Yesterday I heard of the death of Monsignor Seamus Conway pastor emeritus of Booterstown, Dublin.

Seamus and I had a difficult and unfortunate relationship in Clonliffe Seminary from 1970 to 1973.

He was the Dean.

At the time I was very immature and tried to cover up a huge self-consciousness by being a messer and a prankster.

Seamus was a very serious, rurally reared recently ordained priest.

He had been chaplain to Mountjoy Prison before coming to Clonliffe and we used to joke that he had not realised he had been moved 🙂

My pranks and my denial of them got me into trouble with Seamus – and really he had every right to be agitated with me.

I was very immature and at the time seminaries would not have had the understanding to cope with such immaturity.

There were 120 of us in Clonliffe and obedience, order and submission was expected.

Seamus was really too serious and young for the job. In fact he, as a very young nan in Clonliffe, was hospitalised for cardiac issues. I’m sure the stress of supervising and disciplining 120 young men played a large part in his ill health at the time.

He also had to report regularly to the college president Bishop Joe Carroll who was bumptious and authoritarian.

So Seamus was caught between a rock and a hard place.

The biggest prank I pulled off was to throw a ceramic potty from a four storey window one night having been spurred on to do so by others.

The potty crashed into the central tarmac space at the front of the college at 10 pm at night.

We knew there would be repercussions so we all jumped into our pajamas in our own rooms pretendingbto be asleep.

Soon Seamus Conway was on our corridor and had us all lined up in our stripped pyjamas like prisoners of a concentration camp.

Conway was shouting: “Who threw the vessel”.

Nobody owned up.

The class was put under class punishment.

Seamus interviewed us all like the FBI would.

Nobody turned me over.

But Seamus knew I was the culprit.

The day after Seamus was presiding over Benediction on the college Chapel. When it came to the Litany of Our Lady Seamus prayed out loud: VESSEL OF HONOUR, SINGULAR VESSEL OF DEVOTION and we all fell around the Chapel laughing.

Seamus as a Clonliffe seminarian – right.

Every year there was a semiarian’s concert where we all had a good laugh at all the staff.

The next concert we introduced the presentation of a potty as the BALLYMOREUUSTACE PERPETUAL TROPHY to honour the student who has caused the most laughs during the year.

Seamus was a native of BALLYMOREUUSTACE in Co. Kildare.

In 1973 I was expelled from Clonliffe with a reference for another seminary.

Their giving me a reference was generous of them. They believed I had a vocation but thought I might do better away from my home city.

I always blamed Seamus Conway for my expulsion.

But I was wrong.

Monsignor JJ Greehy who was the scripture lecturer in Clonliffe, and on the seminary Council, told me years later it was not Seamus Conway.

Then in recent months DM provided me with the minutes of the Clonliffe Council meeting and I discovered it was Greehy himself who was my undoing!

I have been thinking of writing to Seamus Conway in recent months and weeks.

Now its too late.

I celebrated a requiem Mass for him yesterday at 5.30 pm.

I’m sure we will have our chat sometime in the future in a better place.