The Bonfire – Guy Fawkes Night 1966

The Bonfire

I do remember one year, though, when the school decided to have a bonfire on Guy Fawkes night. There were no fireworks – just a bonfire, but we didn’t get much fun and this was a real bonus.

Life had become a bit more liberal in my 3rd year and Mick Wainhouse’s 4th year after the appointment of Father Fraser, from Glasgow, as Father Rector. Some of the Italian Fascist inspired rules had been taken out.

There had never been a bonfire before. Why would Italians celebrate Guy Fawkes night? If they have been told what it was all about they would have allowed it even less. Perhaps it had been explained to them and that’s why we had never had one before.

Bonfire of the Vanities

We had to leave, though, when it was time for Evening Service and bed. However, I couldn’t resist it. With a guy called Maurice Eaton, I got up out of bed after the priest, Fr Hicks, had finished his walking about, went downstairs and climbed out of a window to go and have another look at the bonfire.

To my surprise we were soon joined by Mick Wainhouse, Mick Palmer and Titch Carey. We threw fresh wood onto the bonfire. However, we wanted more action than that. Mick Wainhouse suggested that we go over to the farm, get some petrol, put it in bottles and toss them onto the fire.

I must confess I was more than a little nervous of this suggestion as, if we were caught, we would be instantly expelled. As well as being out after lights out, we would also have been stealing from the Verona Fathers’ farm.

Instant Expulsion

I remembered that in First Year a boy had been caught stealing. We were given a spine chilling talk by Father Pinkman who started by saying “We have a thief among us”.

They found out who it was and the Boy was instantly expelled. He had stolen one of the other Boys’ money – a fiver given to him by his mother. It was to pay for his keep. The Boy who had it stolen reported it missing. It was taken from his desk. A fiver was a lot of money in those days.

The priests gave the money back again to the Boy who had had it stolen. He asked how they had managed to get it back. “Don’t ask” he was told. It’s almost certain that what they had done was had a massive search of all the Boy’s lockers and desks whilst we were engaged elsewhere.

They wouldn’t have given a second thought to the impropriety of doing that. I bet they did it all the time.

The Boy who did it was instantly expelled. We never saw him again. We weren’t told that the thief had been caught but we could put two and two together.

So, I was pretty nervous.

Worth the Risk?

The idea sounded great but I didn’t think it was worth the risk.

But Mick did. He and one of the others, probably Mick Palmer, went over to the farm and brought back bottles full of oil. We put rags in them like Molotov Cocktails or Petrol Bombs and tossed them into the fire. I think I had read somewhere about how to make them.

Probably the next time Mick would see them would be when he was serving in the Paras in Northern Ireland, when they came raining down on them, tossed by rioting Catholics in the Bogside and elsewhere.

Next Suggestion

It was what he suggested next, though, that made me gulp.

He suggested that we would go back to the farm, take a couple of the hens there, bring them back and roast them on the fire.

This was so unlike him. I was shocked. Indeed I was extremely nervous about it. We had got away with the oil. They probably wouldn’t notice the oil missing and even if they did they wouldn’t think “some of the Boys must have stolen it, put it in bottles and chucked it on the bonfire”.

However, they would notice that the hens were missing. Mick and Titch were asking him what they would have to do. “We’ll wring their necks and put them on the edge of the bonfire” he said, “and then we’ll eat them”.

I was appalled. I had no great wish to have a couple of hens killed. I wanted even less to see them having their necks wrung.

And what if we got caught?

Neck Wringing

“Who’ll wring their necks?” someone asked.

“I’ll do it” said Mick.

I begged him not to do it. I told him that we’d all be in terrible trouble, but he was really up for it and thought it a great idea. He would definitely have done it, but by now the other two were having cold feet as well and talked him out of it.

Incidentally, I don’t think that we ever tasted chicken in the whole time we were there. That was reserved for the priests – although we did get boiled eggs. So, it would have been a real treat to taste some chicken, which we would have seen as a delicacy.

Encounter with Father Hicks

Incidentally, Maurice Eaton and myself had got caught going back in the window by the priest now in charge of the senior boys, Father Hicks. He thought of himself as a bit of a psychologist, although I think he had only read books on it.

He told us off and then let Maurice Eaton go. He kept me back. He said that it was because he saw remorse in Maurice Eaton’s eyes. He hadn’t seen any in mine at all, he told me in a highly accusatory voice. I then tried to look suitable remorseful.

He was right, though. I wasn’t sorry at all. I was only sorry that I had got caught. Mick, Mick and Titch had left before us. I think Mick had lost interest once killing the hens was overruled.

Pinkman’s Extended Infuence

He told me “Fr Pinkman has told me all about you”. I knew instantly that this wasn’t positive. Many of the Boys had been hanging around Fr Hicks who was just new to being in charge of the seniors. They were short of a father and wanted to be in with the new Father.

I wanted to be in with him too and impress him but I didn’t want to be as obvious as some of the other Boys. However, with those words of his I knew that there was no chance of that. Pinkie had marked his card on me.

There was no point in telling him that Pinkie was operating a vendetta against me, even after I left his charge in junior school, and explaining why he was doing it. I didn’t even understand myself at that age. It’s only now that I’m able to put two and two together and make five.

Cards Marked

However, I knew then that, our new father, the guy in charge of the senior boys had had his card marked as far as I was concerned and that I could forget about being a favoured ‘son’ the way I was with Fr. Cerea and that I would be henceforth plunged into the wilderness and forced to seek refuge for brotherhood amongst my fellow seminarians.

However, of my best friends Francis Locke had now gone and Frank McGinnis refused to talk to me due to my traitorous behaviour under severe questioning and getting broken by Pinkie. I was now hanging around with Boys that I wouldn’t have before, although I was still quite well in with the ‘in crowd’ which was mainly composed of Eddie Roberts, Fritz and maybe Bickers.

Father Hicks must have been watching for a while, when we came back in through the window, because he was waiting for us to come through the window. If we’d stayed on and killed the hen and cooked it he would certainly have seen that.

I suspect that we would all have been expelled. Mick’s life would probably have taken a very different path if he had been expelled whilst in 4th year rather than in 5th – but we’ll never know that. He didn’t do it in the end.

Expelled for Drinking

Letters were always sent home to the Boys’ parents when they got expelled – and they didn’t pull any punches.

It must have been a shock to Mick’s parents when they got the letter telling them that the son who was going to be a priest had been booted out for drinking.

However, if the letter had said that he was being kicked out for stealing a couple of hens from the farm, wringing their necks and roasting them on a bonfire they would have been shocked and appalled.

“What sort of son do we have that would do this?” they would have thought.

They would learn more about that in the future.

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.

Father Hicks Dumped us in Leeds Station, Vocation Over

By Charles Young

The Disappeared of Mirfield

I do remember boys vanishing not to come back.

One guy I remember was a lad called Mitch

He was Scottish I think.

It would’ve been late 1971 or early 1972 that he disappeared.

Dumped by Father Hicks

I, myself, would’ve been one of the same group – as I was expelled with 2 other boys in 1973.

So from the disappeared point of view, it was quite traumatic.

We were taken to the station and given a train ticket to the nearest station home.

We were cold, hungry and abandoned on Leeds station.

I remember 2 of us had to return to Newcastle but the other lad had to go to Glasgow – on his own.

I’ve never heard from him ever again.

Model Seminarians

Was nickin’ an airfix model of the Bismark from Woolworth really that bad?

Really!

Well Fr Hicks thought so, anyway.

There ya go!

Verona Fathers Blog Comment

This was not uncommon.

The way they dumped on teenage boys was quite cruel.

Usually there wasn’t even time to say goodbyes.

Boys in their early and mid-teens, who were no longer wanted, were thrown out straight away, dumped at Leeds station and given just tickets home.

Often they had hundreds of miles to get home.

The parents didn’t even know anything till the boys turned up at their doors.

They, and the local parish priest, would get a letter explaining the dismissal a week or two later.

I know of parents who never forgave their sons for being expelled – and many were expelled for what we would see now as fairly minor indiscretions.

Given Up Everything

These boys had left behind their homes, their families and friends usually at the lage of just 11 to follow their vocation and to study for the priesthood.

These young lads were not offered the courtesy of a decent send-off when they were no longer wanted by the Order. Often, they could not even say goodbye to the other boys who had become, in effect, their family.

They were told their fate, asked to pack immediately, driven to Leeds station, bought a ticket home and basically abandoned to their fate and the rest of their lives.

Vocations Gone

Just a few hours earlier they believed they were heading for the priesthood – now, as they waited of their train, they knew they had an unknown future ahead of them.

This was always the way right from the beginning and was happening well before Father Hicks’ time in charge.

Many boys were unceremoniously dumped this way.

It must have been terrible for their self-esteem.

After all they had given up to come to Mirfield, they deserved better than this!

If you know of any other stories of Boys being unceremoniously dumped at short notice by the Comboni Missionaries at Mirfield put your tale in the Comments section after this article.

The Forgotten Victims of Comboni Missionaries Sexual Abuse

Comboni Missionaries Sexual Abuse

We have documented here the sexual abuse that took place in Mirfield in the Sixties and Seventies at the hands of Father John Pinkman, Father Domenico Valmaggia and Father Romano Nardo as well as by lay teacher Michael Riddle.

Many of the ‘Boys’ who had been abused assumed that the other Boys would be sympathetic when hearing about the abuse they suffered at the hands of those priests and lay teacher when they were in their early teens.

However, this has not been the case as regards all of the Boys who were not abused.

Michael Riddle

This came to a head this week with the post about Michael Riddle, the lay teacher who abused several boys whom he taught at Mirfield.

This brought to a head this ‘disbelief’, if I can call it that, with an article from Andrew Routledge saying that he spent many an hour smoking a pipe in Riddle’s room without being molested or abused.

Another ex-Boy was angered by the article too and sent me an email saying that he didn’t want to receive any more emails with links to articles as he was “sick of listening to such crap”.

He then had an angry email exchange with Tony Smith.

Abused and Angry

The reaction from Andrew and this guy angered those who have been abused.

Their motivations have been questioned in the past by the Comboni Missionaries who have said that it’s all about the money.

However, I found Andrew’s article quite considered and natural. It was a natural reaction.

When a child in a family reports abuse by a parent or a relative, say an elder cousin or uncle, the standard reaction of others in the family is to protect the parent or relative who has been accused.

There is a disbelief that it happened. In fact the abused child is often vilified.

This is a knee-jerk reaction and often , but not always, opinion gradually turns around and blames the perpetrator and not the victim.

However, the victim feels abused twice, firstly by the perpetrator and then by those in the family who don’t believe them and sometimes go further than that and accuse them of lying and making it up.

Mirfield Family

At Mirfield, the priest and teacher there were more than just teachers. The priests, like the other boys there, were family. We had left our own families behind to become priests and this was our new family.

The ‘Fathers’ were our substiture fathers – especially those closest to us like Pinkman who was in charge of the junor school.

So, it is not surprising that some of the Boys who were not abused react in this way. Many of the Boys see their period as a happy, idyllic part of their lives.

They looked forward to the reunions where they would meet up with other Boys from that idyllic period.

Paedophile Monsters

Imagine their shock to be told by some of the other boys that the place was not so idyllic as they thought and that some of the priests and lay teachers that they idolised were actually paedophile monsters who preyed on multiple boys often as young as 11 years of age.

Others that they idolised, who were not paedophiles, were involved in covering it up and hiding their crimes from the police.

That must have been a terrible shock to the system to those coming to what they expected to be happy reunions.

Abuse Questions

A typical reaction would be “If he was a paedophile then why did he not abuse me?”

Of course, there are several potential reasons for that. Paedophiles tend to prey on those of a certain profile, i.e. those they see as most vulnerable. Indeed the abuse of several of the boys comenced after boys going to priests’ rooms, like Pinkie and Nardo, in tears from feeling homesick.

Those who were not abused can consider themselves very lucky. So many lives have been ruined by sexual absue by priests at Mirfield. It could have happened to them too.

Who can say why it was that the priests did not choose them to abuse. I don’t suppose that they could have abused everybody. There were 31 boys in first year alone when I was there. They could afford to pick their victims carefully.

Nothing said at the Time

“How come nothing was said at the time, if there boys abused when I was there?” is another standard reaction. Again this is natural and par for the course.

So many boys suffered in silence thinking tht they were the only ones. Indeed it was a surprise to them to find out at reunions (or by finding this blog) that it was happening to others – and by the same priests who abused them and who were telling them that they were special.

It’s also not entirely correct as several abuse victims reported their abuse at the time but were most ignored – although boys reporting their abuse did lead to Valmaggia and Pinkman beng moved on elsewhere immediately.

Loss of Their Innocent Childhood Memories

Although they were not abused themselves, some of these others are suffering a loss too – mabe not of their innocent childhood – but of their innocent childhood memories of an idyllic period and an idyllic place in their early lives.

Many don’t want to believe it, certainly at first.

They may even be angry at those who are destroying ther memories of this idyllic childhood at Mirfield and the ‘wonderful’ priests and lay teacher there.

Even if they believe it, they question the mortivations of those who say they were abused.

They also seek to protect the memory of the abuser, if they are dead.

They seek to protect those involved in making sure that the abusers were never prosecuted for their crimes and ensuring that the abusers were simply shifted elsewhere – possibly to abuse again.

Unsympathetic

Those abused are very angry at this.

How could they think like this after everything that happened to their ‘fellow boys’? Why have they no sympathy?

I would say to the abused that it is perfectly natural for these Boys to think this way.

It happens in every single family where abuse takes place.

I would say to The Abused “Let’s not villify them. Let’s explain. It is a shock to their systems. Their childhood memories have been dashed on the rocks and they don’t like it”.

Real Villains

I think that most of them (but not all) will come to see who the real villains are.

It was not the abuse victims who have ruined their idyllic memories of Mirfield.

It was the actions of the abusers that did this – and the actions of those who covered it up and who are currently still covering it up and hiding a sexual abuser of young children in Verona in Italy.

The abuse victims are only the messengers.

We say to those doubting them “Don’t shoot the messengers. Blame those whose actions blighted Mirfield – not those who told you about it”.

Thanks for your article Andrew.

If you wish to comment on ths article please do so below. We welcome comments from all people and whatever their views. We know that there are two sides to ths story.

After all, we are a family!

Michael Riddle – 4th Man of Mirfield – Gentlemanly Paedophile

by Brian Hennessy

Michael Riddle – The Gentlemanly, Grandfather Paedophile

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

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

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

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

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

Irish Riddle

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

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

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

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

Ampleforth Connection?

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

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

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

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

Father Robert Hicks

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

Had there been any such references at all?

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

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

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

Child Safeguarding

Child safeguarding did not exist at the time.

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

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

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

Bronte Sister Former School

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

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

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

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

The Ghosts of Mirfield

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

The dinginess had a distinctly Dickensian feel about it.

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

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

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

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

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

Shadows of Mirfield

Mr Riddle’s nature has been described as charming.

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

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

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

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

Grandfatherly Figure

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

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

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

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

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

Reading Aloud

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

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

Threat of Exposure

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

Technically, in legal terms, he raped them.

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

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

Michael Riddle’s Reputation

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

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

His grooming was outrageously obvious.

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

Riddle’s Letters Still Exist

Many of those letters still exist.

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

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

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

Paedophiles’ Control

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

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

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

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

Riddle’s Room

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Riddle Dismissed by Father Hicks

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

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

Father Martin Devenish

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

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

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

Active Paedophile

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

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

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

Child Victims

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

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

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

Questions for Comboni Missionaries on Clerical Sexual Abuse

Comboni Missionaries

Some of us are very confused as to the reactions of the Comboni Missionaries to accusations of clercial sexual abuse by priests at their seminaries of boys as young as 11. Here are some questions for them. If they want to answer them for us we will gladly publish their answers.

Questions for Comboni Missionaries

Do you agree that sexually abusing young boys is a sin?

Do you agree that not acting on reports of sexual abuse is a sin – especially when the abuser continued to abuse children after you had been told?

Do you agree that sexual abuse of young boys is a crime?

Which course of action do you agree is most appropriate when you have been told that a crime, i.e. sexual abuse of a minor, has been committed:-

a) You report the crime to the police or

b) You hide the crime from the police and you protect the person who has committed the crime?

Psychological Damage

Do you agree that young boys who have been sexually abuse by priests will be psychologically damaged by it?

If the police contact you with questions about sexual abuse perpetrated at a seminary where your order operates do you:-

a) Tell them all you know about the crime (for that is what it is) or

b) Tell them that you know nothing about it (when you did)

If a boy tells you that a criminal act has been perpetrated on him by one of your priests do you:-

a) Report this accusation of a crime immediately to the police

b) Bring the priest home from the missions, hide him away in a Comboni Missionary house in Italy, tell the boy that the priestwill  no longer have access to children and tell the boy that he you are sorry and that he is in your prayers?

Aiding the Police

If the police want to ask questions to a priest who has been accused of sexual abuse do you:-

a) Tell the police “We will help you in any way we can” or

b) Refuse the police permission to interview the accused priest telling them that he is not mentally able to answer questions

Do you belive that the correct response when a crime is commited is to:-

a) Report the crime to the police

b) Hide the perpetrator of the crime?

Jesus Christ

Jesus said “Suffer little children to come unto me”.

What do you think that Jesus would have said if he had been told that some of his followers were sexually abusing young boys?

Lastly, are you happy with the way that you and your order acted when told about child sex abuse at the hands of your priests?

Are you happy with the way that they are continuing to act when they have overwhelming knowledge of crimial acts by members of your order?

When contacted by journalists about these crimes are you comfortable telling the press that “We will never know what happened all those years ago?”

Ninth Commandment

Are you aware of the 9th commandment “Thou shalt not bear false witness against they neighbour”? Do you remember you used to teach us about Sins of Omission? Does this not cover this?

In this whole matter which does the Coomboni Missionaries resemble most:-

1) A responsible, godly organisation which respects those put under its command and respects the laws of the land

2)  The Mafia with its code of Omerta?

the cover up of sexual abuse against children goes right to the top of the Comboni missionaries Order. As regards the Comboni Missionaries, their actions, their leaders and those who are amongst them, Jesus once said “By their Followers Ye Shall Know them”.

Are your actions in this matter more akin to:-

a)  The actions of those who want justice and the rule of law upheld

b) The actions of those who want to preserve as much of the wealth and reputation of the Order no matter the rights and wrongs of the matter?

Meeting Your Maker

Lastly, when you meet your maker, do you think he might mention your part in covering up the sexual abuse of young boys as young as 11 years of age and the mental damage your order did to them and which is continuing to affect many of them?

When you meet your maker, you will not be able to equivocate like a Jesuit by using Canon Law.

You may think that the needs of your order and the needs of the Catholic Church are above the laws of the land.

You may find that different on Judgment Day!

Members of your order abused children in their care. There is overwhelming evidence of it. You are still covering this up till this day?

Do you never feel any shame?

How can you continue to go out and give Catholics moral advice when you have helped cover up terrible crimes that would have had Jesus in a rage?

Abuse Woven Into British Fabric of Society says Theresa May

British Child Abuse

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has warned that Child Sex Abuse is ‘woven, covertly, into the fabric of British society’.

That’s both an astonishing, and very worrying, claim.

She has just announced that a new Home Office judge-led enquiry will look into child sex abuse BEFORE the 1970s.

Previously it had been only going to look at institutional child sex abuse from 1970 onwards.

Comboni Missionaries Abuse

This means that all child sex abuse perpetrated by the Comboni Missionaries in the UK  now comes under the remit of the enquiry.

That comes as very good news for those who were victims of abuse in the 1950s and 1960s in the UK at Comboni Missionaries seminaries.

It’s bad news for the Comboni Missionaries abusers and those that were, and are, involved in covering it up.

Tip of the Iceberg

Indeed, Theresa May stated that the public are not aware, yet, of the full extent of the scandal. She said that we have only seen just the tip of the iceberg yet.

The tone of what Theresa May says is important. This does not sound like a woman who wants to brush things under the carpet. This is a women who understands the full extent of the scandal – and wants something done about it.

This is very bad news for the Comboni Missionaries and their apologists and those who have helped, and are helping, them to cover up their sexual abuse of young boys as young as 11.

Most Appalling Abuse

 She said ‘We already know the trail will lead into our schools and hospitals, our churches, our youth clubs and many other institutions that should have been places of safety but instead became the setting for the most appalling abuse.

‘However, what the country doesn’t yet appreciate is the true scale of that abuse.

‘In my discussions with older victims and survivors and their representatives, I began to realise how abuse is woven, covertly, into the fabric of British society.

Blackpool Rock

‘During one of my first meeting with survivors, one lady said to me: “Get this inquiry right and it will be like a stick of Blackpool rock. You will see abuse going through every level of society.”

‘I fear she is right. I have said before and I shall say again, that what we have seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg.’

Theresa May said that the new terms of reference and the appointment of panel members for the Parliamentary enquiry into child sex abuse marked a new beginning for the probe.

Right Side of History

We will see now, as regards the Comboni Missionaries, who are on the right side of history.

I would say that those Comboni Missionaries who carried out abuse and who covered up abuse and those boys who helped them to and are helping them to, will be seen to be on the wrong side of history.

There are those who stand with those who were abused and those who stand with the coverers-up of abuse.

All will be laid bare soon.

I know which side I will be on.

It’s the same side as Home Secretary, Theresa May.