Fr. Jim Allen's Biography

1947 - 1958:

James Leon Mees Allen was born in Springfield Rd, Wigan on the 26th October 1947, and was baptised in Sacred Heart Church.  At a tender age of twelve months my Mum (Mary) and Dad (Joseph) moved down to Bude in Cornwall, so that Dad could further his career as a Special Needs Teacher. We lived in the priest’s house next to the Church of St Peter’s, Bude. I think it is here that the little seed of a vocation to the priesthood started because of the influence of Father Brown!

My brother, Paul, was born just over a year later in Looe, Cornwall.  Paul and I would spend hours on the presbytery wall watching the steam engines shunting the wagons up and down. Five years later Mark was born in Plymouth, Devon.

Soon after Mark was born it was decided by my parents to go North, because they were concerned for our education. So we moved up to Blackpool and I went to St Cuthbert’s Lytham Rd Infants, before going on to St John Vianney Primary School. Dad was deputy head at St John Vianney’s and taught me and my brothers as we passed through year 6.

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My youngest brother Adrian was born a few years later in Blackpool.

The parish priest of St Cuthbert’s at that time was Bishop T Pearson, Bishop of Sinda, and it was he and Father Tony Foulkes who encouraged me to go to a priestly vocations panel in Preston to see if I had a vocation to the priesthood. From this interview I was accepted to go to the Junior Seminary of Thistleton Lodge, just outside of Blackpool.

1958 - 1972:

At the tender age of eleven (1959) Father Jim went to the Junior Seminary at St Michael’s, Thistleton Lodge for one term, before the whole college moved to Underley Hall at Kirkby Lonsdale. By moving the seminary to Underley Hall, its capacity was increased to between 130 and 140 students. 50 boys moved there in the spring of 1960 including Father Jim.

My class eventually stayed at Underley until we had completed our G.C.E. at Advanced Level. This relieved overcrowding in the 2 senior seminaries, Upholland near Wigan, and Ushaw College in County Durham. The new St. Michael’s College was put under the charge of Canon B. Kershaw who was rector at Thistleton Lodge, with a staff of 6 priests.

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By 1963, the college had 5 classes; first year (Underlow), second year (Low Figures), third year (High Figures), fourth year (Grammar), fifth year (Syntax); and in June of that year the fifth year students passed on to the two major seminaries. Two years later the first Lower VI form (Poetry) was introduced, followed in September 1965 by the first Upper VI. This was my class. The staff was now doubled and there were 120 students. Extensive alterations and modernization work has been done to cater for this expansion, but this will be seen in detail in the “Tour of the House”. At its peak the college had a staff of 15 priests, (though the bursar is nonteaching) and 129 students. The number of students fluctuated between 100 and 170 in those years.

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At eighteen and after “A” levels Father Jim moved to the Senior Seminary at Upholland and studied Philosophy and Theology for six years. This wasn’t an easy time because I was at Upholland as all the changes were taking place after the momentous Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). So our academic system was radically changed, but our freedoms like going to the cinema, the pub etc was still very restricted. In all my time at seminary (junior and senior) I never found it easy with homesickness etc.

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This is the site that would greet us as we returned from vacation. Rather daunting!!! The saving grace at Junior Seminary was the sporting activities and hiking and swimming. And as the term progressed the thoughts of home regressed!

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Sunday - May 28th 1972:

I was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Foley in St Cuthbert’s Church the day after my class mate, Bob Dewhurst, was ordained by the same Diocesan Bishop in St Mary’s Fernyhalgh.

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September 1972 - September 1978:

I was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Foley in St Cuthbert’s Church the day after my class mate, Bob Dewhurst, was ordained by the same Diocesan Bishop in St Mary’s Fernyhalgh.

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Here is a young Bob Dewhurst

Father Jim’s first appointment as Assistant priest was with Father Michael Taylor at St Benedict’s, Mirehouse, Whitehaven. While he was there he served as hospital chaplain to the West Cumberland hospital.

Also in the four years he was there a new Church was built, and he founded the “St Benedict’s Rugby Union Club”, which is still flourishing to this day. After four years he was moved to St Augustine’s in Preston and served there for two years, before entering the Royal Navy as a naval chaplain.

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September 1978 - 1990: Time in the Royal Navy & Royal Marines:

I entered Dartmouth College in September 1978 for my two month initial training, and it was aa lot of square bashing and learning the intricacies of being a Naval Officer. The great thing about the RN Chaplaincy is that we carry no rank; and so are the rank of the person we are talking too!

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First Appointment: HMS Lindisfarne:

Father Jim joined the ship at Rosyth, near Edinburgh and was with her over till March 1979. In that time the Lindisfarne worked as a fishery protection vessel in the North Sea and visited ports such as Newcastle, Amsterdam, Hartlepool and Sunderland.                                        

On leaving the Lindisfarne Fr Jim joined the Royal Marines at Plymouth and Lympstone (just outside of Exeter). The Commando Training Centre, also known as CTCRM, is the principal training centre for the Royal Marines. Based at Lympstone in Devon CTCRM selects and trains all Royal Marines Officers, recruits and reserves.

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The initial training is very rigorous and extreme. Unfortunately Father Jim was progressing reasonably well but two weeks before the end of the all arms commando course he fell off the “tarsan course” and badly bruised his kidneys and busted a couple of ribs. Although he did not complete the course he continued to work with the Royal Marines through 1979 until the November of that year.

During 1979 Father Jim worked with 41 Commando in Cyprus, on UN duty, keeping the peace between the Greeks and the Turks. 42 in Hong Kong, in the new territories stopping illegal imigrants crossing th boarder.

Last of all with Logistics in Northern Ireland at Bally Kelly and  (London) Derry, during the height of the troubles. Some of the photographs portray that busy time in 1979. In November I left the Royal Marines and joined the new entry establishments of HMS Raleigh, and Fisgard (now closed).

HMS Raleigh & Fisgard: Nov 1997 - July 1981

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All new recruits, except officers came through these gates to do their six weeks initial training and at the end of it the sailors went on to their part two training at HMS Collingwood, Sultan or Daedalus. There were three chaplains at this establishment, RC, CofE and Free Church and we worked together to give the recruits RE classes.

While Father Jim was at HMD Raleigh he started taking some of the recruits with some of the staff to Lourdes on the Handicapped Children Pilgrimage Trust (HCPT).

They helped to be the muscle and helped to transport luggage and the children from the train at Dover to the ship and then from the ship on to the teains at Calais that travelled through the night to Lourdes in Southern France.

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Autumn 1981 - Summer 1983: Sea time with Flag Officer 2 (FOF2):

This was my first ship I served in with FOF2 and her name was HMS Brilliant. And her ship’s company were brilliant. While I was with her we gained the freedom of the Borough of Dover area. During the Falklands War, Brilliant took part in the only ship to ship engagement of the war, when she and HMS Yarmouth chased the Argentine coaster Monsunen, in the Battle of Seal Cove. She was also successful in destroying two Argentinian aircraft.

In the Autumn of 1981 I joined HMS Active (Type 21) and HMS Sheffield (Type 42) for the Gulf Patrol. HMS Active was the fifth Type 21 frigate of the Royal Navy and entered service in June 1977. She was built by Vosper Thornycroft Shipbuilders. She was sold to Pakistan in 1993 and is still in service as the PNS Shah Jahan. HMS Sheffield was  laid down by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering at Barrow-in-Furness on 15 January 1970. She was launched by Queen Elizabeth II on 10 June 1971[1] and commissioned on 16 February 1975.

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HMS Active flight deck on the Gulf Patrol with the power house of the ship.

The Gulf Patrol -Autumn 1981:

We visited Muscat and had Christmas there. In between patrolling the Gulf we had R & R at Mombasa (2 weeks), five days in Reunion Island, Singapore and Jacata (Indonesia) and on our return to Gibraltar in the Spring of 1982 the Argentinians were flexing their muscles by invading the South Georgia, and looking like invading the Falklands.

Both ships were dispatched off to the Falklands at once, but Father Jim missed out on going with them because he was ordered to return to the UK so as to take navy personnel to Lourdes with the HCPT. As you know Sheffield was the first ship to be hit by an Exocet missile and the Exoset entered the ship amidships over the galley - and where was Father Jim’s cabin? Over the galley!! Obviously the Lord had other things arranged for Father Jim!

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HMS Active
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HMS Sheffield

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Here we see a procedure called “RASING” Replenishing at Sea.

This is the way we chaplains gort about the various ships. Either by helicopter -being dropped off on the flight deck or by being winched down on to the flight deck of a ship.

Or the other way was by being winched over from ship to ship as the ships are RASING!!!

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April 1982: HMS Southampton: Falklands:

As Pope John Paul II was visiting the UK, and the Falkland’s conflict was brewing, Father Jim was appointed to HMS Southampton and Birmingham (Type 42s) and a group of other ships as their chaplain. These two were new ships and they were being rushed into readiness for the relief force for the Falklands. In double time we were ready to be deployed South.

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