The second occasion when I was in the gaol was one Christmas Eve and I was asked by the local priest to accompany him to the gaol for him to say Christmas Mass.
Getting into the gaol was the same procedure as before. Sign in, leave valuable behind all that.
In those days the gaol hall was also the place where church services were held. It was just an open room with platform seating, a stage area at one end with what appeared to be an old pump action organ to the side.
The priest said to me to have a look at the organ and see if I could play it. It was a pump action one where you sat on the seat and with your feet pumped air into it to create the notes you wanted.
I pumped and nothing happened much to the amusement of the priest and the only inmate who attended the service.
When I opened the top of the organ to peer inside I found the entire innards of the organ had been stripped leaving only the shell of the instrument. Apparently it was a running joke to invite anyone new to try and play the organ on his or her first visit.
Being Christmas Eve it was very hot. A normal day for that time of the year, as we’d say, a stinking hot Christmas Eve. The priest still dressed in his altar vestments and the mass began.
Now as I said earlier only one inmate attended and he insisted on being the alter boy to assist the priest.
At one point in the mass the priest was obviously struggling against the heat, no fans or air con in those days, and the inmate took the alter towel and brought it round to wipe the priests brow.
What the priest saw was a hand coming towards his face and as he said later for a second or two he saw his life flash before him.
Needless to say we both survived and I can say I not only was in gaol that day but also attended a mass there.
I was surprised that only one inmate attended, another guy was there for a few minutes but left and so the mass went ahead with just the three of us.
And so ended my second visit to gaol.
I have deliberately not mentioned the priest’s name, as he was many years later convicted of child sex crimes and ended up dying in gaol. In all my dealings with him as a kid growing up I never once had cause to doubt his genuineness, as he always treated me fairly. His crimes were committed years after I knew him.
Wow, a lovely story with a disturbing coda to it…great stuff Michael!! 🙂 🙂
Thanks Helen, that same priest officiated at my wedding as well.
Oh dear – well that last paragraph was very disturbing….
Yes, but reality sometime is. Thanks for reading.
Great story…sad about the priest. Strange how life can treat us at times…
Oh…and is seems so odd when you write it was hot for Christmas…even though having lived in the Philippines and Africa, it shouldn’t seem so…but it is anyway. I’m dreaming of a sunny Christmas would be a great croon!
Believe me it is hot yesterday and today, though slightly cooler today.
Ach…and I know it…like it’s cold here…just slightly warmer than yesterday 😉
Thanks Georgia yes life takes sad twists.
Still chuckling at you attempting to play the gutted organ.
As for the way of the priest…pretty messed up with any one who abuses a child in any way.
Glad that you were not affected by any of that .
Thanks RoSy, it was a funny thing at the time, and I guess i was lucky as he later committed some terrible crimes on another fellow who was so affected he attempted suicide.
lol @ trying to play the organ when it didn’t have a thing in it!!
The realization of the crimes the priest committed must have been such a mixture of emotion – relief that nothing ever happened with you, and then distress for the victims who were affected.
Thank you so much for writing these down, well worth the effort. I hope they haven’t raised any negative feelings for you.
Thanks Miss Lou I am happy you have enjoyed the journey, and no they have been stories I have had all these years and it was good for me to write them down. No negative feelings only sadness about the priest who was a good friend of mine at the time and I found it hard to understand what had led him to do the things that he did. Thanks again, please visit anytime.