2016 -The Year Of Commemoration and Justice

As I get older my existence becomes more hermitic. Although I am in touch with the world, I see nobody but my wife, the lovely Helen, the bane of my life for 43 years. Only when I go for provisions do I realise there are other people living in the neighbourhood. However the internet does tell me that there is a living and breathing world out there. I have become almost feral in my habits. My sleep pattern at the moment is 6.00pm until 1.00am and 5.00am to 8.00am.
In those long night hours I scratch around thinking of something interesting to write or do a little military research or just sit there looking at an empty screen planning my year ahead and it is a full one I have to say.
This month sees my 70th birthday, for five years the Queen of England has been sending me regular payments to go towards my necessary drinking vouchers and long may she remain in such a generous mood. Although I have to say I hate the whole Germanic lot of her ilk. I intend on that day when I first saw the light to push the boat out with a little help from Lizzie and then return to my hermitage for a short while.
March sees me in Blackpool for a reunion of a cricket team I last played for 50 years ago. I am looking forward to it; overs bowled, runs scored when most of you dear readers were less than glints in a man’s lusty eye. Blackpool will come alive to the cheers of septuagenarian and octogenarian shuffling as we remember glorious summers all those years ago.
After visits to grandchildren in Manchester, I will wend my way back west of the Shannon only to take up my cudgel once more in May, when our much heralded court case, scheduled for 15 days, takes place in the High Court in London. It’s us, the baby boomers of Manchester, against them, The Holy Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford and its adjunct the Holy Roman Catholic College of St. Bede’s, that veritable home of Holy Roman Catholic physical, mental and sexual abusers of young boys from the town we all loved so well for nigh on a hundred years.
I bet the Bedian top drawer do not know if they are coming or going recently what with the press reports both in the newspapers and on television regarding the sex abuse suffered at the hands of the holy fathers, Mulholland and Hamilton but principally by the groinal digit (digit number 21 of the normal human male) of his most holy and sacred Monsignor Thomas Duggan. Duggan who was the most holy and sacred representative of the Holy Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford in his vicariously liable position of Rector of the College and its most evil perpetrator of such foul deeds. (I hope the reader does not think I am trying to make a point here but they definitely are what they are or what they say they are)
On top of all of this, pressure mounted as Mrs Pep Guardiola accompanied by Mrs Txiki Begiristain visited the College. (Why do all football aficionados these days have unpronounceable names, where have the likes of Jim Smith and Matt Busby gone to) As can be seen when those two ladies names are mentioned in the one sentence, Old Pep has thrown his hand in with Manchester City. He sent his wife round to the College which is the finishing school for the brightest and most able of the City Academy kids to see if his three sprogs would fit in there. Especially after Des Coffey, the City Education Officer and Bedian governor told him “try our gaff, the paedos are gone” (or have they?). So round Ma Guardiola trots whilst harried by hacks from the Daily Shitraker. She reportedly loved it, “it was like a breath of fresh air” she said. Which is not saying much for the Holy Roman Catholic educational establishments of either Munich or Barcelona. Anyway if Pep smells a rat or thinks he has been sold a pup or feels the width and sees the quality he can always put the three Bavarian/Catalonian hybrids out on loan to Manchester Grammar School or Fallowfield High.
Forgetting about football for a moment and thinking of the court case which I would like to be there for, for its whole length. I think it starts on 5th May and the prices of hotels in central London make this for me a prohibitive thought. But if any reader knows of cheap digs in London during that time and lets me know, I will be eternally grateful. Although Queen Lizzie is generous with her weekly allowance it only allows me to sleep on the embankment.
After our undoubted success over the really nice chaps from Diocese Salford my year continues with a trip to the Somme in late August/early September. It is to remember the 6th Battalion Connaught Rangers and the part they played in the 16th (Irish) Division’s vital victories at Guillemont and Ginchy in early September 1916, in fact one of the very few successes in that five months most dreadful of battles.
Shortly after that I am off to Spain, to Central Western Spain on the Portugese border to follow Wellington’s triumphant march out of Portugal in 1811-1812 giving Napoleon a bloody nose at Talavera, Fuentes de Onoro, Badajoz and Salamanca where the “Devil’s Own” the Connaught Rangers played a leading role whenever push came to shove and where Wellington said to Picton the General in charge of the Rangers, “I don’t know what the French think of them but they scare the hell out of me”. Over ten days we visit Talavera, Almaraz, Albuera, Badajoz, Alcantara, Almeida, Fuentes de Onoro, Ciudad Rodrigo, Salamanca and Segovia. As well as living history I hope to sample the local food and if offered try their wines.
So the year will be full and let us hope triumphant whilst the Holy Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford suffer for the wrongs it did in the past because the bishops, especially Marshall and Beck, knew what was going on at Bede’s and gave free head to the Most Holy and Sacred Monsignor Thomas Duggan to do his worst.
Just to sign off and reiterate, I am deadly serious about the hope that there are some cheap and friendly digs in or around central London, near enough to the High Court (wherever that is) to be reached in less than a few hours journey. I have been working towards this time for nigh on six years and I hope my dotage and financial situation do not impair my choices of seeing real justice done.

 

Holy Ghostly Tales

Living where I do, on the banks of the Boyle River where even on a bad day you see more wildlife than cars, more rats than people, more rain than sunshine, our major task is the gathering of correct information. As by choice we do not have a television or radio nor do we venture into town for a newspaper because as I have just said our search is for correct information and not the unadulterated garbage and misinformation you get served up in the mainstream media.
I have to find another outlet that satisfies my obsessional desire for knowledge and truth and I find it through the internet, from the alternative media, from trusted sources of e-mails, websites and reading recommended books. I read possibly two books a week, trawl the internet or write. My week is full. I have no time to go out, socialise and have fun, I am too old for that marketing ploy. We make our own fun at home, talking, reading and arguing over a glass or two of wine. We, being my lovely wife Helen who has stood at my side for 43 years and watched whilst I do all the cooking, cleaning, gardening and all the rest of the mundane that makes life so well worth living.
Anyway a week or two ago we received an e-mail from the august chair of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society in Manchester. The SVP, as it is known, is at the centre of the Catholic Church and is paramount in the Church’s charitable works and pomps. The e-mail told of a book that had been published by an old time acquaintance of ours, Eugene Vesey and told of the physical, mental and sexual abuse in a junior seminary of the Holy Ghost Fathers as was. They have recently changed their title to the Spiritans. Their penchant for sexual abuse of young boys, especially here in Ireland, was getting them such bad publicity, a name change was so very necessary.
I pricked up my ears when my lovely wife of 43 years read this e-mail out because the Holy Ghost Fathers have been a big thing in both our lives. Both of us bought the book immediately on our Kindles. Eugene Vesey we knew 55 years ago but we had not seen or heard of him in 50 years. How time flies.
The book entitled Ghosters explains how a young boy of 12 years of age from Manchester was taken up to this junior seminary in the Lake District. This was housed in a large Victorian mansion which had been bought by this order of missionary priests. It explained the trials and tribulations of that enclosed life to a boy of that age and the unforeseen, unaccountable abuse those boys suffered of a physical, mental and sexual nature, whilst the priests of that order tried to mould them into Catholic missionary priests. The book is in novel form but I am assured by the author that it is basically autobiographical. It tells of the relationships that build up between these young men, the disgust they feel at the priest’s behaviour and the compulsion that existed which made them continue to accept the abuse being penniless and hundreds of miles from home. It also tells of the enlightenment that appeared when the hero of the story begins to realise the hoax that is being played on them in the name of organised religion, in particular with the Roman Catholic brand of Christianity.
It talks of the courage needed, in their miserable, boracic state, bereft of any power, to face up to the abusers and say “no more” and the ensuing depression that comes when the enlightened one comes into contact with the real world, having been virtually incarcerated for seven or eight years in the most important formative years of a young person’s life. How one’s emotional compass is all at sea especially in relationships with the opposite sex, the opposite sex that had been drilled into these young boys as being unclean, as being “the agents of the devil”. Helen was horrified that a man of religion could instil this thought into an immature mind of 50% of mankind.
As we finished our respective copies we looked at each other flabbergasted. We flooded each other with our thoughts and our opinions. We had a right, we had been plagued with this order of Catholic missionary priests for nearly 60 years.
Helen’s brother and my brother and a good few more of our peer group in and around Manchester had gone through the same process, through the same gates, the same doors, along the same corridors as contemporaries of the author. The author had suffered badly at the hands of these zealots. Had the same ignominies been forced on our brothers, our friends? When these lads had determined that enough was enough and came out at 19 or 20 years old, it was to a sadness of a failed vocation that faced them, not a happy relief from a gulag. We were young and callow, could not appreciate the depths they were in, could not see the emotional maelstrom that clouded their minds. They probably tried hard to hide it rather well but they certainly had a problem with relationships. Like the author who never wanted to talk of his previous life, not a dicky bird passed the lips of these unfortunates. For some now it is too late some have already gone to their graves. A little like the survivors of the atrocities of warfare, they took their secret  with them.
I could ask my brother but the tragedy is that relationship is lost. He has not spoken to me in 25 years. I think blaming me for all the bad things in his life, the source lost in the mists of time.
To show how this mistreatment in teenage life follows you through life, the author wrote a second book Opposite Worlds detailing his failed relationships during his twenties with girls passing through London and his inability to sustain them, even when he meets a decent girl he fucks it up by choosing to lead a promiscuous life style.. His emotional immaturity still abounding at an age when lads who had lived a normal life had learned in the main how to control this key element of our psychological makeup.
Going on to his last book in his so far trilogy he talks about his burgeoning emotional maturity, how he wants to settle down and have a family but his old tricks keep returning and the book Italian Girls finishes with a possible new relationship or could he eventually grasp the nettle and go back to the decent woman in his life.
His story is like so many stories I have come into contact with whilst pursuing the physical, mental and sexual abuse that pupils of St Bede’s suffered under the tutelage of Monsignor Thomas Duggan in the 1950s and ‘60s. I am beginning to see it as the norm for abused kids.
The three books are exceptionally well written as you would expect from a scholar of English and I would advise any reader with an interest in this problem of clerical abuse and the detrita it leaves behind to get the three. They are all available on Amazon but at the moment only the first book is on Kindle.
After contacting the author to congratulate him on his work he tells me there is a fourth book in the pipeline and possibly a fifth. The man is 70 years of age and this problem is still affecting his thoughts. Meanwhile we are communicating regularly trying to catch up with the 50 lost years. Read away at these three thought provoking books and if possible try to pass on your thoughts through the comment section of this blog.

It Is Not The Bishop’s Feet I Can Smell Here, But He Does Have Bad Breath

I would like to drag the reader back to a posting I put on the system on 5th October 2015 entitled “St Bede’s College in Manchester And All That”, where in the second half of that article I complained about Slater and Gordon’s handling of a case involving two old boys of St Bede’s and the way they had been shuttled through the legal system in Manchester without any care whatever to their emotional and mental status.
These lads, originally three, had independently approached Panone, the Manchester solicitors, supposedly renowned for their work in the field of personal injury claims. One of the three was ditched at an early stage and the other two were carried forward, neither knowing of the other’s claim and in a flash almost, after being told that the international law firm of Slater & Gordon had taken over Panone, were persuaded to settle their case with the Salford Diocese. I will go into detail about these two men later in this piece but I always wondered why the two men were pushed through with almost indecent haste; but now I think I know.
Word has reached me from possibly the far most reaches of the Bedian diaspora area, in fact from the mainland opposite the Great Barrier Reef in Northern Queensland in Australia. This is Slater & Gordon’s home territory where they made their name in pre-war Australia championing worker’s rights and taking on the asbestos industry. In recent times they have had intent in not just buying into the UK legal scene but in fact buying up the UK legal market, wherever there was a law firm who were big into personal injury, which most of them were, it being the flavour of the decade, Slater and Gordon bought it. Eventually climaxing this bold venture with the ill fated acquisition of a UK outfit Quindell in early 2015 for $1.2 billion, all raised from institutional investors ($900 million) and a syndicate of banks ($350 million). It is now pay back time but unfortunately the money ain’t there. Quindell was a company that had previously gone on an acquisition binge of their own and by imaginative accounting had seemed to be earning more money than in fact it actually did and it all went tits up a few weeks ago.
Slater & Gordon’s share price has dropped from a high of $8.00 closing at 94 cents on 26th November. In a news flash by the ABC network of Australia it said that Slater & Gordon are in a real danger of going broke. “Lawyers who have left (the firm) speak of being pressured to settle cases, against the interests of the client, to bring early cash in the door”
Now without Quindell’s imaginative accounting, Slater & Gordon for years having themselves been on the acquisition trail have also been guilty of the same nefarious practices and are being investigated by the Regularity Commission in Australia, but this double whammy as really kicked them where it hurts. If they do go broke and it is highly likely according to ABC, the implications will be dire and wreak havoc in the legal systems of Australia and the United Kingdom.
But the above explains a lot as to why they behaved in such a way with my Bedian friends and at this point I would just like to rewrite part of that article “St Bede’s College……All That”. I got it slightly wrong but will now correct my mistake having interviewed one of the now 72 year old boys.

Boy A having read the Bishop of Salford’s half-hearted apology regarding abuse at St Bede’s in the Manchester Evening News on I think the 13th March 2011 decided to go legal with his experiences and approached Panone. He had had a lifetime of hardships after his two years of sexual abuse by Duggan when he was 14 and 15 in 1958-1959. Divorced from his family and eventually three wives, his life was a mess, unable to maintain intimate relationships and suffering from periods of deep depression.
So Panone welcomed him into their fold but did not tell him about the other two victims and to this day he knows nothing about the other fellow (Boy B) who eventually went forward as well. Boy A secured legal aid for his case and after psychiatric examination he was really looking forward to having his day in court, when two weeks before the case was to be heard Slater & Gordon’s solicitor (Panone having been acquired by S & G) came to him and said their barrister thought there was little chance of them winning in court and would he accept the £25,000 that the Diocese are offering to walk away. He was deflated and at the same time suffering from a severe bout of shingles which impaired his reasoning process he agreed. Four or five days later the solicitor was back and said the Diocese had dropped that offer of £25,000 and were now offering £10,000 and as the case had no chance in court would he accept the lower offer. Taking their advice and at a very low ebb he reluctantly agreed and three days later he received a cheque from Slater & Gordon for £10,000.  S & G fees obviously being sourced from the legal aid fund.   Undue haste is my reading on this process. Old Bishop Brain would not have had chance to sign his name on a cheque in so short a time and most importantly Boy A was never asked to sign a gagging order, the normal stipulation in these cases of settlement. Something smells rotten here and it ain’t the Bishop’s feet.
Boy B whose abuse from Duggan was probably classed as not as severe as Boy A but bad enough to have the same effects on his life, slipping into depression, alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, with an inability to sustain relationships and had sought out psychiatric help from the age of 23. Boy B did not get legal aid but the same steps applied as with Boy A, he eventually agreeing to a settlement of £5,000, so I am told, of which he received some weeks later a Slater & Gordon cheque for £300. Slater & Gordon had deducted their legal fees from the so called settlement.
The psychiatrist who had examined both of them had recommended a course of treatment for both but this was soon forgotten about as they were bundled off by Slater & Gordon as mere stooges in this legal game they were playing. After the trauma of their witness statements and against the advice of the psychiatrist, no counselling was offered, no advice given on how to control their feelings. Can I just remind you here what the Australian news agency said in their piece on the likely demise of Slater & Gordon.
“LAWYERS WHO HAVE LEFT (Slater & Gordon) SPEAK OF BEING PRESSURED TO SETTLE CASES, AGAINST THE INTERESTS OF CLIENTS, TO BRING CASH IN THE DOOR.”
Enough said. What a stinking rotten system we have to live with and rely on.

Grecian Gropes and Macedonian Meanders-Part 5

We left the once malarial infested Struma Valley and took the long road west to Lake Doiran and Macedonia.  100 years ago this part of present day Macedonia was in Serbia and we crossed the Greek border at6.00pm to find it was only 5.00pm.  Although Doiran is on the same longitude as Thessaloniki, Macedonia has to be different from Greece and is therefore one hour behind Greece time.  We are now one hour in front of GMT.  Our hotel is the Romantique, a lovely modern hotel on the lake shore.  Lake Doiran is oval shaped on a north south axis about ten miles long and three miles wide and about 30 foot deep with an abundant supply of seven species of edible fish which the men of the district fish by line keep what they need and sell the rest to local restaurants.

Our hotel is superb I have not stayed in better with very attentive staff, my room overlooks the Lake with scowling Greece, three miles away.  My euro gives me 6o dinar, 500cl bottle of beer is 100 dinar, a bottle of very good local wine is 200 dinar.  I was two days trying to spend €5.  All our food and drink at meals is included in our tour price.

The first night dinner is in the hotel, starting with glasses of the customary Raki, then a vegetable soup followed by chicken chasseur or its Macedonian equivalent washed down with a remarkable Pinot Noir.  This grape is notoriously difficult to make properly but the locals have got it off to a fine art.  By now our party had gelled completely, not one person out of kilter, except for myself possibly.  It is so easy to be nice and relaxed unlike the wicked witch from Turkey.  A cool night in my room with a mild breeze drifting across the lake and thank the lord no mosquitoes.  We are here in the mountains of southern Macedonia and they only bite in the lowlands of northern Greece.

On the morning of Day 5 the group set out for a trek through the hills and battlefields.  I, who is sensitive to hill walking and even more sensitive to the idea of turning battlefields into places of celebration, stay back at the hotel to write this missive.  I really enjoy sitting in the sun at the waterside, doing nothing but throw words onto paper.  I am totally safe, the security forces of Macedonia, the police and the army are holding a conference in the hotel and the place is full of armed six footers, who all seem very pleasant but I keep my distance and wait for the returning walkers.

They arrive about 5.00pm, hot and thirsty but in good health, relating their experiences of the day and saying how tough the going was which confirms my original decision not to bother.  Our evening meal is in the local hot spot, a fish restaurant where we sample the seven varieties of fish from the lake, its name in Macedonian is Φυκ Τακ which reads in English Fuk Tak, which is what the local fishermen must say to the management of the restaurant when offered peanuts for hard caught fish.  However the courses of fish were excellent, especially the carp.  Bottles of a local white wine washed the food down well.

On the far side of the lake lies Greece and the border which disects the lake is marked off by a series of buoys, men of either country cannot cross this line without fear of punishment, but with the different living standards in the two countries I am sure a little honest skulduggery goes on.

Day 6 was the same as day 5, the group went off to do harm to their bodies whilst I sat by the lake and wrote.  It is now 2.30pm and my words have caught up with my experiences.  I await the groups return and might just have a spot of shut-eye for an hour,  It is funny when people take an interest in the Great War, some look at battles, some at campaigns, some at individual generals, some at armaments, some at aircraft.  My only interest now is the Connaught Rangers.  So if you draw a circle representing the war and put a dot in the circle somewhere, my concentration is the centre of that dot.  I cannot get interested in campaigns and this one in Salonika has me beat.  A league of nations sent possibly 750,000 men to Salonika for what I wonder.  Bulgaria eventually declared war on Serbia, the powers that be decided Serbia had to be protected but in 37 months of the campaign, they just kept up a holding role keeping the Bulgarians in check.  I suppose if I read more I will understand it better.  I just pity poor Paddy from Connaught in the West of Ireland who enlisted in the hope of Home Rule after the war or possibly to help poor little Catholic Belgium and sitting on a bleak snow covered hillside on a December morning at Kosturino suffering from frost bite in both hands as five or six battalions of Bulgarians came rushing at him, whilst he wondered to himself “What the fucking hell am I doing here” having already said to himself 13 weeks earlier on Hill 60 in Gallipoli exactly the same thing.  It would make you think.

That evening of Day 6 became interesting when Romeo, our Macedonian policeman took us to Ghevaglija, or some such town, 45 minutes drive away.  It is a main line station for the north/south railway to Serbia.  The newspapers and television have been telling the world that the refugees are coming out of Turkey making for this rail hub for trains heading north for Serbia and northern Europe.  The town is beseiged with impoverished poor from Syria.  In fact the town was like Boyle on a Tuesday night, not a soul to be seen.  We had dinner in a pizza restaurant and saw more pizzas than refugees.  They are now the disparu.

The pizzas were only middling, the wine so so and nowhere near as good as the night before.  I was glad to be back at the hotel and early to bed and a good night’s sleep.  This refugee situation although I do agree is sad for those on that trail as been blown out of all proportion by the hacks and photographers looking for a story

Today the party have gone to Kosturino, a hillside where the 5th Battalion Connaught Rangers took an awful pasting on 7th December 1915.  900 men against 5000 Bugarians equipped with modern German artillery pieces.  OF my travelling companion will lay a plaque at the hut which was 10th Irish Division HQ in 1915 and which they are turning into a museum  The Higgins family in Boyle have given him a set of rosary beads to lay at the spot where there uncle Corporal Patrick Higgins 4354 was killed.  Patrick and his brotjher Joseph were in the 4th Battalion Special Reserve before the war and came out in a draft in September 1915 after Gallipoli.  They were two sons of Martin and Bridget Higgins of Carrick Road, Boyle, Co Roscommon and their modern day families populate the town of Boyle today as well as parts of Lancashire and America.

It is a lovely morning here sitting on the terrace of the hotel looking out over the lake, the sun spilling its 22C on everything.  The only cloud is over in Greece on the mountains surrounding that side of the lake.  We have been here four days now and I have not seen the top of those hills once, the clouds providing a permanent cover.  Possibly the Lord’s intervention on a stricken country.

Doiran really is a marvellous town if all you want to do is nothing, write and stroll.  I have been told to look at an ancient crusade church up the road, so I am off to take a look.  I will be back later to relate.

The church is a definite 12/13th century construct with modern day working replacing the roof and the corbelled domes caused by British Artillery in 1915 putting a few shells through the roof.  It is built on a low bluff overlooking the lake with 75 steps taking you up from the road to the entrance to the nave, an adjacent but more modern campanile is built adjacent, possibly 14th century.  It is complete with ancient bell but no rope.  On top of each aisle are three small corbelled brick domes and in the nave three large corbelled domes.  The original roof or what was left of it has been replaced with timber spars and purlins and topped with modern tiles.  A very impressive structure which really needs to be finished but I suppose is waiting for funds.

Back at the hotel I have decided to have lunch in the restaurant.  It was delicious.  I ordered lightly because the evening meals in this neck of woods are enormous.  The young waiter who speaks perfect English brought me chicken noodle soup, pork chop, french fries and an onion, carrot and lettuce salad and a large glass of lovely local white wine.  Total price 370 dinar or €6.  I would recommend everybody if they can get their arses to Macedonia, to come to Doiran and stay at the Hotel Romantique, it surely is the finest and without doubt the cheapest place I have ever stayed.  The staff are excellent and nothing is too much trouble.

It is now 1,10pm on our last day, time to relax, have a snooze and await my battle weary companions.  Having climbed the heights of Kosturino, they will be hungry and thirsty.  Doiran is so quiet I am beginning to miss the stentorian decibels of Apostolos, or am I.

We return home with an early start and an easy route through border clearance and back into Greece only to be balked after getting on our return flight because of bad weather at Gatwick causing  a ninety minute delay which put our connecting flight to Dublin in some jeopardy.  However all flights into Gatwick were delayed so there was Mr O’Leary’s plane waiting for us with open wings as we rushed across the Southern Terminal and back through security.  I eventually walked through the door of my house two hours late but in need of the lovely chilli con carne my daughter had left.

My heartfelt adieus to my very decent companions especially to Romeo and Alan for making this trip one to remember.

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