A History - Part
Fr Herbert Dorran succeeded Canon Scoles in 1921. He came to Basingstoke from Guernsey. This Lancastrian was to remain Parish Priest for 41 years. In 1927 he was responsible for getting the Irish Sisters of Charity to come to the Parish. Mother Gertrude, Sister Rose and two other nuns moved into the Presbytery in April of that same year. Fr Dorran had moved into 15 Burgess Road.
Sister Rose fast became the shining light of the small community of nuns. She established the Mother's Guild, the Children of Mary and catechism classes. She was an outstanding parish visitor. She successfully organised religious plays and she was largely responsible for the first Corpus Christi Procession. She died in Bath, Somerset, in 1950.
Sister Dominic who came much later is also remembered with affection.
In 1925, Fr Dorran started a Mass Centre in Bramley Camp. Then at the beginning of the war, because of the growth of military establishments, he began saying Mass in the back room of "The Old White Hart" in Hook. This continued to be used as a Mass Centre until 1948. In that year Misses Virginie le Duc and Irene Teeling bought a property known as "The Red House". These good ladies changed the name to "Maryfield". Here Mass was said until the present church was built in 1955. Mrs Chichester, a Basingstoke parishioner, gave money for the church to be built. Thereafter "Maryfield" became a successful nursing home run by the Dominican Sisters of St Catherine of Sienna (Malta).
Meanwhile Park Prewett hospital had become an emergency military hospital at the beginning of the war. Fr Dorran began a weekly service and in 1947 regular Sunday Mass was said at 6:45am to enable the nursing staff to attend Mass before going on duty. There were over 100 people at the first Christmas Midnight Mass.
In 1948, the large pilgrimage to Our Lady's Shrine in Walsingham visited the Holy Ghost Church as the 4th station. Many people still remember "The Walsingham Cross" being carried from the church.
Fr Dorran was made a Monsignor inspector of schools in the Diocese and Vicar General; he was given a papal honour with the title of Protonotary Apostolic. Because of ill health and old age, he retired to the Isle of Wight in 1962. Upon leaving the parish he was presented with money which he duly returned to his successor with the instructions that it was to be used for the restoration of the organ in the Holy Ghost Church. This was typical of a man with great ability who lived a very simple life style. Many of his curates maintained that his life style was too simple. He is reported to have said, regarding his curates, "I am still a school master, and I expect people to do what I tell them". During the war he is reported to have said, " last night one bomb blew me out of bed and the second blew me back in again". Mgr Dorran died on September 7th 1963 at the age of 79 and is buried in Shanklin, Isle of Wight.
Monsignor Dorran's curates included Fr Joseph Murtagh (later Canon) (1939-1943), Fr Joseph Levey (1943-1954 and 1957-1961) and Fr Tony Birrer (1948-1962).
Fr Levy, affectionately known as Fr Joe, was responsible for building what has now become known as "the old St Joseph's in Western Way". The first Mass was said in this hall in September 1959. It served as a Church and Hall until it was replaced by the new St Joseph's, situated in St Michael's Road, in 1988. In 1961 Fr Joe was appointed Priest in Charge and the area became a Parish in its own right in 1966. Fr Brian Scantlebury was the first Parish Priest.
Fr Levy died in September 1991. Bishop Crispian Hollis was chief celebrant at his Requiem Mass in St Theresa's, Totton on September 24th, and Fr Joe is buried in London.
Fr Tony Birrer was the first priest to say Mass in "Maryfield" in October 1948. He cycled to and from Hook where he is still remembered with great affection. He had a special love for the Italian Community, especially those who worked in the hospital. He is remembered for his apologetic manner and, as Bishop Crispian said at his Requiem, he would have apologised to St Peter for keeping him waiting. He was a kind, meek and gentle character, with an extraordinary memory for dates, places, times and faces. He also died in 1991 and his Requiem was held at Christ the King, Bitterne, Southampton, on October 3rd 1991. He is buried in Southampton.
In the late 1940's, it was glaringly obvious that there was a need for a Catholic school in the town. The Mother General of the Irish Sisters of Charity sent Sister Teresa Carmel to Basingstoke with the authority to start a school. The school opened on January 10th 1951. On that day, Sister Carmel and Dominic waited for 15 pupils, all of them Catholics. The policy was first to accept all Catholic children, those who could pay as well as those who could not afford the fees. Eventually, the nuns also accepted non-Catholc children.
In addition, Sister Dominic and Sister Teresa Michael held daily R.E. classes for children in the state school system.
By Easter of the same year a second class was formed - incidentally - in the Presbytery, Sherborne Road. Later that year, Sister M. Marcellina and Sister Agnes Veronica formed the Community. As the number of pupils increased, Sister Carmel decided to build a new classroom between the South View Cemetery wall and the Presbytery kitchen. The cost was £353 and this could accommodate 36 children. Sister J. Paul and Sister Marie Madden taught the children in this classroom for two years.
Sister Carmel, who succeeded Sister Mary Raymond as Superior of the Community, set her sights on providing education for the children until they were fifteen, but they needed adequate accommodation. In answer to the Community's prayers, their problem of lack of space was solved when the property at Norn Hill came on the market. The house and land went up for auction and, there being no bidders, the nuns bought the property for £5,000.
A senior school was opened on 20th April 1953. This became known as "St Joseph's School" and 95 pupils were transferred from the Presbytery property. The new premises lacked a hall for major events at the school. Mr Kewell, who was a newcomer to the town, organised a voluntary building group to build the much desired hall.
Many people were very generous with their talents and the following deserve special mention, Peter Smallbone, Mr Marriot, Bob Ashford, John Hickey, Bill Oliver, Don Foran, Gerry Mooney and Michael Nolan. The Hall was completed in 1953 at the cost of approximately £1,000. The hall was officially opened by the Mayoress on 10th January 1954.
In 1955, the whole school came together, ie the children in the Presbytery part of the school joined those at Norn Hill, a roll of approximately 150.
On 10th March 1957, Mother Celestine replaced Sister Carmel and Sister Ignatius was appointed Headmistress of the school.
To celebrate the centenary of Mother Mary Aikenhead, the foundress of the order, Fr Tony Birrer said Mass in the school hall. There followed a week of celebrations with school plays, mimes etc.
In 1964, the Sisters of Charity decided to leave Basingstoke. Fr Michael Nugent bought the property from them at a cost of £18,000. They served the Parish with dedicated service for thirty-seven years. They were replaced by the Ladies of Mary. These nuns continued to run the private school at Norn Hill but obviously with the idea of State Aided Catholic Schools in the offing the need for private Catholic education diminished as St Anne's opened.
The Ladies of Mary did, however, get involved in St Anne's and St Bede's. In 1974, the Ladies of Mary decided to leave Basingstoke having given 10 years of dedicated service to education in the town.
The last to leave were Sisters Mary Bridget, Elizabeth and Celia. They were replaced by the Sisters of Providence on 8th September 1974. They came to Basingstoke from Alton. These were Sisters Madeline, Mary Patrick, Isabel and Alice. They came to Basingstoke in order to be more closely associated with the community. Sister Mary Patrick continued the long tradition of nuns being involved in Catholic education by becoming a teacher at St Bede's school.
Fr Michael - who succeeded Mgr Dorran in 1962 - immediately set about the task of renovating the Presbytery (15 Burgess Road) and the church. Both had suffered from deterioration due to Mgr Dorran's ill health, but there was also some remaining war damage. No sooner was the Presbytery restored than the priests exchanged 15 Burgess Road with the Nuns for the old Presbytery.
Before Fr Nugent arrived in Basingstoke, plans for a new primary school were well advanced, but Fr Michael had a greater ambition for Catholic education in the town. His proposal became known as "The Three Schools Project". This included a proposal to build one primary school in South Ham, another in the Oakridge area and a secondary school in the South Ham Area. Thus catering for all Catholic education. He launched a major Planned Giving campaign to raise £400,000 for the three schools.
Due to his enthusiasm and drive, work began on St Anne's school in 1963. The school was opened for the beginning of the academic year in September 1964. The Ladies of Mary who had replaced the Irish Sisters of Charity took responsibility for the school. The parish was in debt to the tune of £57,000 with an annual interest of £3,100.
With the rapid expansion of Basingstoke as a London overspill town in the 1960's, it soon became apparent that there was a need for a second primary school in the north of the town. The indomitable Fr Michael bought land for a school and a church at Popley Way. The school was up and running in 1968. Mr Robert Gleeson was appointed the first headmaster.
Since the school was opened, it has served the Parish as a Mass Centre by kind permission of the Governors. To say that the school has served the Parish well is largely due to the outstanding contribution made by the people of Popley and those who use the school for Sunday Mass.
On the 26th September 1971, the Bishops of Portsmouth and Winchester agreed that St Bede's school be used for Church of England services in Popley. The first Anglican service was Harvest Thanksgiving on Sunday, October 3rd 1971. Regular Sunday services began on April 2nd 1972.
Later that same year, Bishop Worlock gave permission for a joint Liturgy of the Word to take place between Anglicans and Catholics at Christmas Midnight Mass. Fr Nugent also bought land for a Church in Kenilworth Road, Winklebury at a cost of £2,000. This land is still in the possession of the Parish.
Coming from a traditional family in rural Ireland- one of eighteen children with two brother priests - Fr Nugent did not easily accept the liturgical changes which came about as a result of the Second Vatican Council. When he left Basingstoke in 1970 to become Parish Priest of Christ the King in Reading, he was presented with a desk and a chair on December 17th 1970. He died in his native Mullingar on March 12th 1990. Fr Tom Grufferty represented the Holy Ghost Parish at his funeral Mass on March 15th 1990. The local Bishop of Meath and thirty Priests concelebrated the Mass, in Latin, English and Irish. Michael would have enjoyed the trilingual Liturgy as he was a great linguist. He is buried in the cemetery in Ballyhug, Sonna, Co. Westmeath.