ON A WET DAY in Rome on Easter Sunday April 1 1934 John Bosco, founder of the Salesians, was canonised.
That same morning in rural Cheshire the staff and boys of the Salesian Missionary College, Shrigley Park, gathered after their High Mass to cut the first sod of what was to become the foundation of a wonderful church dedicated to St John Bosco.
Following a ballot, a 14year-old seminarian named Johnny Hoey, one of many Irish boys in Shrigley at that time, was the one privileged to wield the spade.
He subsequently became a Salesian priest and died in his 80s as a missionary in South Africa. Another boy, bespectacled Albert Carrete, was next to Johnny in the photograph taken for the event.
He also became a Salesian priest and has spent all of his 61 years of priesthood in the province of Great Britain.
At the age of 89 Fr Albert, now resident in St Joseph’s, a house for retired Salesians in Bolton, revisited his boy hood home along with about 20 former past pupils of Shrigley and relived those moments of 75 years ago on April 1 2009.
The day was joyful, if tinged with sadness, as the former church and the original school buildings now form part of a leisure complex with golf course, swimming pool and hotel.
Visitors to the hotel, known as Shrigley Hall, can view photographic memories of days gone by when Shrigley provided a steady flow of missionaries to all parts of the world, many of whom are still working out there.
Meanwhile Fr Albert, president of the Shrigley Association, continues to amaze his confreres and past pupils of Shrigley with his enthusiasm for life and love of Don Bosco, as he is affectionately known in the Salesian family. The Shrigley Association will continue its 75th anniversary celebrations at Shrigley from September 18 to 29. For details visit the website www.shrigley association.org/home.htm