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The history of St Joseph’s College.  Chapter 5. The Committee.

A committee--a group of men who individually can do nothing but as a group decide that nothing can be done.
Fred Allen (1894 - 1956)

After Dr Riley’s speech on that fateful day in May 1919, the gentlemen of the committee decided to reconvene at a later date without Dr Riley present and they co-opted the local priests, Fr Robert Moss S.J. of Sacred Heart and Fr John Blundell of St Kentigern’s, the latter being committee chairman. Their first action was to decide on a name for themselves and they settled on the apposite if verbose ‘The Catholic Gentlemen of the Fylde for promotion of Catholic Secondary Education in the area.’ The next item on the agenda was to find the initial deposit of £600 for the purchase of Layton Mount. This was done on the spot when six gentlemen each drew cheques for £100. It wasn’t long before other subscribers coughed up a further £2,260 and then The Committee obtained a loan of £4,000 from Blackpool Corporation and the deal was done.

The Committee now took charge of the administration. They co-opted Dr Riley to the Committee but he was meant only to report on the running of the school and not to take part in the decision making process. However Dr Riley attended meetings infrequently and made little contribution when he did attend. The Committee were anxious to have St Joseph’s recognised by the ecclesiastical authority which, in the days before the creation of the diocese of Lancaster, was Dr Thomas Whiteside, Archbishop of Liverpool. The archbishop considered the matter carefully and decided that before he gave his approval the school, he wanted a religious teaching order in charge of the school. He therefore approached the Christian Brothers in 1920 but the Superior General, Brother Hennessy, replied that he had no Brothers to spare. Dr Whiteside then approached the Xaverian Brothers with no success, and then the Salesians and received a rejection, and finally the De La Salle Brothers and met with negative response. And so the Committee were obliged to continue with Dr Riley.

In 1922, a rumour circulated that Dr Riley had put the school up for sale and then the Committee did what committees do best. It went into a bout of panic, confusion, mutual recrimination and self doubt. Dr Riley was ignominiously expelled from the Committee. The chairman, Fr Blundell offered his resignation stating that he was suffering from undue stress but the Committee begged him to remain, saying that ‘his resignation at this juncture would be wrongly construed and might even mean the loss of the whole scheme.’ Mr John Yates, a prominent local citizen and stalwart of the Committee complained of ‘poor accounting’ and that the Committee was ‘subsidising Dr Riley's school.’ Mr Yates also offered to resign but the Committee did not beg him to remain and he left in a huff.
Fr Moss spoke negatively of the present ‘very poor management’ of the school, but he also mentioned “One is bound to feel some sympathy for Dr. Riley who had invested so much time, energy, and money in the education of local Catholics.”

After much shouting and recrimination, Fr Blundell called the meeting to order and offered to remain as chairman under certain conditions. These are the stipulations which were agreed upon and minuted:
(i) The Committee be reconstructed so as to secure a more effective membership.
(ii) All appearance of strife and division in the Committee was to be eliminated and the Committee moved as one man towards the main object.
(iii) A small sub-committee was to be appointed to deal with finance and questions connected therewith.

These elegantly phrased passages can be construed as follows:
(i) Dr Riley, Mr Yates and all other troublemakers are to be thrown off the Committee.
(ii) The chairman, Fr Blundell, suggests something and everybody agrees with him.
(iii) As Fr Blundell knows nothing of accountancy, he will appoint one of the Committee members to keep the books.

A new dictatorship arose with Fr Blundell in complete control. Fr Robert Moss, a Jesuit, was considered to know more about education than the rest and so he was delegated to make a new approach to find a teaching order to take control. Dr Thomas Whiteside had died in 1921 and a new Archbishop of Liverpool, Frederick William Keating. On the 12th May 1923, Dr. Keating wrote to the Superior General of the Christian Brothers ‘I shall be grateful if you can see your way to take over the school and thus help us out of a serious dilemma.’ Brother Hennessy protested at first and then finally agreed under certain conditions i.e that the Brothers would pay 'a peppercorn rent' and would take over 'free of all encumbrances and liabilities.' When Dr. Keating readily accepted, Brother Hennessy inserted another demand, that the deeds of Layton Mount be transferred to The Christian Brothers to hold on trust. Dr. Keating had no choice but to agree.

And so The Christian Brothers took over the school and Dr Riley was ignominiously chucked out. The Committee after some argument agreed to pay him £250 but he was not to teach in Blackpool for ten years. Meanwhile Fr Blundell was promoted to the parish of St Peter, Lancaster, soon to become a cathedral on the creation of the diocese of Lancaster. And so a new era began at St Joseph’s College, Blackpool.

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