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The Young Man



The Young Man

Many many years ago, lost in the mist of time, lived a young man –we’ll call him John - who was referred to Walton Neurological department. It was that time in his life when he was transitioning from boy to man with many physiological changes happening to his body mostly good but one was bad.

The doctors had discovered that the front section of the inside of his skull was growing too fast and starting to press against his brain. In the opinion of the doctors this problem may resolve itself as the boy became a man, if not then surgery was the only option.

As was usual in these times the only person that was not in position of the full facts was the patient himself, but he was not a stupid boy, and could work it out for himself that something serious was going on.

Around this time (1960) the Guild of St Ann at his church came up with a scheme where a group of the mothers put 2/6p (25p in foreign money) a week into a Lourdes fund then each year one of the mothers names would be drawn out of the hat. At the time of the draw John’s guardian angel guided the hand of the drawer to pick out his mother’s ticket. His father on hearing this scrimped and saved to find the fare for John to go with his mother.

In September 1960 John arrived in Lourdes and found himself sharing a room with another young man who was studying for the priesthood. Both young men promptly volunteered to help out with the sick, though still considered by the diocese to be too young to cover all the duties of a brancardiers, both the young men where issued with their bretelles, the shoulder straps worn by the brancardiers to help carry the stretchers, but required to do no fixed duties just to help out where they could.

A few days passed and John visited the baths, where he experienced the miracle of Lourdes, stepping out of the freezing cold water and in to his clothes he was immediately dry, and a warm glow seemed to pervade his whole body.

Time passed… Christmas came and went, then Easter came and went, and another appointment at Walton Neurological department was upon him. To The Young Man and his parent’s great relief the problem with The Young Man’s skull had disappeared.


It was another 12 months before John had saved enough to go on his second visit to Lourdes, once again proud to wear the bretelles and help where he could.

Time passed, the years slipped away and like all young men his maturity brought other distractions and Lourdes was pushed to the back of his mind. The years all too quickly became decades and then into a new millennium. John was now in late middle age when a new priest came to his parish and in an attempt to get the parish working together again put on a musical production “Born for this”, in Easter 2004.

The middle-aged John thought he would like to be part of this and volunteered himself to work behind the scenes. Two members of the cast who were on the Lourdes committee invited him to return to Lourdes with the parish. John was happy to accept their invite, and since then has been a regular travelling with his parish for the last 6 pilgrimages.

The young man is now a pensioner, and this year on the 50th anniversary of his first visit will be returning to Lourdes, but he still has one unanswered question.



Travel documents from 1960 here

Photos from 1960 here

ShrewsburyPilgrimage History here