Page, Bernard – priest

Fr Bernard Page was a Jesuit priest who served in Preston from some time after 1910 until shortly before his death in 1948. He served first at St Ignatius’s and, after service in the Great War, at St Walburge’s. While at St Walburge’s he wrote a history of The First Catholic Charitable Society of Preston. He was one of the officers of the charity, a role it seems he sometimes found burdensome to judge by a message slip at St Walburge’s dated 15 July 1930:

Priest contacted St Walburge’s asking that Fr Page be informed he could not preside at a meeting of the Charitable Society that night

Fr Page’s reply at the bottom of the note reads:

‘Get biggest priest present to preside. If no one else is there I’ll take the chair, but I don’t want to.’ [1]

The following biographical information is the result of an internet search.

Medal card for Fr. Bernard Page
Medal card for Fr. Bernard Page

Medal card for Fr. Page indicates that he was awarded the Victory Medal and 1915 Star Medal and had been Mentioned in Despatches.

Fr. Bernard Fullerton Page S.J. (n.16 July 1877, Khishagur, Bengal, India +30 Nov. 1948, Petworth, England): 1916: No. 2 Cavalry Field Ambulance., B.E.F., France; 1917 & 1918: 3rd Cav. Field Ambulance; 1919: No. 2 Cav. Field Ambul., B.E.F., France; 1920: ?

Arriving in Tasmania aged 7, Bernard Page was a boarder at Xavier College and began his noviceship on 1 March 1895 in Sydney, Australia where he also spent his juniorate. Australia was a mission of the Irish Province at the time. He undertook philosophy at Valkenberg and theology at Louvain but completed his course and was ordained, at Milltown Park, 26 July 1910. After finishing tertianship, he joined the staff at St. Ignatius, Preston.

During the war, Fr. Page’s parents were resident in Bruges. He received a copy of a note from his father with permission of the German Commander in Bruges to the American Ambassador in Berlin in December 1916, after two years without news. In December 1918, Fr. Page visited his parents in Bruges having survived the war, ‘They were in a pitiable state of health. Both were horribly thin’.

After demobilisation, he was at St. Aloysius, Oxford in 1921 and in 1922 he went to St. Walburge’s, Preston, where he remained until he retired to Petworth in 1948. He was the editor of the Walburgian.

The above image and biographical information have been posted on Flickr by the Irish Jesuits. [2] That organisation added the following information about Fr Page’s wartime experiences:

Do Jesuits ever answer back? Our archives hold an exchange between Fr Bernard Page SJ, an army chaplain, and his Provincial, T.V.Nolan, who had passed on a complaint from an Irish officer that Fr Page was neglecting the care of his troops. Bernard replied: “Frankly, your note has greatly pained me. It appears to me hasty, unjust and unkind: hasty because you did not obtain full knowledge of the facts; unjust because you apparently condemn me unheard; unkind because you do not give me credit for doing my best.” After an emollient reply from the Provincial, Bernard softens: “You don’t know what long horseback rides, days and nights in rain and snow, little or no sleep and continual ‘iron rations’ can do to make one tired and not too good-tempered.” [3]

Fr Page’s wartime service was discussed in a University of Birmingham MPhil thesis which described him as coming from a well-to-do background [4] and provided more information on the complaint made against him:

Problems with chaplains again surfaced in letters from the Jesuit provincial in Dublin, Fr. Nolan, to Fr. Page in Flanders. It is clear that Nolan had received a complaint from a relation of a Catholic officer claiming that Fr. Page was not performing his duty correctly. The relative claimed that Fr. Page had not been seen and that it was necessary to go to a French priest for confession: ‘He is not doing his duty as it ought to be done’. Fr. Page’s letter to Nolan was very defensive. He pointed out that he was responsible for an area of 200 square miles and that he had to travel twenty miles, while fasting on a Sunday, to hear confession, say two masses and preach. Page, however, may have had other concerns. His parents had been in Brussels in August 1914 during the German invasion and had been living behind German lines ever since. Both survived the war but conditions were very hard in the occupied part of Belgium. Fr. Page was no doubt very concerned about their welfare throughout the war. [5]

Some officers certainly felt that Catholic chaplains were necessary for discipline. Fr. Bernard Page noted that when his orders came for his move to France, the commanding officer of the ninth battalion the East Lancashires was less than pleased. The East Lancs. generally had large numbers of Catholics both in the ranks and as officers. Page went on to point out that, in the ninth  battalion,  there were thirty one officers of which six were Catholic and he cites two examples of officers being very conscientious Catholics, ‘Major Pearce (second in command) who attends Mass and communion every morning and Captain Power a most enthusiastic Beaumont boy’. The Commanding Officer, who was not a Catholic, told Page; ‘There is work for you to do here. I must have someone who my young fellows trust. They are good lads but only half disciplined. I want a padre to keep the Catholics in order and to be a good example to the rest. It is not everyone who can get hold of men’. [6]

[1] ‘DDX 1130/ACC6491 – First Catholic Charitable Society, Preston’, Lancashire Record Office Catalogue, 1920s-1930s, https://archivecat.lancashire.gov.uk/calmview/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=DDX+1130%2fACC6491&pos=1.
[2] Irish Jesuits, Fr. Bernard Page S.J. – Medal Card, 10 September 1920, photo, 10 September 1920, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jesuitsireland/4898153356/.
[3] ‘JESUITICA: Answering Back’, Jesuits Ireland (blog), 14 September 2010, https://www.jesuit.ie/news/jesuitica-answering-back-2/.
[4] John Martin Brennan, ‘Irish Catholic Chaplains in the First World War’ (M.Phil thesis, University of Birmingham, 2011), 29, https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=17&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwj1mNn45O7kAhVJhlwKHROkC3YQFjAQegQINxAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fetheses.bham.ac.uk%2F3413%2F1%2FBrennan12MPhil.pdf&usg=AOvVaw3WEt6H4wz06AJmB9IYuX8_.
[5] Brennan, 67–68.
[6] Brennan, 71–72.

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