Monday, August 25, 2008

Book Review

I`m still finding it hard to be inspired at the moment but here is something I thought I could post. This is a book review I wrote for the North East Catholic History Society magazine. This book appears to be available only from the college. I`ve looked on Amazon without success. Anyway here it is:
Book Review

Ushaw College 1808-2008 A Celebration. Compiled and edited by W.J. Campbell on behalf of the Saint Cuthbert`s Society PKB Publishing 142pp £25 (hbk)

To celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of the opening of Ushaw College the St Cuthbert`s Society has produced this commemorative volume. This beautifully produced and lavishly illustrated book is apparently the first (and last) venture into the world of publishing of its editor William Campbell. He is to be commended for a job well done.

Four chapters provide a general history of the College. The first, by the renowned historian of Ushaw, Fr David Milburn, covers the period from the foundation of the College at Douai up until 1858. His account contains little details which bring the period to life such as the recollection by Charles Waterton, the 19th-century naturalist, that the exiled Douai students needed to raid the housekeeper`s pantry when at the Tudhoe Academy to keep body and soul together (p.10). The second looks at the architecture of Ushaw from 1808 until the last significant extension with the East Wing in 1964: it contains many fine pictures and of special interest are the pictures of the College gardens in 1860 and the demolition of the Pugin chapel in 1882. Fr Michael Sharratt`s article of 1994, originally given as a talk for the bicentenary of Crook Hall, looks at the career of Ushaw President Mgr Robert Tate. Fr Sharratt`s article draws on the Tate`s gossipy private correspondence with Thomas Slater of Hutton Henry, which he and Fr Minskip have examined, and so illustrates another side to Tate `s sometimes contradictory character which complements the work of Fr Milburn in his history. Tate`s career illustrates the concern felt by those Catholics who were so used to keeping their heads down for fear of persecution that they had grown used to a rather plain form of Catholicism and felt distinctly uneasy with the arrival of more colourful expressions of devotion introduced from the wider Church. Fr Milburn sums this period up when he speaks of Newsham who `set about replacing the drab Douai-rooted devotional life of the College by the flamboyant devotions sweeping across Catholic England from Rome` (p.18).

A chapter on student life follows illustrated with pictures of students in class, at sport on the stage and in the chapel. The explanation of the rules for the game of Cat makes Pontifical High Mass look quite simple! Fr Phillips writes the development of the education system at Ushaw which brings the story up the present. Following on from Fr Sharratt`s article, Fr Philips quotes Mgr Newsham who in 1841 wrote to bishop Brown of the Lancashire District: Ushaw is really far superior to an Episcopal seminary as projected by the Council of Trent (p.80). At Ushaw old attitudes die hard.

The last section entitled `Beauty Passed Unseen` is a lavishly illustrated guide to the buildings, historic vestments paintings and plate of the College. It continues with pictures of students who have become cardinals and portraits of all the Presidents, presumably under the same rubric! The last section is about preparing for the future but mainly talks about the latest developments at the College whose future must be precarious although it has recently fought off one attempt to close it down in the interests of rationalising provision for seminary training.

This is certainly a book that anyone who has been associated with the College will want to have as a keepsake.

3 comments:

madame evangelista said...

Your post inspired me to look up again The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson (it's been that kind of a bank holiday...); funny reading it now, it's still mad melodrama even by my standards, but this time the ending does now mean something to me.

Are there other (possibly less notorious) famous names from Ushaw?

billyg said...

Where can I buy the Ushaw Book?

Fr Michael Brown said...

Billyg it is hard to get. Apart from Ushaw itself, I`ve seen copies at the St Paul bookshop by the cathedral in Newcastle.