Novitiate 1956-1958

Novitiate 56-58


Arriving with my Father at Ampleforth we went into tea in the monastery refectory, and I met the brethren informally for the first time. Afterward I was introduced tot he novitiate gallery. The rooms had been divided due to two large novitiates.. My match box had a window up two steps with a table and bowl and ewer,also a chest of drawers plus a table. But this was all the furniture apart from a bed and a chair. The lavatories and bathrooms were in what was called the plumbers paradise at the top of the stairs with a basin and tap for filling the bowls. There were five of us in the novitiate. John Morris, and Bob Kelly from the School, …….. from Warrington, and Hedley Barron in his 30s from Liverpool. In the novitiate were Piers Grant Ferris Alban Crossley and Thomas Cullinan, (second year) and Miles Bellais, Colin Havard, Vincent Marron, Richard Macmillan, Oliver Ballinger, Anselm Cramer. (third year about t leave the novitiate).

On the Thursday of our first week when we were in retreat – I was delighted with the talks by Fr. Bruno, I remember. we went to Foss lake – the only time I have been there, on a run, we swam in the lake, and had to avoid going through field full of cows because Anselm was terrified. Later runs took us to the Rye valley with Fr. Cuthbert who was the assistant novicemaster.

Our manual labour was in the monks wood – sensible work mostly clearing leaves in the autumn and putting them into pits so that they became leaf mould. The guru on most of these work and indeed for me during my novitiate was Thomas Cullinan. He was the grandson of Lord Horder (the royal doctor) and his two brothers were in the school. Tim a doctor later worked in Africa, and Ted an architect became a national second rank architect who designed East Anglia university and also the public centre for tourists at Fountains Abbey. Thomas was a physicist and mathematician, but has a unique quality of mind, and a constantly fresh ways of looking at spiritual and human things. Always situating himself firmly in the middle of the community, he nevertheless has been impelled by his vision and thought to work from the outside. He talents in bookbinding, design, art, thoughts on human, scientific and spiritual affairs have been immensely influential in my life. It has been one of the great privileges of my life to have known him as a friend.

I was in charge of the Abbots Chapel in the new wing of the monastery and I remember finding the dusting etc of this very tedious, and this was shown up when there was a inspection by the sacristan Fr. Kevin after a month and there was a huge string of complaints about it. On looking back I now realised that this was the first time that I had to do housekeeping. At home we never had to look after our rooms, make our beds, clean our shoes, and certainly not dust, cook etc so I had no experience of this kind of work. All my life this situation has been slowly rectified so that in my 50s I found myself having to look after a kitchen in St. Dunstans, and to use a washing machine in Hawkstone Hall.

When John Morris left I inherited the High Altar. There was a large expanse of wooden floor which had to be buffed by a heavy dumper, there were huge carpets which lived under the organ, and the candles had to be scraped – the 65% beeswax for Mass and the 25 % for benediction. The right kind of wax to go into different tea chests for recycling by the manufacturers. Saturday was the day for cleaning sacristy things, and I always found it appalling hot and stuffy. especially as the end of the day came with Vespers Compline and Matins of Sunday. A marathon of prayer which was very trying.

Br. Thomas was a master bookbinder having learnt the skills from a friend at home, and he began to teach me how. We did a number of graduals and other books, but having learnt the technique it never left me, and was useful when in 1995 I worked in the Encuardenacion (bookbinding room) of the Monastery of La Trinidad in Santiago during my Sabbatical year.

It was during this time that I asked permission to play the recorder – Fr Bruno was an enthusiast of simply melodies and with his agreement I started. When I went into the third year I transferred to the Clarinet under Conrad Martin the school wind teacher. This began a friendship with him and his companion Mary Akeroyd which was to last for 20 years. I knew I was not musical and I had never played an instrument and everyone told me that I could not sing but the enjoyment of melodies grew on me.