I have always appreciated the great contribution that the Irish Christian Brothers made to our lives in England around the war years. Without their vocations, I am sure that I for one would not have had the benefit of a secondary education so freely given. This was a gift that really made a difference. So rather than think about the odd brother with a soul in torment, I think very kindly of the many that did their best much to my benefit.

The religious training was also most significant. Remember the hourly prayer and the daily recitation of the litany of the saints? The retreats? This has stayed with me all my life and I have been better for it.

I must have been a brave boy because I was not afraid of the strap, but I was sensible enough to avoid it. When I did not, I copped it sweet and forgot it. That was one good lesson I learned …to take the knocks and get over it!

I have lived in Australia for over 50 years, where one cannot escape the culture of the church and men who have had a similar education, background and training from the brothers [whether Irish, de la Salle or Marist]. Recently we visited Cooktown in the far north, where I was overcome with nostalgia to enter the convent in the main street and the graveyard of Irish sisters, who left their homes as young girls and died in the remote tropics. Wherever one comes across these places [there are many] around Australia one cannot help feeling at home and part of it.

But it was not only the education and the faith, but also the company of the boys from which I derived much youthful pleasure. Why were we always joking laughing and fooling around? The discipline was fairly strict, the class rooms cold, the playing fields usually wet and soggy, the journey to school often was through snow or rain, and food was rationed but adequate. I cannot remember ever being hungry, but I suffered the cold and the wet! I often say that happiness is being warm and dry!

I have been reminded by another contributor of the CBA camps at Ambleside and the trekking over the fells with the Achille Ratti Climbing Club run by Bishop Pearson. Also I had especially happy days with the scouts run by the sainted Fr Caton and his brother Louis…the 1945 scout camp at Wrea castle was brilliant…a few of us swam across lake Windermere. In later days I graduated to the YHA hostels and made cycling trips back to the Lakes with Pat Nolan and Gordon [Chas] Sinclair. Later it was off to France ending with a week or so with Sinclair, Thorpe and Warmsley on the Ile de St Honoret off Cannes.

I read on this website that there is an annual Mass for the deceased OB’s. I am sure that the brothers are remembered in their prayers. I do remember them in mine.

Modesty prevents me from boasting about my happy life and good fortune …. suffice it to say, ‘He who is content with the least is the richest’.

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