The migration to Stonyhurst in 1794 was the third in the history of the college which had been founded 201 years before by Fr Robert Persons at St Omer. Political pressures had dictated a first move to Bruges in 1762 and with the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773 a further move was made to Liege. At Liege, under the protection of the Prince -Bishop the community of ex-Jesuits was allowed to retain its teaching apostolate and to manage the college under a new name, L'Acad6mie Anglaise. The Academy was housed in part of the building which had been the house of studies of the English Province of the Society and which itself was allowed to continue as a seminary providing priests for the English Mission. None of the priests staffing the seminary and the academy could remain Jesuits but the majority were to renew their vows in the Society at the earliest opportunity in 1803 in England.
The story of the third migration has been made available at least three times : by Fr John Gerard in 1894 in the Stonyhurst Centenary Record; by Fr Hubert Chadwick in 1952 in St Omers to Stonyhurst; and, by Tom Muir in the recently published Stonyhurst College, 1593-1993. It is not my intention in this paper to retell a story which is already so abundantly available but to say something about the institution, the chronicler of the migration and the individuals taking part in it.
The main source of our information is the manuscript account of Fr John Laurenson, which was serialised in the Stonyhurst Magazine in June, July, October and December, 1924 (Vol. XVII, Nos.251-254). Fr Laurenson took part in the journey as far as Harwich but came on to Stonyhurst at a slightly later date than the main party which arrived there in August, 1794. It has to be borne in mind that Fr Laurenson was writing 34 years after the event. It can be shown that when he comes to the arrival in Lancashire, his account is defective but that is not to put in question his recital of the events of which he was an eye-witness. Would one care to challenge a man of whom one of his former pupils wrote that he was " a great gaunt man with a deep sonorous voice and a countenance in which it was easy to discover his vigorous intellect, his open and manly nature and an irascibility which, with all his efforts and the discipline of Loyola, he found it was impossible to conquer ?" I think not. This is our best and virtually our only source and it may be interesting to see what it has to tell us en passant about the institution which was on the move and about the individuals caught up in that flight.
At the time of the migration Fr Laurenson was 34, working in the school, as a librarian there, an Old Boy who had been educated at Bruges as well as Liege. He mentions by name four categories of people: priests, seminarians (or "Juniors"), schoolboys and servants. He tells how political troubles began in Liege in 1789 and details the ebb and flow of events as the city changed hands several times between the Imperial and French forces. The seminary was migrating as well as the school but the school is his first concern.
It emerges very clearly that the Academy had among its pupils French boys and boys from the locality as well as English boys. In 1792, when Liege fell to the French General Dumouriez, his ADC turned out to be an Old Boy, Philippe de Vaux, "civil and friendly but a thorough-paced revolutionist", who a little later was guillotined in place of his commander when sent back to Paris with despatches. In the course of 1793, we are told, "we lost many of our French scholars, whom the decrees of the National Convention compelled to return to their respective homes under pain of being treated as emigrants and aliens and forfeiting their property". In April, 1794, a first evacuation had taken place with masters and pupils packed off to a house near Maastricht after the President had seen to "dismissing those pensioners whose parents were at no great distance". Quite possibly some of those families were English, because Fr Laurenson also tells us that, "Mr Charles Wright, our procurator, who had all the sagacity and management of his father, the banker, was incessantly employed in making arrangements and settling accounts, not only for the College but for many of the English in the town". It looks as if the move was not just the migration of a body of foreigners but the disappearance of a group of men whose school affected the life and corresponded to the current needs of the city and its environs.
When at last the time came for them to leave Liege a harrowing scene is described. A French emigrge mother flung herself at the feet of the President and tearfully begged him to include in the party her son, Hyacinthe de la Potherie. Fr Laurenson comments, "This affecting scene drew tears not only from our Superior, which was no difficult matter, but from all who were present and could feel". The request was granted but in the event was not taken up, although a little later the boy did go to Stonyhurst and was there from 1795 to 1805, while his mother, we are told, was reduced to gain an humble livelihood by her needle". After the Peace of Amiens, however, the family returned to France and to their fortune and "the first use they made of it was to remit to our College all that was due for the education of young Hyacinth". In the confusion of the last hours at Liege another Old Boy ADC gallops in. This time it is John O'Shee in the service of the Prince of Wurtemberg. Confusion there certainly was, and three times he countermanded the order requisitioning into military service the lone horse of the Academy which was plodding up and down to the barges on the river. Two more Old Boys appear as the barges make their slow way along the Meuse. A cheerful Matthew Toole overtakes them on a horse he had bought from Fr Wright and Fr Laurenson comments approvingly, "in after life his conduct was such as to do honour to himself and to us." Then there is the Comte d'Agrain, father of Marc, who kindly allows some of the party to share with his family their more commodious craft as they float towards the coast. By then the weather has broken and was "chilly, bleak and unhealthful".
Fr Laurenson is a good chronicler and it is entertaining to see how he refers to those who made the emigration necessary. Early on in the narrative he explains how "those disorganising and levelling principles which were directed at once against the altar and the throne" made themselves felt in Liege in a successful insurrection and the capture of the citadel. He adds interestingly, "Thinking the English to be friends of liberty, and aware of the advantages that accrued to their city from our connexions and our annual expenditure, they treated us with comparative lenity". At that point "they" were termed simply "the insurgents", but with the arrival of the French army of occupation we hear of "the lawless insolence and capricious tyranny of these foes of religion and social order". After the execution of Louis XVI they become "the regicides" and in moments of better temper "the republicans". As librarian it was Fr Laurenson's responsibility to see to the safety of "the most valuable books of our fine library". He tells us how he was helped by Mr Tate to send packing cases of books to the safe house near Maastricht and of how the two of them supervised the operation well into the night. And he shows that he was a man of good sense: "....the town clock was distinctly heard to strike twelve, or midnight, upon hearing which the Librarian, who had just opened his breviary to say vespers and compline, quietly shut his book and, without much scruple, retired to rest, to which, after the ex-traordinary exertions of the day, he thought himself justly entitled". He speaks with warm appreciation of the exertions of Fr Charles Wright at this time, "He was generally up between two and three every morning, retired late at night, and underwent a degree of fatigue and anxiety which nothing less than the most robust of constitutions could have enabled him to support". Of Fr Kemper he tell us that even at this juncture, it is May, 1794, "he was sent as far as Munich to procure for us somewhere in Bavaria a temporary retreat, in case of necessity; but he returned without success". If Fr Laurenson is right about this it means that any offer from Thomas Weld of refuge at Stonyhurst, if already made, had not been definitely accepted. What is more certain is that any place of refuge, whether in England or Bavaria, would be viewed just as a temporary haven and not as a place of permanent settlement.
His few comments about the behaviour of the boys ring absolutely true. At a time of restored confidence in the power of the Allies he reports, "in this persuasion none were more sanguine than the young politicians of our College through a conviction that the forces of Austria, Prussia and Holland, supported by England, must necessarily prove irresistible". Sadly it is from another source that we hear how, when a group of French boys were bewailing the news of the execution of their king, some crass English xenophobe commented that it was not the first time that a people had cut off the head of a tyrant, but he does tell us of the Mass for the king next morning. Utterly authentic too is the situation which later arose of the Channel when the captain and crew took very grave exception to the boys playing cards on the Sabbath so that "the captain took fervently to his Bible to ward off the thunderbolts of heaven".
Fr Laurenson's narrative makes it clear that the community clutched at any straw of optimism as they hoped against hope that all would in the end be well with Lifege. At every juncture he remembers the mood of the moment. So it is that in the spring of 1793, when a victorious Imperial army was awaited in the city with mounting joy, "During a great part of the day the telescopes and spying glasses of our College were anxiously and wistfully directed towards the Carthusians' Convent, near which lay the road which we knew our deliverers must take to enter the town". And in the previous winter when General Dumouriez triumphed, "we could distinctly see from the windows of our dormitories the reflected flash of every gun that was fired".
When he comes to mention the plight and the plans of the "English Nuns", the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre, Fr Laurenson is somehow at his best He clearly believes that not for the first time - or the last - these ladies proved themselves the more prudent virgins. He knew a great deal about the various stages of their preparations and for all that it is true that their chaplain, Fr Clifton, was a member of the same community as himself, his mole is likely to have been his sister, one of the Canonesses. He is not without criticism of the Academy's own arrangements: ".... we, who had already deferred our departure longer than prudence, if consulted, would have advised, convinced at length that any further delay would be rash in the extreme and might be attended with the most fatal consequences resolved to set off without further loss of time"; he readily admits that at times on the journey "we were gloomy and taciturn, if not peevish and fretful"; and deplores the delay that came en route with the need to procure passports,'....so that luckily we purchased at a cheap rate the lesson of prudence which me might, and ought, to have learned cost-free from our countrywomen, the Nuns." But all was not gloom and peevishness. There was religion too. On Sunday, July 27th, on the Meuse, they enquired about the nearest Catholic chapel and walked in a body for a mile or so for Mass, "uncommonly short, but compensated by a Dutch sermon of at least an hour's length". Since some of the food bought on the way proved impossible to retain it may not have been in an entirely devotional spirit that "one or two of us remained fasting" on the feast of St Ignatius, hoping to be able to say Mass on arrival at Rotterdam. In fact they arrived too late for that to be possible.
Fr Laurenson, then, was an eye-witness of the migration from Liege to the English coast. Who were his companions ? He mentions by name 9 priests, 8 seminarians, 14 schoolboys and three servants. There were "some scholars" besides so the total will have been greater than this tally of 34. Where possible I have indicated the age of each traveller along with some indication of what eventually happened to him. Thus:
Then there is the group of young ecclesiastics or "Juniors"
Those four are said by Fr Laurenson to have continued from Harwich to Hull and to have been part of the group which arrived at Stonyhurst on August 29th. He also mentions four others, but perhaps less reliably in some cases:
As has already been said, 14 boys are mentioned by name. They are:
Of these 14,12 went on with the main party to Stonyhurst under the leadership of Fr Kemper, and of the 12 - if we may judge by the names - 6 are clearly English, 5 seem to be French and one is of the Franco-Irish Walsh family. Fr Laurenson reports that when the party reached Selby "the slattern and neglected dress and haggard looks of our folks made them everywhere in their journey through Yorkshire taken for Frenchmen: ' In fact that judgement was not so far off the mark. We know a little about some of these boys :
Of the other boys we know virtually nothing beyond, in most cases, the dates of their arrival and departure.
The last and smallest group among the travellers is that of the servants.
Much of this information we owe to Fr Laurenson, much of it we can hope to be accurate. Thirty-four years on he said that he presumed to hope that "collegial discipline and scholastic duties......have since continued to the glory of God and to the advantage and benefit of his holy religion". That is a fitting last word.