Lancashire College of Agriculture at Hutton
Another Problem to Overcome
At the Lancashire College of Agriculture, the basic course for training Land Girls was only two weeks, and did little more than deal with the very basics of farming – this is a horse, this is a spade. It was offered for free in response to wartime needs. I needed more than this to be an effective Land Girl as someone who knew nothing about farming, being a city resident. Fortunately for me, the College also offered a fuller and longer course that covered farm management, animal husbandry, growing crops and all in between for those pursuing a career in agriculture, but this course had a fee. The problem was that I had no money to pay it, nor did my father and mother have any to spare. I saw my plans to contribute to the war effort as a Land Girl dashed for lack of the funds to get the education that I needed.
Uncle John Sullivan to the Rescue
My rescue came in a benefactor, uncle John, mother’s oldest brother. He had always been kind and generous to me as a child. His most recent assistance was paying for my education at the convent. Aware of my discontent at home, he recognized the opportunity the land army offered me and came to my aid by paying all the fees, as well as providing me with a little pocket money, and buying me a bicycle besides. He knew of Hutton being parish priest at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church at Fernyhalgh, a few miles to the north of Preston.
Reverend Father John Sullivan, St Mary’s Catholic Church Fernyhalgh
Uncle John, Reverend Father John Felix Sullivan was educated at Stonyhurst and Douai, and served on the staff of the English College at the Vatican and Ushaw College. Founded in Douai in 1568 this seminary for Catholic priests had occupied a site in Co Durham since 1808. He had also served parishes in Grange over Sands and Carnforth. In his latter years his Bishop had placed him at this small and rural parish. With his background as a highly intellectual scholar he was totally out of place, and his talents totally wasted. His parish did, however, have a long religious history for close by is the ancient shrine of Ladyewell that has a supposedly miraculous well dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Visits to Uncle John
He lived comfortably at the presbytery at the church on the upper floor, two Irish ladies, a cook/housekeeper and maid who looked after all his wants lived on the ground floor. He always welcomed Veronica and I after we would visit him during our time at the Institute at Hutton, cycling over. After the ride over on a dark winters night during the blackout, he made sure we ate well at a table properly laid with linen and wine and served by the maid. I so much appreciated this after mother’s poor efforts. On one visit that I remember it poured with rain after our arrival and we had no rain coats. So we stayed the night. Uncle John gave up his bed to us and slept in a chair in his book filled study.