An Interview with Miss Kath Bennett

Miss Bennett was born into the parish in 1917. She was educated at the church schools and has lived in the parish since. She also performed the function of sacristan for over forty years. Miss Bennett kindly found the time to share some of her memories with the new parish website.

It is remarkable to know that Miss Bennett remembers Hugh Welch, who was Rector of St Vincent’s from 1907 to 1931. She also knew Father Kirby, Father Pears and Father Donnelly. Father Woods, who was an assistant priest at the parish from 1957 to 1965, was a “great friend” of hers.

Miss Bennett’s name will be familiar to anyone who served as an altar boy, since she was an important point of contact and advice. She also knew Mr Busby well. Mr Busby, who taught at St Vincent’s Junior School during the 1970’s, was also responsible for training and managing all the altar boys. He also refereed school football matches, making many a controversial decision. Miss Bennett also recalls the trouble altar boys had locking the gates at the front of church. They were eventually removed in the 1980’s.

Miss Bennett was educated at the parish school, which was on Hamon Road. She remembers Mother Margaret Mary, who was the head teacher of the school. She also recalls the names of Mother Assumptor, Mother Mercedes and a Miss Keogh. She attended the school in the early 1920’s, yet she remembers her time their and how much she enjoyed it. The school later moved to Thomas Street, until the two modern schools opened.

In the post-war years, the parish developed “schools pools”, to raise money for the parish schools. The pools were based upon football results, and became popular with parishioners. They were abandoned in the 1970’s, when Trafford Borough Council became directly responsible for the two parish schools.

Westleigh, the large Victorian house next to the church was bought by Father Lyons. Miss Bennett is keen for parishioners to realize this and appreciate the farsightedness of the decision to buy. The house has since played an important role, providing ideal space for groups to meet. In the 1990’s, Father Morgan initiated the development of the house, which resulted in a major renovation.

Miss Bennett recognises the important role Ireland and Irish families have played in the parish. Her own relatives left Ireland to escape the famine, a nd moved to Wellington in Shropshire. Her father was born in County Armagh. She is happy to see that Irish families still play a role in the parish.

She was keen to emphasise the role played by the families of Chapel Street and New Street in Altrincham. While New Street has changed and Chapel Street is gone, both had a large number of Catholic families. This neighborhood was a poor one, with many of the residents reliant upon help from the parish church. Chapel Street did become famous, sending more men to fight in the Great War than any other street in England. Many were killed and injured.

The Second World War did not have such a direct impact on the parish. Many parishioners will remember the 1940’s mainly for their austerity. While the Blitz primarily targeted Manchester city centre, Broadheath was also bombed. However, Miss Bennett remembers a corner shop off Moss Lane receiving a direct hit. The occupants were killed.

The Second Vatican Council, of the 1960’s was also a significant event. Miss Bennett was initially pessimistic, arguing that the Latin mass had served the church well. However, she remembers attending her first mass after Vatican II, and realising she had been wrong. The priest now faced the congregation and said the mass in English, making the event far more immediate. While the current format of mass is accepted as the norm, its emergence in the 1960’s did make waves.

While Miss Bennett is an avid reader of the parish magazine, she does not use the internet. Despite this, St Vincent’s should be grateful for her important contribution to the new parish website.

A photograph of Regent Road at the start of the 20th Century

A ceremony at the Chapel Street war memorial in 1920

The shop on Charter Road that Miss Bennett recalls being bombed