St. Augustine of Canterbury Church, Leeds Centenary Book.1905-2005

Memories and Parish Events

The Parish Bus
In the late 1960s following Vatican II, Fr. Sharp started family group meetings. It was at one of these meetings that Edgar Holroyd and Ken Wallis came up with the idea of a parish bus to take the elderly to Sunday Mass. Fired with enthusiasm they went off and found an old decrepit bus which cost twelve pounds. When they told the dealer the reason for the purchase, he gave them five pounds back toward the tax. It was a nine seater Morris J4 with wooden seats facing each other.

Ken did a few minor repairs and spray painted it blue in his back garden while his wife Biddy and Ken’s wife Helen gave the inside a ‘full makeover’ upholstering the seats to make it comfortable. It made its maiden trip on 1st November 1969. Parishioners volunteered to drive and a rota was set up taking some of our elderly parishioners to and from two of the Sunday morning Masses.

“We started having coffee mornings in the lower hall after the l0am Mass to help with the running costs. There was one gentleman, a stranger to the parish, who used to come out of Mass early and was always first in queue. Each week he put half- a-crown in the basket for his coffee and wouldn’t let us give him any change. This went on for a number of weeks until someone told us that he was taking the half-crown out of the basket during the second collection just before the end of Mass. Needless to say, after being ‘found out’ we never saw him again.”

When Canon Murray became the new parish priest he took one look at the bus and declared that in his opinion it was unsafe and did nothing to enhance the image of St Augustine’s. He gave Ken and Edgar three hundred pounds and instructed them to purchase another bus. They set off for Nottingham at 6am one morning and bought a fourteen seater Bedford for £90(see photograph). The ignition key was lost so they had to tow it back to Leeds arriving home at 9pm. Canon Murray was probably very surprised when he was given £210 change. Whether he approved of the purchase is not known but this Maroon and silver bus served the parish for the following three years. It was also used to take the elderly on summer outings.

In 1974 an American 21 seater ‘Dodge’ bus was bought. Ken saw it abandoned in a car park in Holbeck and went into the nearby transport cafe to enquire about the owner. He paid £125 for it and drove it home. One evening when the bus was parked outside church it incurred a £2 fine because it was parked without lights.
Later that same year a note was found under the wiper blade. A man who was going on Safari to Africa wanted to buy it, so it was sold to him for £275(see finance statement below).

In 1975 a 19 seater Morris bus with a lift for wheelchairs was bought from Dr Barnardos for £550 and was used for five years until Canon Murray replaced it with a 14 seater transit. Lots of laws and regulations were gradually being introduced over the years making it more complicated and expensive to run a parish bus and the management of the project was passed on to Tom Whelan. In the 1990’s during Fr. Durcan’s time, the bus was sold as it became more economical to hire a Burtons mini bus each Sunday morning.

Far left: 16 yr old Sixteen year old Christopher Wallis sitting on the steps of the ‘New Parish Bus’ in 1971 after his father had towed it back from Nottingham. Chris is now one of the drivers who take the elderly to the 10am Sunday Mass.

Left: Bus fund account for 1974

When the more senior members of the parish were asked about memories from the past the most common immediate reply was ‘The May Processions.’ They were big events for the whole parish and involved a lot of preparation and organisation.. In school the May Queen and her attendants were selected from children in standard two (equivalent to year four). Their outfits were made to measure by some of the parishioners (the Graham sisters). In school the children had to practise, not only how to walk and where to sit but also learn all the hymns. For the Corpus Christi processions it was the teachers who taught the children how to strew the flower petals reverently in front of the priest carrying the Blessed Sacrament. Some years after Vatican II, as in other parishes, these annual parish processions ceased.

In 1975 the school moved to St Wilfred’s Circus which is a fifteen minute walk from the church. The teaching staff still organise an annual May procession, but on a much smaller scale within the school. However, this year being the parish centenary, they plan to have a combined May and Corpus Christi procession on 27 May starting at school and walking in procession down to the church.

Ironically, searching through some archive material of 1931 there were clear instructions regarding processions that year and by far the most prominent one was the ‘Corpus Christi Procession’ (maybe because the May procession was organised through school and not the responsibility of the Priests). The Corpus Christi Procession that year was to be held on Sunday 7th June. There were no parish bulletins in

those days so the parish priest wrote down all the notices in a ledger, which were then read out during the Sunday morning Masses (there were no evening Masses). The instructions written in the notices ledger regarding the Corpus Christi Procession for that year, give an insight into the amount of organisation, planning and cooperation required by all those involved:

May 31st 1931 Instructions re the Corpus Christi Outdoor Procession next Sunday at 4 o’clock

There will be Benediction on the lawn in front of the house where there will be a special altar erected. Flowers (red and white only) and offerings for flowers and candles for the altar are to be sent early on Saturday afternoon. The Procession will leave by the church gates and end by the garden gates and will be carefully regulated by stewards and will be composed in the following order:

1. School Boys
2. Boys who have left school
3. The men of the parish and CYMS
4. The Fourteen strewers
5. The Blessed Sacrament and canopy
6. The May Queen and her attendants
7. The School Girls and Guild of St Agnes
8. The Children of Mary all in their blue cloaks
9. The Congregation

There will be fuller and final arrangements next Sunday morning.

As this is a great act of homage to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and a public avowal of our unswerving faith in the Real Presence, no one should consider themselves exempt. All men especially, should make every effort to be there.

June 7th 1931 (The fuller and final arrangements promised the previous week)

The Corpus Christi Procession today at 4 o’clock
• Children to be at school by 3 o’clock
• Children of Mary to be at school by 3 o’clock (final instructions)
• The four canopy bearers to be at the house by
12 o’clock
• Collectors to be in the porch at 3.30pm
• Altar Servers (11.45am)

Hymns:- “Pange” “Sweet Sacrament” “Jesus my Lord”
At 4 o’clock: O Salutaris/Litany of the Holy Name - Prayer to Blessed Sacrament.

The Procession begins with the acolytes (carrying the cross). They go down the Gospel aisle followed by:
• School Boys (Sacristy)
• The men (front benches first) who will occupy centre three quarter way down
• strewers, torches, thuripers, M.C.
• Deacon, sub-priest, nuns, May Queen (SAC) school girls, Guild of St Agnes and then Children of Mary (top benches first). All the previous to be two deep.
• The Congregation at the Sacred Heart side (top first), the people on Our Lady’s side, then those at the back centre, four deep when outside. Please follow instructions of stewards who will control and allot places on the lawn.
• Tantum Ergo at altar - blessing profound bow - Divine Praises – no one will be able to enter the church unless following in the procession (boys and girls too)
• Litany of the Sacred Heart - silver collection. T.E. and Benediction

Don’t trample the garden: keep in good formation: don’t rush: follow the origin and keep together: Divine Praises in a body.

Sr Imelda (Mary Healey) recalls: “The following year I was trainbearer with Pat O’Toole to Maureen Howard, who was the May Queen. I have many memories of happy days. For May processions we would dress in school, then walk in twos. One year after our devotions we went to Harehills Cemetery playing ‘angels’ on the graves and blessing the tombs. Needless to say our Mam didn’t bless us when we came home full of mud.”

“The big events for us kids were the May and June processions and thinking back it can’t have been easy for our parents getting us all ready. Everyone in Harehills would come out to watch us parade from the school to the church.” Maureen McHale

Molly Newton remembers her time as May Queen in 1948. She was eight years old and in Miss Molloy’s class. All the names of the girls were put into a hat and Fr. O’Flaherty chose one at random. She was the only one to crown Our Lady’s statue twice in the same year as the crown slipped off the first time!

“The May Procession was a wonderful event. All the girls dressed in white and carried flowers; the scent of narcissus still takes me back to those days. The May Queen had two trainbearers and that year they were my friends Mary Ferrier and Rita Harrigan and twelve maids of honour chosen in the same random way as the Queen and train bearers.

The Children of Mary in blue cloaks carried a statue of Our Lady. The boys, although they did walk in the May Procession, really came into their own for the Corpus Christi Procession when they, wearing their white shirts and red ties led the procession, proceeding the priest carrying the Blessed Sacrament under a canopy which was carried, I think, by the Knights of St Columbia. Petals were strewn on the path in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I remember that I was allowed to choose a statue from the piety stall to commemorate this wonderful time of my life.”

Above: Maureen Howard, May Queen in 1945.

Above: May Queen and attendants in 1956.

Above: The Corpus Christi Procession 1965

Above: Molly Thompson, May Queen in 1949.

Ordinations to the Priesthood

There have been four ordinations in St Augustine’s church in the latter half of the twentieth century. Bernard Duffy in July 1954, Donald Stoker in November 1961, Bernie Johnson on 17th June 1962 and James Gill on 6th August 1978. Michael and John Kelly who attended St Augustine’s school in the 1940s to early 50s were also ordained priests, but not at St Augustine’s church as they both belonged to St Nicholas’s parish. (St Nicholas’s children used to attend St Augustine’s school before they built their own)

Bernard Duffy was educated at St Charles’s school. When his family moved into the parish, Bernard didn’t change school as he only had a year before he left. He was then educated at Ushaw college before his ordination. He served in various churches throughout Yorkshire before he died in 1989 aged sixty one.

Bernie Johnson, born in 1938, the son of Johno Johnson, the deputy head of the school, was ordained at St Augustine’s on 17th June 1962. His older brother Pat said that when Bernie said his first Mass, their father read the first reading from the book of Leviticus, about how children should look after their parents and that he and the rest of the family thought it was rather amusing.

James Gill’s family moved out of the parish while James was away training for the priesthood. Although he was ordained in St Augustine’s church he celebrated his first Mass at St Brigid’s Churwell.

Sister Imelda
Before she joined the religious life, Sister Imelda was called Mary Healey. Born in 1939, she was the youngest of three children. She attended St Augustine’s school and during her teenage years played an active part in parish life. In 1956 she left home to join the ‘Petites Pauvres’ better known as the ‘Little Sisters of the Poor’ and took her final vows on 25th May 1960.

“We moved from Hunslet to Harehills after the war and lived there from 1946 to 1956. It is very significant for me that this year 2005 has been declared by the Pope as The Year of the Eucharist, for my first year at St Augustine’s was the preparation for my first Holy Communion, although I didn’t realise then the greatness of the Gift I received. Miss Steppard trained us and I can always remember singing “Jesus Thou art coming.” Father O’Flaherty took us all into the presbytery for ‘breakfast’ and gave us all a souvenir picture of the Last Supper.

I also remember Holy year 1950 when Bishop Heenan invited all the parishes to Kirkstall Abbey. We walked from St Augustine’s singing hymns and the Catholic families from Quarry Hill flats had a little statue or a candle in the window. Soon after I received the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Final vows 25th May 1960

One day Winnie Haveren came to school recruiting for the Junior Legion of Mary. There were about ten girls at the first meeting. I loved going to the different houses with Our Lady’s statue, and we prayed the rosary together. Each week we had our Legion work to do. When I was twelve, one of the senior legionaries could not do her work at the Little Sisters of the Poor, so she asked me to replace her. That was the ‘grace of my life’. Thanks to the Legion of Mary I realised my vocation and entered the religious life of the ‘Little Sisters’ in 1956.

After spending thirty-five years in France caring for the elderly, I am now the collecting sister in Headingley.”

Memories of an Irish Immigrant
I married in Ireland in March 1958 when I was eighteen and came to live here in St Augustine’s Parish shortly afterwards on 11th April 1958 where I have lived ever since. My mum wouldn’t let me come to England unless I was married, although I had been allowed to come on a short visit for a few days in the February before my wedding.

My first impressions of St Augustine’s was that there were an awful lot of people and I thought it was very crowded, but it was also like being in Ireland because everybody was Irish. The church was Irish and when I went to confession it was like being in Ireland. My husband Mike and I used to go down to confession on a Saturday evening (that is before the birth of my first child Michael), and there were long queues at all the confessional boxes.

In the 1960s, I volunteered to type up the weekly parish bulletin each Saturday morning (though sometimes Anne Raynor did it.) There were no computers or fancy printers in those days; it was printed up on an old Gestetner. The priest stood over us all the time telling us what to type. We used to have to type it up on a wax foolscap page and use correcting fluid that was bright red. However, this was in short supply so we frequently used red nail polish instead. Then the backing paper was taken off the wax and put onto all these little spikes face down on a kind of roller, like a milk churn. It wasn’t automatic so it had to be turned manually with the handle until there were about a thousand or more copies. It took a full morning, everything had to be cleaned afterwards and it was very messy. I used to get covered in ink.

I did it during Fr. Craig, Fr. Donovan and Canon Murray’s time. There wasn’t an office either, just a little room. Mary Redmond.