Father Pinkman Makes Me a Big Offer

Do you want to be a Good Boy?

I had heard that Pinkie had his favourite boys. They used to go regularly to his room. I thought nothing of it at the time. I just thought that there was an ‘in crowd’ and they were in it. They were the Good Boys.

I had left home at the age of eleven to become a priest. I wanted to be one of the good boys. I also wanted to be one of the ‘chosen ones’ as well and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t included.

I was also far from my family and parents and Pinkie was as close to a parent as I had here – but we had to share him between us all. It would have been nice to have been appreciated and thought well of.

Not In WIth the In Crowd

People had started to speak about this ‘in crowd’ though. They didn’t say anything about what might happen up in Pinkie’s room. Even if they had I wouldn’t have understood anyway.

Very often when you are not accepted as one of the ‘in crowd’ you go the other way, becoming one of the ‘out crowd’ and become rebellious and anti-authority.

Pinkie always knew what was going on amongst The Boys of the Junior School. I presume now that his informers, the ‘in crowd’ who went to his room regularly were his eyes and ears.

He used to give a weekly speech to The Boys in the form room in which he would both tell us what was upcoming and inveigh against the bad things that had been happening in the past week. He seemed to know everything although he was seldom there when it happened.

Providing Information

I remember, being up in his room once, and he asked me what people thought of his selections for the football team of which I was a member at the time. I told him they more or less agreed with his selections.

“There’s no area of the team that they think could be improved, no one they would rather have in the team?”, he asked.

“I suppose the only thing some people say is that Spike Brown should be in the team”.

The very next week when he was giving his speech he got stuck into those people who questioned his picking of the team, even mentioning the fact that some people were criticising him for leaving Spike Brown out of the team.

No Critcism of the Regime Wanted

It’s one thing that I’ve noticed about people who have almost absolute power. They don’t like criticism and they certainly don’t take it as constructive criticism. All criticism is the same whether it is constructive or otherwise. They suffer from paranoia.

Pinkie had thanked me for the information before letting me go from the room.

I wasn’t a rebel by nature. I really did want to be a Good Boy. I did want to go back to being one of the admired ones rather than being considered an outcast. I wanted it desperately. I wanted to become a priest. I wanted to be worthy of his approval.

Making The Offer

One night I was walking along the top corridor at bedtime. I was coming out of the upstairs toilets where I had been getting washed and heading towards the dormitory to go to bed.

The corridor was usually busy at that time of night with all The Boys going backwards and forwards between washing themselves in the toilet and the dormitory.

But just at that moment there was only myself and Pinkie.

I was heading towards the dormitory and he was heading in the other direction towards me reading his breviary, as was his wont.

He looked behind him quickly to see if there was anyone there and then he turned to me and said with great intent “Do you want to become a good boy?”

I did. I did. I did indeed.

Here at last was the opportunity to join the ‘in crowd’ of the good. At last I had been asked. I wondered and wondered why I hadn’t been asked before.

Giving My Answer

I would not be thought of as a bad boy any longer. Pinkie could teach me to be a good boy and I could go to his room and get his approval the way I used to get it early in second year when I was on his Suggestions Committee and when I caught the first year boy who had been trying to escape. I would be back on track for the Holy Grail of the Priesthood. I would become one of the Chosen Ones again.

The obvious answer was “Yes. Yes, please.”

But I didn’t say it.

I said “No” and walked on by. As I walked by I saw that he was more than a little taken aback. I don’t think he expected it. Perhaps he hadn’t been turned down before. Why would anyone not want to be a good boy? It was a great lure. The only obvious answer was “Yes”.

After that, all that is needed is the explanation of how he can help you become good. I never ever learned what that would be as some of the others must have done.

Seminal Moments

In everyone’s life there are the seminal moments – and this was one of mine.

I knew immediately that it was a huge thing to say and to do. Even at the age of twelve I knew that I had burned down a huge, huge bridge.

Why did I say ‘No’ instead of the ‘Yes’ that I had really wanted to say?

I thought a lot about it in the days after that and again at junctures in my adult life.

I think there were several reasons. The first was that I was a bit of a contrarian sometimes doing or saying the opposite of what people expected. Secondly there was something funny or strange about the way he asked the question. It was the same as when he wanted to wash me in the cold shower when I was in first year.

Alarm Bells

An alarm bell went off somewhere in my head. My subconscious radar had detected something.

He wasn’t smiling and friendly and relaxed as you would expect someone to be who was offering to help someone to become a ‘good boy’.

Also, he was now asking me to join a group that people were starting to talk about and to make jokes about. Those on the outside always mock those on the inside. Many of them would like to be in the inside but make up for their rejection by mocking those who actually are on the inside.

All of those things added up together didn’t cancel out or come close to canceling out the ‘Yes’ option. I was here to be a priest, I wanted to be a Good Boy, and I wanted to be liked by, and get the approval of, our substitute ‘father’. I wanted to be one of the Good Boys.

‘Yes’ was the first answer which came to mind. However, I just could not say it.

“No” I said and walked on past taking the first steps along the path which would lead to the end of my priesthood vocation.

Looking back, now, I would guess the terrible Conduct marks were part of a softening up exercise, to make me feel bad about myself before being ‘shown the way’ and accepted back into the fold as one of the ‘Good Boys’. It must have seemed certain that I would have accepted the invitation to ‘come into the light’ again.

It must have been a shock to Pinkie when I said “No!”

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Playing Football for the Verona Fathers

Playing for the Football Team

The alternative dream that I had to become a priest was to be a footballer, like, I’m sure, lots of little boys. I wanted to play for Celtic and Scotland. I was a decent enough footballer but I would never have made the grade. However, you don’t think like that when you are that age.

So, it was a great to find out that the college had a football team. It was the first year ever for them in the local football league. I think Pinkie may have had some involvement in setting it up. The league was a church league and all the teams were from the local churches. We were the only Catholics in the league.

I can’t remember whether they asked or told the boys that there was to be a trial for the team. They never really asked very much. They almost always told.

Trial for Football Team

Anyway, I played in the trials but didn’t play particularly well. I thought I might well just miss out and that turned out to be the case. They read out the names of the people that they expected to be in the team and called them the Probables. I had never heard of the term before and didn’t realise that where there are Probables there are also Possibles.

Pinkie read out the names of the Probables slowly and with intent and drama. He would have made a good compere of Big Brother or Survivor or the X Factor four decades later. As the ninth and tenth names were read out and none of them were mine I began to fear that I would lose out. When the eleventh name was read out and I was missing from the list I felt awful.

Then Pinkie said that before the first match the Probables would play a match against the Possibles. I played a blinder in that match. I scored both goals, both of them solo efforts, as the Possibles went 2-0 up. We held that till late in the match when the Probables pulled one goal back and then a second.

They claimed that they scored a third but it was disputed. We reckoned it was offside and they didn’t. There was no referee and no one to solve the dispute. They said they won 3-2 and we said it was 2-2. Still it was a magnificent performance by the 2nd eleven against the 1st.

Pinkie’s Team Selection

People were telling me for days afterwards that I’d definitely be in the team. I didn’t believe it. Pinkie wasn’t even there, I told them, like he had been at the original trial. This was just a practice match for the A team for the first game.

Before the first game Pinkie read out the names, one by one, of the team.

I was picked. I was in the side. I was going to play. Magic!

We actually played in the Inter Milan strip. One of the Fathers was an Inter Milan fan and that is why we played in the strips. I can’t remember which one of the Fathers it was. It wasn’t Fr. Cerea who supported Fiorentina.

It was nothing like the other strips that the other teams played in. Inter Milan were probably the top club in Europe at the time. We felt a bit special pulling on the strip.

And we were good – very good.

We won the league at our first attempt. Boy did that feel so good. I still remember quite a few of the individual matches though they were more than four decades ago.

It was heaven to be on the football team. The other boys came to all our matches home and away and cheered us on. Even though it was compulsory the vast majority would have come anyway.

There were two things to be in, the football team and the choir, and I was in both.

Oh happy days!

Greatest Joy

The football team was the source of my greatest joy when I was at the college and also my greatest sadness – but more of that later.

I am sure that people will read this book and look at all the sexual abuse, the psychological torture, the military regime and the strict and regimented rules and conclude that this was a terrible thing to do to young boys and a terrible place to be.

However, I loved it there and didn’t want to leave. Even at the time I thought it was the best and happiest period of my life. I still believe it today. It was definitely the best and key years of my life. I wouldn’t swap that experience for anything.

All Glad We Came

It was interesting that at the last college reunion I went to that when I asked everyone “do you wish that episode of your life had never happened, that you had simply went to your local secondary school and avoided all the stuff that went on at the college?” the answer was a unanimous No.

The bad things that happened, to me anyway, however bad they were, were irregular intrusions in a happy time of my life. I remember I worked with a guy who had been to sea before he worked in computers. He told us the things that he had done and the things he had seen at sea.

It seemed a great life. “Where could we sign on?”, those listening thought. We were wasting our lives working in computers. However, he hated the life at sea. All those things happened over a ten year period. The in-between bits (most of the time) were awful for him. He hated it almost immediately after he had signed up for ten years.

He said that he thought that he couldn’t get out and that he had to go through with all of it. It basically screwed him up for life. He told us that he didn’t realize, then, that he could have got himself out. However, he didn’t know, so he spent ten horrible years in a job he hated from the very start.

It was the same but in an opposite way at the college. When I tell here of all the bad things that happened it sounds like an awful life. However, the bad things happened over a period of a few years. The bulk of the time was good.

Comboni Missionaries Slammed in The Tablet Catholic Newspaper

Comboni Missionaries

The Tablet newspaper, which has been on the go since 1840, is the 2nd oldest newspaper in Britain after The Spectator, It is the main Catholic Newspaper in the UK.

Today it publishes an article which slams the Comboni Missionaries for their attitude to those who were abused by Comboni MIssionary priests at their seminary in Mirfield, Yorkshire.

It said that 12 ex-seminarians are calling on the Comboni Missionaries to acknowledge and apologise for the abuse that took place at Mirfield in the Sixties and Seventies.

Archbishops

One of the ex-seminarians, Brian Hannessy, has documented more than 1,000 instances of the abuse, and the Comboni Missionaries reaction to it, and has sent the 157-page document to all the Archbishops in the UK as well as the heads of religious communities.

Hennessy said that the Comboni Missionaries had not followed their own procedures when abuse was reported.

The Comboni Missionaries paid out £120,000 to the group of 12 but said that this was not an admission of guilt.

Hennessy told The Tablet that the cover up of abuse “has run so deep in the veins of the hierarchy of that religious order that it has resulted in the hierarchical re-victimisation and discrimination of the victims of child sexual abuse that was committed by depraved members of their order”.

Comboni Fathers

Jim Kirby told the Tablet that all the abused wanted was an apology from the Comboni Missionaries and for them to admit that they had failed in their duty of care to the boys at their seminary in Mirfield.

He told The Tablet “We want them to meet us and to treat us properly and with respect. So far we have been fobbed off and we have been insulted. Some of us have been told by priests that we are ‘only in it for the money’.”

He continued, “It would help if the Comboni fathers would stop saying this was all a long time ago, and the priests are dead: they’re not all dead, and the ones who are still alive should be brought to court, but in the meantime it would mean so much if they just invited us to meet them and said, guys, we’re sorry; not only for what happened all those years ago, but for failing to face up to it in the years since. What’s happened has added insult to injury, and now is the moment when it has to stop.”

To read the whole article click on The Tablet Article on the Comboni Missionaries Abuse

It seems that the Comboni MIssionaries were not available for comment.

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.