STONYHURST AND AMERICA


The Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst deserves the support of everyone who valueristian truth.

– Paul Johnson, author of A History of the American People

The creation of a Christian Heritage Centre will inspire, educate, and celebrate the rich contribution of Christianity

– The Rt Hon. Ann Widdecombe PC


A firm connection between Stonyhurst and America can be traced back to the early days of the school, whilst it was on the continent at St Omer. For 150 years amongst the school’s old pupils was a steady supply of Jesuit priests, who played a prominent part in the setting-up and maintenance of the Catholic mission in Maryland, which grew into the state of Maryland. In return, a large number of Maryland boys (and others from Pennsylvania), over many generations, were sent to St Omers to be educated. Amongst these was Charles Carroll, who was one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence in August 1776. He was a Maryland Senator until 1800. His cousin, Fr John Carroll SJ, also a St Omers boy, was the first Bishop (and later, Archbishop) of Baltimore and, incidentally, the first-ever bishop in America. He also founded the university of Georgetown.

Charles Carroll is remembered in the third stanza of the song Maryland, My Maryland, which is sung to the same tune as the Stonyhurst Chorus, the words being:

Thou wilt not cower in the dust,
Oh! Maryland, My Maryland,
Thy beaming sword shall never rust
Oh! Maryland, My Maryland.
Remember Carroll’s sacred trust,
Remember Howard’s warlike thrust,
And all thy slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Thomas Francis Meagher was born in Waterford, Ireland in 1823. He was at Stonyhurst between 1839 and 1843. A charismatic and fanatical Irish patriot, he was sentenced in 1848 to be hanged, drawn and quartered after taking part in a minor uprising. Popular protest at this barbaric sentence persuaded Queen Victoria to commute the sentence to life imprisonment after deportation to Australia. He escaped and made his way to America where he became a Unionist general in the Civil War and later Acting Governor of Montana. The statue of Meagher on horseback can still be seen today outside the Montana State Capital building. He is credited with having designed the Irish flag, having been inspired by the tricoleur of revolutionary France. It has been said that, had he lived, he might have become the first Catholic President of the United States, but he disappeared from a river boat in mysterious circumstances at the age of 43 and was never seen again.

The great-grandfather of President George W Bush was at Stonyhurst between 1892 and 1894. His name was George Walker – hence the W in the president’s name. He is immortalised as the founder of the famous Walker Cup golf competition. Because of the family connection, the current president’s father – former President George Bush – is a Life President of the Stonyhurst Park Golf Club, but he hasn’t, as yet, found time to pop over for a quick round!

Charles Laughton went on to become one of the greatest film actors of all time. He was at Stonyhurst from 1912 to 1915 but left before his burgeoning talent had a chance to fully develop. Although born in England of English parents, he became an American citizen in 1950 and remained there until his death in 1962. He was elected to the Hollywood Hall of Fame in 1971. He was not the only English film celebrity to follow a similar path. Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel – two of the greatest-ever comic actors – were also born in England and became American citizens, the latter being born at Ulverston, a mere fifty miles from Stonyhurst, although, sadly, neither of these was ever a pupil here.

Whilst hardly a household name, Joe Clarkson was at Stonyhurst from 1966 to 1975. He was born in Yorkshire but emigrated to America in 1980. He has since played rugby for the United States of America, one of quite a sizeable number of OS to become a full rugby international, although the rest have played for either England or Ireland.

Images on the right :- Pages from a school book owned by John and Charles Carroll, showing both their names, and some school boy doodles