Abbey Boys – Fort Augustus Abbey Schools

Abbey Boys, the book about the Abbey School from 1876 until its closure in 1993, has been republished as a kindle eBook. The text remains the same but now has 150 photos added including many sports teams photos from as far back as 1923. The Sports Colours list has been updated and two additional appendices provided; Girls at Fort Augustus and a list of OBs who took up vocation in the priesthood. Kindle eBooks can be read on smartphones, tablets and computers using the Kindle app as well as being available on an Amazon Kindle itself. Abbey Boys can be downloaded from the Amazon website or just search Fort Abbey Boys under Books. It is priced at £9.99.

ABBEY BOYS covers the history of St Benedict’s Abbey, Fort Augustus from its foundation in 1878 to the closure of the School in 1993. As well as recounting the story of the School and its enormous contribution to the life of Scotland through Old Boys such as Lord Lovat, Sir James Calder, Lord Carmont, Archbishop Joseph McDonald and Bishop Bennett of Aberdeen, the book also deals with key events and personalities in the life of the monastic Community, including biographies of monks such as Abbot David Hunter Blair, archaeologist Dom Odo Blundell, the linguist Fr Cyril Dieckhoff and the proponent of experimental monasticism, Fr Denys Rutledge as well as biographies of many of the laybrothers and lay Old Boys (and Old Girls) and their achievements in business, the arts and in sport.. The history of the two Priories – St Andrew’s Priory, Edinburgh and Carlekemp Priory, North Berwick is also included, as well as that of the highly successful Summer Schools. An Appendix lists the names of those awarded Colours for Rugby, Hockey and Cricket.


The cloisters were carved from Covesea stone in Morayshire which was so hard it broke the tools of the two young masons brought up from Bath. In the basement of the College are lavatory, bathrooms etc … The dormitory takes up, in one large room, the whole top floor and is divided into separate cubicles nine feet by six – furnished with wardrobe, carpet, bath, washing basin supplied with cold water tap and warmed with hot-air pipes.

The first Headmaster of the new School was Oxford graduate, Fr Anselm Parker.

On 14 July 1930 a meeting was held in the Headmaster’s room to discuss the revival of the moribund Old Boys Association. Representatives of both the ‘old’ school and the existing one expressed the hope that the meeting would give an impetus to the movement to create a really active Association.

On 27 February the London Dinner of the Fort Augustus Association was held at the Rembrandt Hotel. Abbot Hunter Blair presided over twenty-one Old Boys and guests. Toasts were proposed by Fr Robert Steuart, SJ and the Hon. Everard Fielding, OBE. In his address Abbot Hunter Blair mentioned his coming visit to Rome and promised to ask a special blessing for the Association at his Audience with the Holy Father. He was given a tremendous ovation and the assembly, as one man, arose and sang ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’.

Lord Lovat, who was married on 10 October 1938, visited the School later in the term. The School Captain, W. Macdonald, had sent him a telegram conveying the boys’ good wishes. ‘The School owes much to Lord Lovat’s family’, commented The Corbie, ‘and it is fitting that Fort Augustus maintain a close contact with him’.

As the War progressed the Abbey Press ran up against a shortage of paper, in spite of the best efforts of the printers, Brother Hugh and Brother Patrick. However, ‘we are determined to print as long as there is a sheet of paper in the office’, wrote the Editor of The Corbie.

Between Winter 1944 and Autumn 1946, The Corbie did not appear. The Editor (Mr Scholes) complained: We don’t know whether corbies come under the Protection of Wild Birds Act but we sometimes feel that some such favour should be granted to editors. We have become so used to the query, ‘Wot, no Corbie’.

One boy described his experiences on a Shrovetide holiday walk to Glen Afric: … we started to climb the mountain side. We followed the rough winding track which is used in the maintenance of the pylons that we saw zig-zagging up the mountains into the distance. For two hours the road led up and up, till at 1.15 we dropped fatigued into the snow to have our first rest and to eat our sandwiches. We saw an eagle rising and falling high in the skies .. Then on we trod, over the summit and down the other side. We left the snow behind and eventually entered a glade of birch and pine.

The outstanding event of the 1954 Summer term was the School’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. The part of Frederic was played with verve by J. McIntyre; H. Sweetman made a ravishing Mabel, while P. Mooney and R. Swift (sharing the role of the Pirate King) petrified the audience. Organiser-producer-singing teacher – director was Fr Thomas, Mr Worden took care of the music, Br Vincent made the costumes and Br Ignatius operated the stage lighting.

The School would grow in the year 1956-57. While thirteen boys left in Summer 1956, twenty-two new boys arrived for the start of the Michaelmas term.

At the height of the 1958 crisis in Lebanon, the President Chamoun of Lebanon telephoned the School and gave a detailed description of events in his country. His purpose was to reassure his grandson, Munier that he himself was safe and well.

Many members of the School enjoyed pony riding at Inchnacardoch organised by Mr Anderson. Old Boy Mr MacDonald of Inchnacardoch Hotel supplied the facilities and Mr Cameron lent the ponies.

When the School returned in September 1965 there were thirty-two new boys, bringing the School roll to 145. Mr Quinn joined the staff to teach French. Miss A. Clarke was the new Matron.

What They Are Saying About ‘ABBEY BOYS’.

I read various excerpts of THE BOOK on the plane, focusing on my time at both schools and found the flow and facts to be right on – memory lane at its best. Barely in the door, once home we cranked up our CD system, which is brand new (state-of-the-art design) and sat glued to the sounds of Ossie with his crisp upper accent, Vespers and Gregory on the organ – with just a shade of crackle during the organ part the sound quality was GREAT! A Big Hats OFF to you Mike in this effort. Do you plan on recovering and transposing any more of the tapes and records? Hope the answer is yes.
Matt Tyksinski

Dear Ralph, Mike and Mike. The book popped on to my doormat this morning. I had a chance to note the kind handwritten greeting and have a quick glance at the pics before going out. It looks great and the selection of pics is excellent. (I’d have said that even I hadn’t found myself immortalized alongside Geoff Dyer and Iain.) Great work.
Best wishes, Jim Brown

I have looked over the book quite thoroughly (I admit to not reading every word) and I am immensely impressed at the thorough nature of your sources. No comparable record could be written of Ampleforth, and certainly not over so long a period I am at present writing the Third History of Ampleforth (because there have been two before) so I can sympathise with your work! I have got as far as 1925! Well done – congratulations! 
Anselm Cramer OSB Monastery Librarian Ampleforth Abbey

Dear Mike, Please let me know if the CD becomes available – I took part in that recording of Vespers! I’d love a copy. The book was fabulous, bringing back many memories. Regretfully the missing years of Carlekemp cover the years when I was there! I was one of those on the second row of the dancing display for Henry Cotton (I’m still waiting for royalties from the Pathe News Reel!!!) Somewhere I have a photo of a production of HMS Pinafore at Fort Augustus (about 1952/3) – will let you have a copy if I can find it. Appreciate your efforts in keeping us informed.
John Miller

Dear Michael, Thank you so very much for the copy of ‘Abbey Boys’…… I was delighted with it and it is indeed a magnificent work, you deserve enormous credit for what must have been a very exacting task in assembling the detail. I found it quite fascinating and beautifully written, it was so nice to get a glimpse of the progress of the Abbey and school right from the start, and there were quite a lot of personalities and family who I remember such as Abbot Hunter Blair and Fr John Lane Fox apart from Lord Lovat and other members of the family. 
Giles Foster Lovat Estates.

Dear Michael Turnbull Hurray, Hurray!! I got it! I got it!!! The second book just arrived!! Thanks so much!
Sincerely Robert Baker

Just a note to thank you for “Abbey Boys”. Stupendous!
Hubert Charles Lorin

Overall, Mike, it’s an excellent read, and it’s a project that someone needed to do, before records were destroyed and memories dimmed. I hope you’re proud of what you’ve done, and I wish you success in shifting all the copies printed.
Best wishes Frank Partridge

I’ve read Mike Turnbull’s book. It reawakened many fond memories of people and events.
Angus Mackay

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