The scene is St. Patrick’s College, Armagh, the time 1941-1946, during the last war. Armagh is the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland, the seat chosen by Patrick for his bishopric, and the old Protestant Cathedral sleeps on a hill in the middle of the town, outfaced by the triumphalist neo-gothic of the new Catholic Cathedral. So, ancient history and modern history crossed, as the German planes wandered over Ulster, where the Invasion armies were assembling. But we were forbidden the radio or the papers.


And our small souls were being regimented by the Vincentian Order, whose main task was to produce priests for the Armagh diocese. I do not think I could exaggerate the harshness of our schooling. The best comparison would probably be with a military academy.


I do not blame the priests, for whom we were God-fodder, nor my class-mates, because we all had to survive. But, at an age when tenderness was needed, we got none and learned to hide human weakness. And, over it all, the great bell rang every quarter.

John Montague

“Time in Armagh”