17.4.09

Montfort College Romsey: Going back to my old School



Picture by David Martin

Returning back to places from your past can be a bit like trying to squeeze into an old suit. Not only is it out of fashion but buttons fly off in all directions as you try and force that belly where it doesn't want to go. Innocent bystanders can be torn to pieces by button shrapnel. Memory itself can be shredded by reality-buttons. My own visit to my old school-a seminary run by the Montfort Fathers- was not the nostalgic event I anticipated. More like poking a stick into the long dead remains of some unspecified, possibly mythic beast from a twisted fairytale. I found Romsey ugly and tired, apart from its beautiful Abbey and was left wondering how my life became connected with this benighted place at the hoary old age of 11 years. The trip ended somehow appropriately with me esconced as the only solitary in my hotel's shabby dining room on Valentine's Evening, surrounded by couples, and being told I could only have the Valentine's menu of smoked salmon, sirloin steak and cheesecake. Fortunately there was no coupling actually in the restaurant and I survived by taking refuge behind an unread 'New York Review of Books'. I quickly consumed the fare between articles and stumbled off to my room to lie gasping on the bed like a heartbroken whale beached on some God-forsaken isle in the middle of mating season.
It was a place where I became educated in the ways of literature for sure, for it contained golden libraries replete with dusty books, but it taught me little in all.  Much that I learned was of the ways by which men become so easily hypocrites and of the brutality that results from cowardice towards originality and repression of the sexual instincts and the inherent stupidity of religion.  They were not the golden years of youth for me at least, and  I shall not return in this life.

I will continue to believe that the Roman Catholic Church is essentially, despite some magnificent heroes in its flock, a force for negativity in our world because at it's heart is a hatred of women, in fact a hatred not just of women but of the feminine.  And in this life too, I will have no more truck with it's nonsense.  Shame upon it and all it's works.
In Nomine Babalon!

43 comments:

  1. Do you remember either a Fr.James Downey or a Br. Bernard Downey?

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    1. Vincent Downey aka brother Bernard sexually abused so many children in his care I was one. He messed up so much in my life and the other children too. When I heard he was appealing his sentence for abusing his relations I was infuriated. I don't believe in God or religion but I would have been quite happy to show him what hell felt like with some petrol and matches. I was 8 years old I had no frame of reference for what he was doing to me and it wasn't just trying to kiss, I was on a kids retreat and was in his company for five long distressing days that I can never scrape from my memory. He was reported to the clergy as my family were good practising Catholics and he was simply placed in England with access to children. If there is a so called St peter at the so called pearly gates hopefully he will impale him upon such gates.

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  2. Hello Mona, No I'm sorry I don't. I was there from 1968-72. Father Matthews was principal then Sean O'Hare. Also Frs Madden and Sam Erskine.
    I recall Bro's Anthony and a few French Bros Michael, Daniel. What dates are you thinking of?

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  3. I used to visit there with Fr. Downey to see his brother Bernard, a Montfort Brother. They were not good men! Bernard worked with the physical plant/ I remember chickens and a hatchery.

    I was about 7 or 8. So around 1962?

    Mona
    mmmjv3@yahoo.com

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  4. Hi Mona, Your comment that-'They were not good men' fills me with dread somewhat.
    Yes I remember chickens and pig sties. And I agree many of these people were not what I would call good men-can you say anything more?

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  5. Herllo
    I am intrigued by your comments about Montfort College, that I stumbled across on the web. Would be interested to know how long you were there and where the sense of disolusion comes from. I was a lay-brother at Montfort College but left just at the point where you began (Our paths would not have crossed). Looking back, it was s aystem that was destined to fail, but I wouldnt blame individuals for my own ultimate disolusion, rather a systm, and a way of life for (the lay-brother) that in effect was going nowhere You can find me at http://thedevilswashtub.blogspot.com/

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  6. Hi Cormac,
    Thanks for your comments. I was there from 1968-1972. I'm not too sure what you mean when you say '...but I wouldn't blame individuals for my own ultimate disolusion.'
    Could you say a bit more about what you mean by that and I'd be happy to get into a conversation.
    Thanks again.
    Tony.

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  7. testing do you receive me?

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  8. sorry about the testing bit!
    I read with interest your return to Montfort College, I also am an ex Montfort student. Like you I made a return some 25 years after I had left-it was a strange almost surreal experience. I agree with the bit about Romsey being, if not ugly, not the quaint English town I had imagined through the passages of time. But I am interested as to why you felt the need to return?
    Obviously it wasn't (or isn't) a place you can just dismiss. Like you I don't think there is any chance of my returning to Romsey even if I live healthily to 150. The old saying is indeed true-you should never go back!
    That said I wonder what has made you so bitter? Did you suffer some bad experience or something?
    I enjoyed my three years at MC and though there were one or two priests I didn't like much I consider the time I spent there largely a happy time.
    Johnny Briggs 1862

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  9. Hi johnny,
    Thanks for your comment. I guess I'm just bitter and twisted like an old rope! Sorry about that though, in most other matters I'm light as a daisy and transparent as a winter leaf.
    I guess if I unpack it, then it probably amounts to a loss of faith in something that was very precious. Something that I now perceive as a delusion.
    My return wasn't a particular need. It was just that I was on business in Basingstoke and thought it might be a jaunt as I needed to stay somewhere overnight.
    As you can see from the other comments by Mona some terrible things were later alleged in personal correspondence to have been committed by some brothers there and that ties in to some of my other issues with the Church generally which have been much in the news lately.
    I am truly glad that your time there was largely happy. Perhaps as a poet I have a greater tendency to melancholia than rationally evaluating my experiences. And truth be told I also had some good times.
    Thanks for taking the time to comment and go well!
    Tony.

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  10. I have to admit, my recollections of Monfort College leave me with the memory that I had little time for you and had we met in later years we would have sincerely argued! But I do actually concur with all you say about Monfort College and my joy of youth began the day I left that unhallowed establishment!
    John Harvey

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  11. Indeed! I am however touched that you should remember me at all positively or negatively after 39 years. Thanks for your spirited comment John and I'm glad you had some 'joy of youth.'
    Cheers.
    Tony.

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  12. CATHOLICABUSESURVIVORSNI.COM---- brother bernard /vincent downey of the montford order appeared in a belfast court in the last week of december 2011 on child sex abuse charges.

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  13. Thank you for the update. Apparently he has served one or two prison sentences already. But I have yet to hear of anyone from the seminary college accusing him, I think it has been family members or neighbors. Sadly (!) his brother James is already dead so unprosecutable.

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    1. Hi Mona, I spent many happy years visiting DE-Montford House from 1975 to 1988. I was not ever subjected to any form of abuse. I spent most of my time with the Brothers especially Bernard, he always treated me very well and made me feel very welcome. I have been shocked over the years hearing and reading the news about the aledged sexual abuse, My heart goes out to the victims, and all I can do is pray for Vincent Downey that God will show him mercy.

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  14. Anonymous, February 15, I am glad your memories are only good ones.

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    1. Hello Mona, Brother Bernard, of Monaghan Monfort House used to take me on walks to get sweets etc for the other children, circa 1988, he attempted to kiss me on the mouth but he never did anything else that I can recall. I really disliked visiting the monfort house, and was lucky enough to not ever go back there after about 3 visits and kiss attempts. My heart goes out to anyone who had to suffer as a result of these sick individuals. It seems unbelievable the uninterupted access they had to young vunerable children. Best wishes to you.

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  15. Thank you for posting. I am sorry you had contact with Br. Bernard. He was a sick man and you didn’t have any responsibility for his sexual assault. You were not to blame; you were an innocent – as were we all. I certainly hope that you know this deeply, but I wanted to post it for any other readers, and I need to keep affirming it to myself.

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  16. I found this blog quite by accident as I had a moment of reflection for my earlier schooling and my experiences at Montfort College. I suppose recent events in the Catholic Church have made me wonder what became of certain individuals that I encountered at this college. I have no knowledge of complains etc presumably somewhere on the internet and perhaps I should start searching but I do wonder whatever became of one priest I will never forget: one Father Douglas who was there I suppose 1074-1975. I don't have happy memories of the place. I clearly remember one priest who loved shooting who would take pot shots at us with his air rifle from his bedroom window during lunch breaks as we played on the quad at the back of the school. I suppose these days that such behaviour would lead to inevitable imprisonment! But it is Father Douglas I remember the most, and not at all for happy reasons.

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    1. I must know you because I was there in those years. Father Douglas had a habit of saying "no problem" but I think he was okay really. The other priest (on reflection I won't name him) very nearly hit me with an air gun pellet but I ran out from behind a tree on the back yard and there was a target on the tree so foolish as it was I don't think it was intended for me. He was much younger than the other priests but also much less fair handed. I think he over compensated, not wanting to appear a soft touch to his seniors, and I can't say I like him much on reflection.

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    2. That would be Father Flynn potshot king. Best priest I knew. You make it sound like it was some cruel act. It was humour..nobody got hit..lighten up.

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  17. HI THERE i used to visit Montfort House Ashurst with my family when I was a child - 1973, 1974, 1976. I have alot of happy memories there but strangely felt a little on edge at times. There were students there at the time also, from Portugal i think. Remember Bro Bernard and Fr Harkin, Fr Hanley and Fr Howarth.... few more but cant remember the names. Busy place with lots going on with lots of local young people about playing snooker etc in a shed outside the college. Nothing happened to me though but I am not surprised on reading previous posts. Anyone else there at this time? AC.

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  18. I was at MC (1974-77) and I may have an unusual observation to make. First I knew of no paedo priests (must add I didn't know the Downeys so not dismissing previous testimony). I was alone in the company of the priests there often as I was a sacristan but there was no funny stuff in my experience. During one of my first weeks I was told (by another student) to stay away from certain people (other students to be clear) who were homosexual. These people were named by him and I followed his advice and kept a wide berth. But what really shocks me now all these years later is how some of the students could ever have been accepted. One of them (let's just say from north of the Border) should, and I am not joking, have been in Borstal. He was an utter lunatic who (not sexually) assaulted me once in the refectory. The priests saw the wound to my face and tried to get the truth out of me but I was scared so made out I had had a fall. One night, during a very hot spell, my assailant and a few others left the college in the small hours and broke into and stole goods (including an air rifle) from the town sports store-I forget the name of it now. I was an innocent 13 year old boy and I could not believe some of the students in that place. The priests were a pushover and were no match for some of yobs masquerading as students.
    Paul Mullarkey, Widnes.

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    1. Hi Paul
      I remember you well..........a cricket fan, liked Ian Botham and your father had been at MC. I am sorry for your experience (remember you with a bruised face which you made out was from a stray cricket ball) You were an affable guy and I cant imagine anyone assaulting you. The theft incident occurred after I left , was told about it, but only know of two names neither of which was "north of the border". I do agree some of the students should NEVER have been in a seminary. Hope you are well.
      Ged Creegan

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    2. Ged Creegan! well I never!
      Thanks Ged for kind words, I recall you were a few years older than me but rememeber you was always a laugh and we sort off hit it off.
      I was and still am a cricket fan and in 1986 I lived the dream and went to Australia to watch the Ashes series. I met Botham in the Crest hotel in Brisbane and had my photo taken with him. Paul Snape gave me the black eye (nothing to do with ref incident) when he bowled and I was wicket keeper. The ball hit a divet and hit me under the eye and I well remember him running uo to me and saying 'god Paul I'm sorry'. Great to hear from you Ged and rather than go on you can if you wish contact me by email at: pmullarkey7@hotmail.co.uk

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    3. Hi Paul, I remember you. I wasn't the 'north of border' who hit you but remember playing cricket for hours on concrete pitch with you. Have to admit the Scots lads who came down were wild and caused havoc though, mostly down to three or four of them!! Two brothers spring to mind😆 Hope u r well. All best

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  19. Thank you, thank you so much for this blog.
    I watched The Magdalen Sisters film last night (it's about the Magdalen Laundries) with my wife. She was surprised when I mentioned that there was something of the film which reminded me of my school - Montfort College, which I attended in 1966. I suppose previously I blanked the memory of the place from my mind but this morning, I felt a sense of deep injustice at the way I, an 11 year old boy had been treated. My feelings brought me to search Google and I came upon this site. My questions to any living Brother or Father from the time are:
    'What right did you believe you had to beat children with canes, straps and slippers?'
    What right did O'Haire have to sit on his dais on Thursday evening for supper and then read out names of boys who were to queue up outside his office for a beating because they had some demerits for not understanding their schooling?'
    What right did Erskine have to bring a boy to his study to beat him with a slipper because the boy was laughing with another?'
    What right did Fathers have to make fun of young children who spoke with a different accent to them?'
    Thankfully, the place is closed. The only good thing to come out of the place for me was a lifelong hatred of religion and the damage it does.

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    1. My dear friend,
      Indeed we must then know each other a little as I was there between 1968-1972.
      I am deeply sorry to hear your story and for your pain. I utterly agree with everything you say-there is no excuse for these cowardly men, these bullies, to do the things they did to children like us who were placed in their care by chance of fate. But neither is it all darkness! It is the rebels who bring down the lash upon themselves through the bravery of their choices. It's the courage to stand up for something that rouses the bullies to rage and strut and hit out. In an oppressive totalitarian state it is always the free thinkers, the artists, the healers and the warrior poets who are the most harmed because they are, with good reason, the most feared by tyrants. Their true and unforgivable crime is their integrity!
      Maybe there is one thing you can thank that place for: Your sense of outrage flows from your understanding of justice and kindness.
      You sound to me like a fine man-and sometimes my friend, it takes the most consuming of fires to forge the sharpest swords! Go well! Tony.

      PS: I have an interesting final confrontation story regarding Sam Erskine-maybe I'll post it here sometime?

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    2. Hello Tony and also "my dear friend",
      Some interesting points are made in the two previous entries. Firstly, if you have seen Louis Malle's wonderful "Au revoir les enfants" it is highly evocative of Montfort College in a positive way. A priest sits on a dais during meals , the church defends its Jewish Bretheren (just as I once overheard an MC priest defend ethnic minorities by publically reproaching a student whom he overheard agreeing with "Paki Bashing").
      However, it is the term "Totalitarian State " upon which most of this turns. Many of the priests / brothers had been through the system themselves and saw no problem in perpetrating it. If anything, my dear friend, it is to our credit in the Modern Age that we have worked to abolish some of the practices you outline whereas those priests had no such conscience. If anything , therefore , feel sorry for them and proud of yourself for breaking an age old mould.
      Tony, I would be interested in hearing your final confrontation story sometime. Hope you are both well
      Ged



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    3. I was a Montfort student after you (you don't give your name but to be clear, (3 dec 2014-12.19). I will be honest in that I think you are a bitter phony who has never developed the mental maturity to quantify your Montfort experiences. If you think that an anti roman catholic movie about Ireland tells you all you needed to know then I say boo hoo! and get a life! My own brother, who never went to MC, is so bitter against the RC faith that I find him pathetic. He had a great Mum and Dad, and even he admits this, but he somehow believes that he had a repressive up bringing because of the hollywood slant on these matters. I could tell you a story about a well respected school teacher, who sexually assaulted me, and is a local hero but it wouldn't interest you because it didn't happen at Montfort College.

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    4. I would be interested to know if you hold or ever held a grudge against your parents who presumably sent you there?

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  20. Well lawman,here I am 3 December 2014 12:19. I have stumbled across this site once more. I'm saddened you think I'm a 'bitter phoney' Phoney about what exactly? I went there at 11, I was treated as I stated, I've never forgotten it.

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  21. Dear Anon,
    I'm afraid I'm with you there-I think Lawman's comments are cruel and offensive. There are some strange people who troll around the internet getting their jollies by offending and hating everything they come across. Best not to give them the time of day!
    Go well, and stick to your guns!

    Tony

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    1. It's really funny that people are called 'trolls' when they say things that you don't like? If you like what they say they are courageous. Lawman.

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  22. Obituary of Rev Frederick Matthews SMM

    A former Episcopal Vicar for Religious in the archdiocese and Montfort Missionary priest, Father Fred Matthews, died on Thursday 22 January at the age of 88.

    John Frederick Matthews was born on 25 September 1926 in Blackpool, after attending primary school in the town; he studied at Montfort College in Romsey, and entered the novitiate of the Montfort Missionaries in Ashurst, Hampshire in 1944, where he made his first religious profession on 27 September 1945. He then studied philosophy and theology at Leagram Hall, Chipping, and from 1946 in Church Stretton, Shropshire. He made his perpetual profession in Church Stretton on 27 September 1950, and a short time later was ordained deacon. He was ordained to the priesthood in St Cuthbert’s, Blackpool on 7 October 1950.

    In 1951, he went to Montfort College to teach Latin and French; then in 1955 began studies at Southampton University which led to a BA in Philosophy, Latin, French and Spanish. During this time he lived at Nazareth House in Southampton, and acted as chaplain to the Sisters of Nazareth. In 1958 he returned to Montfort College, to teach Latin, French and Roman History.

    In 1965 he was sent to Barrhead in Scotland to be director of the new provincial seminary, and also to act as Vocations Director for Scotland. The following year he returned to Montfort College to be Superior and headmaster of the school.

    In 1970, Father Fred became Provincial Superior of the Province of Great Britain and Ireland and was re-elected in 1976, serving as Provincial for a total of twelve years based in London. In 1975 he became President of the Conference of Major Religious Superiors for England and Wales, an appointment that was renewed in 1981.

    In 1982, Father Fred moved to Liverpool, where he was appointed by Archbishop Derek Worlock to be Episcopal Vicar for Religious for the Archdiocese and a member of the Archbishop’s Council. He also took on the responsibility of the parish of Our Lady of the Assumption in Gateacre for several years.

    In retirement he continued to serve some of the local convents until ill health made it necessary for him to enter Nazareth House, in Crosby. As his health deteriorated, he was taken into St Joseph’s Hospice, Thornton, where he died. He is remembered with great affection by many people, especially the Religious and former Religious that he helped during his years as Episcopal Vicar.

    His Funeral Mass was celebrated at St Peter and St Paul church, Crosby, on Thursday 28 January prior to burial in the churchyard there.

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  23. Was at college from 73 to 77 and was one of those from north of the border. Just to clarify I never saw any sexual abuse from staff or amongst pupils. It was hard, very hard at times but the discipline side meant we grew quickly to show respect. I fought several seminarians which is what boys do. We weren't saints and I recall the incident with the local sports shop and air pistols rifles being taken. Best priest was Fr zFlynn by a mile. I was asked to "leave" after I refused to take unishment when FrAllerton threw chalk at me and then told me to get on my knees and pick it up..no chance😊 I have a lot of happy memories and now work in a Therapeutic prison after being a Psych Nurse. To all those who automatically assume all clergy are abusers,give ur head a shake. To abusers..seek help. And a big hello to anyone out there who knows me.

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    1. Hello David. I remember you and franny galacher. I used to go with you two to have a crafty cigarette in the cemetery. Even though I never smoked, it was good to feel like a bit of a rebel!

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  24. Big hello to you David ! Martin Seasman

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  25. I remember you, Paul mullarkey and Ged Creegan with great fondness. I remember that you, franny galacher and myself used to sneak off to the cemetery for a crafty cigarette. I didn't smoke but liked the thought that I was being a rebel! I joined the police after leaving MC and retired last October after a distinguished career! Nice to see your name.

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  26. The only person I had problems with was some complete lunatic from Carlisle. Can't remember his name but he was 16 and I was 12. He took great pleasure in bullying me. However, he was one of the ones expelled for the burglary at the gun shop in Romsey. My life became bearable when his sorry arse was shipped out! The great thing for me was that he didn't change me. The only way that bullies win, is if they change the way you are. It didn't work!

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  27. I found this blog by accident today. My memories have been tainted somewhat by a lot of the comments. I understand that any people that have been sexually or physically abused by certain individuals within the Catholic Church have suffered and are probably still suffering as a result. I am sorry for that. The Catholic Church, however is far more than what has hurt you. These individuals were criminals. Jimmy Savile was not a priest or brother. Neither was Rolf Harris. Please don't use this as some kind of justification for you having a hatred of the Catholic Church. These criminals are not the Church.

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  28. Well said Martin. I went on to join Army, qualities died as a Psych Nurse, work in a Therapeutic Prison and had 4 kids. Go to mass now and then. Worked on sex offenders wing..nothing to do with religion who offends but its popular to slag off church..try MPs,Lords, bus drivers..etc glad you are well Martin and enjoy ur retirement. Haven't heard of Franny Gallagher for years..blast from past.lots of good memories and it was tough but it made us into strong men Imo.

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