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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Father Pinkman Accused me of Leading the Great Escape

Leader of The Great Escape

Someone had told me about it. I can’t remember whom (it might have been Leo Murphy). I was in 2nd year at the time. The Boy told me that Pinkie thought that someone was trying to organise some great escape from The College. Supposedly I was the ringleader.

It was so ridiculous that I just said something to that effect and didn’t think any more of it. I was in 2nd year. If had wanted to go home I could just have stayed at home the last time I was home for Summer, Christmas or Easter. So could the other boys in the supposed ‘escape plot’.

Why would I, ‘the mastermind’, be putting so much thought into the Great Escape when I could simply stay home next time I was there? Why would I also arrange a mass breakout and escape? Why wouldn’t I just go on my own? Everyone could make their own decisions.

Many Miles from Home

It would be different if we were in our first term there and our ‘homesick’ letters were being ripped up.

For God’s sake I had to get myself 400 miles to Glasgow and then another 26 miles to Greenock after that. And I had to do it without any money. Even boys who lived just 20 miles away hadn’t made it.

It just didn’t make any sense at all.

I wrote it off.

Father Pinkman’s Approach

That was extremely stupid.

One evening Pinkie grabbed me and took me into the Form 1 / Form 2 classroom area. He said he had been ‘reliably informed’ that there was going to be a mass escape. Not only that, I was the ‘brains’ behind it and had been planning it for a while.

I mean, let’s forget, for a minute, that this was in a democratic and free country called Great Britain and that this was a school where anybody was free to leave or stay as they wished.

This wasn’t a prison camp in Nazi Germany or a Gulag in the Soviet Union. This was a bloody school in Yorkshire where boys who had volunteered to train for the priesthood were schooled.

The Accused

Let’s forget all that.

When he accused me, I, of course, denied it as it was absolute rubbish. Pinkie refused to accept this at all. He had completely reliable information. This was ‘a fact’ and there was no point in denying it.

He wanted to know the names of the people who were involved and when it was to take place. Of course, I couldn’t give him this information as it didn’t exist.

He was determined to have it. He launched into a diatribe about me being a ‘bad boy’ etc. I can’t remember now all that was said but it was constant like an interrogation, and I remember bursting into tears and sobbing uncontrollably.

This didn’t stop him though. He continued the interrogation. He went on and on demanding the names as I continued to sob and sob, but he wouldn’t stop. “I’m not letting you go until you tell me” he said. It was incessant. It really was like an interrogation. He was completely heartless. He was completely cruel. All he wanted was the information and I could go.

Father Grace Enters

Suddenly, someone burst in the door. It was Fr. Grace. He was a highly respected priest and he went on to become Fr. Rector later. He had been a ‘convert’ from the Anglican religion. He was not one of those people who had been taken away as a boy of eleven and trained for the priesthood but had seen a bit of ‘the other life’. He was highly respected amongst The Boys.

He was the English Literature teacher and damned good at it.

“What’s going on here”, he demanded in a very concerned and raised authoritative voice. I suspect now he might have been listening outside for a few moments.

Pinkie made some excuse but it was clear that Fr. Grace didn’t believe him. He seemed quite contemptious of him. One had always thought that the priests would always stick together – but that wasn’t what was happening here.

Fr. Grace asked me to explain what had been happening but I just said “Nothing”.

Sent Pinkman on His Way

He must have thought that Pinkie’s presence was intimidating me (which it most certainly was). He turned to Pinkie and sent him on his way, to go to his room.

Looking back on this and looking through the eyes of an adult it is obvious that Fr. Grace was well above Pinkie in the pecking order. Pinkie must have been around 23 or 24 and Fr. Grace must have been about 15-20 years older.

I don’t know what Fr. Grace thought was going on but he sure as hell knew something was up – and he knew it was Pinkie’s fault and not mine.

Father Grace Asked Again

When Pinkie was gone he asked me again what had happened.

“Nothing” I replied.

“Come on, you can tell me. I can make sure that if you tell me that he won’t give you any problems again”.

“Nothing” I said.

He tried to convince me that he would make sure I would be all right if I told him what had happened.

Could Have Done for Pinkman

This should have been my moment. Looking back on it now, if I had spilled the beans it might have preempted events by at least a year. I might even have survived at The College. I might even have become a priest.

But I didn’t believe him. In my world Pinkie was the king. He was supreme. What he said went. Reporting him to another priest would be tantamount to ‘vocational suicide’ as I saw it.

I did think about it. My judgment, though, was that Fr. Grace couldn’t stop the all-powerful (in our eyes) Pinkie.

Horrible Wrong

I was wrong. Horribly wrong.

There was nothing Fr Grace could do. I could see he wanted to. He ruffled my hair in a fatherly way which made me sob even more. It was perhaps the first and only tactile kindness I had been shown in my whole time at the college by a priest. I burst into tears.

“OK, off you go then” he said.

I went upstairs to go to the toilet.

Guess who came in?

Yes, you’ve guessed it. It was Pinkie rubbing his hands together very animatedly.

Taken Aback

“Not you again!” I said with disbelief at the reappearance of my tormentor while bursting into further tears.

That really was more than you could say to a priest but I was getting beyond reason expecting my ordeal to start again.

Surprisingly, Pinkie seemed a bit taken aback and on the defensive. He wasn’t the aggressive tormentor of a few minutes ago.

Needed to Know

He wanted to know just one thing. “What did you tell Fr. Grace?”

“Nothing”, I said.

“Are you sure” he said.

“Yes” I said with exasperation expecting a telling off.

“Good” said Pinkie and slunk off through the toilet door.

If I had only known. I had him by throat and didn’t realise it. He knew it though. That’s why, even though he had been sent scuttling off to his room, he had to stick around to know what I had said.

He knew the game could well have been up for him. He needed desperately to know.

However, I had told Fr. Grace nothing – and Pinkie had survived.