Fort Augustus Old Boys Association Newsletter May 2022
Fr Robert MacKenzie OSB It is with regret that the news of the death of Fr Robert MacKenzie OSB is announced. Fr Robert died peacefully on 23 May 2022 at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. He had been in a nursing home in Edinburgh when he had a fall and was transferred to hospital. He was due to fly back home to Canada in June. Requiescat in Pace
Old Boys Dinner. We have now come to a turning-point in our long 142 years’ history. For the last 24 years until Covid lockdowns, we have been entertained by OB Maurice Taylor at his Holiday Inn in Glasgow. He has kindly supported the event by providing an outstanding meal and providing subsidised accommodation for OBs attending the event. Maurice has now sold the hotel and, with Ralph now 80 years young, now we need to consider the continuation at the Holiday Inn or look elsewhere. In the pre-Covid years Ralph Giulianotti has regularly invited volunteers at the AGM to take over as chair of the FAOBA (a position he has held for almost thirty years) but has had no success so far.
AGMs and Dinners For the FAOBA to continue to hold AGMs and Dinners a new set of hands is required to take on the baton. Without a volunteer coming forward by July, there will be no FAOBA AGM this year — with a doubt as to future AGMs going forward. If you wish to continue with AGMs (which have been run since 1926), please consider stepping forward. The message is stark — no volunteers — no future AGMs.
The Website www.corbie.com continues to be updated with any new photos sent to Colin Bryce, our Webmaster. It also continues to provide information for enquiries across the globe about the Monks, the OBs and former staff.
Kindle Thanks to Colin’s hard work a kindle edition of Abbey Boys is now available on Amazon. The hard copy is out of print but has been republished in Kindle format and it documents the Abbey its Schools (the satellite schools of St Andrew’s Priory in Fort Augustus and Edinburgh and the Priory School in North Berwick) from 1876 until its closure in 1993. The Kindle edition has the same text as the book but many more photographs accompanying the text — with sports team photos from as far back as 1923. The Sports Colours List is available (corrected and updated by-eagle eyed readers!). Abbey Boys can be downloaded from the Amazon website, priced at £9.99. The funds go to the Fort Augustus Old Boys Association.
Where are the Monks today? The monastery at Fort Augustus finally closed in 1998. Hundreds of monks lived and served God in this time at Fort Augustus, St Andrew’s Priory and Carlekemp. Many monks rest in the monk’s cemetery. Many of the monks have their own Obituary pages on the corbie.com website: https://www.corbie.com/monks-of-fort-augustus/ When the Monastery closed, the monks either went to other Benedictine monasteries (e.g., Ampleforth) or went to undertake parish or diocesan work. The last monks to be ordained were Fr. Bernard McInulty and Fr. Stephen Geddes (8 December 1988) and Fr. Paul Bonnici (6 November 1995). Today Fr. Bernard resides at and serves in Ampleforth Abbey. Fr. Stephen went as a chaplain to the Royal Navy before becoming a parish priest in Weymouth. He retired in 2021. Fr. Paul is now a parish priest in Malta.
History (First School)
The original school was an English Benedictine Congregation ‘College’ whose curriculum was administered by Glasgow University professors. However, in Christmas 1894 St. Benedict’s College closed, partly because numbers were falling due to competition from other Catholic boarding schools but also the monks at Fort Augustus were inspired by the German Prior Linse and the Beuronese tradition to turn away from the world and devote their energies to prayer, painting and sacred music. The College, very much reduced in size, now operated as a junior seminary (the Alumnate) for boys intending to be monks, with 16 students in 1900 and only 7 in 1903. One of the prominent members of the 230 pupils at the original College was John Carmont.
John Francis Carmont was born in Dumfries in 1880, youngest son of honorary Sheriff-substitute James Carmont of Castledykes, Dumfries. He was educated at the St Benedict’s College, Fort Augustus, serving his law apprenticeship with the town clerk of Dumfries. He became a solicitor in 1903 and attended Edinburgh University before being called to the bar in 1906. He took silk in 1924 and was appointed a senator of the College of Justice. During the First World War he served in the ranks as an officer in the Black Watch. As a judge in Glasgow High Court, his long sentences for razor-slashers, knife-and cosh-wielders and thugs had a marked impact on crime. His 5-to-10 year sentences became known as ‘Copping a Carmont’! Lord Carmont’s sister, the Benedictine Abbess of Holme Eden near Carlisle (formerly the Abbess of the Old Convent at Fort Augustus) told her brother to ask St Benedict to find a buyer for Long Bellenden, a handsome property in North Berwick. Lord Carmont bought it and transferred it to the Benedictines. So it was that on the 9 October 1945 Carlekemp Priory School was opened. Lord Carmont died on the 7 August 1965.
John Easton McFall Another outstanding OB was Pilot Officer John McFall who gave his life on 15 June 1941 and was buried at Halfaya Cemetery Egypt. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (as per The London Gazette, 14 April 1939)—‘For gallant and distinguished services rendered in Palestine. He was awarded a Bar to his DFC on 6 June 1941 for services with No. 6 Squadron. The Aeroplane of 26 April 1939 added the following –‘Pilot Officer McFall was detailed on 11 March to search for an armed band and located it approaching Zemal. He landed to report to the Officer Commanding, Trans-Jordan Frontier Force, who left in an aeroplane piloted by Sergeant Coggins. When this aeroplane returned with Coggins seriously wounded, Pilot Officer McFall answered the call to help. He engaged armed rebels under heavy fire, his aeroplane being hit in several places.
After returning to make a further report, he took off in another aeroplane and continued to attack the enemy in cooperation with the ground forces. The citation read that ‘He has proved to be an outstanding operational pilot and has shown high devotion to duty in the face of the enemy. In October 1938, he was brought to the notice of the General Commanding, British Forces in Palestine and Trans-Jordan, for gallant and distinguish conduct in action.’
Early History FAOBA (Compiled from Abbey Boys, Kindle edition). The idea of a FAOBA was first mooted in 1926 and it developed in multiple locations — the first dinner of the Catholic Schools Scottish Association was held in Glasgow on 5 Feb 1931. Then, at an informal meeting held at the Abbey in Spring 1931 it was decided to set up branches of the Association in Liverpool, Inverness and Glasgow. On Monday 7 January 1935, the inaugural meeting of the reconstituted FAOBA was held at the Caledonian Hotel in Edinburgh, preceding dinner. On the 27 February the London Dinner of the FAOBA was held at the Rembrandt Hotel. The FAOBA’s AGM took place at Fort Augustus on the 10 July where the Association was divided into four areas — North and South Scotland, and North and South England. The inaugural dinner of the North of Scotland branch was held in the refectory of the Abbey School that term. A well-patronised Reunion was then held at Fort Augustus on 21 and 22 September 1935. During the meeting the rules of the Association were read and adopted. A photograph of the Old Boys taken on the grass outside the cloisters shows that, out of the 31 men present, 19 were now members of the Order of St. Benedict. That year the OBs’ Dinner took place in the Caledonian Hotel, Edinburgh, with a company of 27 members.
In conclusion, the Committee now urgently needs to know the opinion of Old Boys on the future of the FAOBA. Although the www.corbie.com website will continue to be maintained and developed, we invite you to send your responses to email@example.com as to whether you support the continuation of
- ‘in person’ AGMs with OB Dinner
- an OB lunch instead (which could also incorporate an AGM)
- simply Zoom/Teams AGMs
If any Old Boy currently receiving the Newsletter by post would like to be added to the email distribution list, please provide your name and email address to Colin Bryce (firstname.lastname@example.org)