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Irish Brigade

The story of the 38th (Irish) Brigade in the Second World War

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


All My Children


Teach us, Good Lord,
To Serve Thee as Thou deservest;
To give and not to count the cost;
To fight and not to heed the wounds;
To labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do Thy will.
Through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Prayer of St Ignatius of Loyola, 16th century


The summer of 1966 was both an end and a beginning for Pat, Ted and their six children. 

Gerard started at Slough Grammar School, the first of three O’Sullivan boys to attend the school. The last long 9th Slough camp organised by Ted was held in Hambledon at the end of July. Ted had planned for it long in advance and failed to spot the camp’s first day coincided with the final of the FIFA World Cup competition, held in England for the first time in 1966. Excitement built across the country as England, captained by Bobby Moore, got through the qualifying round, beat Argentina in a controversial quarter-final game and then knocked Portugal out in the semi-final. But, while England came to a standstill on Saturday 30 July 1966 for the most important moment in British sporting history, around 20 boys aged 10-16 were preparing to set off to camp. One of the more enterprising lads brought a radio and reported on the progress of the game. England won in extra-time 4-2. It is unlikely that a Scout leader would organise travel at such a moment in today’s world. It is difficult to conceive that the departure date would not be changed. And it is absolutely impossible to imagine everyone turning up on time regardless. It shows how much attitudes have changed in four decades -and also how the fortunes of England and German national teams have changed over the intervening 40 years.

The participants in the camp were a select group: Bernard, Anthony Curtin and Genik Jaworski were senior scouts. The others included Curtess Thomas, the Anglo-Dominican who had accompanied Gerard on bob-a-job, Anthony Duff, Terry Wallace and Dermot Sarsfield. Richard, then aged four, came for the last days of the camp and would be first up in the morning, dressed in short trousers with Wellington boots and wearing a cowboy hat. He would entertain himself until breakfast by kicking a plastic football around the campsite and re-enacting the World Cup final whilst commentating on himself in the manner of Kenneth Wolstenholme who coined the immortal phrase in the last seconds of the game: “They think it’s all over. It is now!” Richard remembers precisely replicating Geoff Hurst’s reaction to the disputed third goal; first placing his hands on his knees and then finally acclaiming the referee’s decision to award a goal. It was a damp and occasionally dispiriting week. It was Gerard’s first full camp as a Scout and he remembers that the troop had greater difficulty getting out of their sleeping bags in the morning than the original 9th Slough contingent in Wales four years earlier. They didn’t seem to be as tough as they were. It all ended in a downpour.

Ted, meanwhile, was on the brink of a momentous change of direction. While still working in the Farnham Road shop, Ted had become a student.

“When Marian was approaching A levels, and partly in order to encourage her, I enrolled in 1964 for two subjects at Slough College: geography and economic history. I took my first examination for some 30 years and it showed. I only received an O level pass at A level geography but obtained an A level in economic history. I retook geography and passed. I obtained an A level in economics the following year. Earlier in 1966, I had written to St Mary’s College of Education, Strawberry Hill, at the instigation of Frank Jenkins, the headmaster of St Anthony’s. There was a grave shortage of trained teachers. I received a provisional acceptance. I continued my work at the Slough Express, but at the same time took English language and history at O level which I passed. Late in August, after receiving my O level results, I wrote to St Mary’s and asked about my position. They replied that I was already expected at the start of term in one week’s time. I spoke to Sandy at the Slough Express, who was not pleased. I pointed out that I had not taken my fortnight’s holiday and that, plus the current week, would give him three week’s notice. He released me. I owed him many thanks for giving me the job but I had more than just earned my keep. My night work had saved paying another a high rate and I fulfilled all my other obligations.”

St Mary’s in Twickenham is one of the loveliest colleges of higher education in Britain. It was founded in 1850 by the Catholic Poor Schools Committee to meet the need for teachers to provide an education to the growing numbers of poor Catholic children in the UK. Many of them were refugees from the Irish famine like Ted’s great-grandfather Daniel. In 1923, the college moved to its present site at Strawberry Hill.

“I started at St Mary’s in September 1966. There was a galaxy of courses on offer and most students took one hard and one easy option. I registered with Mr Moran, the head of geography, who suggested sociology as an easy second subject. I was, however, attracted to history and registered with that department. My subsistence grant was about £1,000 a year, which was also to cover the cost of books, stationery and other accessories. It was to be paid monthly. My daily travel, I would pay myself and would be reimbursed based on public transport fares at the end of each term. Once more we had erred on the side of honesty, since I did not claim for Marian as I was entitled to. She was studying at Digby Stuart teachers’ training college (now called Roehampton University) full-time but her permanent home was in Slough. There was no advice given to students about this matter and we were afraid we might be thought dishonest. I also worked all the holidays, when I should have received national assistance, as one student from Canada did. The biggest mistake was not buying a house, as mortgage interest would have been paid as well. Our rent was paid from the grant. So we attempted to live on my grant and on what was left of our meagre savings. I told Reidy that we would have to reduce our church contributions. To this he replied: ‘Do your best. Deus Provebit (God will provide).’ I still continued supplying Catholic newspapers, which I had arranged to have delivered to Bunce’s on Farnham Road. To this I added other self-imposed tasks: working around the church on Saturdays, which were now free. I continued with the Scouts since no person would take over. Bernard stepped into the breach and, now a Senior Scout, covered for me in any absences.”

“The other students at college were about 18 years old, nearly 30 years my junior. They helped make my three years at St Mary’s among the happiest of my life. A little extra cash was earned by being an AVA steward. After the first year, I was elected as students’ representative on the geography panel. Once again, coincidence reared its head. Moran was an old Oratorian, both as a pupil and as a teacher. He had served as a pilot with the RAF during the war. Despite my age, I was not considered to be a mature student because people classified as such were doingone or two-year courses, not the full three-year programme as I was. Consequently, I was compelled to take full physical education (PE) and religious education (RE) courses. One of the PE instructors was Mick Jagger’s father, who treated me as if I were the same age as the others.”

Ted’s children recall with some amusement his return to the gym. He in turn displayed his unhappy relationship with the youth culture of the 1960s by claiming he thought Mr Jagger looked miserable because of the shenanigans of his son Mick, lead singer of the Rolling Stones and a convicted drug user who had dropped out of university to be a rock star. Sir Mick is now one of Britain’s richest men. His father died in 2006 aged 93.

Ted bought a white Ford 100E and used it every day to get to and from Twickenham. In the morning, he would give Catherine and Gerard a lift to their schools which were on the way. The saving in bus fares was appreciated, but the car was unreliable, particularly in cold weather. Ted parked it in the road outside the house.

“In the early morning of Good Friday in 1967, a loud crash was heard from the road outside. The rear of the car had been hit and it would be a write-off. The perpetrator had flown. The police were called and the constable suggested that the miscreant would be injured. He contacted the local hospitals, with no result. Our insurance was for fire and theft only, so it was a dead loss. Our second-hand supplier disposed of the wreck and sold me a blue car of the same make for just over £100. Our money was disappearing fast. We hoped that no other misfortunes lay in store. We visited my parents, where my father called me for a private discussion. He said he realised that we were having a tough time. He held out a bundle of notes saying: ‘Here is £400, it is yours. Pay it back, when and if you can. I require no interest.’We were able to pay back £300 before he died 11 years later and my mother excused me the remainder. They were very generous. As well as my course, which included geography, history, education, PE and religious education, I had to take basic English and mathematics courses. The exams in the latter two were passed quite easily. There was an optional course in the use of television and basic art, drama and music. The pianoforte lessons came to nothing after the instructor was taken ill.”

Ted’s time at St Mary’s coincided with the peak of the 1960s student and flower power. It was exciting for some at the time, but what was taking place in British colleges and universities was a pale imitation of events in the US, where the anti-Vietnam War movement was building, and the strikes and protests in France in May 1968 that led to the resignation of France’s President Charles de Gaulle. Two more martyrs were provided to the student protest movement. In April 1968, Martin Luther King was shot and killed. In early June, Massachusetts senator Robert Kennedy, who was running for the nomination of the Democratic Party on an anti-Vietnam war platform, was shot dead in Los Angeles. In August 1968, Warsaw Pact forces entered Czechoslovakia to crush the reforming government of Alexander Dubcek who had become leader of the country’s Communist Party in January. Ted noted these events but was preoccupied with his studies. Teaching practice is at the heart of teachers’ training and Ted was quickly put into a school.

“There was teaching practice in schools for two months approximately each year. The first was at Holy Family in Langley and there I met the headmaster Mr Fearon who was seen by some as forward-looking. Several senior lecturers visited and were impressed. The second teaching practice was at St Joseph’s Secondary Modern in Slough. I taught geography mainly but was given the task of instructing civics to a class introduced as no-hopers by their teacher. These children, who were in their 4th year of secondary school, were due to leave after Easter or as soon as they reached 15, the earliest age children could legally get full-time work. After a shaky start, I captured their imagination by bringing in a wage packet containing a typical amount to be earned by a 15-year-old. I wrote the wages on the board and then deducted expenses to demonstrate that getting a job was not as attractive as they imagined. Soon, they were doing simple book-keeping which showed them the use of a basic education. Most of the class decided to continue at school beyond their original release date.”

The connection with St Joseph’s, where many St Anthony’s pupils were to go, opened the door to another family connection. Marian graduated from Digby Stuart in the summer of 1968.

“Partly as a result of my stay at St Joseph’s, our daughter Marian was immediately engaged as a teacher when she left Digby Stuart. She was over-qualified, having a distinction in her main subjects, plus a distinction in education. Just before she was due to start teaching, a letter from the Department of Education informed her she could return to college for a further year to take a Bachelor of Education degree. Any head was compelled to release her so she might complete the course. But Marian’s begged her to stay as one of his teachers was possibly due for suspension. He wanted Marian to take charge of science and physics. She agreed, but when her first monthly pay-check arrived for under £50, Marian was reduced to tears. Teachers’ pay throughout my short career was poor. At that time, it was abysmally low for the probationary year. Marian was eventually to get a degree, but not until almost 20 years later. There was something unfair about the system at that time. It was only in England that a degree was not granted to those who completed the full three-year teacher’s training course. Attendance at lectures was compulsory and the terms longer than at the universities. This anomaly has since been corrected and those doing three-year teacher training courses are now awarded degrees.”

“The final practice was at St Anthony’s. It was very successful, except for one incident. One of my Scouts played up during a lesson. I rebuked him later. He came back with his mother who threatened to report me to the education officer, which she knew might blight my future career. He left the Scouts. I was awarded a distinction in practical teaching. Jim Campbell, who had been a teacher at St Anthony’s until the mid-1960s, asked me to join his staff at Maidenhead but I did not relish the idea of working under a friend. I took the post offered by Jenkins. A record had been set which will probably be hard to beat. Our six children had been students at St Anthony’s and a parent had been a teacher.”

Ted finished his studies with a remarkable land use study of Slough, a work which a professional town planner would have been proud of. The thesis, perfectly typed and bound with many relevant photographs, was accompanies by an A3-sized volume detailing the nature of the factories operating in Slough in 1969. A copy of the work is now permanently lodged with the Slough Museum.

“To celebrate the completion of the three-year course, I took three of my colleagues for the day to Littlehampton in the Mark 1 Cortina car we had purchased to replace the blue 100E, which simply wore out. The party included Margaret Lyons  and Margaret Osborne. We had a perfect day and a picnic was prepared by Pat, who was extremely tolerant of my behaviour. It was marred by a puncture on the return journey. During the three annual summer holidays, I had worked shift work at Technicolor. For this I received £15 a week. Night work was tedious but, otherwise, it was not bad.”

The end of Ted’s student years coincided with the landing of a US moon mission in July 1969. It had been a wonderful three-year spree, but it was time to get back to work. Ted was returning to the front line, but this time as a teacher. Starting a new career as a primary school teacher in your 51st year is a challenge few would choose. It is doubly demanding when those in your care are the children and grandchildren of close associates and friends and two are your own sons as well. Ted – an ex tailor’s salesman, front-line infantry colour sergeant and former businessman – readily accepted the challenge. It was as if he owed the world twice as much as everyone else. Deep inside, he knew that if there was any reason why he was spared while so many of his London Irish friends died almost 25 years before, it was for him to help take their place as father, leader and teacher. This was not a career choice. It was Ted’s destiny, his magnificent obsession. But it would have been impossible without Pat’s support. She had by then started work full-time. Her financial contribution was essential.

“I joined the staff of St Anthony’s in September 1969 as class teacher with special responsibility for games and PE for which there was no remuneration since I was a probationer. This responsibility was quickly transferred to a young teacher who claimed to be a specialist. A colleague was Mike Twomey, whom I worked with at Holy Family. My first class had about 38 boys and girls. They were of mixed ability but quite easy to deal with as I appeared to be able to amuse as well as teach them. The classroom was one of two which had been made from the former playground shelters. It was badly in need of exterior decoration. The roof was leaking and most of the glass was either shattered or cracked. Volunteers from among the parents of both classes were sought to clean it up. Father Glanfield, the parish priest, supplied the money for the necessary materials. Each Saturday, a group of volunteers worked with a will to improve the dilapidated buildings. Father Glanfield employed professional glaziers to repair the windows. At the end of three weeks, there was a complete transformation. The head gave me money to purchase net curtains, which were draped around the windows. The children’s work responded to the improved environment.”

“When I joined the school in 1969, Stephen was in his final year at St Anthony’s and in Twomey’s class. By popular vote and the unanimous acclaim of the teachers, he became head boy. He was called upon to make public speeches before the whole school. Stephen passed into Slough Grammar in September 1969 where he joined Gerard. Pat, who had borne the strain of eking out our small allowance and had been a full-time mother and housekeeper for more than 22 years, now added to her burden by taking a full-time occupation. She was to hold down an onerous position in the wages department at Cooper’s Mechanical Joints in the Slough trading estate. Pat is extraordinarily numerate and she was a reliable member of the company’s accounts team for more than a decade.”

The late 1960s were a fascinating moment in British post-war history. In 1968, 1 million children born in the baby-boom reached 21. They were an irresistible force for change and Britain’s leaders were ready to make it happen. Roy Jenkins, Labour’s Home Secretary, was a liberal rather than a socialist and he focused on legislation that still echoes. Divorce laws were relaxed and homosexual acts, performed in private by consenting adults aged 21 and over, were de-criminalised. Abortion was legalised. Restrictions on what could be said and depicted in films and on the stage were lifted. Rules governing pornography were eased. The BBC reflected the changes and often played a leading role in testing the limits of public taste. The ground-breaking comedy series ‘Til Death Us Do Part featured a working class family in the East End of London in which swearing was frequent and racial and other prejudices depicted as a way of discrediting them. Television plays were screened at peak hours that explored a host of forbidden topics including extra-marital sex, family breakdown and abortion. The Labour Party was against capital punishment though a final ban on executions was only effectively approved by parliament in the 1980s.

There was a reaction. The churches and conservatives of all parties lamented the collapse of traditional morality and denounced the sexual permissiveness the BBC and others seemed to be encouraging. In 1963, Mary Whitehouse, a teacher and conservative Christian, emerged as the spokesperson for those wanting to reverse the tide. She was to be an influential figure who had an impact on the BBC, though she was also regarded as a figure of fun by young people whose principal complaint was that the permissive society was not yet permissive enough. Pat and Ted were pulled in two directions by the changes. They knew that divorce laws that prevented the humane dissolution of a failed marriage made no sense. They also recognised that artificial means of birth control were bound to be used, even by faithful Catholics. But they disliked the breakdown in discipline and respect the changes of the 1960s seemed to entail. Long hair was a particularly hateful manifestation of the times. Pat and Ted were also faithful Catholics and accepted, though with varying degrees of enthusiasm, the church’s reaffirmed teaching about birth control and divorce. In hindsight, the principal concern was for the future of their children. Middle-class parents appeared to be more relaxed about the behaviour of their offspring and, perhaps, could afford to be. Pat and Ted, living on a council estate in Slough and deeply conscious of how hard it was to make progress in a country where class still mattered, could not afford to be similarly indulgent. But there was nothing exceptional in their reaction. Most British parents were engaged in a form of guerilla warfare with their children about a host of what now appear trivial issues: length of hair, clothes, music, sexual behaviour and experiments with alcohol and drugs. It was a long struggle that was to be won by the children. Parental authority, which had been almost absolute at the start of the 1960s, was decisively and permanently broken by its end. Britain and other Western countries are still struggling with the consequences.

The most significant change was in the role of women and girls. Reforms largely drawing inspiration from the US were abolishing distinctions between the way boys and girls were educated. At the start of the 1960s, the assumption was that girls were intellectually inferior to boys and that their proper destiny was to marry and have children. Many bright girls were actively discouraged from going to university and pushed towards nursing and teaching. They were banned from playing contact sport on the grounds that it might damage their wombs. Even by the end of the 1960s, boys outnumbered girls by more than three-to-one in British universities. Most girls expected to be married by the time they were 25. So there was no surprise when Ted’s beautiful and talented eldest daughter Marian announced in 1969 that she had fallen in love and was going to get married. She was 21.

“Marian married in January 1970 at St Anthony’s. It was a grand affair. About 100 attended the sit-down dinner at St Anthony’s parish hall. Marian and her husband Terence (Terry) McLain made an extremely attractive couple. I had the responsibility of giving away the bride and making the traditional speech at the wedding breakfast. Terry, a product of Slough Grammar who had a geography degree from University College London, was an executive in the IT industry. He was then working in the US with Control Data, the computer firm based in Minnesota. After the wedding, they left for Washington DC, where they were to live before moving to Minneapolis.”

UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson called a general election in June 1970. The opinion polls suggested a clear win due to signs that the economic problems that had dogged his government were coming to an end. The result was a startling shock. The Conservatives under Ted Heath secured a 31-seat majority. The public was increasingly worried about inflation and Heath had made it a central issue in his campaign. Wilson had come across as complacent. But there was also boredom with Labour which had delivered less than many expected. The forced devaluation of sterling in November 1967 had been seen as a startling policy U-turn which seemed to have an impact on Wilson’s reputation for competence similar to that experienced by Prime Minister John Major when the UK left the European Monetary System in September 1992. Some say the narrow defeat was partly the result of the fact that, four days earlier, England had been knocked out of the World Cup in an amazing quarter-final in which a 2-0 lead was eventually reversed in extra-time by West Germany who won 3-2. It was a depressing moment for many Britons whose sense of inherent superiority had been bolstered by England’s World Cup victory against the same opposition four years earlier. Some argue that the ensuing demoralisation was one of the reasons for the UK’s failings in the 1970s.

Later analysis showed that a more decisive factor in Heath’s surprise 1970 victory had been voters attracted by the rhetoric of Enoch Powell, a Conservative MP for Birmingham who had denounced the increase in non-white immigration. In a speech in Birmingham in April 1968, Powell quoted a Latin poem which said: “I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.” This appeared to confirm him as an outright racist and Powell was sacked from Heath’s shadow cabinet soon after. But Powell had established himself as the right-wing populist of the times. Dockers marched to parliament to support his call for restrictions on non-white immigration. The establishment dismissed Powell, but he won the approval of many white working class people, including Labour voters. Some suggest that Powell attracted no fewer than 2.5 million votes for the Tories, a figure more than big enough to explain their 1970 victory. Race and immigration had become a factor in British politics and still is.

The Heath government announced a fresh approach to economic affairs. Public spending would be compressed, private enterprise encouraged and trade union power confronted. These measures coincided with a slowdown in the US economy which was itself struggling with the legacy of excessive public spending, partly due to the demands of the Vietnam War which Republican President Nixon had been elected in 1968 to bring to an end. His solution was to escalate the war to bring North Vietnam to its knees and intimidate the Soviet Union, which was the principal source of weapons for Communist rebels and their North Vietnamese allies. The British government quickly encountered a familiar problem. In July, dockers went on national strike for the first time since 1926. A state of emergency was declared and the dispute was settled with a pay rise.

St Anthony’s in the late 1960s and early 1970s was fully embracing the modern ways encouraged by Vatican II and the enthusiastic idealism of younger priests. The goal was to establish connections with young Catholics, many of whom were falling away from the church. The conclusion was that the church should become more fun. There were some interesting experiments at St Anthony’s.

“Father Glanfield was a complete contrast to his predecessor and we became firm friends. One of his first innovations was to have lay-readers. The Dominicans were invited to conduct a mission and two young priests came for a fortnight. Their enthusiasm and the novelty of their approach brought huge congregations. There were some novel stunts. In one, Gerard was married to Catherine wearing Marian’s wedding gown in a simulated wedding ceremony designed to highlight the importance of the sacrament of marriage. Some visitors to the church at the time thought it was the real thing.”

Ted, now employed at St Anthony’s, was always ready to pitch in as a volunteer for fund-raising.

“Gerry Breen and I were always being approached to assist with some money-raising event on the part of one of the sodalities. It was suggested to Father Glanfield that a single event of a week’s duration could arouse interest and cash in one go. Thus was born the Farnham Fayre of 1972. A committee was created with Gerry as chairman. The local solicitor was treasurer. Other members were Seamus Hayes and Henry Maher. Father Glanfield was president. The programme was spread over eight days in June. On the first Saturday, we had a disco where the Fayre Maid of Farnham was chosen. On the Monday was a Whist Drive and so on through the week. There was a break on Friday evening to prepare for the Fayre itself. I painted large signs for months. They were erected on the Friday night. It culminated in a dance in the hall. The profit was in excess of £800 and Father Glanfield was pleased. It would become a major local event, although it would shrink gradually to the Fayre itself. In its time, the Fayre raised thousands of pounds for the church and the parish.”

“Finding volunteers was always difficult and particularly challenging when it came to work around the church and presbytery. Father Glanfield appealed for help to repair the roof of the garage. One Saturday morning, we sat on the roof and discussed the work. No others appeared. We secured the support of three companions who had been working on the grounds. With some technical advice from Jack Warner, we rebuilt the garage roof so well that it remains intact well into the 1990s. We also replaced all the guttering at Shepherd’s Hey.”

Work would sometimes be delayed by the intervention of Father Glanfield’s curate Father Murphy, a lovely Irish priest in his 60s. He had a tendency to distract workers with lengthy ruminations. Murphy eventually returned to Ireland. The last time many parishioners saw him was in a photograph in the Guardian accompanying a piece about life in Ireland. It captured Father Murphy, apparently asleep on a bench, with a pint of Guinness in his hand.

“After about three years at St Anthony’s, Mike Twomey left suddenly. A replacement for his class, which included Richard, lasted just one term. My colleagues Joan Jones and Dottie Merrigan took over temporarily. In the end, I was transferred to the class and set about preparing them for their grammar school entrance exam. In September, I was to accompany them into their new class, which would be the hall of the new middle school. The classrooms were still being built and my class was in the vast hall. After attending a course in the evenings at a school in Woodley, I decided to introduce the idea of no timetable. Children would be given his or her own programme of activities. This was hard work but the results were excellent.”

Richard recalls this period with some wonderment as he and other 11 year olds were encouraged to set up their own study timetables and work extensively on personal projects

In February 1971, the British currency system was decimalised. Many shoppers believed that retailers had used the moment to round up prices to the nearest full penny. Inflation was accelerating. British politics was entering period of turmoil. Postal workers went on strike in January. In February 1971, 1.5 million people went on strike over the government’s proposed Industrial Relations Bill which would have removed the immunities trade unions had enjoyed since 1908 from prosecution for damages caused by industrial action. Unnerved by the economic trends, Heath changed course, increased public spending and reintroduced a prices and incomes policy. Northern Ireland was becoming more violent. Nobody seemed happy.

In March 1971, what is now Bangladesh declared its secession from Pakistan. The Pakistani army was sent to snuff out the independence movement. Reports of famine were carried by UK newspapers. It inspired the former Beatle George Harrison to organise a fund-raising concert in August and record Bangladesh, a song designed to increase awareness of the crisis and raise money. It was an approach that was to be emulated 14 years later by Bob Geldof in Band Aid. These unhappy developments were signs that the 1970s were going to be a difficult decade. The UK signed the Treaty of Rome in January 1972, though accession would be subject to parliamentary approval. This was to be the only highlight of a bad year.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) went on national strike the same month and only returned to work on Ted’s 53rd birthday on 28 February. In Northern Ireland, 14 people were killed on 30 January, known as Bloody Sunday, when paratroopers opened fire during a demonstration against internment without trial which had been introduced the previous August. The six counties of Ulster that had been retained in the UK by the 1921 partition had suffered consistently from high unemployment. The government of Northern Ireland, which was dominated by the mainly Protestant Ulster Unionist Party, discriminated against Catholics. A civil rights movement campaigned against unfair treatment in the distribution of jobs and housing. Riots broke out in Derry in October 1968. The tensions erupted into the worst street disorders seen in the UK in modern times in the summer of 1969. In August, the government sent troops to Northern Ireland to restore peace and there was a temporary lull. The IRA split and its northern Provisional wing resumed the war against what it deemed to be an illegitimate British occupation. Internment had been badly applied and focused on Republican militants rather than their Loyalist counterparts. Bloody Sunday was a disastrous turning point for Northern Ireland and the UK. Thousands of young Catholics and Republicans flocked to the IRA. Thousands of young Protestants joined Loyalist gun gangs. The British government suspended the Northern Ireland parliament and introduced direct rule of the six counties by Westminster. Terrorism was rising.

In the Munich Olympic Games in September, 11 Israeli athletes were killed during a failed attempt to rescue them from hostage-takers demanding the release of Palestinians in Israeli jails. There were other extremists: the Red Brigades in Italy and the Red Army Faction in Germany. The following year was to be even more turbulent. There were strikes by gas workers and the NUM. During and after the October war in 1973, oil prices quadrupled. Inflation accelerated further despite the government’s prices and incomes policy. The economy started to go into recession again.

While the country faced the future with uncertainty and doubt, Ted was contemplating the prospect of promotion. St Anthony’s headmaster Jenkins was due to retire in early 1974. Applications were invited and Ted threw his hat into the ring. There could have been few more impressive biographies. A seasoned businessman, administrator, front-line soldier and volunteer who had built parts of the facilities of the parish with his own hands, Ted had excellent academic credentials including distinctions and a proven record as a teacher. He had also just completed his degree course in the Open University, a distance-learning college launched in the 1960s. There was only one deficiency, and it was to be decisive. Ted had only been a teacher for three years. He got to the final shortlist of three but didn’t get the job. Ted could not hide his disappointment. He was convinced he could do a better job than anyone and his passion for the community that the school served was unmatched. Inevitably, there was a feeling that, aged 55, he was considered to be too old for further promotion. Today, he could have argued he had been discriminated against on the grounds of his age. In 1974, such ideas were alien. The future was youth. Maturity, however valuable it might be, was out of fashion. The attitude was compounded by the economic environment in the UK at the time. A depression caused in part by the oil price rises of 1973/74 had led to a sharp rise in unemployment. The government was short of money. For many employers, the solution was to lay off older workers in favour of younger ones. Ted felt the rejection deeply, particularly after his decades of devoted service to the parish. But it was not in his nature to let setbacks linger. And despite the age difference between him and the younger members of staff, Ted tried to get on with everyone.

“I was to make many lasting friendships with the younger staff, in particular Mary Bridin-Fyffe, the daughter of a lecturer at St Mary’s, Alan Dewhurst, son of a famous surgeon and Denuta (Diane) Leduchowicz, who had been at St Anthony’s with Catherine.”

Mary Bridin-Fyffe reflected on her days with Ted at St Anthony’s in a letter she wrote in January 2008.

“I remember with great fondness those days when there was so much laughter due mostly to Eddie’s irrepressible sense of humour,” she said.

Ted specialised in word play and puns. Invariably, the punch-line would be delivered with a raising of the eyebrows and a clearing of the throat. He loved using spoonerisms and would often revert to Cockney rhyming slang. “Where’s my titfer (Tit-for-Tat – hat)?” and “Mind your plates (Plates of Meat – feet)”.

Ted was also coming to terms with a new headmaster and a new regime.

“The new head took over at Easter in 1974. He called in Her Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI) just before the summer break but we did not hear the result. There seemed to be some problem. In September, rigid timetables were set down and a new mathematics book was issued to the lower classes. These did not work and the school’s mathematics would suffer as a result. The senior class teachers suggested going back to the old text book. The children, as a result, once again started making progress. I was given an extra task of coaching a class in mathematics. They had suffered under the experimental system. It had been a complete waste of money. In reality, it was the fruit of an opportunistic sales effort by the book’s publishers. They had arranged with the local education office to talk about the new ideas in the book. But they employed high pressure salesmen, not lecturers. St Anthony’s was not the only local school to order a complete set.”

Ted, as his methods suggested, was by no means a conservative when it came to teaching. But he had a good idea of what worked and what didn’t. He had been an instructor in the army dealing with young men of varying competences. Some were effectively illiterate. He had also raised six children and accepted the responsibility of caring for up to 40 young people in the Scouts. Ted thought some of the practices being introduced in the early 1970s were foolish and damaging.

“There were innovators in education everywhere. It seemed the educational establishment was trying to find a way to teach children without hard work. But the fact is that teaching is hard work. The only way was to try to stimulate each child by as much personal teaching as possible. Instead, teachers were forced to adopt miracle systems that promised to make it all easier. The initial teaching alphabet (ITA) system was brought in. This was supposed to be a starter programme for teaching children to read. It entailed them learning a phonetic alphabet in which the spelling of sounds was consistent. It had been tested elsewhere, but not at St Anthony’s. The result was that children who had difficulty learning an alphabet of 26 letters were confronted with one of about 52 letters. After they had mastered that, they would have to unlearn it before they went on to normal reading. ITA did not help those with difficulties but it wasted up to three years of the normal and bright.”

The ITA revolution was quickly abandoned. It was an embarrassing fiasco. It was not the first time Ted witnessed the damage done by those in authority imposing foolish plans on people serving on the front-line. But there were good things too.“The best innovation was the personal timetable and constant one-to-one interaction with pupils. It was effective but it added hours on to one’s working day. Often, people would look for me in my classroom and could not see me as I was working with a child at his or her desk.”

Ted, nevertheless, was eager to introduce changes that seemed to work. He taught geography by combining the disciplines involved in the meaning of elevation with art. His children produced relief maps which the headmaster admired so much that he took them with him to show what his school was doing. Literacy and handicrafts were combined to produce signs with path names set in metal scrolls that were used in the school’s grounds. Two wood lecterns and racks for hymn books were built for the church. Woven banners to be used in church processions were produced. Ted’s class made school house badges out of wood and signs for the Farnham Fayre. They erected a greenhouse for the school garden, which the children would help tend, and dug a pool. A weather centre was built where thermometers and rain meters were kept for the children to measure changes in the climate. Ted was his element in the classroom. One of his tricks was to demonstrate the law of gravity by standing on his head. Keys and coins would tumble out of his pockets to the children’s hilarity.

There had been a fresh reform to the Buckinghamshire education system. Children were to stay at primary school for a further year and only leave at the age of 12. This entailed setting up a middle school for children aged nine and above. The idea was to create a transitional stage that would prepare them better for the challenges of secondary school. It was another well-meaning innovation that ultimately did not succeed. Ted was selected to be the lead teacher in the middle school system. He also had the unusual experience of teaching two of his sons: Stephen and Richard. Stephen went to Slough Grammar in 1970. Richard had joined St Anthony’s in 1967 and was to be Ted’s companion on his daily car journeys to school from September 1969 until he in turn left for Slough Grammar in 1974.

“One of my greatest pleasures was teaching my youngest son. Richard was bright and a great master of number. I would say I learnt more from him than he did from me. He would be an excellent head boy like his elder brother Stephen. All my sons were also team leaders in games. I was extremely proud of them.”

Richard O’Sullivan remembers vividly the time he was Ted’s pupil. This would involve coping with the inevitable challenges caused when your dad is your teacher. Ted dealt with the rare moments when Richard’s concentration would stray with his trademark wit:

“Wait until I get home to tell you father,” Ted would say. You had to laugh.

Richard further recalls a sense of competition between father and son on learning matters during this period. This thirst for knowledge, inculcated by Ted, remains to this day, and Richard would later refer to his father as “the human internet”. Even as Ted physically aged, Richard would continue to be enthralled as he listened to his father debating historic and theological matters. Now the facts could be rec-orroborated easily and invariably his father’s version proved to be correct.

Bernard had started work at Instone & Ashby’s, an entertainment equipment and service company based next door to the O’Sullivans’ old home on the Farnham Road. Bernard bought the company in 2006. Catherine left school in 1970 and started a career in finance. Gerard did his A levels in 1973 and was accepted at the LSE. He remembers that his grades were disappointing and expected to go to Aberystwyth in west Wales. Ted suggested that he might still make it to the LSE and wrote a letter to the college to ask them to think again. Gerard had won a three-week travel scholarship to Czechoslovakia in the summer of 1973. When he returned, he found that the LSE had decided to accept him despite his weak A level performance. It was just another example of Ted doing as much as he could for his children. One of the benefits of teaching was long holidays. Ted seized the opportunity to fulfill his dream of visiting Ireland.

“The highlights of the year were our holidays. Camping appealed and we had two tents we could use. In the summer of 1970, we set off on our first long-distance camping holiday. We began by camping in England and Wales and crossed to Ireland by ferry to Rosslare. We travelled to Tramore to visit the Hayes family who were St Anthony’s parishioners and then made our way through Limerick to Shannon where we picked up Catherine. We then started to make use of Ireland’s abundant bed and breakfast facilities. In our first visit, we explored the Burren countryside of Clare in the far west and County Kerry, from where the O’Sullivans originated.”

Pat and Ted wanted to see more. They bought a good second-hand, frame tent which had two bedrooms and a canopy.

“The following year, our overloaded Cortina picked up Stephen from his Army cadet camp near Portsmouth and slowly we progressed to Fishguard via Cornwall and Wales. We made our way to the west and discovered paradise, although it was often very wet. Connemara in the extreme west was a place of wild beauty and the site of the Bens Mountains, Kylmore Abbey and Killery Harbour where the film The Field starring Richard Harris was made in the 1990s. It was the home of our friend Mary Little and her brother greeted us with a ‘drop of the cratur’, home-made poteen. It was a pale blue liquid which tasted marvellous. We camped on a spit of land jutting out into the ocean that could only be reached by travelling on an unsurfaced rocky road. Amazingly, some of the caravans there were being used by Northern Irish Protestants who had retreated south from the troubles. Mackerel and other fish freshly caught that day were often available at a penny each. It was also like going back in time. One evening after 10pm, I drove to the local shop called O’Shaughnessy’s to buy some milk. It was still open. ‘Good evening, Mr O’Shaughnessy, I hope I’m not too late?’, I nervously asked. ‘Too late! The evening’s yet young,’ was the reply. ‘What can I do for you?’”

“Accompanied by Richard, I went fishing with a reel of tackle and some hooks in Killery Harbour, Ireland’s only sea lough which is surrounded by misty fells. I managed to entangle myself with the line and embedded the hook in the thumb. It hurt badly and I had to find a doctor. A vet from Belfast, who was a neighbour at our campsite, cut the line and took me by car to Roundstone. The doctor was out but his wife accurately suggested we try the local pub. I showed my thumb with the large hook in it. The doctor told me to go to his surgery and he would be there in 10 minutes. He arrived on time and examined my injury. After a moment’s consideration of the options, he reached into his draw and brought out – not a surgical instrument – but a pair of cutting pliers. He snipped off one end. ‘This may hurt a little,’ he cautioned and pushed the remainder of the hook back the way it went in. The doctor doused the wound with iodine and wrapped a sticking plaster on my thumb. The charge was a pound. The treatment was quick, effective, cheap but excruciating. The Northern Irish vet was shocked when I told him how it had been done. ‘I wouldn’t do that to a dog without anaesthetic,’ he said with disapproval.”

Richard recalls these camping adventures with great affection, and the times when Ted would regale the sleeping campers with the immortal words “get up, it’s a gorgeous morning” amidst the faint whiff of Senior Service and the buzz of the Gaz cooker brewing up of the first of many cuppas. By the time, Richard and Stephen arose from their sleeping bags, the “glorious” morning had usually been replaced by a steady drizzle. Whether Ted was using a ruse to encourage early rising was never really clear.

Ted was also maintaining his connections with his old comrades in the London Irish Rifles. In a visit to Helston in Cornwall, he met by chance the half-brother of George Charnick, who had been E Company Sergeant Major and, finally, Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of the Second Battalion (Charnick was a highly-decorated member of the second battalion with a DCM and the US Silver Star). Ted was a regular at the old comrades’ gatherings at the Duke of York’s barracks on the King’s Road in London which took place on St Patrick’s Day in March and Loos Day in September.

“Few of my Battalion friends appeared. I was never to see George Charnick again (he died in 1981). Most died young. Their privations in Tunisia, Sicily and Italy did not lead to a long life. I’ll never forget them.”

Pat and Ted’s life continued and encompassed all the events the passage of time entails. A new generation was in the making in the US.

“In 1972, Pat went to Edina in Minnesota to visit Marian and arrived just after the birth of her first child, Kirsten, on 21 July. She was a beautiful blonde baby who was exceptionally tall, a characteristic inherited from her father Terry. She was followed two years later by Gavin and, in 1976, by Andrew. While Pat was in the US, I took Richard and Stephen for a holiday in Cornwall. They enjoyed the beach and the sea while I concentrated on the essays I needed to complete for my Open University degree. This involved a summer school course in Norwich in 1971. I completed the two-year course in the summer of 1973 and was due to take my final exams at Reading at the same time as Marian and Terry were visiting. At the end of their trip, I took them to Heathrow and saw them off. The flight was delayed by an hour. Later that day, I went to sit my examination for my course on education and society. I was given, instead, the examination on educational psychology. My last-minute revision had been for the first. I somehow completed the paper and discovered, later, that I had got my dates wrong. The education and society exam was the previous day. All my work for two years was now at stake. I wrote to the authorities and explained about Marian’s flight. They allowed me to sit the missed exam.”

Ted passed and could put BA Ed after his name. He was the first of his family to get a degree, though he and his children now have a total of five. In the summer of 1974, Ted borrowed a gown and went to his graduation ceremony at Alexandra Palace in north London. Pat and Gerard were there. After, Ted was photographed holding a rolled-up sheet in place of his degree certificate which was not yet ready. Gerard was then completing his first year of an economics degree and living in a student house in Swiss Cottage. His companions included Valerie Flessati, who was later to marry Bruce Kent, then the Catholic Chaplain at London University and a monsignor. Kent was to give up the priesthood in the 1980s and became a prominent figure in CND. He was a regular visitor to Gerard’s house in 1973 and 1974, though this did not seem at the time to be significant.

Lizzie and Mick O’Sullivan celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary at Henry and Lilian Bruce’s home in Surbiton in May 1974. Bernard, living in Australia, could not be there, but all their six other children came. As always, they competed with each other to tell stories and crack jokes.

British politics was in a complete mess. Panicked by rising unemployment, Prime Minister Heath changed course and stepped up public spending. He also imposed prices and income controls supervised by separate government departments. An attempt to end wildcat strikes was made and failed. With inflation accelerating, strikes increased. There were occasional power cuts as electricity workers walked out. The troubles in Northern Ireland were intensifying. The autumn of 1973 felt like the end of an era. War in the Middle East and big oil price increases signalled the start of a period of economic turmoil in the West.

But for the O’Sullivans, there was another memorable family celebration. Bernard married his fiancée Linda Griffiths at St Anthony’s on 27 October. The union was celebrated in a lavish wedding breakfast, attended by ten bridesmaids, and an evening reception in Stoke Poges village hall attended by 200 guests. Marian travelled from Minnesota for the occasion with Kirsten, who was then 15 months old. Linda was the eldest of the four daughters of Dilwyn and Pat Griffiths.

It was a happy moment at a challenging time. The NUM had successfully forced the government to concede a wage rise in early 1972 that made mineworkers the best paid workers in Britain. But inflation eroded their gains and the NUM leadership rejected the offer of a 7 per cent pay rise at the end of 1973. In February 1974, the NUM went on all-out strike. Heath declared a state of emergency and introduced a three-day working week to conserve electricity. He then decided to call an election on Ted’s birthday on 28 February 1974 to secure backing for his stand against the miners. The Tories lost 35 seats and Labour gained nine. Labour had the largest number of MPs, but not an absolute majority. Heath unsuccessfully tried to reach agreement with the Liberal Party which had increased its number of seats from six to 14. He resigned as prime minister and Harold Wilson was invited to form a government. He had to rely on the consent of minority parties including the Scottish Nationalists, Welsh Nationalists and Ulster Unionists. With inflation and unemployment rising, some wondered whether Britain was becoming ungovernable.

Next year, Pat and Ted went to Scotland, again camping. They reached Edinburgh and took the road north through Perth to Inverness.

“We stopped at Culloden Moor. We were in a small queue when we spotted familiar faces. Speaking in a loud voice, I started to tell Pat that John O’Sullivan was one of the leaders of the Highland army at Culloden. They turned around at the name. It was my sister Lily with her husband Henry and their youngest daughter, Marian. We knew they were in Scotland, but to meet at Culloden was another of life’s coincidences.”

In July 1974, Pat and Ted set out on their third and last camping holiday in Ireland. At their campsite in Roundstone, the weather was abominable and they retreated from the coast to Lough Key, near Boyle in Roscommon.

“We passed through Knock without noticing it and missed the shrine. Lough Key provided a sheltered haven and we were able to explore. One Sunday, we visited Carrick on Shannon and were stopped by the Gardai who were supported by a unit of soldiers with rifles pointed in our direction. ‘Your car number, please sorr,’said the Gardai officer. I had no idea what it was. Richard saved the day by calling out 108 YHT. That morning, there had been a mass escape involving some convicted for terrorist offences from Port Laois prison. At Elphin, we called on the presbytery to see Father Donnelly, who had been a popular curate at St Anthony’s in the 1960s. We knocked several times but all we could hear was the commentary on an Irish football game. Later, we passed through Sligo and visited the cathedral.”

Pat and Ted drove to Dublin and took the ferry to Wales where they visited Snowdonia. It was a huge journey, but they had seen many of the beauties of the British Islands. Pat had enjoyed the holidays, but was not as keen on the outdoor life as Ted, especially as the camping normally entailed several nights of sleeping with the benefit of just a ground sheet and also staying at camp sites with limited hot water facilities.  In 1976, Pat, Ted and Richard went to visit Marian in Minneapolis, and travelled extensively through Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana with Marian’s husband Terry. This was the first time Ted had been outside the UK since leaving Austria in 1946. Pat and Ted loved every minute and enjoyed spending time with their three grandchildren.

Labour had called an election in October 1974 and increased its number of seats, but still did not have a parliamentary majority. Defeated for the third time in four elections, Heath was challenged for the leadership of the Conservatives. Moderate Tories were split and Margaret Thatcher, education minister in Heath’s cabinet, was elected in February 1975. It was to be a watershed moment for British politics. She was to win three successive elections, but was never popular with the British people. The Conservative parliamentary party finally lost patience with her leadership. She was challenged by Michael Heseltine, an MP representing Henley in the Thames Valley, during the Kuwait crisis in November 1990. Failing to win the requisite majority in the first round of voting among Tory MPs, Thatcher pulled out of the contest which was eventually won by John Major, a moderate Conservative who had lived in his early life in Brixton. This was all an unimaginable prospect in the spring of 1975 when many, including Ted, believed the British people would never elect a woman as prime minister. Pat, ever the wise one, said Ted shouldn’t put any money on it. Another big domestic event in 1975 was the first referendum in British history. It was held in June and the voters were asked whether they accepted the renegotiated terms of Britain’s membership of the Common Market. It was decisively won by the yes campaign.

There were changes at St Anthony’s which were to create challenges for Ted.

“At St Anthony’s Church, there had been frequent changes of parish priest. Father Norman Smith took over from Father Hazell, who was made a canon. Smith was to be with the parish for about three-and-a-half years. He was there when Bishop Grant officially opened the new middle school in July 1975. The middle school had a Christmas dinner for the staff at Beaconsfield on 21 December 1977. On our way back to Farnham Royal, we were diverted by the police through Britwell. We learnt that the old part of the school, which had originally been erected in 1940 and was then being used for St Anthony’s primary and junior schools, had been set on fire and extensive damage had been done. It had been exacerbated because the regular fire service was on strike. Emergency crews were summoned from local districts. Later, two of my former pupils were charged with arson and convicted. It was terribly shocking and depressing. But there was a positive. The insurance money was used and a brand new school was built to replace what had been destroyed.”

Ted was in his element in the modern facilities that the new middle school contained. He encouraged his pupils to paint landscapes and portraits – with some enthusiasts staying after school to complete their work — and produce pottery in the new kiln. Using the lids of redundant desks, the children created sign posts for the gardens that Ted spent hours of his spare time working on. He helped cultivate a new football field for the areas first competitive middle school competition. St Anthony’s, with Richard O’Sullivan in the team, were promoted to the first division in 1973/74. Another vivid memory was in respect of Ted’s sense of fair play. On one occasion he was refereeing a local derby between St Anthony’s and Farnham Common, during which he was constantly harangued by a member of staff from the opposing school. Ted reaction was merely to offer to hand over the whistle, suggesting that the other teacher could obviously handle the match with greater skill. Of course, his offer totally exposed the poor behaviour being displayed by a member of staff – Ted would never accept bullying.

The third generation was growing in number. In the summer of 1975, Bernard and Linda’s first child was born and named Bernard Graham. He was to be followed by Michelle Patricia, born in 1977, and David Edmund, who was born in 1980. Marian and Terry and their children moved to Brussels in 1978 and lived there until 1984.

“This provided another opportunity to travel. We set off early for Belgium one summer but it almost ended in disaster. Despite having just had a full service, the car broke down when the fan belt broke in the middle of the night near Kingston. An RAC mechanic repaired the belt but created another problem. As dawn broke, the car lost all power. After further RAC intervention, the car was restored to full health. But we had missed the ferry to Dunkirk in northern France. Instead, we crossed to Calais and drove from there to Marian and Terry’s house in the town of Waterloo south of Brussels.”

Future summers were used for more trips to Brussels and journeys further afield including the Ardennes and Paris. But it was not all fun. Ted was upgrading his skills.

“I entered courses and spent weeks at places like Missenden Abbey. I challenged the innovators and their impractical new ideas and did not see eye-to-eye with the adviser on primary education. One day, a young teacher brought specimens of her work to display. They were magnificent efforts on the part of her pupils and mounted on different coloured cards. Each specimen was a thing of beauty.

‘How many times did the child write this work to get it to look so good?’, I asked

.‘Several times,’ she replied.

‘But, the spelling is incorrect,’ I said.

‘Do you not correct the first attempt?’

‘Of course not. It would spoil the look of the work.’

‘Then you are reinforcing incorrect spelling.’

The adviser intervened. ‘Mr O’Sullivan, may I have a word with you?’

Outside, he raised his concerns. ‘Don’t you realise that you are upsetting that young teacher? Spelling is unimportant,’ he said.

‘If you wish to leave the course, you may go now.’ I replied: ‘I am quite happy to do that but if I see anything that appears to be wrong I must say so. Spelling is crucial and must be corrected or pointed out if wrong.’”

“On another occasion, the same man entered my class during mathematics. I overheard him saying to a child: ‘Don’t spoil the look of your work by writing down all that untidy working out. Just write it on any scrap of paper.’

I called him aside and said: ‘That is exactly the opposite of my teaching. I wish to see the working out, then I know how the child’s mind works.’

‘You wish me to leave your class then?,’ he said.

‘Yes please,’ I said.”

“I had taken a risk but got away with it as I was friendly with other advisers and would be accepted by senior county advisers. I went on an outdoor pursuits course in Cumbria. On the last day, six of the youngest men invited me to join their crew as coxswain, while they rowed the full length of Lake Windermere. At a final drinking session, the three county advisers said that they wanted to make me a headmaster even though I was in my late 40s. I had to tell them I was actually in my late 50s. ‘There is no chance for a man of your age obtaining a promotion nowadays,’ I was told. ‘People in their early to mid-thirties were being chosen.’ The county geography adviser asked me to join his summer school as a lecturer for a couple of weeks. I said no. I had sacrificed enough holidays.”

Harold Wilson had resigned as prime minister in March 1976 and was succeeded by James Callaghan, previously the foreign secretary. After a period in which the economy recovered, a new crisis began in 1978 when the Iranian revolution interrupted oil supplies and led to a fresh round of price increases. The UK and the economies of the West started to go into recession again. Inflation accelerated. The government’s pay policy guidelines were challenged and eventually destroyed in a series of public sector strikes in the spring of 1979. The government lost a vote of confidence in March and a general election was held in May. The Conservatives won a clear majority of the seats. Callaghan resigned and Thatcher became prime minister. Labour was to be out of office for 18 years. The Conservatives focused on halting inflation. Tight fiscal and monetary policies were introduced which caused unemployment to rise to 3 million in 1981.

There were changes in Pat and Ted’s family. Gerard married Heather Rabbatts in June 1980. Richard completed his A levels the same year and started a mathematics degree at Lancaster University. In 1981, Stephen accepted a generous invitation from Marian to stay with them in Waterloo. There, he passed his A levels at the appropriate level and secured a place to study French in Southampton. Ted was also observing the comings and goings at St Anthony’s.

“Father Fennel arrived and remained but a few months. During much of his tenure, I was in Wexham hospital where I had been admitted because of prostate problems. There were two results from my illness. The Catholic newspapers weren’t supplied and the gardening stopped. Since there were no volunteers, the church finally made a decision which could have come years earlier. It paid contractors to do it.”

“Father Nightingale replaced Father Fennell. He was an old Scouting acquaintance and we were quite friendly. Nightingale decided very early in his stay that a presbytery should be built adjacent to the church and that Shepherd’s Hey should be sold. It had been targeted by thieves and the lead on its roof was stolen twice. A new modern house was built onto the church and direct access provided to the first floor of the sacristy. After about a year, many faults would appear because of poor workmanship. Nightingale did not remain long. Father Richard Moroney took over the parish temporarily while the bishop looked for a replacement. Canon Hazell returned.”

“In 1979, St Anthony’s headmaster Mr Edmondson took a post unexpectedly at Maidenhead. Christine Harlow took over and I was temporarily appointed as her deputy. The process took some time and I was urged by Mr Jenkins and my old friend Jim Campbell to apply for the job. I had been too old at 54 so I was certainly over the top at 60. I did hope to be confirmed as deputy but did not submit my application to the governors. Florence Boland-Lee was appointed from St Ethelbert’s primary school. I enjoyed my stint as deputy, and particularly assemblies where scope was given to my innovations.”

“Bernard and Linda, who lived in Slough, were sending their children to St Anthony’s. During my last year, Bernard junior was a member of a class to which I gave a lesson in mathematics each week but he was never old enough to join my normal class. His sister Michelle was in a junior class and David would join the school later. Richard graduated in the summer of 1983, and a year later Stephen graduated and, after six months at the European Commission, began work in the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) in London where he was a specialist in sub-Saharan African economies. For six months, he lived with Gerard, Heather and their son Euan, who had been born in January 1983.”

Stephen gave up the civil service and qualified as a teacher of English as a foreign language. He worked initially in Spain and then took a post in Ankara where he met his future wife Amanda, also an English language teacher. They worked for a year in South Korea before taking jobs in Dubai where they lived for four years. This was followed by a return to the UK. They now live in Loughborough.

In April 1982, the Argentinian government ordered the capture of the Falklands Islands, a British possession in the south Atlantic. The UK dispatched a task force to recapture the island, which was achieved in June. The economy was recovering and Prime Minister Thatcher benefited from the patriotic wave that swept the UK after the Falklands victory. The Labour Party, meanwhile, was collapsing. Callaghan resigned as party leader in 1980 and was succeeded by Michael Foot, a veteran left-winger. Constituency parties were dominated by radicals who denounced the previous Labour government. Leading Labour founded the Social Democrat Party (SDP) in 1981. The new party won a series of by-elections and formed an alliance with the Liberals that seemed set to displace Labour as Britain’s main opposition party. Their principal achievement was to split the anti-Conservative vote. In elections in 1983, the Conservatives won more than 30 seats and secured a majority over any other party of 144 seats. Labour lost 55 seats and won little more than 500,000 more votes than the SDP-Liberal alliance. Foot immediately resigned as Labour leader and was replaced by Neil Kinnock, a Welsh MP associated with the left. He attempted to steer Labour to the centre ground but was fated to lead the party to defeat in elections in 1987 and 1992. Tony Blair succeeded Kinnock and was to become prime minister after a crushing victory over the Tories in May 1997.

There were many changes in Pat and Ted’s family and he summarised some of them in his memoirs.

“Marian, Terry and their family returned to Minneapolis in 1984. Marian completed a degree in media and communications. After working for a spell in local television, Marian secured a good position with Minnesota Mutual, the state’s largest insurance company. Catherine was then living on her own and had bought a pretty little new house at Southwater, near Horsham, the garden of which I redesigned and worked upon during frequent visits. During this period she met Roger Gibbons and they were married in the summer of 2008.”

The end of Ted’s working life was approaching. Pat retired from Coopers when she reached 60 in 1979 but continued in part-time positions for a couple of years.

“In July 1984, at the age of 65 and five months, I retired from teaching. A ceremony was arranged and I was supposed to be unaware but I realised something was up. A photographer came from the local paper and my class and I posed for a group photograph. At a ceremony attended by the school and the parish, I was presented with various retirement gifts. At Alan Dewhurst’s house in Iver, I was presented with a watch and he staged a ‘This is Your Life’ sketch. I was given a red book, in the style of the television programme.”

It was another end, but also another beginning. Fifteen years at St Anthony’s had passed in what seemed to be a flash, but the school and the parish had been enriched permanently by Pat and Ted’s uncounted acts of labour and love. There had been many joys, a few setbacks and some disappointments. Ted believes he should have been headmaster and would have been a great one. He was right. But Pat and Ted could consider with satisfaction the achievements of almost 40 years serving the parish and its people.

In his memoirs, Ted acknowledges the work of a generation of parish priests who had dedicated their lives to the church and the service of the Catholic people Slough and Farnham Royal.

“During our time at St Anthony’s parish and school, we had enjoyed the friendship of all the curates, working with them on many projects. In particular, I recall Father Oates, Father Oswald Baker, Father Brendan Peters, Father Dominic Gilhooly, Father Michael Donnelly, Father Peter Brown, Father Richard Moroney and Father Joe Walsh.”

And then there were the friends and partners in the work of the parish since 1947, the teachers and, above all, the thousands of children Ted inspired and educated. Pat and Ted always acknowledge they were just two among many who built a church and a school to create a community that was proud and productive. But their decades of service to the parish and its people, particularly the young ones, are exceptional.

Pat and Ted were more than special.

They were unique.


 

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