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Tony & Jane Fletcher recall life at St Albert's in the 60's, as students, marriage & family life

I arrived as a fresher in 1960, and met the Dominicans for the first time. They introduced me to God. Before that I had only been introduced to the Catholic Church. There was quite a difference!

At the CSU I met many new friends, some of whom are still regulars at St Albert's 60 years on. There was a very active social life in the common room with people from all over the world (particularly England). The table tennis room in the basement seemed to be seldom used, for some reason, and it was soon re-fitted as a commercial café. 'The Catacomb' became known throughout the university as a welcoming, cheap, and cheerful venue for coffee and meals served all day. It was professionally designed and decorated as a dark, cavernous space with pillars and antique murals.

We had two chaplains, Fr Ian and Fr Anthony and both were very approachable and entered willingly into student social life as well as caring for our spiritual and educational lives. Both chaplains were later to move on to become Prior Provincial of the Province, and Fr Anthony was elected Rector of the university by the whole student body.

The CSU engaged local speakers to address the regular Sunday evening talks, but we occasionally attracted more "exotic" speakers from London or "Oxbridge" and shared the expenses and obtained larger venues in collaboration with the university or the Student Union (the latter were all male in those days!)

I became more involved with the CSU committee as time went on and finished up as Vice-President in 1965. In that same year was when Jane began her studies at Edinburgh College of Art (a separate art college back then). We met at a ‘Welcome, CSU’ party. Sunday evening Masses, followed by talks, discussions and socialising became something we shared. We found the Catacomb Café a great place to "hang" out. We married in 1969 at St Albert’s and made our home in Edinburgh. Five years and two children later, we headed for a new life in Africa where I worked in a teaching hospital in Lusaka. Our years there expanded our minds and were enriched by getting to know the White Fathers.

After four years and baby number three, we returned and settled back to Edinburgh. Where we sought out our Dominican friends back in George Square. We were delighted to meet two newly ordained priests, who had imagination and energy to inspire and encourage us, to explore and expand our faith in the spirit of Vatican II. Over the next decade we were full on with family life to the fore! St Albert's was now an established parish as well as a student chaplaincy, where we became involved.

Times were lively, with many meetings, debates, study, about our role in the world, and our relationship to the wider community. This also included a responsibility towards the catechesis of children. All of this was helped with frequent celebrations!

The millennium era began for us with family weddings of the two eldest children at St Albert's and within a few years the baptism of a few of our grandchildren! About this time, discussions reappeared about the building of a new chapel in the back garden. This project was familiar to us who first heard about this in the sixties. Now it seemed to be the time to expand. Slowly plans took shape and the project began.

On a personal note it was poignant for us to be blessed by Fr. Dermot in September 2019 at the celebration of our golden wedding anniversary.

Tony Fletcher was a student from 1960-1966 and a former CSU Secretary ('64-'65)) and CSU Vice-President ('65-'66) and Jane Fletcher, née Norton was a student from 1965-1969. They both live in Edinburgh and are active members of St Albert's parish.


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