Ushaw College: a class reunites

Ushaw College

I have reported elsewhere on this blog (click here) about the closure of Ushaw College, for 203 years the principal Catholic Seminary in the north of England for the training of priests.  A general gathering for the final Grand Day last March (Old Boys Day) to mark the closure of the College ignited the idea of a first reunion of my own class in the College, which turned into a 50th anniversary celebration of the year many of us started our College careers (1961).

But these things do not happen without a prime mover, and our reunion would not have happened without the initiative and sterling efforts of Peter Forster, who dedicated many months and hundreds of hours in laying the foundations for what turned out to be a very happy and successful occasion in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Durham (only 3 miles from Ushaw). People were tentative and a little nervous about renewing contact with old school friends they hadn’t seen in over 43 years. Would

St Cuthbert´s Chapel

we all revert to our teenage personae, and use those dreaded nicknames we were glad to be rid of when we left the College? A master-stroke was to include partners and spouses. It must have been a daunting prospect for them, but they all settled happily to meeting a sea of new faces and learning some of the ‘truths’ about the lives of their men-folk which pre-dated their relationships.

A lively, convivial meal was happily interrupted by a Skyped video-conference with one of our class-mates living in Minnesota, also by the reading of a letter from another whose clerical duties prevented him from attending. And a couple of powerpoint slide-shows brought to life a host of faded black & white photos which happily showed all of us in our better-looking days, and

At table

brought to mind many anecdotal stories! For the Ushaw School 61-74 slide-show click here, and for the School 61-74 Portraits slide-show click here.

Although several at the reunion lived within a short radius of Durham, some had come considerable distances, including one from Rome, one from Normandy, and one might  have come from Dublin but for the sad news of his house being flooded by the recent rains.

For those who could stay the following day, we were treated to a final guided visit of the College before its definitive closure, and we now await news of how this remarkable property will be deployed in the future.

Gathering at Ushaw: back at the scene of our time

About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on November 10, 2011, in Personal history and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Hi Frank

    Your comments so accurately capture the mood of what was a fabulous event and certainly the highlight of my year. I’m sure we are all extremely grateful to you for making the Powerpoint slide shows available – you’ve done an excellent job with them and the shows are going to provide hours of enjoyment for all of us.

    Thanks again

    Peter F

  2. Hi Frank,

    Your description of your reunion at Ushaw interested me. My year 1938-1951 have not had a reunion for years now. I [now87] used to attend Grand weeks regularly as a founder with the late Jim Coleman of the London Old Boys Association. We used to hold meetings in my large lounge in Islington N1 [spread over my Bakery & shop] about 3 times a year open to any Ushawman who was in London at the time. Attendees included [not all at the same time} His Eminence Billy Godfry, Bishop Brian Foley, Mgr Pod Grant, with an average attendance of 20 plus. Initially my late wife was worried sick about what she could give them to eat but I assured her an Ushawman would eat anything and she reluctantly agreed to give them fresh bread and rolls from my bakery and cheese, cooked meats from the shop and occasionally I made a passable “Ushaw POD”. I could go on for hours but that is your lot – my tea is ready.

    • Good to read your thoughts, Len. You knew Ushaw during a very different era, the war years, and the bonds you created with your classmates would have been closer and stronger than in the post-war period. It took us 43 years to get round to our very first reunion, and now many of us are scattered around the globe.

  3. Frank, sad to see closure but thanks for writing about your “reunion”.

  4. Frank, whilst it is undoubtedly true that the event would not have happened without the energy and drive of Peter Forster, you need congratulating for all your efforts with the slideshow and subsequent pen portraits. Many thanks for giving us all a permanent reminder of a wonderful reunion. Job well done Regards Richard and Frances Cain

    • Thanks for those comments Richard. The most important nett result has been that everyone has renewed contact with old friends, and taken home a new store of memories. It was great to see you and Frances there.

  5. Great to see those pictures of skating on the pond!

    I love Len Lockwood’s comments,

    Ad multos annos.

  6. John F Sheridan

    Very interesting and well done to all concerned.

    I was an inmate from 1965 – 1968, but certainly recognise one or two of my elders from the photographs.
    I have revisited the College, with my son, within the last 12 months and found it a strangely moving experience. There don’t seem to be many of my contemporaries around, but please let me know if you do have any other details.
    Kind Regards,

    J F Sheridan.

    • Good to hear from you John, and I do remember your name (though not your face!). Were you a contemporary of my brother Dominic Burns?

      • John F Sheridan

        Thank you for taking the time to reply Frank.

        I must confess that the ravages of time and glasses of wine have taken their toll on my memory. The names I recall from my years are, Jim Breen, Martin Callaghan, John Geoghan, John Lovett, Colin Stebbing, John Clayton, John Dransfield and probably many more would flood back, with a photo in front of me.
        Kind regards to you and yours.


        PS. My face was, and still is, instantly forgettable.

  7. Bill (Liam) Graney

    Peter Charman recently created a LinkedIn Ushaw Alumni page. A great place to see what people have been working at since those days!*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1.gmp_4357862

  8. Caroline Kernan

    Hi, Can anyone help. My grandfather was at Ushaw. I don’t know if the idea was for him to be a priest. Could you just attend as a pupil. He died in about 1950 aged about 71. I have a picture of him at Ushaw with fellow pupils and religious outside the Chapel. His name was Francis Kernan and he may also have had a brother there too.

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