Scraps from a Scrapbook

Recently someone left us a scrapbook. It is an amazing collection of religious trivia, and some of it is not so trivial in some respects. Herewith, in keeping with the recent archival theme, some samples (which, when clicked, will show the full size photo).

First is a photograph of Maurus Caruana (†1943), monk of Fort Augustus and Archbishop-Bishop of Malta. I suspect this photo is of him back at Fort Augustus, wearing a very monastic mitre.

Bishop of Malta

Next is a photo of an extremely youthful Abbot of Buckfast. Anscar Vonier was a German, abbot of Buckfast before it was aggregated to the EBC. He is pictured with Bishop Graham of Plymouth, who died in 1912; Vonier became abbot in 1906, so this photo must be from the period 1906-1912, which would mean Vonier is here aged between 31 and 37. He wrote popular works on the Eucharist.


In the previous post there were a number of missals which received their Imprimatur from Josef-Ernst, Cardinal van Roey (†1961) who was Archbishop of Mechlin (Malines). This photo has been signed by him, but seems to date before he received the red hat, so must be from the period 1926-7.

Van Roey

Lastly, a letter. An original letter, from Bede Polding (†1877), a monk of Downside who was the first Archbishop of Sydney from 1842 till his death. He was amazing in his capacity for work and his pastoral care, especially of convicts. He had a vision of Catholics taking a leading role in the life of the nation, and founded my old university college, St John’s at the University of Sydney, to train Catholic men for leadership in society. His dream of restoring the medieval model of an abbey-diocese was pursued with short-lived modest success, but the arrival of Irish secular clergy put an end to his dream; they would not be given orders by either (1) an Englishman or (2) a monk!

This letter is addressed to a “Bernard”, who is most likely to be Dom Bernard Paillet of Downside, who was rector of Cheltenham from where this scrapbook originates. I am not sure if this letter is known to Polding historians. Polding is writing from Fords Hotel, which I am yet to identify.

Polding letter 1.pngPolding letter 2.pngPolding letter 3

If you have any information to add, please do!

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    1. Boyish is almost inadequate to describe him!

      By the way, I apologise for the delay in your comments appearing. WP insists on all your being approved individually. Normally after one approval a commenter goes automatically on a whitelist, but for some reason it will not do that for you. I am stumped. At least it doesn’t put you in the Spam folder. #smallmercies

  1. Just discovered your great photo of Maurus Caruana. I am researching his life not only for his role in Maltese politics of the 20s and 30s but also because he was briefly secretary to my g-g-uncle Archbishop Ambrose Agius in Manila 1905-06. We have a photo of him with Ambrose in which he looks very like this , so this may have been taken just before he departed for the Philippines or on his return in 1906. (He returned to Fort Augustus until being made Bishop of Malta in 1915.)

    The mystery is why he is wearing a mitre and holding a crozier because I don’t think he was ever Abbot of Fort Augustus, unless it was for a very short caretaker period? Does the scrapbook give any clues as to the provenance of that photo? Who was the owner of the scrapbook?

    Another mystery you may be able to help me with , Fr Hugh, is … he is listed in the Deceased Clergy of Portsmouth Dicoese and I can’t find anytime when he was in the Diocese. The Diocesan archivist has drawn a blank and, thinking he may have popped down to Douai for a while, I’ve trawled through all the Douai Society magazines and there’s no mention. Any ideas?

    I’m an old boy of Worth Prep and Downside myself but my father’s Arrigo and Cassar cousins were at Douai School in the 1920s. And I am in Havant Parish in Portsmouth Diocese.

    1. Dear Fr Hugh

      This thread has just popped up in my Inbox following Fr Colin’s and your comments below! Did you have anything to say on my queries about Maurus Caruana in Jan 2018?

      kind regards


  2. Dear Father Hugh,

    Regarding the Polding letter, I note the date is June 30, 1846, the day after the arrival of the Archbishop in London. It was also the anniversary of his episcopal consecration in 1834.

    This letter does not appear in the 3 volume set of his correspondence. I have great difficulty in reading it. Has anyone managed a transcription? I would be most interested.

    I have just published the transcriptions of two shipboard diaries:

    AT SEA WITH BISHOP JOHN BEDE POLDING. The Journals of Lewis Harding, 1835 (Liverpool to Sydney), 1846 (Sydney to London), transcribed and edited with an introduction by C. F. Fowler. ATF Press, Adelaide, 2019.

    1. Dear Fr Colin,


      Thank you for giving the date of the letter a context; yours is the knowledge I was hoping to tap into.

      Thank you also on the work you have done on Polding’s shipboard diaries. How marvellous! I will endeavour to get a copy for our library, or at least myself.

      As to a transcription, I am am back my parish in the north now, but I will be back again at the monastery next week and will dig it out and try to transcribe it for you. I find his hand difficult though.

      In the meantime, might I suggest, in case you have not yet done so, that you right click on each image of the letter, and select “open image in new tab” (in Chrome; something similar in other browsers). This will give you the full size of the image which I am finding much easier to deal with, though his hand still eludes me in parts. Your familiarity with his hand may allow you to crack it even with only electronic copies.


      1. PS A little bit of research online has led me to believe his hotel was Fords Hotel, 14 Manchester Street, Manchester Square, which is in Marylebone. I attach a photo, and an entry form the 1840 Catholic Directory and Annual Register.

        1. Dear Hugh,

          I draw to your attention to my dissent from your interpretation of the addressee of the Polding letter as ‘Bernard’. I read the name tentatively as ‘Durrant’. His name is written in full at the bottom of the first page: ‘George John Durrant ??’ (these indecipherable letters may hold a clue to his identity) and is referred to as ‘dear George’ in the concluding words of the letter.
          I have searched Birt’s OSB Obit Book for the conjectured surname and for the combination of ‘Geo John’ without success. I conclude that the addressee is not a Benedictine. I am unable to locate lists of 19th century English clergy. Perhaps George John was a layman!

          Would you like to receive my initial efforts at deciphering the letter?


          1. I am glad you could decipher it, though for a modern it is not a natural place to look for an addressee. If it is indeed headed “Dear Durrant”, and the addressee is whom you say it is, then he recedes into the dark recesses of history for now. Given the letter comes from Cheltenham I am still minded the addressee lived there.


          2. A search of British newspapers delivers a George John Durrant, secretary of Chelmsford Literary and Mechanics Institute! [Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday, April 24, 1846, Issue 3931, p.3] In 1847 he was appointed Master Extraordinary of the Court of Chancery. He could be our man.

            Indeed, I am now convinced of it – I think he was a Downside old-boy. According to a report in Sydney’s Freeman’s Journal of a Downside alumnus reunion of 1862 held at the Crystal Palace, George Durrant was at the top table in company of Bishop Morris, Prior Smith and Prior Sweeney []22&searchLimits=sortby=dateAsc#] Is it possible to search a list of Downside students?



          3. And the letter begins to make sense. I suspect that Durrant was a former student of Polding at Downside, and that he had invited the Archbishop to preside at an alumnus gathering. Polding is anxious to avoid the role and suggests that the Prior or ‘one of the lay students’ should take the chair etc

            I would be quite interested to develop these findings into a publishable note. The letter confirms the charm of Polding, though it may not do anything for his canonisation!

            CF ________________________________

  3. Dear Hugh,

    Here is an entry from the 1846 Journal for 25 June:

    At 11 o’clock, while passing one of these jetties it was made among the passengers and Captain that they would take the first steamer plying upwards and make their way to Tower, leaving the ship in charge of her present pilots. No sooner thought than done, and it was with a tear of regret I saw them depart and assisted the Archbishop over the side of the ship. Not being so active and to avoid the hurry, I resolved to remain quietly on board until in the docks, when I should hear from His Grace and know whether to direct my steps quietly in a cab to our intended temporary residence in Manchester Square. Thus bidding them adieu I waved my handkerchief to the Archbishop now on the steamer’s deck.
    At 2 o’clock reach Woolwich … (At Sea …, p 269)


    PS I am making some progress with reading the letter.


    1. When next I am in London I must pay homage at the site. Number 14 today is Hannah House, screenshot to come! The building houses medical clinics and a campus of Wetherby Prep School.

      Very glad you are making progress with the transcription, which I hope you might share if you complete it. I can certainly try to get higher resolution images next week if needed.

  4. Following this chat about Polding with interest. My uncle, Dom Denis Agius , was housemaster of the short-lived Polding House at Downside in the 1980s.

    1. Dear Peter,

      Mea culpa! Your questions totally slipped my mind. I can attempt to answer them better next week when I am back at the monastery. The scrapbook came from Cheltenham, and I am sure the abbot will have recorded as full a record of the provenance as he could, so fingers crossed.

      To clarify, is your question re Portsmouth diocese relating to +Maurus?


  5. Thanks for getting back to me. No rush but anything you can add to my Caruana research would be great. I’m interested in Caruana for the family connection and also my Maltese ancestry. Two things really… why is he listed in the Portsmouth Necrology and who arranged for him to travel out to Manila to be secretary to Archbishop Ambrose Agius , who was a Subiaco monk of Ramsgate rather than EBC. We think Cardinal Gasquet may have had a hand in it! I’m quite good on the histories of Downside and Worth and have found myself as the default archivist for Worth Prep School in conjunction with Fr Bede Hill at Worth. You might like to have a peruse of my Worth Prep archive… . I have a 2nd cousin, Dom Christopher Calascione, in the community at Downside. God bless,

  6. Are you in touch with the Downside Archives? I’m sure they’d love to see anything you have on Polding .


    1. I’ve not touched base with Downside on the letter but I will, perhaps if Fr Colin is able to transcribe it.

      I have sent out an enquiry about +Maurus’ inclusion in the local diocesan necrology.


  7. Thank you. Just do it for love! Worth has been a constant thread in my life … visiting my bro in the school when I was a few months old, then myself in the prep school, Lay Community in the 1970s (with Abbot Luke as he was then) , married in the Abbey, daughter married in the Abbey 35 years later, and still a member of the Lay Community of St Benedict. So you see why it’s one of my favourite places.

  8. Dear Hugh and Colin

    Following the above thread …I can help you out on George Durrant because I have the full list of OGs (Old Gregorians) to hand and there we find (in a list of all the boys at Acton Burnell then Downside starting with No 1 arriving Dec 1794) No 281 George Durrant Arrived 1833.

    Following that and your Chelmsford leads I discovered chapter and verse about George on

    George John Durrant
    b 21 Jan 1821 Aylsham Norfolk
    1833 Downside School
    1851 Living with parents in Chelmsford
    25 Oct 1851 Married at St James Spanish Place to Mary Anne Woollett from Shropshire
    7 children. 4 sons then 3 daughters. 1st two born in Chelmsford. Sons 3 and 4 went to Downside.
    d 10 Oct 1869

    1861 Census has him as ‘Attorney and Solicitor’
    Godfather of his first child , Reginald, was Rev Joseph Wilson , Prior of Downside

    And I’m sure you realise that references to Manchester Square above gets us back to St James, Spanish Place!
    Most intriguingly there’s a Durrant’s Hotel next to St James that dates back to the 1790s , but probably coincidence.

    And thank you for the Times of Malta link, Colin. As main family archivist, I’m always trawling the ToM archives and found that article a while ago. In that you will see the note that Maurus Caruana was secretary to my gg-uncle Archbishop Ambrose Agius in Manila (Apostolic Delegate). In fact he was only there for 6 months and went back to Fort Augustus in 1906 for health reasons we think. We have a photo of Ambrose and Maurus together in Manila. A proper bio of Caruana hasn’t been written yet and I’m of a mind to pull one together in conjunction with a parishioner at St Gregory’s Sliema, where he is buried. I have inherited a 3’x4′ portrait of the Archbishop that hangs in our stairwell. We are used to it now but comes as quite a surprise to new visitors. Not many people have such a large portrait of an Archbishop on display!

    I’ll report back here if I discover anything else about George.

    1. Well, well … Thank you Peter for that confirmation of Durrell’s Gregorian credentials. Could you provide the publication details of the OG document?



    2. Do not write off the association with the hotel, as it was opened by a “Mr Durrant” in 1790 and it is a striking coincidence otherwise for our George to be married down the street at St James’. That said, the family lived in Chelmsford but St James’ would have offered a fine venue for a wedding and allowed easy attendance by their London friends. The hotel is one of the last privately-run hotels in London.

  9. It’s a very rare and treasured copy of ‘List of Boys at St Gregory’s’ published by Downside in 1972 with a couple of supplements up to 1982 that my brother got hold of some 20 years ago (and has kindly leant me for the last few years to assist my researches) . Not available anymore, especially in these days of GDPR etc but happy to look anyone up for you if you think they are an OG. Best email [email protected] if you want me to have a look in the archives.

    Discovered yet more interesting Catholic cross-connections… George’s son Norbert Sidney Durrant married Mary Corney , sister /niece to 3 Corney monks of Downside (her brother Dom Austin was first headmaster of Worth Prep School in 1933) , g-niece of 2 Bulbeck monks of Downside , and they were sons of John Bulbeck main benefactor of our St Joseph’s Church in the Parish of Havant & Emsworth . John and Barbara Bulbeck are commemorated in stained glass windows in our sanctuary!

  10. Well, Fr Colin and Peter, you have been busy indeed while I have been sleeping or saying Mass! You have given the letter a marvellous context now and when I get a moment I shall amend the blog post accordingly.

    As to the letter’s proof of Polding’s charm more than his sanctity, such information tantalises me as I am unable yet to decipher the letter myself. It would be grand to read it.


  11. This is a fascinating family history which tells us all there is to know about George Dunnant apart from any friendship with Polding. Written by his son Bernard in 1911, it starts as a history of the Sidneys and Woolletts (George’s wife), but page 47 onwards is titled ‘The Writers Parents’ and pages 48-73 are mostly about George. And I see I should make one correction to my George Durrant timeline above in that St James Spanish Place didn’t exist in 1851 and they were actually married at the Church of the Spanish Embassy, Manchester Square (next to Ford’s Hotel?) , the fore-runner of St James.

    From not knowing who Polding was writing to a couple of days ago, we now have a detailed picture of George and I must thank you both for drawing my attention to him as regards his place in the history of Downside and the Gregorian Society. I will be introducing him to the Old Gregorian Facebook group shortly. When you’ve completed your analysis I’m sure the Downside Archivists would love to see the detail and I can put you in touch with them when the time is right.

    1. Dear Peter,

      Your mention of the Downside archivist is timely. I had good contact with Simon Johnson over the last twelve months with regard to my work on the Harding journals – the 1835 text is held by the Downside archives. However, this week’s attempts to make email contact with Simon have failed, with [email protected] responding:

      Your message to [email protected] couldn’t be delivered.

      Hoping you can assist,



          1. Thanks Hugh. Oops – yet another Downside rejection!

            Over 40 years ago, as a newly ordained priest, I met a Sydney doctor whose family lived in the Dominican parish of Wahroonga. Hugh Ivens had been a student at Douai and was very proud of his old college. In more recent years I met up with him as a patient at a hospital where I was chaplain. He was still talking about Douai, using that strange anglicised pronunciation – Dowy? I presided at his requiem Mass three years ago.

            I would be very interested in any information about him from school records.

            Colin ________________________________

          2. Gosh. What a small world. I may have met High and certainly his name is known. I can get some info on him next week when I’m back at Douai.

            There are some old references to it as Doway, for the obvious reason. My current parish, Scarisbrick, is pronounced Scaysbrick by the locals, and Scares-brick by Catholic southerners. Mind you, Australia can throw no stones: Goonoo Goonoo, Goondiwindi, Wagga, etc.

            I remember Holy Name quite well. In my last year at St Aloysius’, a few of us sang in The Messiah there, after which we decamped to the home of the Lawsons behind the church, one of whose boys was in my year.

  12. [email protected] should work, although I’ve had better response from Steve Parsons [email protected] in the last couple of years. I was frequently in touch in the run up to our major family gathering at Downside Oct 2017. If you care to email me ([email protected]) your addresses, I could try dropping a line to Steve cc to you both. If no response from either of them then we could get to them via my cousin Fr Christopher Calascione who is Monastic Bursar at the moment and often in the library.

  13. I’ve been in touch with Fr Christopher on another (family) matter in the last couple of days and also a communication from the Headmaster telling of the new trust arrangements today and can confirm that all addresses for monastery and school are . I’ll check with Steve Parsons and cousin Christopher first thing tomorrow.

      1. Hugh,

        I notice that the third page of the letter, on which is written the date, has been doubly folded and seems to have writing on the reverse. Could this be the invitation to which Polding replies by writing the date and ‘Dr J B Polding attends’ ?



      2. Hugh,

        I attach my tentative transcription. I look forward to your corrections and suggestions.

        I also note that the writing on the third page is in a different hand, perhaps that of G P Durrant recording Polding’s acceptance of the invitation.

        Colin ________________________________

        1. Your guess is better than mine as to the writing on the reverse. As you say, the hand seems different. I am not au fait with the protocols and mechanics of correspondence in those days, beyond the very basic details.

          I look forward to reading your transcription when you send it.


  14. I emailed Steve Parsons ([email protected]) last night and he replied early this morning with ” Many thanks for the email. Simon has been having issues with his emails ([email protected]) but is on holiday this week. As far as I know when he left last week the issue had been fixed but I won’t know for sure until he is back on Monday and checks his emails to see if he has actually got any! I will of course let him know about this in any case.” I had told Steve what this was all about so I suggest you email him directly if you want to get in touch with Downside today. Please keep me posted on how you get on!

    Will you be posting the transcription to this page?

    1. I think we might save the transcription for The Douai Magazine (free!) and Tjurunga. But that is not set in stone.

      Further to the photo of +Maurus, I have just found this in my folder of scans!

    2. PS I have no problem with Fr Colin sharing the transcription with you directly. I have suggested one correction but otherwise he seems to have cracked the script perfectly. What we need to discover now is what function it was to which Polding was invited on or about 30 June 1846. It has the air of an Old Gregorian or directly Downside affair. Clearly quite formal as there was to be a chairman. Ring any bells vis a vis your records?

  15. Firstly, thanks for the Caruana info. I assume that’s the reverse of the photo you posted above? It answers one of my queries in that it shows him with Bishop’s Mitre and Crozier rather than Abbot’s (he was never Abbot). I have the history of Fort Augustus School (Abbey Boys by Michael Turnbull) and in there it says that Caruana visited Fort Augustus as Bishop of Malta in summer 1921 and autumn 1929.

    Secondly, if you go to The Tablet Archive and put Durrant in the search box then view Oldest first you will see 2 summary references to a meeting of the St Gregory Club in July 1846.

    4th July “….will on this particularly interesting occasion rally round the Primate ot the Australian Continent, and most illustrious member of St. Gregory a Club. GEORGE JOHN DURRANT, Hon. Sec”

    11th July “The vice-chair was taken by the Right Rev. Dr. Morris, Bishop of Troy , President of the club, supported by J. Hasting, Esq., and G. J. Durrant, Esq., the Hon. Secretary. There was a numerous attendance of both clerical and lay members, from all parts of the country. Letters, regretting their inability to attend, were read…”

    I don’t have a subscription at the moment (having extensively trawled the archive for all Agius references when it was free until 2 years ago)but may well take out a quarter’s worth soon. Do you subscribe…and , if so, can you read what those two articles say? We need to know if Polding was there or not.

    1. Yes, it is the reverse of the postcard. Perhaps he was at Ramsgate for business or on his way to Malta.

      I have managed ot gain access to the Tablet archive so I shall check out your references, will look highly promising!


    2. I attach hereunder the articles from 4 July 1846 and 11 July 1846 respectively. I did not crop out the ad under the 4 July extract as it makes clear why Polding would have chosen Fords Hotel.

      1. Well done, Peter and Hugh.
        I look forward to the article.
        I have shared the amazing development of this project with Br Terry Kavenagh OSB, the Doyen of historians of Polding’s Sydney monks.

        1. Ah yes, Br Terence, of whom I had hoped for a long time we nmight get a history of St Mary’s Abbey, Sydney, central as it was to Polding’s dream. Colin?? 🙂

  16. Where’s the reference to Ramsgate? I think it more likely that it’s a photo postcard to commemorate his 1921 visit to Fort Augustus with someone (who?) writing on the back the subject and date and then sending it to the owner of the scrapbook that you’ve inherited . Who was the scrapbook owner?

    Needless to say we have strong family connections to Ramsgate as well! Archbishop Ambrose was a schoolboy and (subiaco) monk of Ramsgate and my grandfather was at school there in the 1890s before g-grandfather switched the family allegiance to Downside in 1900.

    1. Mea culpa! This what happens when one rushes. A funeral today and then a burial in Liverpool. I read as St Augustine’s what is now more clearly Fr Augustus. I must slow down sometimes.

  17. Good team work! Thank you for the download of the two Tablet articles which tell us that Polding was an honoured guest at that St Gregory Club dinner, and really put the letter into context.

    I’ve learnt a lot about the early history of the Gregorian Society on the way , and now that I’ve had a look at what’s available in the Tablet archive compared to what they had just a few months ago it seems I must take out a short-term sub to trawl for the many new references to Archbishop Ambrose in the years running up to his consecration in 1904. I need to pull together a definitive bio on Archbishops Agius and Caruana now.

    And I’ll keep an eye out for the next copy of The Douai Magazine to see the fruits of this research.

    Many thanks for leading me down this most interesting trail. One final question for now… who compiled/owned the scrapbook that was passed to you, Hugh?

  18. Your reference to St Mary’s Abbey , Sydney. Is that the Cathedral you’re referring to? In 1989 I had a business trip to Australia. We were based in Melbourne for a few days but, on the way home, my colleague had a meeting in Sydney and I had a morning to just wander around and soak up the atmosphere of the city. I can therefore claim that the only church in Australia that I’ve been in is St Mary’s Sydney! Of course I never realised that there was any connection to Polding (and thence Downside) back then. Love the way all things are connected. God bless and good night!

    1. Polding’s dream for Sydney was an abbey-diocese on the medieval English model. To this day the EBC still appoints cathedral priors to the pre-reformation cathedral priories (eg Winchester, Canterbury, Ely). The dream was scuppered for a variety of reasons, including the rough, frontier nature of Australian society, and the taints of Englishness and monasticism in the eyes of the Irish clergy who quickly became the majority of Catholic clergy in Australia. There was even a monastery school in Sydney which moved from the cathedral to Glebe, and was called Lyndhurst, but expired in the late 19 the century. Its charming building in Glebe survives.


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