EVERGREEN Brian Harvey is still working as a volunteer gardener – at the grand old age of 90.
Brian is the oldest volunteer tending the gardens at the Ushaw visitor attraction near Durham – 79 years after he first arrived there as a schoolboy.
Brian, whose favourite job is weeding the paths, is a great champion of the venue and the splendour of the gardens and has nothing but praise for the volunteer team.
“They’re a wonderful group of people. So welcoming, so knowledgeable and so dedicated. And Ushaw deserves to be looked after,” he said.
As a boy of 11, Brian Harvey joined 35 other new boys as a boarder at Ushaw College, little knowing that it would become an integral part of the rest of his life.
He was the second youngest student at the former seminary, and was enrolled for a good education, rather than to train as a priest.
Like all the new scholars living away from home for the first time, young Brian was homesick for a while, but he said: “They kept us very busy. There was a very rigid timetable, starting with Mass at 8am, followed by breakfast in the refectory at 8.30am.
“We would then process, crocodile-fashion, to the Junior School House for lessons, back to the refectory for lunch, and finally back again, following afternoon lessons, for a tea of bread and butter.”
In later years, they were served beans and pasta, which, Brian admitted, “was an improvement.”
Pupils also played a lot of sport every day in the extensive grounds, and skated on the pond in winter. Brian recalled that everyone at Ushaw would be out on the frozen pond – priests and students alike.
Brian’s grandfather was employed as a pantry boy, and later worked as manservant to Bishop Chadwick in Newcastle. Brian’s parents were married at Ushaw Chapel in 1922, with his older brother preceding him into the college.
He left Ushaw at 16, and joined his father’s optician’s business in Newcastle. However, he maintained contact with the college by joining St Cuthbert’s Alumni Society, which became the focal point of Ushaw men throughout the world, and organised reunion dinners for his year group.
Over the years, Brian continued his connection with Ushaw, finally retiring as Secretary of the Society in 1991, and becoming honorary Vice President. He’d always enjoyed gardening, and decided to join the team of volunteers.
Ushaw’s President, Father John Marsland, said: “We are very lucky to have a wonderful group of volunteers and Brian is a shining example of their dedication.”