St Hugh's College, Tollerton

Michael Kerrigan's pages 4/5

A group of us had gone for a few days, with Fr Butler, to a hostel just north of Grasmere (owned by Lancaster diocese, I think) and were out ‘scrambling’ over towards Langdale. It was winter and, though the conditions were not too bad, the ground must have been very slippery. Coming down Jack’s Rake on Pavey Ark, Foxy slipped and fell. He was dead when we reached him at the bottom. His death shook us all, but especially Fr Butler.

This was still the era of corporal punishment, though it was never used at St Hugh’s with the same frequency – or, it must be said, enthusiasm – as it had been at my previous Jesuit school. The main reasons for being caned were infringements of the nightly ‘magnum silentium’: absolute silence was the rule from after night prayers until breakfast the next morning – not an easy rule to keep to in the dormitories we slept in up to sixth form. But I was, I confess, a bit of a goody and only remember getting the cane once. One college joke was that you couldn’t tell the difference between the sound of the cane strokes and that of the funereally slow typing of Fr Birks next door! Still, overall, discipline at Tollerton felt moderate and fair and relationships with teaching and other staff were friendly. Incidentally, though there were instances of ‘inappropriate’ friendships between boys (who usually promptly left), I was never aware of any suggestion of such involving the adults in the community.

Which brings me to my only real complaint about my time at St Hugh’s: the almost complete neglect of any attempt to educate us "junior seminarians" for the celibate life of a priest – or indeed to cater for emotional maturation generally. From my arrival there at age 13 (which, in those days, was often well before puberty struck – and certainly so in my case) until I left at 18, I recall absolutely no attempt on the part of our teachers to address issues of adolescence, let alone reflection on the implications of the celibate life to which, in principle, we had already committed ourselves.

caning