My paternal parents and their offspring were interested in education and in professional advancement. Their progress could be described as the product of the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 and of the proliferation of the Irish Catholic secondary schools during the gradual emergence of the Catholic middle class during the later years of the 19th century
|Brothers three: Dad, Sam and Paddy|
Sam was prior of the Cistercian monastery and secondary school at Roscrea in Co. Tipperary when he was appointed as the founder and Abbot of the first post-reformation Catholic monastery in Scotland. It was sited in East Lothian in 1946 just after the end of the World War. It seemed a very ambitious undertaking and almost a provocative challenge that a Catholic monastery would dare to establish itself in the heart of Scottish Presbyterian country and that it would acquire extensive land and buildings after their arrival there. On the contrary, the monks were well received by the local people and were greatly helped in settling down during their early years.
Land acquired extended eventually to 1300 acres, which was mostly worked by the monks with some local farmers but the fall in vocations among young people has led to the disposal of the land and the loss of the traditional role of the Cistercians in farming and providing for their members.
|The monks (and their many skills).|
An example of his progressive nature was his concern about the appalling diet on which he and his colleagues in the order were confined to. No meat, fish or other sources of protein except hard cheese could be found on their table. He arranged for me and my colleague, Noel Hickey, and our dietician in my department at St. Vincent’s Hospital to visit Mount Melleray in Co. Waterford, the head and sister house of the Cistercians in Ireland and to make recommendations about a healthier diet for the Order worldwide.
We investigated the causes of death of the previous 50 monks as recorded in the County register in Co. Waterford and found a relatively poor life expectation among the community. We attended their main meal of the day (including our female dietician – possibly the first female to attend such an event!) and made recommendations to my Uncle Sam which were sent to Rome and apparently acted upon on behalf of the entire Order. Meat and fish were still prohibited, as I recall, but pulses – a mixture of beans, peas and lentils – and eggs and other protein sources may have been allowed.
|At Nunraw: David, Self, Richard, Dom Caira and Hugh.|
|Sam's grave is just to the left of the big cross.|
We found the same personalities among our hosts which I recognised in my uncle and predecessor whom I knew so well, a sense of happiness, contentment, courtesy and optimism despite recent changes in the spiritual and secular world. And clearly they showed a special regard and reverence when they spoke about Dom Columban.
|Richard, David and Hugh; when things were more black and white.|
When together in the hotel, pub or elsewhere there was never a moment of silence. Talk was incessant but it was generally shared by the three and on subjects which were more often of interest to their generation. The first evening we arrived we spent about two hours in the lounge/bar and I found that I was a little remote from the conversation, not only because the subjects were closer to their interests but because of my inability to catch many parts of their conversation, aggravated by the constant noise in the background of the bar and the inevitable loss of hearing as part of my age. At first I was a little concerned about my patchy exclusion from the discussions and the likelihood that this would remain during the entire stay of our time in Edinburgh but I decided that my real role was to study the three of them during their frequent and sometimes intense conversations and to analyse the relationship between them.
|Pinting with Hugh|
|David, Self and Richard, enjoying the 1970s.|
Altogether it was a most happy reminder of the good fortune which can exist in family life and particularly in the extended family of which I have had the good fortune to belong. Apart from our visit to Nunraw I thought the happiest moments of our visit was sitting in a crowded pub with a pint of Guinness in my hand listening to and sometimes even intervening among my three boys.
|Spot yourselves boys.|