to get the Punishment Book. Stand-Up comedians never had it as tough as this when they were breaking through – even at Green’s Playhouse in Glasgow which was known as the Graveyard of English Comedians.

Morecambe and Wise were up there once. Ernie was sent out first to warm up the audience. All he saw was 3,000 pairs of eyes staring back at him from the darkness. No one laughed at all. They just stared at him in silence.

Eric Morcambe looked through the curtains to see what was going on.

One wag shouted “Christ, there’s two of them”.

However, at least Eric and Errnie ddn’t end up ‘missing their tea’.

I ended that year (second year) being in the punishment book more times than anyone else in the school. It was all for minor infringements and Wade and Pinkman were the two who mainly put me in it.

5- Father Fulvi

He was the Spiritual Director when I was there.You would go to him if you had any spritual matters to discuss. I had none – so I didn’t know him that well. That’s why he has a mark in the middle.

He did nothing when Jim Kirby and Anthony Summers reported Pinkman to him in early 1967. ndeed he told them never to tell anyone what they had told him. However, I believe that he was nvolved in getting rid of Pinman at a later date.

4 – Father Hicks

I only had him in 3rd year when he was in charge of the seniors. My main memory of him was when he caught Maurcie Eaton and I coming back in the broom room window after we sneaked back out to see the bonfire on November 5th 1966 after lights out.

He told me that Father Pinkman had marked his card about me (and his inference was that it wasn’t good). As they say “Hell hath no Fury like a Paedophile Priest scorned”. I knew then that Pinkie’s influence had not ended when I left the juniors. I stayed away from Hicks after that and he seemed content with that.

I am giving him this mark from my memories of when I was there. Since I have gone I have found that he had probably done more to rid Mirfield of paedophiles than anyone else – doing for Valmaggia and Riddle and may have had a hand in the others for all I know.

He was also, though, involved in the cover-ups and he certainly didn’t feel the need to contact the police as you should when you know that a crime had been committed.

I think, if I had to give him a present day mark it would probably be 7. He did a lot to get rid of the paedophiles but is involved over the years in covring it up, and overall I would say it was Could Do Better.

4- Father Ceresoli

As he was head of the seniors I didn’t come into that much contact with him. I think he taught us one subect and I think that was Theology. I found him a bit of a cold fish and lacking somewhat in human emotions. I heard later that he terrorised Boy X, picking on him and making life miserable for him – so much so that he drove him into Father Pinkman’s waiting hands.

3 – Father Stenico

While there isn’t that much that I would say bad about him, I can’t think of anything good. He was grumpy and unhelpful when asked questions partly becasue of his porr English. He would start to answer questions but got frustrated and would angrily tap the board with his writing on it and say “Tis so” and move on without answering the question.

2 – Father Ambroggio

Some people may be surprised at the low mark I have given to the Father Rector of my first two years. Indeed Jim Kirby said that he was a holy and devout man. I found him stern and austere, unfriendly and soulless. I can still see him clearly in my mind’s eye now.

He was the one who was responsible for the stern, austere regime that we lived under which so crushed our spirits. We couldn’t run or whistle in the corridors or speak to the seniors except at certain times. We had to hand in our money at the Tuck Shop.

We were basically imprisoned in the college, seldom getting out and never unsupervised. He basically ran a prison camp, or gulag, in the heart of old England, a couple of decades after the Fascists were overthrown in his home country.

He it was who insisted that we leave our letters home open so that he could read them and censor them.He ran a place that was  a feeding ground for paedophiles and did nothing at all when he was told about it.

The buck stopped with him. He was in charge.

Indeed, as I write this, I am thinking that I was generous in giving him 2. I don’t really know where he got the two points.

0 – Father Valmaggia

Unlike Father Pinkman, Father Valmaggia didn’t need to groom. He was the Infirmarian and he has his Infirmary where the boys went when they were sick. he had them as captives in there. His treatment always involved touching their groins. He also felt the need to weigh the boys every so often in his late night surgery – obviously with their clothes off.

I have nothng positive to say about him nor can I relate any good experience at his hands or any good deeds that he did.

Indeed he reminded me of Father Jack out of the TV Series Father Ted – except that it wasn’t “Girls” that he would have shouted out. Father Wade could have been his Dougal. i’m not sure if i can think of a Father Ted.

If any of you want to give the priests marks out of 10 from your time there please feel free.

Conduct Marks

So, do you agree with my marks? Do you see it differently?

Let us all know how you would mark the Mirfield priests in the Comments section below.

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Michael Riddle Was as Good as Gold With Me

Michael Riddle

My name is Andrew Routledge and I was a student at Roe Head in Mirfield from 1970 to 1975.

This is my statement.

I knew all of the persons mentioned in this article very well.

I never knew of any Paedophile activities that went on.

Mr Riddle, my English Lit teacher, knew Father Pasqualone in Uganda.

In Michael Riddle’s Room

I was in his room several times, only to talk about philosophy and to smoke a pipe.

Other boys were present also.

No petting went on during the times I was there.

Some of the priest were a little eccentric.

This is a quality that many bachelors have. By no means does this qualify them for paedophilia.

Paedophile’s Can’t Sleep When Chidren Around

I learned long ago that a person that has paedophilia leanings can never sleep in the presence of children.

The Priests I remember were always dropping off.

I was struck on two occasions by outside secondary school teachers that worked part time for the Verona fathers.

Father Hicks sacked them both immediately.

Father Cerea

Some of the priest were disciplinarians of sorts but nothing that could be described as violent, not even Fr. Cerea.

I do not remember any beatings as punishment during the whole time I attended St. Peter Claver College.

The Nuns were always darlings and took good care of us, especially when we were sick.

Verona Fathers Perfect Hosts

I have since Visited and stayed as a guest of the Verona Fathers in their Rome residence and the feeling I always get is one of coming home.

They are always most generous.

I do not dismiss the claims that certain things may have happened.

I only say that I never know of any such events.

Private Rooms of Priests

Yes, there should have been a rule placing the private rooms of priests out of bounds to pupils.

The atmosphere was lax in certain areas and distance was not maintained in all cases.

The school had faults but in no way did I experience the same level of suffering at Roe head than I did at my First Junior high school.

Suffering from ADD and PTSD made my schooling difficult both for myself and teachers.

There were stressful times but overall I have to say that I was not targeted in anything like the same way at Roe Head.

My Favourite Comboni Missionary – Father Cerea

Father Cerea

Some of the priests we only rarely saw outside class. Virtually our only contact with them was when they taught us. Some of them lived mainly in the old house, which was where the Bronte sisters used to go to school and later taught.

It looked very nice and comfortable there but we generally only got in there to clean it. The library and TV room (which we didn’t get to see much) was just inside the old house as was the infirmary and Fr. Valmaggio’s surgery.

Fr. Cerea live in that part.

He taught History and Latin.

We didn’t do Latin until second year so it was only History he taught us in first year. I didn’t hit it off with him at all at first. Whenever he asked me questions I wasn’t able to answer. It was more nerves than not knowing the answer, although it was sometimes both. There were three of us, Kevin Benn was another, who were considered the dunces in the History class.

Luckily Fr Cerea had read the report from my school which was good and he frequently said that he couldn’t understand the difference in performance in his class and what he had expected from me – otherwise I might just rotted there as I had completely lost confidence.

Sent to the Front

One day, after I couldn’t answer another question he suddenly said “come up here” and he put me into a desk right at the front of the class. It was the best thing that could have happened to me. There was a sea change in my performance in History. Suddenly from being one of the dunces I was up at the top of the class.

I remembered virtually everything he said from then on and got on with Fr Cerea very well. Indeed I was sometimes accused by one boy of being his pet. He was almost like a father to me (with a small ‘f). History became my favourite subject and Fr. Cerea my favourite teacher. It pleased him a lot that I remembered everything that he said next time round.

One boy, in particular, never used to like it. He was always top of the class overall at the end of the year and was a good hard studier and it annoyed him more than a little that I avoided studying at all costs.

Extra Point

I remember one time Fr Cerea was so pleased at an answer I gave him that he said he was going to add on a full extra mark at the next test we did. I didn’t really understand about the mark. Was it an extra mark at the next class test we would get or the end of the year exams. I wasn’t sure, didn’t enquire and didn’t really care as it wasn’t a big deal to me.

However, it was a big deal to this boy. He mentioned it a few times to me saying that it wasn’t right or fair for me to be given an extra mark in a test for something I got right in the class.

He even came up to me when we were on our walk to enquire about it and whether I thought it was fair or not. I don’t think anybody else in the class cared except this boy, and I certainly didn’t care if I got an extra mark or not. What was most important to me was that Fr Cerea was delighted by what I had done and that was far more important to me than a mark in an exam.

Favourite Son

As I said, he felt almost like a father to me and I looked forward to his classes and, to be honest, he treated me like a favourite son and always smiled with great pride when I got a hard question right.

It was a very important relationship to me. I’m sure some people reading this will be thinking “I wonder if there’s something funny about all of this” but there wasn’t on either side. It was just a favourite teacher / favourite pupil relationship.

When you are living away from home at the age of eleven you need something like this. Looking back, I was very lucky. Even away from home I inherited a father. There were loads of other sad, lonely boys who never did. There weren’t enough priests to go around and many of them weren’t interested in this kind of relationship anyway.

This made it easier for Fr Pinkman, whose job in charge of the junior boys gave him close contact with the youngest of the boys in the school between the ages of 11 and 13.

Lured Into Pinkie’s Net

Perhaps if I hadn’t had that father / son relationship with Fr Cerea I might more easily have been lured into Pinkie’s net that many of the other small boys were lured into. I did want to get on with Pinkie as he was our appointed father who had to be shared by about 55 boys in the junior school. The fact that the other priests didn’t see much of us outside class made it very easy for him.

I got on pretty well with Pinkie in first year – but perhaps I wasn’t quite ready yet. The technical definition of a paedophile is someone who has sex with someone below the age of puberty. That wasn’t Pinkie as far as I know. It was under-age boys who had just reached puberty that he had an appetite for – and this fox was in sole control of the whole hen coop at St. Peter Claver College.

The boys he did lure in, many of them were very badly hurt by it even into later years of their lives. Some were never fixed.

However, there were others still who Pinkie didn’t lure but who weren’t able to have a father / son relationship with any of the priests there. The senior boys and junior boys were kept apart and led mostly separate lives, unable to talk to each other except at certain times. Some of the junior boys of eleven and twelve must have been lonely. After a while the other boys there became their brothers and so that relationship must have helped them through.

My emotions about the place are mixed but mostly positive. There were a lot of good things about it.

The Boys United

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.

Ordained by God

In those days life seemed simple, everything was ordained by God. The seasons, the trees, reproduction, the fact that I was at Roe Head and my family was over 60 miles away on a Council Estate in Liverpool was all God’s will. I might not have liked it or even understood it but God had a plan and I was part of it.

Today my life is complicated by logic and reason; that is until I hear a choir sing Latin hymns. Last week my daughter sang with the Scottish Youth Choir in Perth Concert Hall. When the 60 strong girls’ Choir gave a glorious rendition of “Tantum Ergo” I was back in the Chapel with the stained glass window in front of me and the Conductor, Christopher Bell, had become Father Cerea. To this day I remain a sentimental fan of Choral music.  Although I insist on having an atheist funeral, if anyone could organise 60 boys from the ages of 12-17 with a voice range of mezzo  soprano to bass, then have them sing “Salve Regina” and, if possible please before I die, to hear it sung once more I feel sure would create a perfect happiness in me.