CONTRIBUTION BY PAT NOLAN 1939/1948

It seems that the most prolific contributors to these memories are the oldest Old Boys. Perhaps we have more time for this sort of thing or, perhaps, there is a greater bond between pupils who attended the school in this era. The complaints about ‘the strap’ become louder in later years. What should be remembered is that during the war when I was at St Joseph’s with Sweeney, Loré, Henry et al, the Second World War was raging. Lads a few years older than us were square bashing, under canvass, on a war ship, in a POW Camp, in a hospital or a morgue. We had it cushy just getting the strap! Birching was a judicial punishment, murderers were hung, and the whole concept of punishment was different. On occasions, I have stood on the promenade and looked at the flames and smoke rising from Liverpool or Birkenhead. Yep, we had it cushy.

There were many boarding schools staffed by teachers who had somehow avoided conscription, where prefects had the authority to beat younger pupils, and homosexual abuse was widespread. I spent nine years at St Joseph’s and never knew of any sexual abuse. I heard rumours about a Brother Creary  (Dracula), who vanished overnight, but never met anyone who actually knew what had happened. Whatever happened, it is not a bad record.

I recently read the obituaries of some of the Brothers and was surprised at the wonderful achievements of Bro. Moran, headmaster at Middlesbrough, and Bro. Ring at Hale Barns, where he was instrumental in keeping the school a single sex grammar school, still run by the Christian Brothers, and rated by The Sunday Times as ‘consistently one of the best Catholic day schools’. We knew that Woodhouse was erudite, but I did not know of the adventures of Bro. Daly, who escaped from the Spanish Revolution.

I have met two judges, a politician ennobled to The House of Lords, numerous doctors and teachers, but would like to make a special mention of a namesake of mine (no relation): Bernard Nolan who was actively involved in the first, British, successful human transplant (kidney) in 1960 with Sir Michael Woodruff.
(Nolan B. Renal Transplantation in Edinburgh. British Transplant Games, 1985, at Meadowbank, Edinburgh. Souvenir brochure)

As a complete contrast, I wonder if anyone else remembers Dicky Lupino? He was a member of a famous acting family and boarded at the school for a few terms. He had previously taken the eponymous part in the 1940 film Just William. He was allowed to perform at Speech Day and did a string of impersonations of W C Fields, Charles Laughton and a number of other film stars, most of whom I had never heard of and had no idea if the impersonations were any good or not. According to IMDb web page, he died in 2005, and on the page of the film, there is a review, sent in by another Old Boy called Berndan Sheehan. I understand that John Mahoney, the father in Frasier, also attended the college.

Apart from the two Shakespearian plays that I was involved with, I remember a large party from the school trouping to The Odeon to see Henry V. This film was used by Churchill to motivate all Englishmen to take up arms. I also remember a small group (form V English?) going to The Grand Theatre to see a live performance of The Merchant of Venice. Shylock was played by an old actor called Fredrick Valk (usually a ‘heavy’ in films, Kommondant in The Colditz Story). In the circle there was a large crowd of pupils from some school who were, obviously, not great fans of The Bard. They made a lot of noise and were an undisciplined rabble. Valk reached the end of his tether, and in a wonderful character change he transformed from The Jew into a large and frightening man. Standing centre stage he read the Riot Act, in such a commanding voice that needed no microphone, that everything went quiet. He returned to the obsequious pleading of Shylock and we watched the rest of the performance without interruption.

Speech Day in my time had usually been in the school and included a rendering (or renting) of Humoresque by Josh O’Leary on his violin. In 1948, we used The Jubilee Theatre, which was above the Co-op, where the annual plays were presented. I see that it later moved to The Winter Gardens.

We were very proud of the achievements of our rugby team, coached by Bro. Ring. To beat the likes of Arnold, Blackpool Grammar (Collegiate) or King Edward’s was a matter of pride and they were hard fought games. I think one season we had a clean sweep although I remember the enjoyment more clearly than the results. I learnt to play to win but not to get too upset as long as I had done my best. The esprit de corps was higher than any team or group I have since been attached to.

We all know that the by-products of being taught a religion are self-discipline and respect. These qualities are now in such short supply in this country, that the whole fabric of our society is crumbling because of their absence. That was what The Irish Christian Brothers taught. Wasn’t that worth a few red hands?

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