of the Sod-Cutting for the Church of St. John Bosco
1st April 2009.
Shrigley looked at its best in the warm sunshine as members gathered to celebrate this anniversary, an event most remarkable because of the presence of Fr Albert Carette, who, as young boy was present on Easter Sunday 1934, the day of Don Bosco’s Canonisation in Rome.
The only blemish on that distant day was the enforced absence of Fr Franco, Rector of Shrigley, and many other staff and boys, because the College for weeks had been in the grip of a major ‘flu epidemic. Those who gathered then were but a small minority of those who could have witnessed an eagerly awaited moment.
The 75th Anniversary was eagerly awaited too, not least by Fr Albert himself. With Bro Donald MacDonald and Fr George Robson, he was seated outside the hotel looking out over the two lakes well before the scheduled start of the day’s programme. They were joined early on by Tony McCarthy who had travelled all the way from Cardiff the previous afternoon to stay at the hotel.
Coffee, tea and biscuits were served from 10.30a.m. in the Courtyard bar, where members were greeted by Jennifer Sibbald-Wall, General Manager of the Shrigley Hall Hotel. At 11a.m. all moved into the Woodford Suite, remembered by all as the Parlour, where there was a display of pictures to mark the celebration.
Fr Albert welcomed everyone and led the opening prayer. Everyone moved outside to have pictures taken by a Macclesfield Express photographer.
There then followed a programme of readings, chosen by Peter Roebuck from the Salesian Archives and the Shrigley House Chronicle of 1934. The readings were planned as part of a walk round the grounds, to significant locations.
Peter Roebuck’s reminiscence was delivered from the patio area outside the former church, Eric Baggaley’s in the cemetery. As time was pressing, the presentations by David Murphy, Mike Kilduff and Paul Barnes were delivered on the former site of the May Sermonettes, where St Dominic Savio’s statue once stood.
From the same place, Fr Albert rounded off with his reminiscence, ‘I Was There’, ending in time for a buffet lunch. Louise Davenport, formerly PA at the hotel, a good friend to the association, was a guest. Fr Albert had provided a surprise item. This was a specially baked cake designed to replicate the grassy sod cut all those years ago. Cardboard cut-outs of John Hoey, who cut the sod, the Papal Flag that marked the spot, and of the young Albert himself completed the illusion that indeed another sod was being cut.
This was cut, after lunch, back in the Woodford Suite. Everyone, including Jennifer, enjoyed a piece of the green-topped cake, which with the singing of ‘Ad Multos Annos’ and the school song brought the celebrations to an end.
Those who attended were:
Fr Albert Carette SDB Fr George Robson SDB Fr Bernard Parkes SDB Bro Donald MacDonald SDB
Peter Roebuck Eric & Tricia Baggaley John & Marie Burke David Murphy
Paul Barnes Kevin Dean Joe Lomax John Crowshaw
Tony McCarthy Peter Hunter Paul Kennedy Peter Stubbs
Mike & Helen Kilduff
Mike Kilduff, Secretary
Report from Macclesfield Express
1. Welcome & Opening Prayer - Fr. Albert Carette SDB
7. ‘I Was There’ - Fr. Albert Carette SDB
THE PLAN FOR A CHURCH AND SHRINE
The starting-point for today’s Commemoration of the events of 1st April, Easter Sunday, 1934 is the fact that the building of a new Church and Shrine dedicated to Don Bosco was from the earliest stages an integral part of the plan for the foundation and development of the Salesian Missionary College here at Shrigley Park.
The first boys arrived at Shrigley in September 1929. According to the Salesian Bulletin for July-August 1930, ‘preparations are being made for the housing of a further batch of boys so that the number will amount to over 100. One of the large rooms [in the House]’, later the Community Dining Room, ’has been turned into a very devotional little chapel, [but] in the course of time the Congregation contemplates building its own Chapel in the spacious grounds of the College’. Nor did the creation in 1931 of a larger chapel than the original one, on the ground floor of the new Martyrs’ Wing [later the Boys’ Refectory], lead to any revision of this plan. This second facility was twice described as ’temporary’ in the issue of the Bulletin for July-August 1931, a term which was repeated in the issue for March-April 1933.
Early in the following year, 1934, the pace of publicity for the grand venture began to gather momentum. Publicity was required in order to generate donations: the estimate of the cost of the new Church and Shrine was over £12,000, 50% more than Shrigley Hall and its entire estate had cost just a few years earlier, and a huge sum in those very depressed times. The Bulletin for January 1934 carried the following announcement:‘A proposal is on foot to create at the Missionary College at Shrigley a Shrine in honour of, and in thanksgiving to, Blessed John Bosco for the many great favours granted to the English Province since its inception in 1887. It was in that year that Don Bosco himself, a few months before his death, sent over the first Salesians, Fr. McKiernan and Fr. Macey, both since gone to their reward, to open the House at Battersea and to commence the Salesian work in England. The story of how, on a cold November day, they were welcomed by Fr. (now His Eminence Cardinal) Bourne….is already well known.
We commend the scheme to our Co-operators and to the Old Boys of our Colleges, and hope for their hearty support’. A footnote added: ’Communicate with Very Rev. Fr. Provincial, Salesian College, Battersea, SW 11‘.
The Bulletin for February 1934 returned to the matter of ’the proposed Shrine of St. John Bosco [distinctly but forgiveably premature] to be created [here at Shrigley]. It will be the tribute of the whole Province - Salesians, Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians, their pupils, and the Co-operators - to the Saint, in thanksgiving to God for all the graces received since the Province began. May the Shrine be worthy of the Province. More will be heard of this project later. In the meantime we content ourselves with repeating to all the hope that they will rally to the aid of this good cause’. Support was being canvassed very seriously indeed. The grand venture was underway!
THE COMMUNITY AT SHRIGLEY IN 1934
Now a brief description of the Salesian Community at Shrigley in 1934.
Presiding over all was the Rector, a Piedmontese, Fr.Angelo Franco, then 49 years old, who had arrived at Shrigley in 1930, a year after its foundation, and was among the most distinguished and experienced of contemporary Salesians, with a degree in Philosophy from the Gregorian in Rome and a doctorate in Theology from Turin. He had joined the Salesian effort in the United States for a while, where no doubt he acquired his command of English. He returned to Turin in 1910, acting as Secretary to Don Albera, the third Salesian Rector-Major, and was ordained in the following year. After being obliged to serve in the Italian army during the Great War, he was asked to come to England, where he worked successively at Burwash, Cowley and Battersea before coming north to Shrigley. It was he, apparently, who argued most forcefully for the establishment of a junior seminary in England, and he was Provincial Tozzi’s travelling companion in the search for a suitable property in the late 1920s.
His deputy, as Vice-Rector, who was at Shrigley from the very start, was the Maltese Fr. Joseph Ciantar. As a teenager Ciantar had been to confession to Don Bosco’s successor, Michael Rua, ‘who told him that he was meant to be a Salesian’. After seminary in Malta and Turin he came to England where he served as Assistant to Novice-Master Fr. Simonetti at Burwash until his ordination in 1920. Thereafter he worked at the Salesian House at Cowley, winning a sterling reputation among the young apprentices at the nearby Morris-Oxford car-plant. His key role at Shrigley was as a roving ambassador, building up the Co-operators and, crucially, recruiting aspirants. Franco and Ciantar knew each other well and had worked together before Shrigley. Travelling the length and breadth of Britain and Ireland, Ciantar ’brought home the bacon’, as contemporaries put it, whereupon Franco ’cured it’.
Fr. Joseph Dunne was Catechist and Fr. Thomas Payne was Prefect of Studies or Headmaster, and the Community also included 15 or so clerical brothers studying Theology, Terence O’Brien and Harold Wrangham being among them. Along with Laurence Biello and Chris Gorton were a further nine lay brothers, testimony to continuing heavy development work at Shrigley in the House, the grounds and on the farm. With around 160 boys the entire complement must have approached 200. The place was lively, busy and crowded.
THE SPRING AND SUMMER TERMS AT SHRIGLEY IN 1934
Less than a year earlier, on 20th April 1933, Shrigley had experienced its first death - of Andrew Gallagher from appendicitis. Then in November that year Daniel McAfee was admitted to Macclesfield Isolation Hospital and died there from diptheria.. Moreover, it was only just over a decade since the influenza pandemic which, it is estimated, had killed some 40 million worldwide, and it was this which most worried contemporaries. There had been an outbreak at Shrigley in 1932 (which, among several others, laid Ciantar low) and another in the local area in 1933, but Shrigley’s first major ’flu epidemic came in the Spring and Summer terms of 1934, forming a rather sombre and very disruptive background to the Sod-Cutting ceremony and the Canonisation. Developments are described in detail in the House Chronicle:
15 March ’…four or five boys are down with the ’flu…’
16 March ’…Thirty-two boys are vaccinated…’
23 March ’…The ’flu epidemic is on the increase; twenty boys are now down…’
26 March ’As the number of boys suffering from influenza is still increasing, it is considered adviseable to discontinue the boys’ exams. A programme of outdoor work is arranged’.
29 March ’Maundy Thursday…Master Vincent Screen’s illness has developed into pneumonia; his condition is very serious and he has been moved into the Pink Room. Fortunately, Mrs. Magee, a certified Nurse and mother of one of the boys, is on the spot and undertakes to nurse him night and day’.
30 March ’Good Friday. Fr. Rector is unable to celebrate the Mass of the Presanctified as he is confined to his bed with influenza’.
31 March ’Holy Saturday - Blessing of the Paschal Fire etc. begins at 6.30 am. Bro. James Brockbank arrives from Bolton to assist in attending the sick’.
5 April ’Martin Screen’s condition is becoming serious; he is therefore anointed, and his parents arrive’.
6 April ’Martin Screen’s condition is still critical. Fr. Rector is still confined to bed’.
7 April ’At last the turn in the tide of sickness comes and most of the sick boys begin their convalescence’.
9 April ’Martin Screen is removed to the Manchester Royal Infirmary, having contracted pleurisy’.
16 April ’[The new] Term begins. It is impossible to carry on the full class timetable as many of the boys are still convalescent and several of the staff are ill. Classes are given in the morning only - longer recreation and study in the afternoon. Mrs. Magee leaves after havingh most generously devoted her intended holiday to the nursing of Martin Screen and to the repairing and washing of Church linen’.
17 April ‘Fr. Rector is able to say Mass for the first time since his illness‘.
7 May ‘The full class timetable is resumed once more’.
Coming hard on the heels of Danny McAfee’s death in the previous autumn and the diptheria scare - which saw visits from the local Medical Officer of Health and his staff, and which led to several staff and many boys being isolated from the rest - this ‘flu epidemic caused a further bout of disruption. Martin Screen survived, but because of widespread illness the 1933-34 academic year was not a smooth one.
Two of the older priests at Shrigley were the official Confessors, Fr. Joseph Musgrave and Fr. Edward Goy. The latter provided yet another link with the earliest days of the Salesian Congregation. Born at Pavia in 1871, Fr. Goy was ordained in Turin in 1897 and soon afterwards was sent to England by Don Rua. After various posts (including senior ones such as Provincial Secretary and Provincial Economer) at Battersea, Burwash and Cowley, and at Warrenstown in Ireland, he was - as his obituary puts it - posted to Shrigley as one of the ‘shock brigade’. In addition to being a Confessor he was a true elder statesman and undoubtedly a confidant to both Franco and Ciantar. He was also possessed of a range of practical skills which he had much opportunity to exercise in his new environment: he was a competent mechanic and no slouch as a plumber and electrician. Above all, the Lowthers having left behind them a substantial kitchen garden and sizeable formal grounds, he was an enthusiastic and experienced gardener. This prompted him to mark the Canonisation of Don Bosco in a special way. The Chronicle for 1934 takes up the story:
It was scarcely surprising that Fr. Ciantar, leader of a growing band of Salesian Co-operators with a special interest in Shrigley, decided to organise for a group of them a Pilgrimage to Rome for the Canonisation. This was to be led by the Provincial, Fr. Tozzi, accompanied by Ciantar himself. The inside front cover of the Salesian Bulletin for March 1934 carried the following advertisement:
Inclusive Fares: £28. 0. 0. (1st Class Fare and 1st Class Hotel)
£22.10. 0. (2nd Class Fare and 2nd Class Hotel)
£18.10. 0 (2nd Class Fare & Convent or College Accommodation)
Ten Days. No Extras. London back to London. Leaving London Good Friday 9 AM.
Arrive back in London Low Sunday afternoon. Apply early to the Organising Secretary: Rev. J.Ciantar SC, Salesian Missionary College, Shrigley Park, Macclesfield, Cheshire’.
THE SOD-CUTTING CEREMONY
For details of what happened at Shrigley on the great day 75 years ago we must turn again to the House Chronicle which, given the occasion, had a remarkable brief, almost cryptic entry:
At intervals, and with astonishment more keen than words can tell, I have been jolted back from the physical side of living to the spiritual; and never more than now, when memory brings back the figure of little Father Tozzi, the Father Provincial of the Salesian Order. With what understanding and quiet resignation has he sat by my elbow or walked in the great avenues at Shrigley, near Macclesfield, for many an hour, leading his own life, carrying his own convictions along with him, trying to give me ‘faith’. ‘But Father,’ I would say, ‘I already have faith.’ He would nod his head and smile quietly, digging his cold hands further into the black tumultuousness of his sleeves, saying, ‘It is well.’
There was a drenching day of a great procession when the Bishop of Shrewsbury laid the foundation stone, all in the glory of vestments covered up by umbrellas and coats and mackintoshes. There was the day when the old quarry was opened up, the loose stone removed for road metal, and new slices and blocks of hard, virgin rock sheered off and worked by the cunning hands of a few men, a few bars and a few chisels. From that time on, day in day out, one could hear the tap-tapping of metal against stone deep down in the gulf of that quarry, and bit by bit the stones changed from meaningless lumps into things of quality and shape. And bit by bit the walls rose from the flat raft that sat the hill amongst the gigantic rhododendrons and sinuous snake-skin beeches.
Never in my life have I experienced such warmth of spirit as at Shrigley, where I was welcomed with smiles and hospitality on every visit; but never in my life have I been colder in body, for the wind cuts clean across the Derbyshire Fells, and the Salesian life is a hard one. I was indeed favoured by being given a bedroom with a hot pipe running through it, and many a time when I had unfrozen one end of my body, I had to reverse myself to get warm at the other end, consoling myself all the time that not one other of the whole Order had such a thing as this lovely hot pipe.
THE CANONISATION IN ROME
There was a full report on this in the Salesian Bulletin for April 1934, from which the following excerpts have been drawn:
‘In a speech…made at the Sacred Heart College in Rome…Archbishop Salotti, Secretary of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, remarked that in all the long years during which he had been attached to the Vatican he had never witnessed scenes such as those which accompanied the beatification of Don Bosco. “What”, he asked, “will the crowds be like when he is canonised?”. The answer was supplied on Easter Sunday……’.
SHRIGLEY’S OWN CELEBRATIONS, JUNE 1934
Earlier, on 20 February 1934, the Chronicle had recorded ‘a meeting of the Committee formed from the members of the Community to organise the forthcoming celebrations in connection with the Canonisation of Blessed John Bosco’. Details of these celebrations followed from: