Church & Clergy

Last Updated: 24/04/2021


Father Breen:
Father Breen was a very charismatic Priest with a good sense of humour and sporting prowess.  He came from Ireland with a great reputation for Gaelic Football and Hurling and he quickly adapted these skills to become a formidable Rugby Player playing for St George's Old Boys and also for a York Gaelic Football Team that was formed. He was something of a hero figure to the Altar Boys as he would play a lot of sport with us including Rugby, Football, Hockey, Cricket and Tennis. (Michael Donoghue).
Father John Mortell: Stained glass window , Memorial Window
Father Moynagh:  
Father Murphy: Died Suddenly about 1962.
Canon O'Connell: Canon O'Connell was Parish Priest, with Father Moynagh and Father Breen as curates. Canon had a car but the curates only had bikes to cover the Parish. (Michael Donoghue)
Father Michael Ryan: I came to St George’s in August 1966 and had a wonderful 3 years there before moving to Middlesbrough as Bishop’s Secretary.  I used to visit the primary school every Tuesday morning and meet with Sr Mary, Brian Atkin, Miss Benneworth, Miss Haddakin, Sr Magdalen and of course, all the pupils.  I have very happy memories of those times. (Michael Ryan)
Father Ryan: Was at St George's in the late 1920's/1930's. He was the uncle of Father Michael Ryan (above).



Some notes about Altar Boys etc supplied by Michael Donoghue
The above picture includes 24 Altar Boys and there were certainly some missing ! They were selected each year at St George's Primary School so there was a constant stream of recruits who were taken for training by Father Breen.  Bear in mind that this was pre-Vatican 2 and it was the serving Altar Boys who did the responses in Latin during Mass. This included preparatory prayers including the Confiteor (the I Confess) which all needed to be learnt by heart along with the other Latin Responses, and also the other altar duties, before a boy was allowed on the Altar. Latin Masses, the altar on the back wall and the Priest conducting Mass with his back to the congregation, the Altar Boys were therefore in a privileged position as the only ones on the Sanctuary with the Priest during Mass and of course no Lay Eucharistic Ministers or Readers at that time. Sunday Masses were 8.00am, 9.30am and 11am, with Benediction on Sunday evening. Only two boys actually 'served' the Mass, kneeling on the steps nearest the Altar and Priest with a Senior Altar Boy being MC. The surplus boys were in benches on either side of the Sanctuary. The photo shows boys from St George's Primary and Secondary Schools but also some had moved on to the Jesuits at St Michael's in Leeds, and also to St Peter's, Nunthorpe and Archbishop Holgate's in York. Hope this gives a bit of background to the photo.
Just as 'Boys will be Boys', so too 'Altar Boys would be Altar Boys' and we were high spirited in the Sacristy which at the time was split into half of the existing sacristy, separating us from the Priest by a wall which is not there now. The Thurible was used at the 11am Mass and Evening Benediction to burn incense during the service. The ploy in the Back Sacristy was not only to light the charcoal but to blow it until it fiercely glowed red. When the Altar Boy took the Thurible to the Priest during the service, incense was put onto the glowing charcoal. The Altar Boy returned to the lower steps at the Altar Gates and swung the Thurible with dramatic effect as great clouds of smoke were emitted to the amusement of the other Altar Boys and the Altar practically disappeared in a huge fog. It became a contest to see who could create the best incense smoke. All very irreverent ! This isn't done now and the Thurible rests gently on a stand until needed.
On one occasion, a young Altar Boy fainted in the Sanctuary during Mass (probably from the smoke!) and he dropped to the floor on the right hand side facing the Altar. One of the Senior Altar Boys went to his aid and picked up the unconscious youth deciding the best thing was to carry him off the Altar back to the Sacristy. As he carried the still prostrate body across the front, he actually genuflected showing the highest reverence under difficult circumstances. The congregation were most impressed.
Altar Boy Duties included serving at Weddings and Funerals which was very popular on two scores. If the funeral was midweek, two pupils who were Altar Boys would be excused school for a couple of hours for the Requiem Mass and attendance at the Cemetery. A ride in a Funeral Car was a bonus plus you were given a shilling (5p) which was good pocket money in those days. If you hit a Wedding, usually on a Saturday, you were really in the money with Half a Crown ( 12 and a half pence)!
Parties? Not really, the age gaps were so wide. I remember a 2-3 day holiday for the younger Altar Boys when we were taken to Whitby by Fr Brean. We stayed and slept on the floor at St Anne's Parish Hall. A local Catholic farmer provided sacks which we filled with hay to sleep on! The day was early Mass, breakfast, then to the beach at Whitby or onto the moors. Not sure how we were fed during the day but I think the Parishioners got together to cook us a meal when we got back. 90% of the village of Ugthorpe were Catholic.
Outfit was black cassock and white surplice provided by the Parish. They weren't owned and hung in a large cupboard on a first come first served basis. Often the Altar Boy would appear on the altar in either very tight or very loose vestments but sometimes there was a shortage and latecomers would just have to join the congregation in church. Not sure who washed them but taking one home to wash guaranteed you had one.
Nicest times were Christmas including Midnight Mass and Easter was very busy with the special services.
Formality? Not really, but whilst he had a sense of humour, Fr Breen kept control.
Hierarchy? There was a Head Altar Boy who acted as MC at the main Mass and after that it tended to be an age thing.
Socialising as the boys got older took place at St George's Youth Club, situated in the old senior school when the new one was built. School dinners were also in there. The Youth Club had two snooker tables, three table tennis tables, a cafe with soft drinks, crisps, tea and biscuits. There was a TV room with a large black and white television at a time when very few homes had TV.


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