Passed/Failed: Bruce Kent

Bruce Kent, 69, once general-secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, retired as an active Catholic priest in 1987 and is now working on the centenary Hague Peace Conference to be held in May. The original was called by Czar Nicholas II
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The Independent Online
On the beat: My father wasn't a Catholic but my mother was: the obligation was that the children should be brought up as Catholics. The headmaster of Wellbury in Hitchin [Hertfordshire] was a former Anglican priest who had converted to Catholicism. He was extremely strict and a great beater of little boys. Every lunchtime there would be queues outside his sitting-room, and when we were wearing the small swimming- costumes, you'd see blue bottoms. I got used to prep school life, but my brother didn't like it at all. Once he ran away and my father had to get him back.

Don't give up the day school: In 1940, when I was 11, we left to go to Canada with my mother (our parents were Canadian). In Montreal we went with our cousins to a Protestant school, Lower Canada College. As Catholics, we were now a minority and I remember winning the Scripture Prize because I was determined not to let the "other religion" win it. A day school was a complete revolution to me: home at 4pm and weekends off. We stayed there until the summer of 1943 - I was just 14 when we went back to England. My father had got us into Stonyhurst College, the Jesuit school in Lancashire, which was at first quite rough, tough and cold, but by the end I loved it. It was back to corporal punishment. The staff did their daily whacking with a "ferula", a leathery rubber strip like the bottom of a rather large shoe. There was also occasional beating of boys by boys; have you seen the film If? One of my most embarrassing memories is, as a member of the "Committee" (prefects), of taking part in a beating, with a cane. Paul Johnson was in the same class: skinny and red-headed, quite dynamic.

Compact desk: Your desk was portable. There were 200 boys in the big study room and at the end of each year you picked up your desk and carried it towards the back. On the front of your desk was a brass plaque with your name. When you left your brass plaque was moved to the rear of the desk; one of my predecessors on the desk was Charles Laughton. For us, drama was out: we had the mickey taken out of us because of our strong Canadian accents. My big dramatic moment was as Hamlet's father's ghost's double - a non-speaking role.

Lotus on the menu: When I left, with Higher Certificates in English, French and History, I went to a crammer and got the Latin requirement for Oxford. I was called up in 1947 and released from the army in September 1949, just in time to go to university. Someone had given me a biography of a great lawyer and that was it: at Brasenose I read law, a fascinating subject, and managed a Second. Oxford was a slack water time, my lotus- eating years. There was no radical side to me at all. I came out of a very Catholic school where the greatest possible evil was Communism. I remember someone saying about a student crossing the quad: "That's a Marxist!" I couldn't believe it. He looked so ordinary.

Ware now? Oxford had been a kind of truce with my father, who was unhappy about my wanting to be a Catholic priest. In my last term I decided to go into the Church and spent six years at St Edmund's College, the seminary in Ware [in Hertfordshire]. My father was generous about a career of which he disapproved. When I became a monsignor [a senior priest], he was very pleased: his boy was doing well!

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