A Brief History of the Past Pupils’ Associations of
The Salesian Missionary College, Shrigley Park, Macclesfield
The Hall and estate at Shrigley Park near Macclesfield in Cheshire, previously owned by the Lowther family, were acquired by the Catholic religious order, the Salesians of Don Bosco, early in 1929. With headquarters at Turin in northern Italy but wishing to boost their missionary endeavours in the English-speaking world, they established the Salesian Missionary College at Shrigley Park as the junior seminary of the Anglo-Irish Province and it fulfilled that role until its closure in 1982. However, it was not until 1966 that the first association of past pupils was formed.
The Early Years: 1966-1982
On the 16th January 1966, Fr. George Robson SDB (1948-51) organized the first Reunion of Past Pupils to be held at Shrigley. Close on 120 former pupils attended, a Steering Committee of 10 was chosen, plus a number of local secretaries, for the new Shrigley Old Boys' Association. To mark the occasion, Mass was celebrated by Fr. Bernard Tohill SDB (1933-36), a distinguished past pupil of the college’s pioneer days. He had not only worked for many years on the missions in China and as a Provincial Superior in the USA, but was also subsequently elected on to the Superior Chapter of the Congregation with oversight of Salesian missionary work worldwide.
The first Annual General Meeting of the new Association was held on May 8th 1966, at which a Constitution was approved. Some 80 past pupils were in attendance and Mass was celebrated by Fr James Delahunty SDB, another pioneer, who had entered Shrigley as a boy in 1929. Ian Sweeney (1939-45) was elected as the first President of the Association. In September of that year a successful Dinner Dance was held in Urmston at Manchester Manor Hey.
Social and fund-raising activities continued throughout the 1960s and 70s, both at Shrigley and at various other locations, including members' homes. Amongst the chief organizers and promoters of Association activities were Tom Arkless (1930-35), Chris Murphy (1932-36), Eric Williams (1944-49), Vincent Donnelly (1943-49), John Bosco Whitehead (1945-49), Eddie Burke (1947-48), Tony Coop (1940-45), Louis Hannett (1943-49), Hugh (Billy) Bott (1946-49), Bill O'Connor (1961-65), David Murphy (1961-65) and Paul Barnes (1954-57).
Meetings were then moved to the Salesian House at Thornleigh, Bolton, and Fr. Robert Coupe SDB (1949-55) took over as Association Chaplain. The Past Pupils continued to help Shrigley, running stalls at the Annual Fayre, staffing the fund-raising concerts given by The Spinners and helping Fr. George Robson on his summer holiday camps for disabled children. Paul Barnes was President in the late 1970s, Fr. James Gibbons SDB (1944-48) Association Chaplain, and regular Committee meetings were held to promote continued help for Shrigley.
With the closure of the College imminent in 1982, the decision was taken to close down the Association. The decision to close down at this time and the absence of any past pupils’ organisation for over a decade after this indicate that the Shrigley Old Boys’ Association had been seen as a charitable organisation, formed purely to act as a fundraiser and support for the college. As such it was different in nature and purpose from what came later.
The Revival of the Association: 1996 to the Present
Reunited after many years, as guests at the ordination of Fr Sean O'Loughlin SDB, (1948-64) Ted Carless and Eric Baggaley agreed that the 50th Anniversary of their first going to Shrigley (1946-53) would be a fitting occasion to invite Past Pupils to attend a social reunion at the Alma Mater. Following Ted's negotiations with the refurbished Shrigley Hall Hotel to secure preferential rates, his extensive publicity and the article by Eric published in the Salesian Bulletin, the first reunion of the modern era was held at Shrigley in August 1996. Close on 60 past pupils, staff and family members attended, an exhibition of memorabilia was mounted in the former Lower Elements Form Room, now known as The Cheshire Suite, where the planned Service of Remembrance was also held, due to torrential rain. To round off the celebrations, the Salesian Savio House, close by in Bollington, agreed to host Sunday's Mass. The Salesian Community also provided a buffet lunch.
Following the many messages of appreciation received, Ted again canvassed Past Pupils regarding another "informal" social event in 1997. Although by this time he had persuaded John Burke (1948-55) to oversee arrangements for any future events, it was in fact Joe Lomax (1946-52) who took over the reins and became the chief organizer for many years.
Joe was helped in various ways in running what was now named the Shrigley Association by, amongst others, John Burke, Kevin Dean (1950-54), Alan Middleton (1952-57), David Murphy (1961-65), Tom Holden (1952-56), Giles Hunter (1971-76)Terry Prendergast (1955-60) Mick McManus (1960-65) Mike Egan (1961-64) Martin Flynn (1971-75). and Tony Kerrigan (1953-58).
Accepting Fr. Michael Winstanley's offer of Savio House as ‘a second home’, with cheaper board and lodging, Joe based the reunions 1998-2003 at Savio, including the Saturday evening entertainment, expertly hosted by Paul Barnes (1954-57). However, an annual Service of Remembrance took place at Shrigley during the reunions and a number of members continued to stay at the Hotel during them.
A smaller gathering was held on the same basis in March or April each year. Originally conceived as a week-end of reflection, this event became known as the Social Weekend, and programmes of particular relevance to those who had been Shrigley pupils were promoted. Among the specially organised activities held during these events were an illustrated talk on the career of Philip Tilden, the architect of the Church of St. John Bosco at Shrigley; a visit to Jenkin Chapel, the Spanish Chapel, and Errwood Hall, earlier major focal points on the Annual Shrigley to Buxton walk; a conducted tour of St. Nicholas's Church at Pott Shrigley, site of the clock tower, the 'Four-Faced Liar'; and in a September weekend event at the hotel one year, a walk to Lyme Park, one of the common excursions throughout the history of the College.
Throughout this period and down to the present, the Association has enjoyed increasingly close relations with the management of the Hotel, where members enjoy a special rate. On 8th December 2000, Fr. Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB (1968-73), on behalf of the Association, unveiled a commemorative plaque in the foyer of the Shrigley Hall Hotel, recording the Salesian presence at Shrigley. Since then the House Shields and the Lomas Shield have been put on permanent display in the same location. More recently, a selection of photographs illustrating Salesian Shrigley have been displayed at the Hotel. The Association is delighted that the management of the Hotel cherishes its heritage and is grateful for the facilities which it provides for its meetings and other special occasions.
In planning the Reunion in 2004 to mark the 75th Anniversary of the Opening of Shrigley, a return to our Alma Mater was clearly imperative. By dint of generous sponsorship and much hard work on the part of many past pupils, a splendid event was organized in The Tilden Suite, which takes up the top half of the former Shrigley Church. This was the venue for the Mass where principal celebrant was the Provincial of the British Province, Fr. Michael Winstanley SDB (1954-58) who was joined by 30 other ordained past pupils, including Fr. Dan Lyons SDB (1929-33), one of the inaugural intake. The Mass was followed by a celebration dinner and a concert.
The 75th Anniversary was marked also by the simultaneous publication of two books on the history of Shrigley. The first, by Peter Roebuck, The Foundation Decade at Shrigley, was published by the Piccola Biblioteca dell’ Instituto Storico Salesiano in Rome. Subtitled Seminary, Church & Shrine 1929-1939, it is a solidly researched account of Shrigley’s most vibrant and exciting decade which culminated in the completion of the Church of St John Bosco.
The second, Shrigley 1929-2004, designed and printed by the University of Ulster, is a collection of photographs produced by Mike Kilduff for the Association to mark the 75th Anniversary. In the words of Fr Albert Carette, in his introduction, photographs “provide a window through which we gaze and recall events, people and friends as they were. They are a valuable source of reference and a stimulant to our imagination”.
Following this successful event at the Hotel, the Annual Reunion and AGM have been held there each year since, though Savio House shares some of the events and continues to offer accommodation to members. This arrangement reflects the belief of the Association that Shrigley, the place where members spent some of their earlier lives, should be the chief focus of its gatherings, as befits an association of past pupils and their teachers.
During 2005/2006, at a number of meetings, the informal Committee discussed a paper it had commissioned on the enlargement and reorganization of roles and duties, in order to establish a wider-based and a collaborative approach to Association activities. This reorganization, approved at the Glasgow Committee Meeting in January 2007 and at the subsequent AGM, saw a formal Committee elected for the first time. The following Members were nominated and elected:
Chairman: Peter Roebuck (1953-59)
Joint Secretaries: Joe Lomax (1946-52), Mike Kilduff (1953-59)
Treasurer: David Murphy (1961-65)
Minutes Secretary/IT Coordinator: Eric Baggaley (1946-53)
Events Coordinator: Bernard O'Neill (1958-62)
Fr Albert Carette SDB (1932-37) was invited to be Honorary President of the Association. There is also the post of Archivist which is held by Mike Kilduff. The Committee co-opted two members to join it:
Scottish Representative: John Bergin (1965-70)
Southern England Representative: Paul Barnes (1954-57)
The 2007 Reunion centred on the launch of another book, The Salesian Cemetery at Shrigley, by Mike Kilduff and Peter Roebuck, combining research and the recollections of over fifty past pupils, staff and relatives of those buried at Shrigley. Following a lunch at the Hotel, and the book launch in the Cheshire Suite, the Service of Remembrance in the cemetery was attended by relatives of four of the five boys to die and be buried at Shrigley. The exception was Patrick Wosser, since research had not been able to make contact with his family. Relatives of Bro Chris Higgins SDB and Fr Edwin Slack SDB also attended. Contact was subsequently made with the Wosser family and Patrick’s nephew, Michael John Bosco Wosser, and his wife Grainne, were guests of honour at the 2008 Reunion and cemetery service.
2008 marked the 50th anniversary of the death of the last boy to die at Shrigley, and on Saturday 4th October, members of Damien Cocksey's family joined members of the Association for lunch at the Hotel followed by a service in the cemetery led by Fr. Albert Carette SDB.
The 2008 AGM recorded the resignation of Joe Lomax from the Committee and warm acknowledgement was made of his contribution to the history of the Association.
The Shrigley Association Today
The Constitution of the Shrigley Association states its Aim and Object as follows:
The Shrigley Association is an association of the former pupils and staff of the Salesian Missionary College, Shrigley Park, Macclesfield, Cheshire. Its aim is to promote fellowship among members, whatever their persuasion, by holding annual meetings and other suitable activities.
The Association publishes a Directory of former pupils and staff of the Salesian Missionary College, recording addresses and years spent at Shrigley. All former students and staff of the Salesian Missionary College, whatever their situation or persuasion, are entitled to be members of the Shrigley Association. Under the arrangements of the Constitution approved by the AGM of 2008, those who pay an annual or life subscription become Enrolled Members and they are entitled to voting rights at the AGM.
In a move to make contact with more former Shrigley Old Boys, the Committee has initiated a new annual programme. The Annual Reunion, with AGM and Service of Remembrance, is held at Shrigley and Savio usually in September. In addition, it holds three Committee Meetings a year. All members are entitled to attend and participate, though without voting rights. The meetings are held in different parts of the country as part of a social weekend. To date there have been such meetings in Glasgow, Great Missenden and Chertsey. Though attendance has not been large, the arrangements must at this stage be regarded as successful in meeting its aim of promoting fellowship.
There are three Newsletters a year. These are posted out to members who do not have an internet address, but they are also posted on the website. The Association Committee regards its website as its main means of keeping in contact with its membership and the web team of Eric Baggaley and Keith Dransfield (1958-63) update the site daily.