The Ampleforth College Connection

Some may wonder: how come the Dudzińskis ended up settling in the Ampleforth/Oswaldkirk area? Well, there are a number of explanations for that.

Firstly, we left Scotland (in 1947) and settled in Duncombe Park because that was where Zbigniew’s regiment (of which he was Commanding Officer) was billeted, and we were there for about two years.

Secondly, it was logical that Tom – who had hitherto been at Downside School, a monastic boarding school far away to the south of Bath – should transfer to Ampleforth College, which was very much closer.

Thirdly, in 1948 George was sent to Gilling Castle Preparatory School across the valley as a day-boy.

Fourthly – and most importantly – Halina was offered the job she had been angling for (after her predecessor had emigrated to the USA) of running the hostel in Ampleforth village set up for Polish boys going to Ampleforth College. It was originally founded and run by a London-based Polish committee and was generally called, simply, the Polish Hostel (it was on Back Lane, almost directly opposite to where the doctors’ surgery is now located). Later, the hostel was handed over to the College and was treated by the College as one of its ‘houses’ – at that time there were already eight – and given the name of St. Casimir’s House.

Fr Paul Neville

Bear in mind that life was no bed of roses for the Dudziński family at this time: the Polish army was then in process of being demobilized, thus depriving Zbigniew of a job and his salary as a senior Army officer. And having been a professional soldier from leaving secondary school – he went to the Polish equivalent of Sandhurst – he had little by way of qualifications to offer a prospective employer. Thanks to the kindness and generosity of Fr Paul Neville, who was Headmaster of Ampleforth from 1924 to 1954, the fees charged for Tom, Georg and Andrew were minimal, and Zbigniew was given the opporunity to supplement the family income by teaching a couple of boys Russian for a while and by filling in occasionally as a sort of ‘locum’ French teacher. He also had stints in the College accounts office whenever any regular employee was on holiday or fell sick. And eventually, on the retirement of one of these regular employees, he was offered a permanent position, which he kept right until he died.

While life may not have been easy for the family, it is probably true to say that they did feel part of the Ampleforth community. Indeed, they had many really good friends among the Ampleforth teaching staff, both monastic and lay. And it is certainly true to say that the feeling was widely reciprocated by the monks of Ampleforth, who would find any excuse they could to be invited for tea and be able to enjoy Halina’s cakes, for which she was justly famous!

Anyway, there are much worse places to live in, that is for sure…