Thursday, 30 September 2010

Barney Life No. 6 (posted 24/07/2010)


Wednesday, July 21st.
This evening I visited the other St Mary's in Barnard Castle.  It is quite strange that in this town, within a few hundred yards of each other, there are two churches named after St Mary, the Mother of God.  This 'other' St Mary's is the Church of England church, close by the Butter Market in the main street.  I do not know its full history, but the original building goes back to twelfth century - how much of this original church still stands I do not know, but the present church is ancient enough.  In the past few months a huge amount of work has been done on the church re-organising the interior, and the service on Wednesday evening was to rededicate those parts which had been worked on.  The central part of the nave was filled with people, about sixty in all, I think, but the side aisles were empty.
The organ had already been refurbished and dedicated.  The present re-ordering of the church-space included the making of  a servery (an open space at the back of the nave), the nave itself, the baptistery (in the north transept), St Margaret's Chapel (a place for quiet prayer, off the north transept), the labyrinth (in the south transept), the aumbry (to the left of the altar-table) and the vestry.  Pretty much everything!  The service was led by the (Anglican) Bishop of Jarrow.  In his sermon he hoped that the new servery would emphasise the need for true Christian hospitality and the labyrinth would lead seekers to find their way to God.  Each of these refurbished areas was then blessed by the Bishop.
How different the changes have made the Church, I cannot say because I do not know what it was like before the changes were made.  But I could not help wondering if the Anglicans were doing what many Catholics have also been doing (even in my Church) - making use of space that is now available because of falling congregations.  When I first entered the Church, I could not help thinking that the altar-table would look much better if it had a proper tabernacle resting on it; the new aumbry at the side was the place for the Reserved Sacrament, but the blessing pronounced by the Bishop spoke of the aumbry as a place "in which we place the tokens of Christ's passion".  Not really a ringing endorsement of the Sacrifice of Calvary and of the Real Presence.  Personally, I do not like the idea of serving tea and coffee and glasses of wine in a place which is dedicated to the worship of God, no matter how much it helps Christian hospitality.



Barney Life No. 5 (posted 18/07/2010)


Sunday, July 18th
St Mary's BC
Today we priests were required to read out at Mass a Pastoral Letter from our Bishop about the results of his consultations about the future of our Diocese.  After a recent meeting with three hundred lay people, priests and religious, the conclusion they all came to amounted to three priorities: spiritual development, formation for all and new structures.
No-one can object to the first two priorities.  Quoting from today's Gospel passage, the Bishop wants us all to be like Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to Him and becoming like Him.  And if we know more about our Faith, this, he says, "will empower people, clergy and religious together for the work Jesus calls us to do.  This will enable us to grow in our knowledge of the Lord and His Church, and to understand how to pass on the Faith to others."
Of course, these are fine sentiments, or at least aspirations, but, as on other occasions when these thoughts have been put forward, there is a lack of practical detail about how these objectives are to be achieved.
The third priority is, I think, the key one - new structures.  There was no hint as to what these might be, but in an age when the numbers of practising Catholics is diminishing and the number of priests is doing the same, there will inevitably be a restructuring of the parish system in the Diocese.  The Bishop warns us against " looking back with nostalgia to what seemed to be the Church's golden age."  He does not explain what he means by "golden age", but I remember the Forties, Fifties and Sixties before the Second Vatican Council - the churches were full each Sunday, there were lots of priests, the diocesan seminary was full to bursting point with students, not all to be ordained to the priesthood but many to become exemplary Catholic laymen - now, fifty years later, this is definitely not the case.  I suggest that unless we look back and analyse what we had then and why and how we came to our present state then we will hardly be able to make any progress.
The Bishop stresses that he believes in consultation, and that this process of consultation will continue until we can come to understand the need for change and so to accept it.  In the final analysis, of course, any changes are his responsibility; he is the Bishop and the buck stops with him.
It's going to be a tough one, and I for one would not like to have to take the decisions which he will have to make at some stage.  The Bishop asks for prayers, and that is what we will have to do.  Oremus pro invicem.

Barney Life No. 4 (posted 15/07/2010)


Friday July 9th
Some forty people, parishioners and friends, went to the Three Tuns, Egglestone, for a Buffet Meal plus entertainment, arranged by Kim Wallace and family.  Egglestone is a pretty little village about five miles west of Barnard Castle, up Teesdale.  Three Tuns 1 The Three Tuns stands at the heart of the village and the landlord is Denis Holmes, himself a parishioner.
The Buffet was a self-service meal; the food was piled high Three Tuns 2 and most plentiful - anyone who went hungry that evening had only himself to blame!.  The first course was followed by a varied sweet course. The queues for food were long.
Three Tuns 3 
Whilst the meal was being consumed, our genial compere, Andrew Nicholson, handed out quiz sheets which the tables and groups were invited to complete. 
When the meal had been cleared away, there followed a brief interlude, during which I stood up and told the story of Moses and the Children of Israel, in Geordie fashion, which is not exactly the true Bible story but probably a lot more laughs! After this, there came a game of Bingo, with the magnificent prizes of £2 for a line and £5 for a Full House. I left the proceedings at this point, but the entertainment went on until midnight.  Of course, there was also the Raffle, which is de rigeur on these occasions.  Indeed, a truly marvellous evening, enjoyed by all.
The whole point of this evening's meal and entertainment (apart from having an enjoyable evening) was to raise money for the Organ Fund. The church organ in St Mary's is in need of a complete overhaul, and it is likely to be very very expensive.  The Buffet Evening at the Three Tuns raised £220 (Bingo £45 and Raffle £175) plus a generous donation from Denis, mine host, of £100 - a total of £320.  So far, the Organ Fund has raised almost £6400.  We still have a long way to go.

Barney Life No. 3 (posted 12/07/2010)


Sunday July 11th
This Sunday afternoon, at the usual time of 2 pm, I celebrated the Sacrament of Baptism for only about the third time this year (there again I have only buried four people in Barney so far this year!).  The baby was Lucas Joseph Levandowski.  Quite a crowd of family and friends attended the event. (Before taking these photos, I advised anyone who did not want to appear on my blog to attend to their shoe-laces!)
Lev 4       Lev 3
Lucas was apparently very happy with being in church - at first; but once he had to sit still for the ceremony, he began to object strenuously, and he continued to object throughout the ceremony.  Still, a strong pair of lungs in opposition doesn't stop me from completing the Baptism, and all was well in the end.
Lev 1      Lev 2

Barney Life No. 1A (posted 10/07/2010)


Two more photos of the set of "All's well that ends well".
Alls well 1 Alls well 2
The 'green' wall to the left is the North Stand of seats; the big tent to the right is the Box Office and artist's changing rooms. In the middle we have Chez Josephine, an imaginary shop in the French suburb of Louveciennes, home of John and Josephine Bowes, with menus and items for sale, all in French, and with French artefacts on view.  The play is located in a French chateau.
This is just another example of The Castle Players' attention to detail with the building up of the atmosphere of the occasion.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Barney Life No. 2 (posted 09/07/2010)


The Mary Garden
On Monday, July 5th, I was invited to go along to our school, St Mary's, to bless their new Mary Garden. 20100709_4The Garden stands at the entrance of the School drive (the building to the left is not part of the School).  When the Garden was finished, passersby were invited to write their comments in a notebook, and everybody was very complementary.
Mary Garden
The statue is very modern, but charming; the layout is very striking; the children were heavily involved in the design and creation of the Garden.  Unfortunately, a strong wind during the night knocked over a number of tall growing plants. When I arrived to do the Blessing, all the children came out of the School and took part in the Blessing ceremony.  I encouraged them to say a Hail Mary when they came into, or left, the School, or at least to say "Hello, Mary!" to acknowledge her presence and influence in our School.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Barney Life No. 1 (posted 08/07/2010)


An occasional series about life in Barnard Castle.
My Church and house stand at the corner of the grounds of the Bowes Museum.  This week, in the grounds of the Museum, the Castle Players are performing their annual Shakespearian play; this year the play is "All's well that ends well".  The Players are all amateurs; they spend the first half of the year preparing for this summer spectacular, and the second half of the year arranging a winter production.  There is a junior group called The Turrets, several of whom take part in the summer production as well as doing their own plays for the public during the year.
The Summer Play is staged in the park of the Museum.  The arena is under a great tree: there is no stage, apart from a large open space, but there are three banks of seats, and in all five separate entrances for the cast to come to the stage area.


These photos, I hope, give some idea of the setting for this outdoor theatre. By tradition, the play begins on the dot at half-past-seven, but beforehand there is an opportunity for families and theatre-goers to have a picnic in the surrounding area; the interval is a long one, normally about 45 minutes, again so that members of the audience can finish their picnics.The whole play normally ends at about 11 o'clock.  The play is on for four nights, from Wednesday to Saturday.  The play is performed whatever the weather - one year recently the rain came down in bucketfulls, the audience was wrapped in waterproofs, but the players carried on in their dresses and costumes as if the sun was shining brightly.
As is usual with the Castle Players, the play is adapted to more modern times.  This play opens with the funeral procession of Count Rossillion, absolutely reminiscent of that funeral in one of the James Bond movies in New Orleans which changes from ultra solemn to happy-clappy in a fraction of time.  The cast is superb.  It is also very large - you have to have eyes not only for the main characters but also to things which are happening at the sides of the stage or at the back of the stage.  For instance, the silent and unexpected appearance, at the back of the arena, of the ugly daughter of the King's advisor (looking like Benny Hill in drag) who was to be foisted upon the leading hero caused ripples of amusement among the audience and diverted attention from what the main characters were saying.  The story-line, as with many of these Shakespearian comedies, is pure Whitehall Farce, and the slapstick is inventive and well done.
I attended the Wednesday performance of the play. On Thursday I went back to the Gala Party for the Friends of the Castle Players, I am also a Fortress 100 Member - a glass, or two, (three actually) of wine and plenty of canapes.  The party was in the tent in the first photo. Speeches by the Chair(woman) of the Castle Players and by the visiting national chairman of the National Amateur Dramatic Association (something like that). I had a long chat with the Leader of the Town Council who was the guest of honour on Thursday evening.
Altogether a grand occasion, and the play and the ambience  - the actors wandering about before the start, chatting up the customers; everybody so friendly, and so well organised - has surely added greatly to the already outstanding reputation of the Castle Players.

Ushaw College Photo Essay: Postscriptum (posted 26/06/2010)

This brings to an end my series of Ushaw College Photo Essays.  I have enjoyed writing these memories and visiting the past, and I hope that they have been of interest to my readers.  I wish to thank those who have encouraged me to write about Ushaw College in the late 'Forties and 'Fifties.  But now I think that perhaps it is time for some other elderly person to talk about those times to remind the modern generation that the Church before the Second Vatican Council was not dying but was vibrant and full of life, that the churches were packed and the charitable societies were very active.  If anyone wishes to comment or send me an email with their thoughts, I will be happy to publish it on this blog.

Ushaw College Photo Essay Number Ten: Et Reliqua (posted 20/06/2010)


When, in the Divine Office, one of the Fathers of the Church is commenting on a passage of Scripture, the first couple of lines of the text are quoted, and then the words 'Et Reliqua' are added.  'And the Rest' - the reader understands that the whole passage is to commented upon.
That's what this is - And the Rest - What's Left!  I only have a few more photos to show; and then, mes amis, le fin!
The Eagle There are two points of interest in this photo - the beautiful Eagle and the Paschal Candle.  In my day, the Eagle was the place where Mr (Father ) Hollis stood on a small platform to conduct the choir and the whole College during High Mass and Vespers or Compline.  The choir was seated in the benches to either side of the Eagle: tenors and sopranos to the right and basses and altos to the left; the choir of course sang four-part music.  The College sang Gregorian chant; Mr Hollis took two practices a week, on a Tuesday and a Thursday, to prepare for the coming Sunday's High Mass and Vespers, and also, of course, for any special forthcoming events.
The Paschal Candle was always on the Gospel side of the sanctuary - what I particularly remember about this is that when it was first lit on Holy Saturday the priest who was acting as deacon and whose job it was to light the candle was always the largest, most rounded, professor in the College - Mr Tommy McGoldrick ('Hammurabi' to us students, because he taught us History beginning with the period of Ur of the Chaldees and its King Hammurabi).  The only way to light the candle was for Hamma to climb a rickety-looking pair of step-ladders, clutching the bottom of his alb and vestments and completely dwarfing the steps, with us onlooking students hoping nothing would go amiss!  You can believe that!
Ushaw Chair of St Peter
This is St Peter's Chair in the cloisters leading to St Cuthbert's Chapel; it used to be on the other side of the cloisters in my day, and students entering or leaving the chapel used to kiss the foot of the statue and wipe it with the sleeve of their jackets.Ushaw Mill
This is the old Ushaw Mill on the road that leads to the west side of the College; I cannot remember its history.  All I can say is that it looked like this when I was in College and it hasn't changed in fifty years. Nearby there are a number of fairly modern houses which College servants live in.

Ushaw College Photo Essay Number Nine (posted 18/06/2010)

The Cemetery at Ushaw is long established; it lies behind the swimming baths, beside the New Wing (the Old New Wing).  As you can see, the main burial ground has a cloister on two sides.  In the cloisters are buried bishops of the Northern Province (before 1850) and of the diocese of Hexham after it was formed in 1850 and also former Presidents of the College.  Buried in the main burial ground are students and professors of the College, and some of the former College servants.

The end of one cloister has a statue of Christ the King, the other of a Calvary.  In the first picture, the open patch of grass, in my time, had a series of wooden crosses; here were buried the bodies of a number of students who died during some epidemic, perhaps during the flu epidemic of 1918, or more likely, I think, of a cholera outbreak, sometime about 1850. You can just make out the 'lych gate' to the left of this photo - 'lych', Anglo-Saxon for 'body' - the body to be buried was brought from St Cuthbert's Chapel, through the North-West Passage, stopped for a moment at the lych gate , before moving to its final resting-place.
In a small section opposite the lych-gate, there is an area where the ashes of some of the College servants and professors are buried.
This is the plate over the ashes of Peter Seed; the inscription reads "Petrus Seed, Fidelis Operum Magister Obiit 15 Oct 1964" - "Peter Seed Faithful Clerk of Works died 15th October 1964".  If a job needed to be done, the answer was to send for Peter Seed - all during my time he kept the College going.  I remember Doctor Bob Gowland, professor of Philosophy and Procurator of the College, telling us once that Peter went into a hardware store in Durham to ask about nails; when the assistant said that he had the kind that Peter wanted, Peter then said, "I'll tak a ton!" The assistant had to be lifted off the floor!  The ashes of Peter's wife are buried beside him.

Tranquillity (posted 12/06/2010)


or should it be a "Hive of Activity "
Tranquillity 1
Apart from the bees working hard on the flowering hedgerow, I tried to include Storm 
in this photo, but he moved just as I took the shot.  Seconds later, a rabbit jumped up, 
and after being dragged for fifty yards I managed to halt his impetuous rush, drew a breath, 
and took this shot.
20100612_2

The Junior Seminary


This is a photo of the Junior Seminary at Ushaw, taken from the main road across what used to be two football pitches - the grass is now cropped by a couple of horses wandering around.  As I have said before, this is about as close as anyone can get to the Junior Sem, and its dereliction is now well-known.  I have received the following comment on the state of this Pugin-designed building, and I wish to share it with you. Since I have in the past been reported and 'corrected' by a former bishop for daring to criticise the Youth Village, you will soon understand why he does not wish his name to be published.
Dear Father Elkin,  I have been following your descriptions of life in the 40s and 50s at Ushaw College with great interest.  The figures speak for themselves.  About 400 students/seminarians pre Vat II, and now about twenty five after 40 years of Vat II experimentation.  These figures speak for themselves and need no elaboration. Sadly, this collapse of numbers has also seen the decline in the property as neither the funds, nor the numbers of men, are sufficient to sustain all the buildings on the huge site.  You said that you could not take photos of the junior seminary because the place is in grave danger of falling down because various authorities - the Bishops, English Heritage, County Durham Planning Department - cannot agree on what to do with the place. The result - dereliction!  One of your commenters asked if anyone knew how to go about purchasing or leasing the old junior seminary with a view to restoring it? There was a golden opportunity some years ago but it probably never entered the heads of the enthusiasts. I speak about the Youth Village in this diocese and the inordinate amount of money spent (wasted) on this fanciful project.  If the powers that be wished to have some facility to bring the youth together why on earth didn’t they choose the most obvious place – the abandoned junior seminary.  I have no idea how much money has been wasted on this Youth Village (which, far from being a centre of excellence for teaching youngsters the faith, seems to be nothing more than a glorified campsite for jamborees and endless ‘fun’).  The millions (and I understand it is millions) that have been channelled into this albatross, white elephant, or whatever, could have been directed into restoring the junior seminary where everything was already on site – dormitories, classrooms, chapel, and acres of land – that far excelled the wooden shacks of the Youth Village.  The junior sem could have been restored to its former glory and the ‘Youth’ could have spent some of their time and energy tidying up the grounds.   The entire campus of Ushaw College could have taken on a new lease of life with ALL the buildings and surrounds being used once again in their fullness.  Unfortunately, in the Church in this country there is no joined up thinking and it is the short-term, trendy, fanciful ideas devoid of substance that hold sway; this is why we are in serious decline with obviously no leadership and no ideas about how to get out of it.
Name supplied.

Blessed Sacrament Procession (posted 08/06/2010)

After several hot and sunny days in the past week, Sunday, June 6th, dawned overcast and cloudy, and by the time of the start of our annual Blessed Sacrament Procession, it was raining.  Normally we like to process around the outside of the church, with a Benediction beside the tomb of John and Josephine Bowes, patrons of the church, before returning to the church for a further Benediction.  Not being able to go outside because of the rain, we stayed inside the church and made our procession around the inside of the church, singing very strongly hymns to the Blessed Sacrament.  Here are a few photos of the procession.
 Afterwards, tea and coffee was served in the presbytery (soft drinks for the youngsters).  There was also lots of time for conversation.  These are just a few of the people present on this occasion.



Sunday, 26 September 2010

Ushaw College Photo Essay Number Eight (posted 03/06/2010)


These photos are of the North West Passage, so-called because it is on the north-west of the College buildings, but of course there are the more romantic associations with the search for the North-West Passage across the top of the world.  It leads from near the front of St Cuthbert's, past the old New Wing (now called St Bede's) and out to the back of the buildings.Ushaw North West Passage  The roadway ducks down under the ambulacrum which joins the Junior to the Senior Seminary.
 North West Passage
The large building in the centre of the photo (on the left) is the exterior of the swimming bath; the long roof belongs to the cemetery colonnade (more about the cemetery later).  When I stayed at Ushaw recently for the Priests' Retreat, I passed the end of the ambulacrum which led past the Baths and I could see the entrance to the Baths, but the door to the ambulacrum was firmly locked.  I wonder if the Swimming Baths are as dilapidated as the rest of the Junior Sem!
Terence Middleton mentions that the Baths were upgraded when he was at Ushaw and I think that I had a swim sometimes during retreats in my early priesthood.  But in the Forties and Fifties there was nothing particularly luxurious about the Baths.  They were not especially large; they had wooden changing cubicles all around.  The water was pumped up from an underground spring, there was no heating system, and for a week or two no-one dared to risk severe frost-bite and pneumonia by swimming in the new water.  Gradually the atmosphere, and some hardy types, raised the temperature of the water to a distinctly chilly level, and schools began to take their allotted turns to go to the Baths.  I can't remember whether there was any form of circulation system, but the water stayed where it was for about six months until the algae had built up and the water became green; then it was emptied, scraped clean, and refilled.  The whole process of warming began again.  Ad infinitum!
I learnt to swim in these baths, but nothing much more than a dog paddle and a weak breast-stroke.  I was afraid to dive in or even jump in; I had to wear glasses from an early age, but at least I usually got wet all over!  However, I do remember some of the more adventurous lads who climbed up onto the roof supports and then jumped in from a great height - not recommended, especially when the deep end was no more than about six feet.  Actually, if anyone was caught doing this, he was in deep trouble!
The Gymnasium was next to the Swimming Baths.  Here we did PT - push-ups, knees bend, etc, etc.  I hated jumping the horse, but I could climb the hanging rope and swing on the parallel bars, so I did learn something.
I suppose that the Gym has gone the way of all things in the Junior Sem!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

St Mary's Fish Pond (posted 04/06/2010)

Feeding Time
I first began keeping fish many years ago, back in St Patrick's Ryhope (near Sunderland).  My first pond was simply a hole in the ground with a plastic sheet to hold the water, then I graduated to a concrete swimming bath affair; and finally at Ryhope I hired a small machine and excavated a large pond, covered it with a proper membrane, and finally I had a real pond.  When I came to Barnard Castle, I bought a four thousand gallon tank, bought some fish, and I was away again.  Then I got the chance to retrieve the fish which I had to leave behind at Ryhope.  At first I put them all in the tank, but since they were swimming shoulder to shoulder, I asked a professional to build me a decent-sized pond.  And here we have it.  There are something like thirty to forty fish in here (they refuse to stay still while I try to count them!).


Ushaw Dining (posted 02/06/2010)


Whatever I may have learnt about my spiritual life (or not, as the case may be) during the recent Clergy Retreat at Ushaw College, I did learn that Ushaw suffers from a kind of split mentality.  There is the seminary-side of the College, with the students (maybe about twenty-five) and the professors inhabiting the main block of the College buildings - they conduct their services of worship in St Joseph's chapel (which used in my time to be the chapel where the College servants attended Mass on Sundays), and they eat somewhere but not in the Refectory.
Then there is the other side - the Conference Centre business side, which inhabits the new East Wing, the old New Wing in the west part of the College, the Refectory and St Cuthbert's chapel.
Somehow these two sides of the College exist together, but without ever seeming to meet.  It struck me that without the Conference Centre business the College itself would not be able to survive: I heard someone during the Retreat say that the authorities hope to make this arrangement much more permanent in the future, as a part of the Trust which governs the use of the buildings.
However that may be, we were all asked to promote a new venture by the Conference Centre, namely their Sunday Lunches in the Refectory.  These lunches will be open to all comers, provided you book beforehand,  They are offering "Delicious 2 course carvery served meals in our stunning refectory" (so says their publicity). The cost is £9.95 per head (Children under 12 £7.95).
Booking is essential: by phone 0191 373 8502; by email bookings@ushaw.ac.uk.
So if you are in, or are visiting the north-east of England, there will be a welcome for you, on a Sunday, between 12 pm and 2 pm, for a very pleasant lunch, with enjoyable food and service at Ushaw College.  Provided that you book ahead.

Ushaw Retreat 2010 (posted 25/05/2010)


This week, over one hundred priests of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle have come together at Ushaw College, Durham, for the annual clergy retreat, and our bishop, Bishop Seamus Cunningham, is with us.  The retreat is being led by Father Eamon Mulcahy, a Spiritan (Holy Ghost Father).
But rather than comment on the ongoing retreat, I would like to comment on two other things.
First, this week I see a different side of Ushaw to the side I saw a few weeks ago when I was here for the Ushaw Training Conference.  This week I am  lodging in what we used in the Fifties to call the New Wing but is now called St Bede's (the new New Wing now is the Conference Centre to the east of the College overlooking the Bounds).  This old New Wing, on the west side of the College, has been transformed from the time I was here as a student: all the rooms are now en suite with shower, etc, really quite comfortable and of a very high standard.
Second: the Bishop began the retreat by addressing us all and talking about the likely problems which would face the diocese in the next few years, say the next ten years.  He and a group of his advisors had spent several days recently discussing the future, and although I cannot remember everything he said in his talk, he certainly said that the way we had always done things in the past would be  unsustainable in the future.
My point in this second comment is that I don't think we will ever again be able to gather a group of over a hundred priests of the diocese for a retreat.  Many of the priests on the retreat are already retired, and others, like myself, are within the retirement bracket, and in ten years, who knows how many priests will be left in active work in the diocese.  The bishop is talking, I think, of how to run his diocese with maybe only half the active priests that he has today.  Admittedly, the numbers of church-going Catholics is also falling, and so one could say that not so many priests are needed (apart from the fact that if we had more priests we could do more to contact those who have stopped coming!)
But I fear that the diocese is going to see something of a shake-up and amalgamations and closures and there will be some very unhappy people who will not understand why this is happening to them and to their parish.
Difficult decisions lie ahead.  Who would be a bishop?  We should say a prayer for him and for the diocese.

Ushaw College Photo Essay Number Seven (posted 24/05/2010)


In front of Ushaw College, there are gardens and walkways, all neatly laid out.  Each walkway was assigned to a particular year (or School) for walking upon, and woe betide any members of another School caught trespassing!  But, central to the gardens and stretching the full length of the College, and then some, was the College Pond.  The view of the College Front, across the Pond and through the trees, is one of the iconic photos of the College.
Ushaw Pond 1a 
This is a photo of the Pond as it is today. (Well, in April, before the leaves on the trees have become green!).  I know that it doesn't look like a pond, more like an overgrown, uncared for, patch of wilderness.  And that is what it is.
When I arrived at Ushaw in 1946, this area of the pond had a substantial amount of water in it, a few reeds, yes, but mainly water, and the water extended for a considerable distance along the pond bed.  It was on this area of the pond that we youngsters learnt to ice-skate during the hard winter of 1946-47.  Mind you, I fell over so many times onto my knees that I did some damage and suffered for it at the time. We also learnt to keep out of the way of trains.  A 'train' happened when a number of skaters set off at top speed and joined in one long 'train', hands on the hips of the person in front, and, skating in step, sped down the pond at full speed, and at the last moment before crashing into the side of the pond, the leader turned to the left and stopped, the tail being flung around at great speed, some of the tail-enders having to leap off the ice onto the bank of the pond. A 'tea-pot' was an altogether more sedate affair - the leader, held under the arms by number two, went down on one skate and held up the other skate like a teapot spout; others joined in to push the pair around. 
At some stage all the water seeped out of the pond, and the College blamed the National Coal Board,whose workings from a local mine were directly under the pond.  The NCB accepted responsibility, and for a whole season workmen cleared the pond from one end to the other, led in tons of clay, and began to 'puddle' it into a water-leak-proof bed for the pond.  The result was spectacular, and the next season we could skate from one end to the other.
Now all that remains is a few muddy puddles here and there, with an abundance of wild growth everywhere.  The banks are just as over-grown.  On the left of the photo above, none of the scrubby growth existed, or would have been allowed to exist, because behind them there were The Twelve Apostles, a row of shaped yew trees, which were carefully tended by people doing Public Work (see the Praeludium), including me.  I can remember leaning a ladder against the side of a tree, climbing up with a pair of clippers and snipping away at overgrown pieces.
Ushaw Pond 3a 
This photo gives you the iconic view of the front of the College as it appears today.  The section along the front of the photo is the pond.  It's a mess!

Praeludium to Number Seven (posted 22/05/2010)


Before I talk about my next subject, it is worth considering the subject of Public Work at Ushaw.
I was never very good at any form of sport: in Underlow I made the Second Eleven in football - we lost - and I never again made it onto a school team.  In a game of cricket, my idea of defending my wicket against a fast bowler, like Lawrie Lister (Leeds diocese), was to move away from the crease, point the bat at where I thought the ball might be, and hope for the best!  All the same, in the early years, from Underlow until High Figures, playing sports was compulsory.  The year Minor would publish a list of those to play each day in whatever sport was in season, and that was it  - you played, like it or not.
However, I think it was in Big Lads that sport became voluntary.  The alternative was either to go for a walk or to do Public Work.
The concept of Public Work is obvious; I cannot remember which professor was in charge of Public Work, but I did a lot of it.  I did all forms of gardening, bee-keeping, tree-lopping, and so on.  If 'elf-an-safety had been invented in those days, then Public Work would have been banned!  Obviously, those of us who did Public Work took care, but we used ladders, grass-cutters, scythes, and other tools without too much anxiety; I finished up in Divines working on the golf course and did a major job putting a new engine into the tractor - how I got away with that, without hurting myself and destroying the tractor, I am not sure.  Anyway, I enjoyed Public Work!
My next Photo Essay will be coming soon.

Addendum to Ushaw College Photo Essay Number Five (posted 17/05/2010)


LD sends me this update to my last post:
You said in your blog:
The furthest Ball Place was the scene of an outdoor Mass to which the whole diocese was invited; thousands turned up but I am not sure of the occasion - I think it could have been the 150th anniversary of the founding of Ushaw in 1958 - I am sure that someone will be able to tell me (us).
Actually, Father, there were two great occasions in the 1950s and you would probably have attended both of them.  The first was on Sunday 2nd September 1951 which was to commemorate the 1300 anniversary of the death of St. Aidan, the first Bishop of Lindisfarne.  According to the official report it was attended by Cardinal Griffin and 15 archbishops and bishops and attracted a crowd of 40,000.  The rally was described as the greatest Catholic demonstration in Durham within living memory. Pope Pius XII sent a telegram to Cardinal Griffin and expressed “our cordial felicitations on this happy occasion.” I have a 20 page (A4 size) memorial booklet of the occasion [published by the Weekly Chronicle, Newcastle upon Tyne, for 1s.6d] and I am sure you will recognise some of the clergy – particularly Mons. Paul Grant, the President of the College, and Canon E. Wilkinson of St. Mary’s Cathedral.
The second occasion was indeed the 150th anniversary of the college.  On this occasion a Pontifical Mass was sung by the Apostolic Delegate to Great Britain and 40,000 attended this celebration – including myself.  I remember taking a photograph of Archbishop Heenan which I come across from time to time in my photo box. Fr David Milburn in his book A History of Ushaw College, also said that the celebrations afforded the opportunity of asking for £50,000 for further improvement, the first general appeal made by the college in a hundred years.  £50,000 could buy a lot in those days and this paid for new ablutions for the older students and washing facilities in the priests rooms, an intercom system, new garages, refitting the kitchens, virtually a new swimming pool, the complete overhaul of the power and heating supply, modernising the laundry, an extra laboratory, and the renovation of the domestics quarters.
(Thank you Leo.  And I may add that it must have been on this latter occasion that we had a Son et Lumiere presentation of the history of Douai and Ushaw, with the front of the College being the 'screen' for the presentation.)

Ushaw College Photo Essay Number Six (posted 20/05/2010)

These are photos of the Junior House, or the Junior Seminary, or just the Sem.  I was not able to take a photo from directly in front of the Sem, as I will explain later.  So you will have to use your imagination - the Sem is built like the letter 'L' with an extra horizontal at the top of the 'L'.  On the left of the right photo is St Aloysius' chapel, and you can just see the end buttress on the right of the left photo - the main building has two wings.Ushaw Junior HouseUshaw St Aloysius 

In the centre of the main building we have the front door, which leads on to the main corridor.  On the right hand side of the front door was the room occupied by the Junior House Prefect of Discipline; in my time this was Mr David 'Darty' Bullen (Remember, the priests were all addressed as 'Mister' not 'Father').  On the left hand side, there was a Playroom (Common Room). The top storey was one long dormitory; each boy had a small cubicle, all made with wood partitions and the doorway was a curtain.  At either end there was a special cubicle for the Minors who looked after each year group: the Minors were chosen Divines in Minor Orders - hence Minors for short.  Their job here was to make sure everybody got to bed at night and got up in the morning (9 pm and 6.45 am respectively, I think).
On the left hand wing, the ground floor housed Playrooms and, at the end,the Junior House Study Place (stewpot).  The upper floor on this wing had the rooms for the professors who normally taught in the Sem.
On the right hand wing, the ground floor held classrooms and, at the end, the lovely chapel of St Aloysius (which you can see on the right photo).  The upper storey on this wing was a continuation of the dormitory which stretched above the main corridor. In the right photo, behind the tree, you can see what is a corridor which led to the College, which we youngsters marched along two-by-two to go to the Refectory for meals four times a day or to the St Cuthbert's chapel on Sundays for High Mass and Vespers.
Behind that corridor was the Gymnasium (knees bend, arms stretch, hup, two, three, four).  The skylight of the Swimming Baths is just visible above the corridor.  More about the Swimming Baths on another occasion.
The reason why I was not able to photograph the Junior Sem from the front is that the place is in grave danger of falling down.  The whole area is barricaded off, so that the nearest approach is what you can see in the photo on the left.  A College servant told me that the place has been vandalised- copper wire stripped out, wash basins and toilets smashed, etc.  No-one is allowed to visit for fear that something nasty and heavy might fall on them.  Many years ago the Junior Sem was closed when the numbers dropped and Upholland College in Lancashire took on the role of Junior Seminary for the Northern Dioceses.  Since then Ushaw's Junior Sem has had a chequered career, with nothing much happening, because various authorities - the Bishops, English Heritage, County Durham Planning Department - cannot agree on what to do with the place. The result - dereliction!  I would have loved photos of St Aloysius, the dormitories, the main ambulacrum, even the wash-place, but the chance is long gone.
Nor is this the only area which has suffered harm over recent years.  More to come!