An evening meeting prevented me travelling from the Isle of Man for the funeral of Canon John Gaine. He taught in the seminary at Upholland. I was in the school. I had a fascination with electronics. There were only two of us but Father Gaine took us under his wing in a ‘Wireless Club’. He taught me how to use a soldering iron. We built our own multi-meter and he taught me the difference between volts, amps and ohmns – a distinction that served me well in O-Level Physics. We built and repaired radios. He explained everything in his quiet, painstaking and staccato voice.
As I moved to the senior house, John became my Philosophy professor. He broadened the curriculum away from exclusive study of Aristotle and Aquinas to include Descartes, Locke, Berkley and Hume, and even Wittgenstein. He also introduced us to Teilhard de Chardin. John encouraged me to study him on my own. I still boast a shelf full of Teilhard’s works to this day.
John was also Prefect of Discipline for all my time in the senior seminary. He had a reputation as a stickler, but I soon discovered that minor infringements might be overlooked if your written assignments were in on time. Two days after my ordination I returned to the college to resume life as a student. I was wearing a sports coat and a roll-neck sweater. John met me on the stairs. He insisted on kneeling on the floor to receive my first blessing and then reprimanded me for being improperly dressed!
When John became a parish priest he relaxed into the role. His voice was still the same but he became an increasingly benign and gentle pastor. May he rest in peace.