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!

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