Brother James Quintan Moran (1900-1991)
Obituary by C J Sreenan
The Congregation of Christian Brothers has good reason to count the Moran family from Ballybeg, Dingle, Co. Kerry, among its benefactors. Commencing with Brother Cornelius Moran, an uncle of the deceased, who died in 1917 aged sixty, and two of his brothers Brother Michael Canice Moran, who died in 1918 aged twenty-three and Brother Patrick Godfrey Moran, who died in Baldoyle on 17 August 1988 aged eighty-two, the Moran family have contributed nearly 200 years in the service of the Lord by our Congregation.
The subject of this necrology, James Moran, was born on 12 March 1900 in Ballybeg, Dingle, Co. Kerry. He was one of a family of ten children - eight boys and two girls. His sister Hanna speaks with great affection of her older brother James. She described him as a boy who idolised his father, a sheep farmer, and spent nearly all his free time in his dad's company caring for the sheep and lambs.
James had his own donkey and cart and, together with his brother Ned, delivered milk twice a day to customers in Dingle, once before going to school in the morning and a second time on returning from school in the evening. As a result, James was well known in Dingle and was well liked, not least because, even then, he had "the gift of the gab," a gift that his brothers in religion will attest he brought with him to the grave. Patrick, James' younger brother, followed his older brothers into the Congregation in 1922. He was known to us by his religious name, Godfrey.
For these early recollections we are indebted to Brother Liam Ryan who called to see Brother Moran's sister Hanna, now Mrs Hickson, who lives in Lispole, Co. Kerry. When Brother Liam called in December 1992, he found this good lady celebrating her ninetieth birthday, surrounded by her son Bobby, his wife, Betty, and their children. They were marking the occasion by a "House Mass", made memorable by beautiful bidding prayers and singing that "lifted the roof." Brother Liam added that the family did him proud afterwards. Hanna could remember her mother and James going in to Dingle to buy the clothes he needed for joining the brothers. She spoke with great affection and obvious love for James. Those of us who knew her brother can well understand why. James never had an enemy, he loved all those with whom he came into contact and, to him, they were all "magnificent".
While at school with the brothers in Dingle James played for the school teams in both football and hurling. His love of the land and of animals never left him and his youthful ability to chat and relate to people of all ages enabled him to bring joy and encouragement to all whom he met during his long life. He was, indeed, someone very special, one beloved of God and man.
James entered St Joseph's, Baldoyle on 28 August 1915 to commence his training as a Christian Brother. Six months later, on St Patrick's Day 1916, he received the habit of the Congregation and on the feast of St Joseph, 19 March 1917, he made his first profession of vows. While he was in the novitiate his uncle Brother Michael Cornelius Moran died and was buried in the brothers' cemetery in Baldoyle. He died after a very short illness at the age of sixty. He was postulator at the time and no doubt he was instrumental in nourishing the three vocations in his brother's family. When I spoke to James on his ninetieth birthday in Baldoyle he told me that while he was in the novitiate he had attended his uncle's funeral. He also spoke of his brothers, Michael Canice and Patrick Godfrey, both of whom had preceded him to their reward.
James received the religious name of Quintan, a name he retained for the rest of his religious life. His eldest brother, Michael, also joined the Congregation and was given the name Canice. He was described in his necrology as a tall, quiet, highly intelligent young man who was sent on his first mission to Wexford. He was teaching in a branch school which was some distance from the monastery, and one morning on his way to school he got a very bad wetting and had no means of changing into dry clothes. He taught his class all day in wet clothes, wet shoes and socks and, on returning to the monastery that evening, he made no complaint. He continued to teach for the rest of that week, despite having a very heavy cold. By the weekend, he had developed pneumonia and, unfortunately, the superior did not think it necessary to inform Brother Canice's parents of how ill he was. When eventually the parents were informed, Brother Canice was unconscious and dying and, though his parents came immediately, they were too late. Both parents were, understandably, very angry with the superior for not being sent for in time. It speaks volumes for their charity and forgiveness that they did not stand in the way of Quintan's brother Godfrey following his two brothers as Christian Brothers.
In 1918 Quintan went on his first mission to Lismore, the same year as Brother Canice died. Quintan was then only seventeen, and he continued to teach in Lismore until 1920, when he was transferred to Fermoy, Co. Cork. He remained here until 1925 when he made his final profession, whereupon he was transferred to Dun Laoghaire, where he remained until 1927 when he was moved to England and to Prior Park College, Bath. I never heard Quintan talk much of Prior Park. I would not think, somehow, it would have been his scene; but, typical of the man, he said nothing. In 1929 he was moved again, this time to St Edward's College, San Domingo Road, Liverpool, where he remained for two years. Then, at the age of thirty-one, he was sent to Marino to attend the National University in Dublin and to do a BSc degree in mathematics, physics and chemistry.
He completed his degree in 1933 and returned to England and was made sub-superior in Blackpool to Brother De Sales Goulding. Here, in St Joseph's College, he taught physics and chemistry to senior level with great success. Six years later, in 1939, he was appointed superior and headmaster of the school, at the same time as the outbreak of World War II.
St Joseph's College was a comparatively new school, made up of a preparatory department of 120 children aged seven to eleven and a senior school of 450 pupils aged eleven to eighteen. There was a boarding section of approximately seventy pupils who came from the towns all over Lancashire. The day pupils came from the FyIde and the surrounding area.
To cope with a boarding school is never easy. To do so in wartime, with rationing, air raids, and with members of the lay staff conscripted was doubly difficult. Quintan was only thirty-nine, strong, active and at the height of his powers as a teacher and a leader of men, and he led a fine staff with enthusiasm and great skill. He took everything in his stride; difficulties were there to be overcome and his good humour and optimism overcame any tendency to depression. In a time characterised by rigidity and the letter of the law, his was a way of freedom, trust and kindness. He was the soul of generosity and was prepared to share all he had with those in his charge. He enthused the community to achieve wonders in school and he gave hospitality to many people who were evacuated to Blackpool to escape the bombings in the larger cities.
One such person was Father Martyn, a retired priest and a chaplain at a Convent of Our Lady of Victories in London. This priest was evacuated to Blackpool in the summer of 1944 at the time of the V1 and V2 flying bombs and was given shelter by Quintan and the community in Blackpool. He was so impressed by the hospitality of the brothers that, on his return to London, he donated two historic chalices, known as the Cong Chalices, to Quintan and the Christian Brothers. These two chalices were donated in 1978 by the English Province to the Southern Irish Province (St. Helen's), one to be used in the Founder's chapel in Callan and the other in the Founder's chapel in Mount Sion.
I relate the history of the gift of these two chalices to Brother Quintan Moran and the Christian Brothers at the end of this necrology. They were Father Martyn's tribute to Brother Moran and his community for the hospitality, kindness and understanding extended to him by Quintan and the community during his stay in Blackpool. These brothers, most of them now dead, were indeed true followers of Brother Rice, in whom these qualities of hospitality shone so brightly. I know how pleased Quintan was that the chalices now have a special place in Callan and Waterford. Quintan was a true son of Brother Rice. Like our Founder, he looked for the opportunity to help those in need, but in doing so he never made the recipients feel that they were in receipt of charity. Rather, he gave them the impression that they were doing him a good turn. Quintan was a "big man", a man's man, for whom a good turn was as natural as the air he breathed.
In 1945, on completion of his term of office, Quintan was moved to Plymouth to act as bursar, housemaster and science teacher. That he was highly regarded by the brothers of the English Province, which had just been set up, was shown by his election as a provincial chapter delegate in 1947. From this chapter, he emerged as a consultor to Brother Dositheus O'Connell as provincial. The latter asked him to go to Sunderland and to prepare for the opening of a new school in September 1948. Once again Quintan brought to this task the boundless energy and enthusiasm for which he was well known. He purchased a small private school run by the Jesuit Fathers, known as Corby School, together with the community residence next door and so, in September 1948, one hundred years after the Christian Brothers had departed from Sunderland in the last century, a new school, St Aidan's Grammar School, opened in the same parish of St Mary's, Sunderland. By the time Quintan finished his term of office in 1954 he left behind a preparatory school of 150 children, together with a secondary school of close on 700 pupils.
In Sunderland Quintan blossomed as a pioneer. He broke new ground and his people-management was superb. His loyalty to his community was extraordinary and his description of his community as, "magnificent" was well known throughout the province, so much so that Sunderland became known as "wonderland".
I had the great joy of joining this community in September 1951 at the age of twenty-three. The three remaining years of Quintan's term of office were the most liberating and transforming years of my life. He made me feel, from the start, very important. He encouraged me to take responsibility, to become involved in every aspect of the school and he treated me as if I was a finally professed brother. I made my final profession while he was superior. There were no monthly conferences; they were not needed, as I very frequently worked with him or went for a walk with him. He just took it for granted that I would make final vows - after all, my contemporaries were telling me all the "magnificent things I was doing in Sunderland!
I arrived in Sunderland about 4.00 P. M., having travelled from Blackpool by train. After supper Quintan gave me a pair of dungarees, which he had bought for me prior to my arrival, and asked me to give him a hand doing some painting in the school! From then on we became great friends. He trusted me to do a job well and I gave him 100% loyalty and support in return. He was big in every way and courageous enough to take risks when it came to trusting people. Together we assembled the stall for the vocations exhibition in Newcastle. He appointed me games master in the school and gave me every encouragement. I must say I thrived on it.
Quintan's achievements in Sunderland were quite astonishing. At a time when it was impossible to get any government permits for building, other than priority buildings such as housing and hospitals, and equally difficult to get permission to build from our own general council, Quintan succeeded in rebuilding an old mansion, which he bought for less than £1,000. This house, known as 'Brookside', had no roof, no floors, no windows and no stairs and yet, within twelve months he had rebuilt it at a cost of about £2,000. He did it by organising a workforce of carpenters, bricklayers, roofers, plumbers, painters, electricians and general handymen who met each evening in the school dining room - the basement of the brothers' house - and, after a hearty meal of tea, a fry and chips, worked hard for three hours until 9.30 PM, after which he had a crate of Guinness to send them home happy. He paid them the same rate as they earned during the day and they thought he was "tops". They described him as a "canny man", which is the highest accolade given to any man in the northeast of England. Where the materials came from, one never asked, but appear they did, and the building was finished in very quick time. When finished, it provided six classrooms, a library, a physics and chemistry laboratory and a toilet block.
Prior to my arrival he had purchased a similar house, which he also had renovated and which became the preparatory school. He converted a large orchard and vegetable garden attached to this house into a playing field, and all these changes and additions were masterminded by Quintan and carried out by direct labour. His knowledge of workmen in the area was comprehensive. While out for a walk, he talked to everyone he met: builders, road workers, lorry drivers and those driving machinery. Before long you would see them putting down tennis courts, paths new playgrounds or just simply working around the school. They were exciting times for the community, who felt very much involved in pioneering work. We admired his ability to "never take no for an answer" when he was trying to provide a secondary education for the first generation of Catholic children in the northeast. The Lord blessed his efforts with remarkable success.
Our present provincial, Brother Dominic Sassi, was a pupil at the school in those challenging times.
What greater tribute can I pay to Quintan than to transcribe the letter written to him by Brother Carthage Wall, provincial, on the completion of his term of office in Sunderland?
30 July 1954
Now that your period of office of superior of Sunderland is coming to an end, I wish to offer you my sincere congratulations on the very great success St Aidan's has achieved under your capable management.
The growth of the school has been phenomenal and our first foundation in that part of England has earned for itself a high reputation in six short years. The tone and discipline in the school have been excellent and the boys are a credit to their school wherever they go. Relations with the bishop and clergy have been most cordial, and you have brought it about that the Christian Brothers stand in very high esteem in Sunderland and district. Your government of the house has been kindly and courteous and your community has always been contented and happy. You have set a standard of untiring hard work and complete devotion to the interests of the Congregation. Your zeal in encouraging vocations to Ledsham has been unflagging and is deeply appreciated. Great praise is due to you for the immense amount of labour you put into the preparations for the vocations exhibition in Newcastle which, I am sure, will be blessed by tangible results for years to come.
Your selection as headmaster of the new Archbishop Godfrey Technical College is a tribute to the high esteem in which you are held by the brothers generally, and by the council in particular. This extension of our work is an important venture and it was necessary to have the best leadership for it, though, indeed, we would have liked to give you some respite after the strenuous work of the past six years. As the numbers in the new school will, at first, be small, I hope the work will not be very heavy. As the roll increases, I have every hope of increasing the number of brothers on the staff, and then the question of a suitable residence for a separate community will have to be faced.
With renewed thanks for your splendid work in Sunderland and wishing you great success in Liverpool,
I am, my very dear Br Quintan,
Your affectionate Brother,
M. C. Wall.
So, in September 1954, at the age of fifty-four, Quintan embarked on what was, for the English Province, a new venture, a Voluntary Aided School. Archbishop Godfrey School, later to become Cardinal Godfrey School, was intended to be a grammar/technical school for the inner city of Liverpool. It was housed in a building, which had been a de la Salle school. However, the building was condemned, so the school was relocated in the suburbs of Liverpool. Into this slum Quintan set about attracting children to his "new" school. It had little to attract pupils except the brothers and lay staff who taught there. However, Quintan would not hear of any defeatist talk. He had a vision of this school and he inspired his staff and pupils alike to set their sights high, and over the next sixteen years these children from the inner city, from the "Godie Tech" as they said, achieved results, which would be the envy of many palatial local authority schools today. To my knowledge, he was the only headmaster who was ever allowed by a local authority to remain on as headmaster until he was seventy. That they did so proved that the phrase he used about so many people, "a pure genius", could be aptly applied to himself.
How did he achieve the success he did? His secret of success was a belief in young people. He was always full of optimism. If he was depressed he never showed it. He always saw the strengths in other people, staff as well as pupils, and seemed to be unaware of any weaknesses. They, in their turn, became convinced that they could achieve success if they put their mind to it, and extraordinary success at "0" and 'A' levels, at sport and at tertiary level education followed. It was indeed another success story.
Shortly after his arrival in the "Godie Tech", as it was called, Quintan bought a single-decker bus from a local coach hire company. He encouraged brothers and staff to take out PSV licences. The coach was completely overhauled, a new engine put in, and "Moran's Travel” was in business. The bus was hired out to bring men to and from work and the money made from this enabled Quintan, Brothers Eddie Cowan, Tom MacNamara and Moling Carey to bring youngsters from the Godfrey Tech. camping in Lourdes several times a year. In this way, during his term of office, he enabled over a thousand children from the back streets of Liverpool to go to Lourdes and beautiful places on the Continent and to see how other people lived. The conditions in the neighbourhood of Liverpool 8 were matched by the conditions in the school. Nevertheless, the youngsters felt at home there, attendance was excellent and what the staff and pupils achieved in that inner city school was extraordinary. Year after year they reached the national finals in netball and volleyball, despite being limited to the playground and a small gymnasium.
In 1970 Quintan retired at the age of seventy as headmaster and was immediately appointed superior of St Edward's College. However, Quintan's health began to show signs of wear. High blood pressure was the first sign, followed by arthritis in his knees and circulation trouble. He resigned as superior after three years and was sent as a companion to Brother Pat Hastings in Strawberry Hill, London. Here he lived happily and peacefully for twelve years until, in 1985, he had a prostectomy. He was quite ill for some time after this operation, and it was decided that he should join the community in Altrincham rather than return to London. It was obvious, however, that years of very hard work had taken their toll, and in 1988 he asked to retire to Baldoyle. His wish was granted and he lived for over two years to celebrate his ninetieth birthday there. Thanks to Brother Xavier Leonard, he celebrated this occasion with his sister, Hanna Hickson, nieces, nephews, their wives and husbands and their children. Brother Leonard had also invited Brother Colman Curran, Brother Frank Ryan and myself from England and we were honoured to share that memorable occasion with his family. I paid tribute to Quintan during the Mass and I was pleased to hear Hanna whisper to her daughter-in-law on the way out from Mass, "There was great stuff after all in the Morans." Yes, indeed, there was.
Quintan died peacefully on 21 January 1991 at 2.40 A. M. He was buried two days later in the brothers' cemetery in Baldoyle, near his uncle Cornelius and brother Godfrey. Brother de Sales Foley, a colleague from England, preached the farewelI homily to his family and brothers from England and Ireland.
So quietly ended the life of one whose contribution to the English Province was enormous over nearly sixty-five years. He will not be forgotten in Sunderland, Blackpool, Liverpool and Plymouth and in the hearts and memories of those of us who were glad to live with him.
May he rest in peace. Amen.
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