Dropped from the Verona Fathers Football Team

Dropped from the Football Team

As I said, at the end of the interrogation Pinkie added insult to injury – or rather he added injury to injury. He told me that I would no longer be selected for the football team. I had been a member of the Championship winning team the previous year. I had played my part in the triumph.

However, that didn’t count for anything. There were other considerations.

That was a severe blow. I mean it was a really severe blow. I loved playing for the team – but the conditions of playing were no longer acceptable.

I must say that, at the time, I didn’t really piece it all together. I couldn’t work out why Pinkie had turned against me. It was about half way through the season that I got suddenly dropped – maybe a little before half way.

Announcing the Team

I remember that Pinkie would come to the junior recreation hall to read out the team. I was the only one who didn’t crowd round to hear it. I got on with whatever I was doing before. I did keep my ears opened. I hoped against hope that one week I might hear my name called out. After all, the second season wasn’t going so well and we were falling behind in the Championship.

Perhaps Pinkie might have a change of heart and pick me. Although I didn’t come over to hear the team news I used to keep my ear open and listen to Pinkie as he dramatically read out the team one by one.

Each week as the team was read out and with each name that was read out it was a like a dagger through my heart. Even when nine and ten names had been read out and they weren’t mine I still retained a hope.

But each week was the same. I wouldn’t say I was the best, age for age, in the team but there were people in the team in my position who would not have said that they were as good as me. People wondered why I was no longer picked.

“You’ll probably get picked this week” they would say.

No Chance

One week, as everybody went over to hear the team news, a guy that I was playing draughts with got up to go over and said to me “are you not going over? You might be in the team”.

Pinkie had actually picked me the week before for our one and only second team game. Not only that, he had picked me as captain. Whilst the first team had lost we hammered the second team and I scored a load of goals. From memory I think we won 8-1 and I got five of them. Perhaps my period of exclusion was over. Perhaps my performance might get me back in the team.

I didn’t go over. I didn’t dare think I would be in the team. But I listened very intently as the team was read out one by one. Maybe Pinkie had a heart after all. It would be great to come back into the team. It would be great, to be frank, not to be generally an ‘excludee’ with Pinkie.

However, my name was not read out that day. In fact it was never read out again. My punishment was final. My exclusion was sine die.

Even when I was in the seniors and was still eligible to play I wasn’t picked. It was even more painful that the guy from third year that they picked was nowhere near as good as I was, to my mind. He even said that himself and he was even a bit guilty about it.

Father Pinkman and My Interrogation

This is the follow-up to Father Pinkman Accused Me of Leading the Great Escape

It was published recently.

Third Degree

This was not the end of it though.

Soon afterwards, I got called up to Pinkie’s room. He started the grilling over again. I had to tell him who was going to be in the Great Escape.

Again and again I told him I knew nothing about it. I started to cry again and I kept on crying and crying and the tears were running down my face in streams.

On and on went the interrogation. He said he would only stop and let me go when I had told him everything.

I had nothing to tell, though.

“I know that someone is organising it” he said. There was no way out for me as I had nothing to tell him.

Capitulating Under Interrogation

Eventually, after what seemed like ages he said “If it’s not you who is leading it who is it then?”.

“I don’t know” I said crying relentlessly.

“Is it Locke and McGinnis” he asked.

They were my two best friends.

Here was a way out. I could say it was them and the pain would stop. The interrogation would be over and I could go free. I could escape with just one word.

But I couldn’t do that I also thought. It wasn’t them (It only ever existed in Pinkie’s fevered brain).

“No” I said.

“It is them isn’t it” he said. “You’re not telling me because they are your friends”.

Oh my God, the interrogation fever was being turned up again. “Oh no!” I thought.

“It is them isn’t it, Locke and McGinnis”.

Surrender

“Yes” I said and in one fell swoop I was free – except that my two best friends never spoke to me in a friendly way ever again after they had been brought up and grilled like me.

Pinkie even told them that it was I that had accused them. I denied it but they never believed me.

When I’ve read of supposed miscarriages of justice where the accused has made a full confession and then retracted it saying that he was under duress to confess I am as cynical as the next man.

But when I think back that is exactly what I did. I was under such duress that when given the opportunity to finger my two best friends I did just that, so that the grilling could stop and I could leave the room.

Biggest Regret

Perhaps that is my greatest regret of all the time that I was there. I cracked and got my best friends into trouble. They never knew the circumstances of it. After all, I had denied it and so could not go back and tell them what had actually happened.

Locke got expelled at the end of the term and never came back. I was never friendly with Frank McGinnis again who had been my best friend for the best part of two years. He never spoke to me again. We were never friends again and I had to make a new set of friends in third year. I later found that he had been expelled in summer 1967 – at the end of the term after I got suspended for a year.

Even though I was under intense pressure I still should not have cracked. I was a boy of 12, though, being psychologically tortured by a cruel psycho who sexually preyed on boys as young as eleven and who was scorned by me as he saw it. I state this in my own defence.

But in my heart of hearts I should still not have cracked and ‘handed over’ two innocent friends.

Difficult Year

The rest of second year was quite difficult as I had to hang around with people that I hadn’t been all that friendly with before. If truthful, I had to hang around with people who nobody had been all that friendly with before.

And I got constant reminders from my two ex-best friends whenever I bumped into them – which was frequently. Locke took it particularly badly. I think that Frank McGinnis might have eventually forgiven me but I think he wanted to show solidarity with Francis Locke who was slightly more dominant of the two.

Meeting Francis Locke Again

Several years late I was invited to Allanton in Dumfries where the Verona Fathers had a seminary for boys who joined at a later age. This invitation was both for new boys and for boys who had left the college previously but who might be interested in coming back. There was only two boys there that I knew – and one of them was Francis Locke.

He hadn’t forgotten. He didn’t say anything but he was not over friendly and spent most of the time with the other guy who neither of us had been particularly friendly with when at The College. He spoke to me when I spoke to him but there was no warmth. Indeed there was no warmth when he first saw me for the first time in several years. Not even a smile.

What treachery it must have seemed in his eyes and for no reason that he could see. What a wicked boy I must have been to him.

I never got the opportunity to explain to them – and even if I had done I’m not sure it was a good enough explanation.

Fingered

I never thought of it then but there must have been someone else who fingered me in the first place. Pinkie wouldn’t have made it up. He really did believe this ridiculous story. Someone must have given it to him.

Was it some other poor boy in the same circumstance as I was that he was interrogating? That’s possible but that boy would not have been the person who put it into his mind.

One of the ‘in crowd’ must have told him this lie.

Why?

Perhaps it was to please him. We know already from my days as one of his ‘spies’ that this was an area that he gave some thought to. Could one of the boys have come up with this cock and bull story just to curry favour with him?

I’ll never know who was the one who decided to put me in the frame as the guy masterminding the Great Escape, or why they did it.

The Final Straw

As I got up to leave the room Pinkie looked towards me and I could see he was about to say something else. I could see the venom in his eyes.

“Just one more thing” he said. “You won’t ever be getting picked again for the school football team” he said with more than a little satisfaction.

He couldn’t have picked anything that could have hurt me more. And what’s more he must have known it.

I went into the room as an innocent twelve year old and I left it robbed of my favourite hour and a half of the week – and without any friends.

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.

I Suspected Bede Mullen had Been Abused | I Was Right

Bede Mullen

I met Bede Mullen at the 4th reunion I went to.

He was 54.

The last time I had seen him he was 12 years old.

I was really looking forward to seeing him again – especially as there were unsolved questions, answers he hadn’t given me all those years before.

Frank McGinnis had been my best friend – but Bede would have been one of the ones that I hung about with most, alongside Francis Locke, Martin Murphy and Peter O’Hagan.

Not Coming Back

So, it was a bit of a shock to me when, as he was packing his bags for the looming holidays, he informed me that he wouldn’t be coming back after the holidays. He was going to be staying home.

This sort of thing happened far too often and was both destabilising and upsetting.

Often people would go home from their Christmas or Easter or Summer Holidays and simply wouldn’t come back. Some of them had decided against it, either because they were homesick, or they had lost their vocation, or it was too strict, or they just didn’t fancy it any more.

Others were told not to come back, often via a letter sent to their parents (as we discovered long afterwards).

The Disappeared

It didn’t just happen during the holidays. It could happen during the term.

Someone would just disappear. You might, or might not, hear the reason why they had been ‘disappeared’. You were seldom officially told – but there were always rumours. The Rumour Mill is strongest in closed societies.

When I was quite new, and in first year, three guys suddenly grabbed me in the toilet, picked me up, and tried to put my head down the toilet as they flushed it.

It was quite terrifying at the time.

They were very unlucky that Pinkie happened to wander into the toilet just as they were doing this (he had that knack).

The three were asked to accompany Pinkie along to Fr. Rector’s office immediately.

Two of them were given warnings as to their future conduct. The guy that was considered the ringleader, a guy called Kerrigan, was instantly expelled. His vocation disappeared with the flushed toilet water.

We were never to see him again.

<h2?Sent Home Quickly

They got rid of miscreants very quickly. There was none of that phoning your parents to tell them to come and collect you whenever they could, which might be in a few days time.

They were gone instantly.

They had to make their own way home, perhaps to distant parts, at the age of as early as eleven. I doubt if they even gave them money. They might have been given the money that they had themselves handed in at the start of each term.

Bede’s Decision

Bede, however, had decided to go home of his own volition. He had decided not to come back after the holidays.

I didn’t know that I was the only person he told this to till 44 years later. Bede didn’t remember telling anybody.

When I spoke to him at the reunion he told me that he didn’t dare tell any of the priests. He was afraid that they would maybe lock him up and not let him go home. This may seem ridiculous now, and they almost certainly would have done no such thing – but the way they acted in those days, it wasn’t quite outside the realms of possibility.

I immediately wanted to know why he was leaving so I could convince him into staying. Most people just disappeared or didn’t come back and you seldom knew the reason why.

This was one tragedy, a loss of, effectively, a brother, that I could prevent and prevent it I thought I could – but I had to know the reason why he wanted to leave first.

And he wouldn’t tell me that.

Related to Father Pinkman

He came close to telling me several times as he packed his suitcase on his bed. He even told me that it had something to do with Pinkie.

Even by this stage I had heard people talking about Pinkie’s Boys, the ones that he used to invite up to his room, his special boys in his special boys club that I wasn’t a part of.

I would have liked to have been part of it and had wondered why I hadn’t been, I had usually been part of the ‘in crowd’ with the teachers at school before – but I was to get my invitation soon.

Connected To Pinkman

The strong inference was that it was something connected to Pinkie and that Bede felt that he had to get out of there.

It wasn’t that he disliked the college.

He didn’t!

It wasn’t that he didn’t have friends.

He did!

It wasn’t that he didn’t have a good time there.

He did!

But, for some reason, that I couldn’t quite fathom, he had decided he had to leave it all behind. He decided that, despite all the good things that had happened there, and despite the friends he had made, he had to leave us all behind, his new family, and get out, never to return.

Never Came Back

It was something I had often pondered in later years, i.e. why Bede just had to get out of a place that he loved. Why did he give up his vocation, his friends, that beautiful place and just leave, never to come back?

Of course, looking through the eyes of a twelve year old I couldn’t understand it at all.

It just seemed crazy.

However, putting the same data through the eyes of an adult, I came to a completely different conclusion.

I didn’t know for certain that something had happened to him with Pinkie, but I was pretty sure that this must be it.

Previous Reunions

I even told the other guys at previous reunions that I thought that something had happened to him and that this was the reason for his departure. Some of them were a little sceptical – but I was pretty sure of it.

He wasn’t keen on coming to the reunion. He told Joe Colby that he had some bad memories of the place and didn’t really want to have anything to do with it. It was in his past – a past he wanted to forget.

It took a lot of convincing by Joe and many emails and phone calls to convince Bede to come.

But Joe warned us all.

Bede didn’t want there to be any discussion about Pinkie – and Joe had promised him that there wouldn’t be.

Bede Mullen’s Return

On the first night of the reunion, we all went out but Joe decided to wait in the hotel for Bede who was supposed to be arriving at seven o’clock.

It was twenty past seven when I decided to go and join the others in the pub.

Another half an hour later Joe joined us.

Bede hadn’t arrived.

“He won’t come” I said. “He’s thought better of it”.

But Joe and Danny Curran were convinced that he would.

Back at the Hotel

About half an hour later Joe and I decided to go back to the hotel. When we got in the door, Joe decided to check the guest book to see if he had arrived.

His name wasn’t there.

Just at that, someone came out of the breakfast room.

I thought he might have been a fellow guest. Joe seemed to think he was someone who worked there.

“Have you seen our mate Bede Mullen?” Joe asked.

“Yes, he’s arrived” said the guy.

“Where is he now? What room is he in?” asked Joe.

“He’s standing in front of you” said Bede.

And Bede was back.

Forty Two Years later

I’d had an inkling it was him whilst Joe was asking him questions.

My 12-year-old friend was back – as a 54 year old.

I still have a very clear picture of Bede as a 12-year-old – a very clear one as he packed his suitcase that day. It is one of those pictures that you have that stay with you forever whilst you forget most other things.

It was great to see him once again – but more than a little frustrating that I couldn’t ask him why he had left. What was it that Pinkie had done?

Talking About Pinkie

Strangely, after telling us not to mention Pinkie while Bede was there, it was Joe that brought the subject up – after we were back in the hotel after having had a meal and a few drinks on the first night.

We actually tried to change the subject a couple of times or tried to make it sound as if it Joe was talking about something else. But Joe was either oblivious to this or was having nothing of it – and surprisingly enough Bede wasn’t uncomfortable with it.

Perhaps he had made the major step in deciding to come at all. Perhaps this was just another smaller step along a path that he decided he was going to take anyway.

Perhaps he expected it.

Bede’s Confirmation

He never did tell us exactly what happened. It’s not the kind of thing that you ask someone unless they volunteer it (at least guys don’t).

But he did confirm that something bad had happened with Pinkie and that it had happened in Pinkie’s room and it had happened more than once.

We didn’t need to know the exact details.

He said that it had caused him a lot of problems in his life.

He surprised us all by saying that he had only just told his wife about it the previous week after many long years of marriage.

He must have taken the decision then, before he even got to us, that the genie was clamouring to be let out of the bottle – and that he was going to let it be opened.

Affected Bede’s Life

Bede had been a very dignified 12-year-old and he was still a very dignified 54-year-old.

He told us that what had happened with Pinkie had affected his life. He had obviously never shared it with anyone till just the previous week, 44 years later, with the person closest to him in his life, his wife.

How surprised she must have been about hearing this secret that he had borne by himself all those years.

The genie was out of the bottle – and I think deep down Bede was pleased. Perhaps pleased is the wrong word. Bede was now comfortable with it – or at least comfortable enough with it now that he could talk about it.

This was all well and good – but the big test would be the next day.

Tour of the Seminary

We were scheduled at 11am the next day, to go on a conducted tour of our alma mater St. Peter Claver College, Roe Head, Mirfield.

What would Bede feel then?

Could he handle that after 44 years away?

I had done the tour twice previously.

This year, Allison, our guide from Hollybank School, which our seminary had become, took us to the usual spots, the old classrooms, the dormitories, the Refectory, The Chapel etc.

There was a lot of reminiscing about old times and ‘this is here we used to….” etc.

But I knew that the big one awaited us.

Pinkie’s Room

We came around the corner from the dormitories and I knew what was coming.

Led by Allison, everybody had actually gone past it altogether and Allison was now showing them the Chapel.

I saw Bede towards the back who hadn’t walked past it yet.

I said to him “that was Pinkie’s room”.

There was no need to tell him of course. He hadn’t casually walked past it like the rest but had hung around. I looked through the thin glass slat in the door, that hadn’t been there 44 years ago, into the room.

What would Bede’s reaction be?

When I took my face away from the slat in the door, Bede walked forward and peered in too.

That was enough for me.

Into Pimkie’s Room

I walked a few steps forward and asked Allison if she could let us into that room.

Only she, Bede and I went in, as the others were more interested in the chapel.

I could see tears well up in Bede’s eyes.

But he remained in control. He always did.

Dignified

He motioned to the corner of the room. “The bed used to be there”. After a pause he pointed to another spot. “The table was there” and paused.

Like Jim Kirby previously, he was seeing events from forty odd years ago.

“A lot of things happened here” he said in his understated way, and for a brief moment he was far away in a time gone past.

Then he pulled himself together and said “It’s just a room. It’s just a room”. He looked at me, nodded his head and walked out the door.

And, in that instant, the demon who had tormented him, had finally been exorcised.

Father Pinkman Wants to Examine Me

Groin Injury

I loved a game of football. I loved playing for the school.

This particular day we were playing football on the lower pitch. I’d had a bit of a groin strain before but it really went this time. Down I went. I was in quite a bit of pain. Pinkie said I should go back to the dormitory. As I couldn’t play on it seemed a good option.

I went back to the dormitory and went to bed. Not long after Pinkie arrived. Now, this surprised me a bit. He was supposed to be supervising the game and those playing it.

It seemed very nice of him to take such an interest in my footballing injury. After all, he was our substitute dad – although I had to share him with around 55 others.

Bottom of the Bed

He stood at the bottom of my bed in the dormitory. Even though I was just 12 years old I could smell something that wasn’t right. There was something about his demeanour. He didn’t seem relaxed. He said that he needed to examine my groin injury. I wasn’t keen on anybody examining my groin.

He was rubbing his hands together in a nervous fashion, which was his wont. Something didn’t seem right even to a 12 year old who had never heard of sex.

I didn’t want anybody near my groin, thank you. But his arguments were quite compulsive. He said that he needed to see what was wrong with me and he could probably fix it. I still said ‘no’. He said “How are you going to get better? Do you want to stay like this?”

I didn’t. It was quite painful. His arguments were beginning to seem winning arguments and I was starting to think that it might be very embarrassing but that it might be necessary to let him have a look – when he suddenly changed tack.

Weighty Question

He asked me if I’d been weighed yet by Fr. Valmaggio the Infirmarian. I thought this a strange thing to ask. How would my weight affect my groin strain? I was only a slip of a thing.

We seldom got to see a Doctor or a Nurse. Fr. Valmaggio was in charge of the Infirmary (a grand name for a room with six beds). I learned later that he was a keen ‘weigher’ of 11-14 year old boys. Why he needed to weigh them no one ever asked (till much later). One never asked why in those days. Children did what they were told then. Adult power was pretty much absolute – and you know what they say about absolute power.

Winning Argument

So, Pinkie quit just as I was wavering. Lucky I didn’t show it. One wonders if life would have been very different if he’d had one more attempt.

Jim Kirby met one of the boys in Mirfield in London’s West End some years ago. The boy was a few years his senior. That boy told Jim that he felt his homosexuality had been induced by what happened to him by serial abuse by two of the priests at Mirfield.

Jim thinks the boy may have been embarrassed by admitting he was Gay, as this meeting took place in the 80s and it was still early days in the age of enlightenment and attitudes towards the Gay community.

The boy expressed astonishment that Jim was not Gay as he felt that the treatment meted out to the boys by the abusive priests would have made many of them Gay in distorting their thinking and attitudes towards sexual activity because of that abuse.

The boy was of course, by then, a grown man and was himself obviously very confused and even distressed even at that age by what had occurred at Mirfield. Some years later Jim did make contact again with him and asked him if he wanted to make a statement about the abuse. He said he didn’t as he had closed that part of his life. He was living abroad, in fact on another Continent.

I suspect, though, it is far harder to become a homosexual than that. But I don’t know and I’m glad I never had to go down that route to find out. I am not anti homosexual, but like pretty much all heterosexuals whether they are gay bashers or very sympathetic and empathetic to gays, they are very glad they are not one themselves.

Handed Over to Father Valmaggia

So, Pinkie suggested that the best route for me was to go to see Fr. Valmaggio at the Infirmary. It seemed a great suggestion. It never occurred to me that it was out of the frying pan and into Fr. Valmaggio’s Infirmary.

So, I went to see our resident ‘medical expert’. I explained the problem and he said that I needed to stay in the Infirmary for a few days.

Fair enough!

I spent the next 8 days in there. Being in the Infirmary was pretty good. You didn’t have to do any school or work and you got your food delivered to you. If I remember right it was of better quality than the normal fare.

They even had a radio and I got to listen to a European title fight involving Walter McGowan, the pocket Scottish boxer.

Anthony Summers

The first day was fine. Already in the Infirmary was Anthony Summers who was in the year above me. He said that he was in because he had swallowed biro ink. He said that it caused him to have sudden blackouts.

Several times when he was sitting up in bed he would suddenly ‘black out’ and fall ‘unconscious’ on his bed and pillows just to prove what he said about the sudden blackouts. It wasn’t a convincing performance though. Even as a 12-year old I could see through it.

I was just about to reach the age of puberty. It would happen later on that summer when I was at home during the holidays. However it hadn’t quite happened yet – which was pretty lucky for me.

Despite Summers’ ‘serious blacking out’ illness he was booted out of the Infirmary after a couple of days, leaving me on my own. He protested saying that he wasn’t any better. “Get out!” yelled Fr Valmaggia and he went.

Start of the Treatment for a Groin Injury

Then came the real start of my treatment. It seems that the best treatment for a groin strain (instead of rest) was to rub coal tar over the testicles and penis of the injured person. It seems, also, that the treatment would work better if the penis of the injured person was erect.

Being on the verge of puberty this was something that I was sometimes able to do (to a small limp degree) but most times not. It was also a bit of an effort and a bit annoying to keep trying to do it. I knew it was for my own good but most times I couldn’t do it. It was such a mental effort.

I’m not an expert on puberty but even though (at great effort) I sometimes could get my penis erect the pleasure gland (or whatever it is) had not arrived yet – so he might as well have been massaging my big toe with coal tar.

He got a little annoyed that I couldn’t always ‘get it up’ which he deemed necessary to cure my affliction, but I also noticed that there was other times when he seemed annoyed with himself for doing it and would suddenly stop. It seemed a little strange but as I didn’t know about sex or puberty at all there was no way I could piece any of it together.

Paedophiles

How different the kids are now. Surely it can’t be bad that they know about sex and paedophiles etc. The fact that we didn’t, made us all potential victims. My parents subscribed to the view, that was common then, that children should stay children as long as they could.

One feels that this ‘common view’ was more because they had a fear of the ‘adult world’ and couldn’t cope well themselves in this complicated world. There was a great desire to keep children as long as possible in the Age of Innocence. Unfortunately the implementation of that wish gave children no tools or knowledge for when the predators came hunting. Their innocence and naivety made them perfect victims.

There may be problems with the world now for children but we surely don’t want to go back again to the ungolden ‘Age of Innocence’.

Comboni Missionaries | How I was Immersed in the Organisation

On the Committee

It was soon after this that Pinkie decided to set up an Ideas Forum for the lower school. People were to put in ideas (anonymously) about how to make things better. There was a Suggestions Box and people put their suggestions in there.

I was really pleased when I was picked by Pinkie to be on the Committee. In fact I was to be the guy who was actually to pick out the suggestions from the Suggestions Box and read them out.

What power!

I had really arrived. I was becoming part of the inner circle.

Suggestion Box

Making the Suggestion Box anonymous was a huge mistake. Repressive Systems don’t like anonymity – and not just repressive regimes.

It is not only the repressive regimes who are trying to remove anonymity for those who post on the Internet. Anonymity is the great enemy of those in power. Anonymity means that people can say whatever they want.

How horrible must that be to those who are in power? It is not just repressive regimes who want powers to find out who is doing what and who is saying what on the Internet. It is the US, the British and leading European democracies who are trying to stop us saying what we want under the guise of anonymity.

First Meeting

At the first meeting, held in the adjoining First and Second Year classrooms, the Committee (Pinkie, myself and a couple of others were at the front). Now, when organisations have Suggestion Boxes, the real reason they are having them is so that they can find suggestions that benefit themselves. However, staff (or pupils) sometimes get the wrong idea and make suggestions that are for the benefit of those who work for the company or the organisation.

This is mainly what happened here. The suggestions tended to be not to have the horrible porridge that we had for breakfast (which I actually liked) but to have Cereal instead. Another suggestion was to for the sisters to stop putting huge amounts of pepper in the dandelion leaves soup (picked from the grounds) that they were always giving us. Surprisingly these two ideas were implemented.

Regime Criticism

However, there were several ‘suggestions’ and criticisms of the regime put into the Suggestion Box. To my great shame I picked them out, but instead of reading them out, I handed them over to Pinkie with a disapproving look as if I was handling a rotten fish.

The first one or two came as a big surprise to Pinkie and he gave a stern lecture about the kind of person who would make suggestions like that. However, when the next few came out he simply put them in the bin. I can’t remember what they said now but I wonder if any of them made criticism of Pinkie and what he was up to with the boys.

I think under any regime when you give the people an opportunity to say something without the fear of being caught and punished a lot of true feelings and grievances will come out.

Helped the System

I was glad I was able to help the system by intercepting some suggestions from what I saw as some very sad boys who didn’t appreciate what was being done for them.

Pinkie seemed to appreciate what I had done. I could be trusted. Things were looking up. I was in Pinkie’s good books. Better than that, he appreciated what I could bring to the organisation. I was pleased. The future was looking very bright indeed.

It is a shame that this was the last ever Suggestion Box meeting. It was scrapped after that. The boys had been given an opportunity and they had abused it.

Comboni Missionaries | Becoming a Collaborator

Catching Escapees

By the beginning of second year, Pinkie seemed to be taking a bit of a shine to me and was giving me more responsibility, which I appreciated. I knew from the previous year that the reason that we were told to leave our outgoing letters unopened was that Fr. Rector would read them first before sealing them and sending them out to our parents, friends, or anyone else.

It seems that when some of the eleven year old boys, who came from all over the country, experience what it is like both to be away from their parents, family and friends for the first time and experience the harsh unchanging regime, that they immediately ‘lose their vocations’ and wanted to go home.

They, of course, told their parents this in their letters of the first few weeks at college. They were sad and lonely. They missed their Mum. They missed their Dad. They missed their favourite brother or sister. The missed their dog. They missed their friends and the places they grew up in. They wanted to come home immediately.

Not Allowed to Leave

However, they couldn’t abandon their vocation just like that. God had called them and this was just a temporary weakness on their part. Once they settled down and got used to the place they would be all right.

So, the parts of the letters where they said they were completely miserable and just wanted to come home were censored by Fr. Rector’s stamp. If it was the theme of the whole letter then the whole letter was simply binned.

All incoming letters were also opened and read. If the content wasn’t approved they were inked out or binned altogether.

Wanted to Go Home

I knew when I was in first year that several of the boys were distraught that all their entreaties to their parents to come and get them were simply ignored. The letters that they received from their parents ignored what they told them of their loneliness and their despair and their wish to come home. Little did they know that their parents knew nothing of this at all.

These eleven year old boys were, in effect, prisoners in the heart of Old England in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Some of them actually tried to escape and were caught and brought back. This was a children’s Colditz in West Yorkshire – and nobody, even a hundred yards away, knew it was happening.

Collaborating With Pinkman

As I said, previously, Pinkie was starting to give me more responsibility by the start of second year and I was very proud of it. He seemed to be taking me into his inner circle. We had only one Dad to share between all of us and I was very happy that it seemed he was starting to favour me.

Anyway, he took me aside and told me he had reason to believe that one of the new first year pupils might try to escape. My job, he said, was to watch him at all times especially during periods when we were outside, for instance at recreation. I wondered how he had got that information. How did he know that the boy would try to escape?

The Police State

However, the state knows everything. The poor boy must have been pleading desperately with his parents to come and take him home. The powers that be there would have been aware of that from his (censored) letters home. They would also know, from past experience, that boys who were in despair because their parents seemed to be ignoring their pleas to come home would eventually try to escape.

The boys never had much chance. Many came from parts of the country perhaps hundreds of miles away. He would have had no money as we had to hand that in at the start of term. It could only be spent at the inhouse Tuck Shop. Even those who lived a mere twenty miles away couldn’t have made it.

They were doomed but they were desperate. No one ever successfully escaped in all the time I was there. It had a better record than Colditz. It had a better record than Alcatraz.

Part of ‘State Aparatus’

I didn’t really expect the boy to try and escape. However, I was now a privileged part of the ‘state apparatus’ and I kept my eyes on him at all times. I couldn’t believe my luck when on the second day after I had been told to watch him, the poor guy looked around and then made a break for it up the driveway from the lower school recreation area.

I immediately darted in and got Pinkie. What kudos I would get for that. I was now an accepted part of the establishment I felt. He would be so pleased that he had picked me. He could see how I had performed.

The priests immediately got their cars and went into operation. They grabbed the guy less than a few hundred yards from the college. I can’t remember the guy’s name. To this day he still wouldn’t have known what happened.

He must have been astonished by the ruthless efficiency of the system. He had waited until there were no priests around before he made his break for freedom. How could he have been caught so quickly?

Repressive Systems

The truth is that in all repressive systems you never know who is the informer. He could never have guessed that I had been recruited into the state structure and that it was I who was spying on him and who had ‘handed him over’.

Even though I was only twelve years old when I was ‘recruited’ I still feel a little guilty that I succumbed so easily. I suppose that it was the desire to fit in, to be a valued member of the system. I suppose it is this that causes people who live under repressive regimes to become informers on their own friends and colleagues.

I learned a valuable lesson there. I have always rejected all attempts by systems elsewhere in my life to suck me in and make me a part of it.

It was a terrible thing I did and I’m thoroughly ashamed of it. How many people who were informers under the ex-Soviet bloc, and the dictatorships in South America must now feel the same.

At least I was only twelve years old when I was recruited.

Comboni Missionaries | Groomed by Father Pinkman

Father Pinkman and the Cold Showers

I used to wet the bed when I was at the college. I had ust turned 11 years old.

I tried to cover it up in the first few days when I was there but nothing gets covered up there. Within days Fr. Pinkman approached me and said he knew about it and that I should take the sheets down to the nuns whenever I did it.

There were two of us but I’ll spare the other guy by not naming him.

I never ever did see a doctor about it but Pinkie used to feed me advice about what the doctor was advising. I have no idea whether there was ever a doctor involved but I believed him implicitly.

Why wouldn’t I? Why would he lie? He was there to look after us. All the time that I was there I never even questioned for a minute whether he was telling the truth or not.

Different Answers

As I’ve said before in other parts of the book, it is strange re-inputting the data that was previously only put through your 11- and 12-year old mind again and processing the information with an adult brain.

My conclusions are obviously very different now.

His first theory was that I should sleep with extra blankets and to keep adding blankets until it stopped. The warmer I was, presumably, the less likely I was to do it. I remember, at one point, that while the other boys were sleeping with just two blankets, that I was actually sleeping with twelve blankets on me.

Supposedly the ‘doctor’ had said that this was what I should do to cure it. It is possible that he did. However, it seems more like something a layman would advise rather than a doctor.

Cold Showers Best

However, when the warmth didn’t work the ‘doctor’ gave completely the opposite advice.

Indeed Pinkie said that what the doctor was now recommending was that I should have a completely cold shower as soon as I got up at 6:35 in the morning. We were now well into the winter and it was bloody freezing to be frank.

Not only that, I shouldn’t have the shower where the other boys were washing but I had to have it in the basement, in the single shower that was down there. There was never anybody about at that time of the morning down there.

Except, of course, Pinkie.

Pulled Back the Shower Curtains

I remember on the first morning of the cold showers Pinkie suddenly pulling back the shower curtains. Why he needed to watch the ‘treatment’ I don’t know but I never questioned it at the time.

I didn’t even know about sex at all at the time, didn’t know heterosexuality existed never mind homosexuality. I had definitely never heard of the term paedophile.

However, I sensed something was not right as he stood there rubbing his hands over and over again. He seemed just too intense.

He told me I had to use soap as well. Why soap was part of the ‘treatment’ I don’t know – especially as it was only the normal carbolic. What curative values did it have?

Offer of Help

“I’ll do it for you” he said.

Even though I was eleven years old and we were completely captive to those in charge of us and especially to Pinkie, I said “no”.

I had been very, what they used to call ‘modest’ in those days. I really instinctively didn’t like being seen without my clothes on. Even more so, I wouldn’t have liked to be touched without my clothes on.

Just before I came to the college I had had to have a medical where I had to lie on a table and the nurse checked my testicles, presumably to see if my balls had dropped. That was excruciatingly embarrassing and was still fairly fresh on my mind.

I wasn’t having it.

Not Streetwise At All

I think that this actually saved me from Pinkie. I think he took it to mean that I was extremely streetwise compared to my peers when the opposite was actually true.

He actually said that when he gave me the sheet with the facts of life on it when I was in second year. “You probably know all this” he said, “you’re a lot more streetwise than the others”. He said it with a good deal of malevolence and scorn in his voice.

Father Pinkman and the Facts of Life

It seems that the ‘facts of life’ revelations session was one of the major times that he used to compromise the boys. After all he needed to explain some things by showing them what he meant using their bodies as illustration.

I was one of the last ones in my year to get the ‘facts of life’ from Pinkie. By this time he really had it in for me. There’s no anger like a paedophile priest who has been scorned.

He came for the first few shower sessions but then came less frequently. However, I had to continue this morning by morning. He never ever told me to stop. It was just a case of I started to skip it more and more and he never did anything about it.

How I managed to leave the college without being seriously molested by Pinkie, I think was mostly down to luck.

I’ve joked about it since on our reunions. I told the other ‘boys’ that I hadn’t actually been booted out like some of them but had only been suspended for a year. They would ask why I didn’t go back. I would say that after the year was up I considered it and thought to myself “I’ll be buggered if I’ll go back there”.

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.

Comboni Missionaries |The Rise and Fall of My Vocation

Comboni Missionaries

This website was set up, originally, so that people could post their memories of the Comboni Missionaries (ex-Verona Fathers) and especially of their seminary in Mirfield from the early sixties to the mid eighties.

It has been dominated, recently, by bad memories of the appalling sexual abuse perpetrated by Comboni Missionary priests on young boys as young as 11 in their care. The cover up by the Comboni Missionaries continues to this day.

I had set down my memories of Mirfield and the seminary of St Peter Claver at Mirfield, Yorkshire a few years ago. I haven’t done anyting with them. They have just been lying in my Word folder, although I have sent them to a few of the ex-Boys.

Good and Bad Memories

What I’ve decided to do is to serialise them here. There are good memories and bad memories. I hope they entertain you.

It, also, shows the methods that Father Pinkman and Father Valmaggia used to lure, and groom, young boys. At the time I thought I was the only one. Now, it seems, that it was rife.

I have learned, that someone that I considered my best friend at Mirfield, Frank McGinnis, was being abused by Father Pinkman. I learned this around fifty years after the events took place – although he said some things to me, at the time, about it which I wodered at and didn’t understand at the time – but it seems obvious what he was talking about now.

I’ll publish the first episode shortly.

Paedophile Priests / Great Friendships

Incidentally, if anyone has any good memories of Mirfield, please send them in to us and we’ll publish them.

To me, it was a place with some bad memories but also lots of good memories. I made lots of friendships there – as well as being chased by paedophile priests.

Let’s hear your memories, good and bad.