If you have news of a former pupil, teacher or other Friend of FCHS who has recently passed away or whose anniversary is approaching, please let us know so that their contribution to the life of the School can be properly recognised, and so that they can be remembered in the prayers of fellow Friends.
Below is a short film commemorating some of those Friends of the school whom we lost during 2010-11. Their lives and all those others who we have lost this year were remembered at the Annual Mass for Deceased Old Boys, held on Sunday 10th April at 10.30am in The Oratory in the White House. See the Noticeboard for details.
Michael was the second of three brothers to attend FCGS in the 1940s. He played at Inside Right for the school First XI (1944-45), winning the grudging accolade from coach Joe Linnane that he was "improving slowly" and "tries hard".
He was Vice-Captain of Bampfield House and an Assistant Prefect, attaining his Higher Certificate in July 1944 with passes in English, History, Latin and French. He left school to train as a teacher at St Mary's University College, London.
His younger brother MALACHY RIDDLE (1948) had a career in business before joining the priesthood. Sadly, he was killed shortly arriving in Nigeria in the late 1960s where he had gone to help people suffering in the Biafran conflict. His older brother GEOFFREY RIDDLE (1942) joined the White Fathers after leaving FCGS, and is still serving in Tanzania today.
Fr Geoffrey was ill with pneumonia when his brother Michael died and was unable to return for his funeral, but he sent these words and pictures from Tanzania:
Dear Paola, dear Mary and Eileen, dear Richard, Anne and Anthony, dear relatives and friends of Mike,
I would have loved to be with you as we say farewell to Mike – a farewell for a while. As some of you may know, I am myself just recovering from recent Pneumonia and feel unable to join you. I and my fellow priests will be with you in our prayers.
God gave Mike a long and interesting period on earth with some great joys and also some hard trials. As little boys we were fond of each other, but from time to time Mike somehow put up with harsh bullying from his elder brother, boss of the Riddle children. But I have never forgotten his crying with affection when I was flung by some members of a rival gang into a pool of the Dollis brook.
We shared of course in the London bombing and prayed the Rosary together with Dad as the enemy planes drew near. Mike’s toughest challenge, however came when he remained at home with Dad after I left for the White Fathers seminary in 1942. It was not long before Dad went down with cancer of the bladder, he alone with Mike in 4 Walmington Fold, Mother and the lower part of the family evacuated to Cornwall.
Mike accompanied Dad through his dying days in ’44. What courage our father had who kept secret his fatal illness from Mum and me, but it was Mike who accompanied the final suffering. Thank you, Mike.
After his qualifying as a teacher Mike went off in the army to Kenya, where he taught English, beating me to Africa! It was during his following period in London teaching English to foreign students that God brought him that special gift – a beauty from Rome itself. By great luck my leave in Britain fell at the time of their marriage plans and I was able to witness and bless it in the English Church in Rome, together with Mum and Malachy.
Before long they set out to Lilongwe, Malawi, to the Marist Teachers’ Training College and I heard that Banda himself asked Mike to write an English Grammar. It was in Malawi that the family started. Mike and family returned to England for further studies of his but with the intention of then going to Uganda but Idi Amin turned up on the scene and they decided to remain in Britain.
It was always one of my great pleasures to stay with them during my leaves in England and I say with some shame that I began forgetting peoples’ birthday, but never his.
If we say again that Mike has left us, we know it is to be with Him who must be rewarding Mike for good deeds of his long life. May God bless and comfort you all.
Geoffrey John Riddle
Michael died in New Barnet at the turn of the year. He is survived by his wife and their children, and our thoughts and prayers are with them, and with Fr Geoffrey at this time.
Matthew taught RE at the school between 1991 and 1993, but - while he was only there for a short time - he made a great impression on everyone who knew him, and those who did not will still recognise what a typical 'Finchley Man' he was.
In a working life which went back and forth between the clergy and the laity, he first became known to the school as an Anglican clergyman in Hendon. When he converted to Catholicism, he took a post at the school and immediately brought assemblies, prayer meetings and retreats to life with his challenging expositions of the Gospel.
In the classrom, his RE teaching was energetic and erudite, but his true passion was the pastoral life of the school. He plunged himself into the school's 'Thursday Club' for disabled children run by Kim Reilly, and into the annual pilgrimages to the Romanian orphanages.
He sometimes approached the latter with too much energy, and was notorious for his over-confident driving of a mini-bus on the darkly-lit roads in rural Romania. A group of sleeping boys and teachers were once bemused to be woken up with a sudden jolt in a Romanian cabbage patch, Mathhew at the wheel and an irate farmer banging at their windows.
Matthew was a stalwart of the staff room, entertaining everyone with his impressions of senior management, and leading a breakaway staff movement from the (then) Swan and Pyramids to spend Friday nights at The Coach Stop (aka The Cricketers) at Tally Ho.
In 1993, he decided to leave to pursue his true vocation and become a Catholic priest. When he left, it was said by a colleague: "Matthew's generosity, warmth and kindness have left an impression on all the staff and pupils who have come into contact with him."
He died in May 2010 and his funeral was held on June 15th at St Monica's in Palmers Green.
JOHN HERRON, 1962-2010 (Tribute by his cousin, Phil Canty)
John had a tough start in life when his mother died when he was only four. He was educated at St Albans Prep before joining FCHS in September 1973.
He was a very intelligent lad and sailed through his time at Finchley gaining 10 'O' levels and seemingly on his way to 3 'A' levels, when for reasons known only to himself, he walked out of the Upper 6th with only a few weeks to go before the exams. To those who were present that day, the event has never been forgotten.
On the sporting side of life John had two great passions: cricket and rugby. John represented the school at both sports, captaining the cricket team throughout his time at the school. After leaving he played rugby for Finchley and cricket for the Old Boys amongst others.
In business, John's intelligence shone through and he soon became a partner in a successful estate agents. So successful he was able to retire to Crete before his 45th birthday. He rented out his house in Finchley and moved out to the Greek island.
John enjoyed life to the full but his weight was always his nemesis, and this condition was to be his downfall. John died on 25th May aged only 48 due to an enlarged heart and a blood clot that caused a stroke. He was buried in Crete on 1st June.
John leaves behind a brother and three sisters.
PAUL WALSH, 1962-2010
Paul attended the school between 1971 and 1979. He was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and prayers were said for him at the Old Boys Mass in March. He died on Friday 28th May, leaving three young children. Hundreds of people - including many Old Boys - attended his funeral on Tuesday 8th June at Our Lady of the Assumption and St Vincent in Potters Bar. This was the eulogy given by his friend and schoolmate, Shaun Fagan:
I will not speak today of how much of a loss we collectively and individually have all suffered as it is obvious from the size of the congregation that were I to do so we would be here for a very long time.
Paul and I were friends for 34 years, a time period that we both wish could have been longer. I first met Paul - or Walshy as he was better known to most of us - when I was aged 13 and, believe it or not, it was in a football competition!
It was the end of term 3-a-side with medals at stake! As ever at Finchley Catholic, no quarter was asked and even less was given: barging people into the walls was part and parcel of the game. Walshy and I actually first met trading punches during the game!
I, with a few others, then played for teams a few years older than us including the first team where Paul took on the role of both big brother and minder as we played against teams who were anywhere from 2-3 yrs older than us and at times decided to try and bully us. Needless to say our first protector was Paul.
Paul loved his football and could sometimes appear to be over exuberant! In fact the only bad words I have ever heard anyone mention about Paul were by opposing centre forwards....and the odd referee or two! Many here might not realise that the main reason Paul was so intense on a football pitch was because of his occupation.
True to his character, he was totally committed during the week to caring for others, working his way through the social side of various councils where he had done everything from cleaning up after incontinent older people to dealing with problem kids. So football at the weekend became his outlet.
Another release for Paul was his music which meant that on most Saturday nights we would be out clubbing at various places till the early morning. On one such Saturday night we happened to end up in the Coolbury Club in Tottenham and about 1.30 in the morning Paul decided that it was time to have an early team talk for the following mornings game. There were five or us there including himself and the first thing we found out was that we only had ten players, and at that time at least four of us weren't feeling that fit!
Who should be standing at the bar? Only one of Paul's idols: Liam Brady, and Graham Rix, so that's it - Paul's off to the bar: “Chippy, I'm Paul, how you doing? By the way what are you doing tomorrow morning? Well in fact....in about 7 hours time?” Sadly for Chippy Brady his CV of playing clubs - although having the likes of Arsenal and Inter Milan on it - never reached the heights of mentioning Hadley Wood FC!
It was only in January when I was speaking with my mum and telling her of Paul's situation that she mentioned that seven years ago on my fortieth birthday when my wife Sandra took me away for a surprise birthday (and marriage!) that Paul had gone around to see her.
Paul was aware that mum had a bad hip at the time and thus couldn’t travel so without any mention to myself simply took himself of to see her and to make sure she had enough shopping in and was generally OK. Again Paul being Paul never mentioned this to me at all.
Only yesterday, I received a phone call followed by an email from a lady in Holland: a lady now married with five children. She was in tears and she then explained that not only had Paul, as her social worker, taken her out of a problem family aged 12, but also arranged her fostering when she was 14 years old.
This only confirms what we all know: that having the privilege to know Paul did make the world a better place.
I will leave you today with one thought - no, not a thought, but a fact - many people recognised Paul from afar due simply to his size. Well I can tell you, regardless of the fact that Paul enjoyed the gym and swimming, he was made that size simply for one reason....
Because a body any smaller could not have carried such a truly massive heart.
HUBERT RICHARDS, 1921-2010
We were sad to learn that one of our oldest former pupils, Hubert John Richards - known by the name Hubert Cornelius Goebbels when he was at school here in the 1930s - died at home in Norwich on March 24th at the age of 88.
In the year when we commemorate the 30th anniversary of Canon Parsons' death, it is sad but fitting that we also say farewell to a man who he inspired to a life of devotion to the faith, to study and to family; a man who embodied the well-rounded, good-humoured and compassionate character typical of the school that Pop built.
Hubert's father Richard moved to London in 1905 and married Bertha Lung at the German RC Church in Whitechapel in 1914. However, he was interned in the Isle of Man during the Great War, and moved back to Germany in 1919. Hubert was born on Christmas Day, 1921, in Weil Der Stadt, best known as the birthplace of astronomer Johannes Kepler.
In 1928, the family moved back to London and they became naturalised Britons in 1935, with Richard, Bertha and their six children (see below, with Hubert behind his seated mother) taking over a butcher's shop on the Portobello Road. Unsurprisingly, the family decided to change their surname to Richards by deed poll at the outbreak of the war. Many other FCGS families with German and Italian names did the same.
Hubert attended St Agnes in Cricklewood and obtained a scholarship to FCGS in 1934, unlike his brother Frank who attended St Ignatius. Hubert proved himself a brilliant scholar, receiving the Governor's Prize for Form VI in 1938, along with a prize for his General Average marks, as he had in each previous year.
He was also an active participant in the non-academic life of the school: Treasurer of Le Cercle Francais, student Tuck Shop Monitor and a regular player in the school‟s dramatic productions on Prizegiving evenings. However, his great passion was scriptural analysis and it was Canon Parsons who persuaded him that the best way to pursue this passion was to train for the priesthood and seek entry to the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome (The Biblicum).
With Pop's encouragement, he entered the English College in Rome (see below), but he and his colleagues were forced to return home in 1940, narrowly escaping being interned after the Mussolini regime declared war on Britain. The College re-opened at St Mary's Hall, Stonyhurst, and Hubert stayed there throughout the war.
He was ordained at the Parish Church of the Sacred Heart, Ruislip, and in 1949, he gained his Licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Biblicum in Rome. While not a footballer himself, he found himself in trouble at the Biblicum after organising a match with a group of Anglican seminarians: a sign of things to come, both in his openness to inter-faith dialogue, and his occasionally fractious relationship with the church authorities.
Returning to England, Hubert took up a teaching post at St Edmund's in Ware, the College where a young Clement Parsons had himself studied for the priesthood. Hubert was Professor of Scripture at St Edmund's for 15 years, during which time he also worked on translations of the Bible and Psalms. His tenure overlapped for two years with Canon Parsons, who returned to St Edmund's in 1962 after his retirement from FCGS. How proud Pop must have been to see this brilliant priest and scholar following in his footsteps.
In 1964, Hubert and Fr Peter De Rosa were appointed by Cardinal Heenan to run the new National Catechetical Centre at Corpus Christi College in London. For several years, young seminarians, priests and nuns from Britain and around the world flocked to study at the College, but traditionalists in the Church began to complain about the two priests and graduates from their College conducting 'speculative theology' rather than teaching established, orthodox doctrine.
As the controversy grew, Cardinal Heenan stepped in and Hubert was forced to resign his post. He began teaching religious studies at the University of East Anglia, his classes proving such as popular as they had at Corpus Christi. While he remained a staunch Catholic, Hubert decided to quit the priesthood in January 1975.
That December, he married a former nun named Clare Milward, a Finchley native who had attended St Michael's Convent, and on occasion attended the Sunday Masses said by Fr Dent or Doc Ward in the original Chapel at FCGS. Clare was herself becoming a renowned teacher of Religious Studies, and for many years, the couple wrote and lectured on Catholic theology, writing several well-loved books aimed at Catholic students and pilgrims. In 1980, they adopted Colombian twins, Pedro and Blanca.
However, there was further controversy in the mid-1990s when a popular textbook written by Clare Richards - Roman Catholic Christianity - was withdrawn from Catholic schools in the UK after the intervention of Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. According to one account, the Cardinal smashed the book against the table in his Vatican office, denouncing its teachings as 'heresies' and demanding that it be suppressed by the English Church.
Despite this blow, the Richards continued to write and teach, and remained greatly admired and respected for their devotion to the faith by many senior figures in the English Church, including Cardinal Hume, Cardinal Murphy O'Connor, and Archbishop Peter Smith. Hubert lived out his last days in Norwich and passed away peacefully at home at the age of 88, the same age as Canon Parsons was when he died in 1980.
Hubert is remembered by everyone who knew him as a great intellectual, a brilliant teacher and a wonderful friend, husband and father. He is survived by Clare, Pedro and Blanca, and a baby grandson who can claim to be part-German, part-English, part-Colombian and part-Irish. They are in the thoughts and prayers of the whole Finchley school community at this time.
A Requiem Mass for Hubert was said at St John's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Norwich on Friday 9th April and a memorial celebration will take place in London on October 30th. Please get in touch with us here if you would like to attend.
Previously remembered on this page:
Howard Usher (1967-75), died Monday 30th November, 2009.