Dear Friends, here is your circular No. 13 this time by Nigel Boos, enjoy it!!!!
MEMORIES OF FR. BENEDICT (a.k.a. “Voosh”)
I first met Fr. Benedict when I was 12 years of age, and I was immediately captivated. Practically every Priest I’d ever met had been a Dutchman – so much so, that I considered Holland merely as a place from which every Priest in the world must have come. And of course, they were all celibate, so that, it came as a minor shock to my system some years later when I actually met a Dutch WOMAN to realize that they must have known about the birds and the bees as well.
But here was this Dutchman whose whole being seemed to be centered on entertaining us boys with tales of the fantastic. To him, nature seemed to present continuous opportunities to marvel and to believe in the power of the Almighty. “The heavens declare your greatness, O God…..” But his enthusiasm was catching. His entire body was caught up in the delight of the moment, as he spoke to us about the latest experiment in which he was involved. For us Form 3 boys, Fr. Benedict was unique, without doubt. He would throw up his hands in the air as he described how one of his plans was developing, and with eyes twinkling with the enjoyment of sharing, carry us with him into the realms of his vivid imagination.
I have no idea where he got the nickname “Voosh”. But Voosh he was. Never “Fr. Benedict”. We all understood and recognized nicknames at the Mount. This art of finding just the right mix of words to describe one’s friends was supremely met and never equaled to such a degree as at Mt. St. Benedict’s Abbey School. The names run through my head now, and in spite of age and generally failing capacities, I wonder whatever became of “Turtle-Back”, “Swami”, “Nylon”, “Mac”, “Flat-Top”, “Gabby”, “Koki-Joe”, “Box-Head”, “Small Box-Head”, “Pampy”, “Pupsy”, and so on and so on. The good Fathers weren’t immune from the name calling either, as those who remember “Bobo”, “Rughead”, “Duck” and “Mantovani” would verify. It was with pleasure therefore, when I recently heard from Ladislao Kertesz asking me whether I was the same Nigel Boos with whom he had gone to school at MSB. Ahhh the wonders of technology. Aaahhh, the wonders of e-mail. Now I’m beginning to pick up traces of friends and classmates lost in the mists of years and the destruction of time.
But back to Voosh. He opened our young minds up to the possibilities of science and exposed us to the limitations of only our minds. No project was too difficult to him. No idea too stupid. He would conceive of projects quite ridiculous to some, but fascinating in the extreme, and so the legends have developed as to what this good Priest had done in his time.
Voosh once built a model boat. It must have been about 2 feet long, and he was extremely proud of his creation. But his ambition was to see how far his radio-control apparatus could operate. Giving the little boat to one of us (anyone remember who this was?) to take down the hill to the swimming pool, he positioned himself somewhere at the Monastery, either on the roof or perhaps it was on the roadway leading to the Monastery, with telescope and radio controls. When the boat had been safely placed into the pool, Voosh then activated his instruments and supposedly (I don’t know if it worked), by peering through his telescope he was able to successfully maneuver the craft around the pool. Success! He was beyond himself, and regaled us for a long time afterwards, about the power of his remote control.
Stories abound. I cannot vouch for all of them but perhaps someone else can. Voosh had a prized boomerang, a gift from someone in Australia, as I recall. He would show it to us, and explain how it worked, (as he thought). We begged him to let us try it, but to no avail. This was not just ANY boomerang. It was a WAR boomerang!!! Which, of course, led to the mystique and excitement of the day that he eventually conceded to allow, I believe it was Turtle-Back, to throw it out over the mountain-side, expecting it to fly safely back to his waiting arms. We gathered by the hedge overlooking “Brother Swa’s” mango trees. We watched Richard Galt pick up the beautiful instrument. We cajoled, we joked, we were caught up, with Voosh, in the adventure of “the throw”. And Richard drew back his arms and threw that sucker clear over the hedge, the mango trees, the houses of St. Augustine, and probably over San Fernando hill (which once was and is no more). And that was the last of the boomerang. It never returned to the Mount. It just flew and flew and flew and dropped. So if anyone passing through Bourg Mulatresse should see some kid trying to throw an Australian war boomerang, why don’t you pay him a few bucks and explain how it got there. And then, take it back to Voosh for us. The boomerang is MEANT to return to its owner. (Richard, apologies if this isn’t all factual … I might have embellished a little).
The pool was growing moss. Long, thick, green strands of it covered all of the walls. The water too, was green. We were in a drought, as so often we were. In fact, I remember that someone would drive a car from St. Augustine with large bottles of water for us to perform our nightly ablutions, down in the front of the School, spitting out the tooth-paste over the hedge. (There is only one way to carry a tooth-brush – you pinch the tiny hole which USED to exist on tooth-brushes of old, between your incisors – it’ll never fall out). Anyway, the pool was a ghastly green. And no one was swimming in it. We’d hang out on the bleachers, but never get near to the pool. And then there was Voosh. Arriving at the pool with bathing suit and towel in hand, he declared upon the healthiness of the water, how the algae were creating a wonderful, natural oxygenated environment, the PERFECT time to go for a swim. “Come on, boys, it’s good for you.” We watched in amazement as this crazy man (maybe there were no swimming pools in Holland????) dived in and emerged smiling, covered with green stuff. “This is marvelous”, he said, as he sniffed all the free oxygen he could possibly desire. What a character!
Voosh decided to test his flotation apparatus, as the story goes. He once, supposedly, spread a net (an old seine he’d got from a fisherman, probably) over the edges of the pool, supported from sinking by a number of rum bottles tied randomly throughout the net. The idea was to see whether the floating net could support his weight! Climbing to the top of the diving board, he jumped, floated for an instant in space, and then crashed into the net…… which promptly sank, enveloping him in it’s clutches at the bottom of the pool. I’m told that he had to be extricated, through the quick thinking of some of the boys, who rushed to his rescue and brought him up to the surface. At least, that’s how I heard the story.
Voosh invented a window which would automatically close when rain threatened. It operated on the simple principle that toilet paper bursts apart when it is wet. Voosh attached his window to a spring, a hanging weight and a strip of toilet paper. Of course, with all the windows which existed at the Abbey, it could have been a great idea during rainy season. Unfortunately, however, he had set up the working model in the room directly above Fr. Abbot’s room. Well, wouldn’t you know it. The rain fell, the toilet paper grew moist, got wet and soggy, and burst. The hanging weight, released by the torn toilet paper, fell by its own weight, causing the window to slam shut, as Voosh had predicted. This released the weights which went crashing through Fr. Abbot’s window below. Needless to say, Fr. Abbott was nor a happy camper, and Voosh never patented his new wet-weather window, the original www.
Voosh wanted to try his hand at a hot-air balloon. One Sunday, therefore, after the 1st Mt. St. Benedict Scouts had dutifully marched around the school-yard a million times, Mike Howard leading the pack, with bugles and side drums (and bass-drum as well, of course – I remember ‘cos I beat the hell out of it myself) played by Dennis Gurley, Richard Clark, Pepe Marino, Manuel Prada, John Golding, Maurice De Verteuil and I forget who else (my apologies, guys – age does that, you know), Voosh appeared on the scene toting his latest contraption – a home-made (make that Monastery-made) hot-air “thing” that he intended to launch. The object was made of a 4’ x 4’ sheet of brown paper from the corners of which hung a little pan of pitch oil from 6’ long cords. The paper parachute was suitably inscribed with, I think, a Mickey Mouse drawing and the words, “If anyone finds this hot-air craft, please return it to Fr. Benedict at Mt. St. Benedict”. To our great surprise, it actually worked. It rose to quite a height and we watched it in awe until it was just a blip on the radar screen. Wow! But when a few days later, it was returned from Chaguaramas, (as I was told…!!!) our respect for Voosh knew no bounds. He had dreamed the impossible dream, he had boldly gone where no man had gone before, and he had set an example for us youngsters, which, as you can see from these notes, was quite unforgettable.
I believe that we will all fondly remember the wonderful character who was Fr. Voosh. It seems that he must still be alive (I really do not know) since Ladislao has submitted some photographs recently to Gabby Johnson, for inclusion into our Abbey School website, including one of Fr. Voosh. I would like to pay tribute to a fine priest, a good man who did his bit to keep us entertained during our time at the Mount, and who must have instilled into the minds of some of us a healthy respect for the study of science.
Thank you, Fr. Benedict, for your care and enthusiasm. May God bless and keep you in your old age and grant you a speedy return to Him, in heaven.
P.S. ( I cannot vouch for the 100% accuracy of any of the stories given herein. I can only write what I can recall, and it is not my intention to upset or to hurt anyone’s feelings. If I have inadvertently done so, please accept my apology in advance. If I have rekindled old memories of our School-days at Mt. St. Benedict, then praise be to God. I look forward to reading YOUR memories.)
Keep in touch, eh?
Photo: pampleto d
www.theabbeyschool.com this is our new web site, thank you Gabby.
firstname.lastname@example.org to be included and get the msb class list.
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