Born: 28 January 1845, Königssteele (Steele), Westfalen, Germany
Entered: 28 September 1862, Friedrichsburg Germany - Germaniae Inferioris Province (GER I)
Final Vows: 02 February 1879
Died 31 October 1937, Marienhospital, Aachen, Germany - Germaniae Inferioris Province (GER I)
part of the Valkenburg, Netherlands community at the time of death
Came to HIB to teach at Tullabeg 1877-1889
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 13th Year No 1 1938
Father Charles Wisthoff :
A few members of the Irish Province are still alive who remember Father Wisthoff and the excellent work he did in Ireland from 1877 to 1888. They will be glad to hear that on the 28th of last September he celebrated the 75th anniversary of his entrance into the Society.
Unfortunately the celebration had to take place in the hospital at Aachen, where he could get the care necessary for his age. Still his joy and gratitude were so great that he forgot the age. It was his greatest pleasure to go to the Altar as an act of thanksgiving. On the previous day he frequently held up his hands and sang a Gloria in Excelsis.
The Ordinary of Aachen had given leave for Mass to be celebrated in his room, so the Sisters had decorated a large room, and there our Fathers assembled in the early morning. During the Mass the Sisters sang beautifully. After the Holy Sacrifice, all, both Ours and the Nuns, gathered round the bed of the jubilarian. Rev Father Superior congratulated him in the name of the Society, and a theologian in the name of Valkenburg, to which House Father Wisthoff belonged. Very Rev. Father Assistant had written his congratulations, and Very Rev Father General had sent to the Jubilarian 75 Masses. The old man of 93 expressed his gratitude and then gave his blessing to all present.
Meantime the Nuns had prepared a table in the background, the bed was moved over to it, and Father Wisthoff and his guests celebrated the jubilee. He was very lively and cheerful, relating many anecdotes full of joke and humour.
In the course of the morning, a Father came from St, Ignatius College with special congratulations, and about midday a messenger brought a telegram from His Eminence, the Cardinal Secretary of State, announcing the special blessing of the Holy Father.
Since the above was written, the sad news has come of Father Wisthoff's death at Valkenburg. He was born on 28th January, 1845, entered the Society 28th September, 1862 , died 3Ist October 1937. RIP
◆ The Clongownian, 1920
The Laying Down of the Higher Line Cricket Ground
An Account by Father Karl Wisthoff SJ
Father H Fegan Higher Line Prefect at Clongowes after the Amalgamation, found it desirable to enlarge the cricket field. As there were no men amongst the labourers at Clongowes who could carry out this work, he summoned from Tullabeg the famous Brian Spollen,
Before the Amalgamation there were only a few plots laid out for matches, the rest of the lawn having a rough surface. That part of the lawn where the old elm stands* was higher than the rest, its elevation being indicated by the grass bank that surrounds the elm. The higher ground extended about eight or ten yards towards the middle of the lawn sloping down to it along the entire length of the field.
Work was commenced near the tree. From there towards the middle and down to the end of the present cricket ground, the sods were cut in sizes of one to two feet. They were then raised and carted to the grass-land outside the cricket ground. This done, the soil was taken out and heaped before the pile of sods. When the bed of gravel was thus laid bare it was picked loose and wheeled to the lower ground. When at last the two portions had been made level, fresh earth was spread evenly over the newly made gravel bed. The sods were next laid down; well-sifted earth was spread over them and harrowed backwards and forwards to get the earth well into the divisions between the sods, facilitating thereby their knitting into one unbroken surface.
As soon as the grounds were dry, Fr. Fegan saw to the rolling and cutting of the grass. To his ceaseless care it is due that the grounds improved every day, and were in tip-top order when the first eleven of the amalgamated Colleges came to play their first outmatch.
C Wisthoff SJ
*The elm referred to stood near the track between the Third Line Cricket pitch (as it is now) and the Third Line Rugby posts. The green box in which the gamekeepers keep their gear is practically on the site of the old tree. There was a mound about three leet high around the elm; but · this mound was removed when the tree was blown down in the great storm of 1903.
by Jack Meldon
It is a long span since I said good-bye in the wooden gallery to Fr Wisthoff when starting for the Summer holidays from Tullabeg in 1886. The last conversation I had with him was about the new Cricket ground which he expected, and I agreed, would produce the best wicket in the British Isles.
He had helped me to organise a holiday cricket team styled “Tullabeg and Clongowes United” (note precedence of Tullabeg). I was to obtain fixtures with Co Westmeath CC at Mullingar en route, Phoeix CC, Leinster CC, and Dublin University Long Vacation CC; and we played all these Clubs in Dublin during the following week.
It was the first time the two Colleges had combined in anything, and I mention it as a curious coincidence that Fr Wisthoff and I who engineered this first amalgamation were, perhaps, the two people in the world to whom the real amalgamation, a few weeks later, came as the greatest trial and disappointment.
I am looking at the photograph of the team hanging on my study wall as I write. One or two are missing from the group, but the names of the full team were - Hugh Kennedy, Jack Maunsell, Alfred Kelly, Peter Carthy, Joe Gaffney, Bob Cruise, Dan Molony, and myself (Tullabeg); Finn Meldon, Peter Touhy, D Fitzpatrick, Julius Ferguson (Clongowes).
To say that the new cricket ground at Tullabeg was the Boss's hobby does not describe the situation - he was wrapped-up in it. He spent every moment of his leisure time at it, and one could tell at once by his mien if Brian Spollen, the one-eyed donkey man, had been “playing the ass” and mixing up the levels, as he was apt to do after a pay day carouse in the Rahan village “pub”.
But the earnestness and determination of “The Boss” was such that no failure or opposition could prevent him making a thorough success of what he had set out to do, and certainly no other sobriquet could have so aptly described the famous Tullabeg Prefect.
A German! yes, I believe he was, but a snow white one - I can answer for that, and I am confident that those who knew himn and had intimate dealings with him, and those who were, so to speak, on his staff in the Higher Line at Tullabeg, will endorse this to a man.
My reading of him came to be - that in dealing with you as a boy he took nothing for granted. He possessed himself (by hook or crook, I admit) of your inmost character; but having once satisfied himself that you were on the square and loyal to him and to the school, he trusted you blindly from that moment, and nothing and nobody thereafter could shake his faith in your honesty of purpose.
He was his own intelligence officer - he required no other; and while you were on trial, or, worse still, under suspicion, he was an awkward customer.
My first acquaintance with him was on the evening of my first day at Tullabeg. I was fourteen years old, and had just been transferred from Beaumont without being personally consulted, by an arrangement between Fr Delany and my father, after four years at Beaumont, during the last term of which I had won the presentation bat for the Lower Line batting average at cricket.
Judge of my chagrin when I found myseli placed in the Third Line at Tullabeg, I was somewhat crest-fallen (very good for me, doubtless), felt like shooting Fr Delany, whom I had never seen, and being very black inside, I probably looked the part as I stood at the door of the Third Line playroom. Then I became conscious of being focussed by a pair of enormous round spectacles blazing out of the dust in the gallery twenty yards I away. The owner of the specs was tall elderly, spare, and very distinguished looking. Many of my readers will remember those wonderful specs through which the Boss could transfix one victim out of a group at the end of a cricket pitch. It was useless to pretend you did not notice: of no avail to stoop and tie your shoelace, use your handkerchief, or suddenly remember you mislaid something and walk round a corner out of sight. No! When eventually you looked up again you would find yourself “set” by the same orbs at about the same distance - your inmost soul being read like a book and the message a definite as if formulated in the words, “Young man! you are thinking treason. Beware you have me to deal with”.
I was in reckless humour that evening and stuck it out for what seemed an age, when at last the inquisitor turned his back and appeared to be interested in something at the other end of the gallery. I turned for information to a boy standing near. He was very small, and yet seemed to know everyone and to be liked by all. He was not a new boy, on the contrary, he gave one the idea of having been always there - part of the establishment in fact. It is hard to be certain at this length of time, but I am nearly sure the boy was Paddy Rath. “Who is that gent?” I asked. “Hsh ! that's the Boss, he'll see you”, said he. “Well, he's no gent to stare at a new boy like that. But how can he see me anyway - his back is turned?” I inquired. “Ah! God help you”, muttered my informant through the side of his mouth, without turning his face towards me, as he retired into the playroom. At that moment the wonderful specs man spun round suddenly, and in a loud, foreign accent, for everyone in the gallery to hear, said, “When a boy comes here from another school he will be expected to observe the customs of the place, and to behave in a proper and respectful manner, and no other attitude will be accepted. Let this be understood”. I shrivelled up and the episode ended. Many a time in future years have I seen absolute proof that those marvellous specs were equally efficient as mirrors, periscopes, or X-Ray machines. I may mention that next day my bat with the silver shield engraved, “Beaumont College, Lower Line batting average”, was carelessly (?) left lying about by me, and being spotted by Paddy Rath or someone in charge of the games, I was promptly “shunted” out of the Third Line into the Lower Line.
If Fr. Wisthoff was a King among Prefects, Fr Henry Lynch was a Prince. He was Second Line Prefect, and I could write plenty, if I had the space, about happenings during that year, during which I never regretted for a moment having migrated from Beaumont.
I did not come much into contact with Fr Wisthoff until the following year, though he seemed interested in me; and more than once, if he noticed me with a trailing boot lace or a crooked tie he said, half jestingly, “Is that how they dress at Beaumont College?”
It was next year when I was in the Higher Line as a “Lower Line Up” that the real war between me and the “Boss” commenced. My greatest friend at Tullabeg (he is to this day) was a six foot dunce named Edward Magawly Banon, who lived about eight miles from Tullabeg at Broughall Castle, an ancient edifice with walls eight feet thick, built in the far back ages, with slits for windows, and ghosts and ivy and legends to match. He was dark and mysterious, not a flier at games, hopeless at lessons, but hard to beat over a country, a conjurer with a fishing rod, knowledgeable with a gun, and better versed in the language of nature than most game keepers. These things fascinated me, and we became fast friends.
He went by the name of Abb Banon, and was generally alluded to as “The Abb”, having obtained the nickname on one occasion when in communicative mood he had informed the assembled multitude that he and his forefathers, in unbroken line, had lived in Broughall Castle since the time of Noah or some such period, whereupon the wit of the party christened him “The Aboriginal”, which had been conveniently shortened to “The Abb”. The masters never seemed to expect any work from him, and not fancying himself at games, he was generally to be seen on the playground surrounded by an admiring crowd drawing “some poor" gom” or propounding some original theory and producing tears of laughter in which “The Abb” himself never joined. Owing to his love of secrecy and mystery he would stop in the middle of a sentence if the “Boss” happened to pass by, and would not continue until he was out of earshot.
Nothing was so calculated to raise suspicion and exasperate Fr Wisthoff as this, and soon he plainly showed Edward Banon that he had no use for him, and was fully persuaded that both he and I (for we were inseparable) were plotting against his authority. We, on the other hand, considered ourselves within our rights, ill-used, and unfairly blamed, and altogether we had a thin time of it, as any “Lower Line Up” boy would be likely to have who claimed any rights or tried to ignore Fr Wisthoff.
Curiously enough this dark, self-contained trait in “The Abb's” character, which got him into such trouble at school was, he has told me, one of the things which helped him to success afterwards as a mining expert and consulting engineer. He is now a millionaire with offices in New York and Chicago, and goes by the name of “Silent Mike” in the financial world. But “The Abb” would require an article to himself and I am supposed to be writing about “The Boss”. He gave neither of us any peace - stormed at us in public and private, refused to sell us sweets, etc., in the shop, and boycotted us generally.
I can't quite remember how it came about or who proposed it, but during next Summer holidays "The Abb" and I got it well into our heads that we were not playing the garne and that it was our duty to capitulate. It is was a hard thing, but being two of us made it casier. We wrote a joint letter to Fr Wisthoff and also called and left cards on him at Gardiner Street.
We did not much relish going back after the holidays. I suppose we did not quite know how our request for an armistice would be received and we funked “reparations”.
The day came. I had just deposited my small things in my partition in the dormitory and returned to the gallery when the “Boss” called me into the shop. Now for it, thought I. I stood before him while he tapped his enormous snuff-box, opened it, balanced a half inch pyramid of snuff - the colour and consistency of damp peat and as strong as gelignite - on his thumb, whence it was received into his right nostril without wasting a grain (he was the cleanest and most fascinating snuff taker I have ever seen). At last, he put out his hand, took mine in his and said,
“Jack Meldon, is it peace or war?”
“You will be loyal?”
“You are this year to be Captain of the Higher Line ....”
I suppose he saw my eyes glisten. The reaction was nearly being too much for me. “Go”, said he, “and tell Edward Banon to come to me”. I staggered out of the shop with my heart in my mouth, and a box of Callard & Bowser's Nougat in the hand which had held his.
“The Abb” had his interview, and when he came out his pimply old face was shiny with perspiration, and his mouth was so dry I had to give him a cube of nougat before he could tell me that he and I had been appointed gamekeepers. This was a topping post under the “Boss's” régime, as we had not to clear out of the playroom into the gallery at the end of play hours as the others had, nor had we to go to the library unless we liked. We had the giving out of all the games and the arranging of who was to play billiards and handball. The boxing gloves, foils and single sticks could not be used unless we were actually present and in charge. The patronage belonging to the Attorney-Generalship was nothing to what was attached to a Tullabeg “gamekeeper”.
Gerald Kelly and Tom Considine were appointed “shopkeepers”, while Denis Kane, Tom Considine and I were “net makers”, another much sought after post reflecting the economic genius of the “Boss”. The “net makers” were privileged to sit in the shop breathing the mixed aroma of Callard and Bowser, Cadbury, Jacob, oranges, apples, tar-twine and machine oil, and spent their play hours on wet days making cricket nets for the school. It may seem rather a mixed blessing, but we loved it. And when Brian Spollen had been behaving himself, and the sods on the new ground were knitting satisfactorily, we often had a little feast to help us along. We were a happy family and the time passed merrily. “The Boss” shed his reserve to a great extent behind the closed doors of the shop, and nothing was too good for us once we had passed into his confidence.
"The Abb” was changed to the partition next mine in the dormitory, and we were allowed to keep our pipes and tobacco in our boxes there. Smoking was only allowed to the XI, including umpires, markers, etc., on evenings of “out match” days, but I had many a cigar given me by the “Boss” and smoked it in his room while we discussed important affairs of state.
Clongownians of that date will be surprised to note that “The Boss”, who never took any chances, always appointed the Captain of the House himself, instead of the appointment by ballot as at Clongowes.
Considering he was a foreigner to our games Fr Wisthoff was wonderful at mastering them and at knowing how they should be played. He started us playing Association Football or “Grass” as it was called in contradistinction to “Gravel”, the ordinary school game. How he got it into his head, I dont know, but he thought it would improve the dribbling game if played with a thin leather ball of nearly two feet diameter and as light as a feather, instead of the standard ball. He did not often do a really foolish thing, but when he produced this balloon which cost fabulous moneys we felt inclined to explode. We knew better, however, and really it was a good game, though of course it was not quite “Soccer”.
Some of the “gravel” devotees whose metier was bombarding high goalposts with shots from a distance saw no merit in “grass”. Harry O'Brien and “Coddie” Lyne (what extraordinary names boys do get) were two of these, and when the ball came to Harry and he was tackled for possession by the charging “Codfish”, Harry would take a flying kick in the hopes of “outing” him with the impact, and the delicate leather would go off sailing on the wind and bouncing over the sharp gravel, every bounce adding to the “Boss's” agony as he called out, “Ach, Hahrie! Hahrie! You should dreeble, dreeble - do not kick! You break the ball ! It is not made for kicking!”
Of course, being Captain, I saw a great deal of Fr Wisthoff, as he consulted me about many things. He sometimes gave his Captain rather difficult positions to cope with, but as he always backed him up loyally and held the tiller himself in stormy weather, everything | seemed plain sailing, and we were a very happy Higher Line during that last year at dear old Tullabeg.
The more we saw of the “Boss” the greater our admiration for him grew, and it seems to me, looking back now, that the tone which he moulded and fostered was the right tone, and if there were any of the Higher Line of 1885-1886, who did not “make good” in after life it was not the fault of “The Boss”.
Father Wisthoff is at present stationed at St. Ignatius College, Valkenburg, Holland, where he is Procurator of the House. He is as active and as keen as ever, is always ready to talk of Tullabeg and Clongowes, has not forgotten the slang he picked up in Ireland, and asserts frequently that the happiest days of his life were spent at Tullabeg and Clongowes. To the Irish Jesuits studying in Valkenburg, he invariably extends a hearty welcome; and they all have kindly recollections of the many services he has done them. He remembers, individually, the boys over whom he ruled, and even their nicknames are fresh in his memory.
In the sporting papers of 1886, the matches played by the united Tullabeg and Clongowes team, alluded to at the opening of Mr Meldon's article, are described with relish. “Blindly but aptly”,' writes the sporting journalist (why “blindly”?), the rival houses were “united” in their first match-that against Phoenix, and what was the result? The boys thought they had a holiday, but it was the “Premiers” who enjoyed it. ..... Phoenix put on two slow bowlers, the very ablest move that could be made against a school team who probably never saw a slow bowler before; and the best of the joke was that they had a man at deep long-on, where all the hits should have been made, who could not hold a catch if it was thrown from a yard's distance. He, however, was there, and served his purpose by in timidating the batsman from lashing out..... Touhy and J A Meldon made a long stand, and no wonder ! Balls were pitched up full to leg, and hit away, the most amusing feature being that Meldon was missed twice by his father, uncle or brother of that ilk, who played for Phoenix. This match was lost by an innings and 53 runs.
When describing the match against Trinity, the sporting journalist becomes epic in his indignation. “When a man comes up to you and enquires in a menacing manner whether your opinion of his ability to give you a black eye coincides with his or not, you naturally assume that the wish to do so, on his part, was father to the thought, and then the paternity of the wish exercises your ingenuity. It is almost impossible nowadays to omit a man's name from the list of scorers when he has made “duck”, or fail to praise his bowling when he has been hit all over the field, without being subject to bodily ill usage. Every Pressman in Dublin complains of the same thing, and surely, while it would please us extremely that every batsman should make a hundred runs, and every bowler take ten wickets at a minimum cost, we feel just as free to mention their failures when they are un fortunate.
After this vigorous prelude, the writer goes on: It is unnecessary to say much of the University match, as the Trinitarians had a wretched team, and altogether the affair was a regular farce. Play ceased before six o'clock on each day, because the natives wanted to attend “commons”' an apology which we certainly never heard of before. That the United team would have won the match but for this inexcusable procedure, we have not the slightest doubt; still, they have only themselves to blame for acquiescing in such an arrangement. The match against Leinster
◆ The Clongownian, 1938
Father Karl Wisthoff SJ
On the evening of the feast of Christ the King, Father Wisthoff died in the Marien Hospital in Aachen, at the age of nearly 93 years. Some souvenirs of his life will surely interest the many friends he won in Ireland during his years as Prefect at Tuliabeg and Clongowes. He was born near Essen on the 28th of January, 1845 - before the Famine. His father was the founder of the famous Sheeler glass-foundry, He liked to tell of how his father brought him, when thirteen, to Feldkirch College, in Austria; it was still the days of posting. Turn-pikes barred the entrances into the then umerous small German States, and for the journey to Feldkirch one needed a ministerial passport in large Folio!
Father Wisthoff entered the Society of Jesus in 1862, and spent the usual years of study in Mūnster, Maria Laach, Feldkirch, Ditton Hall, and Portico. The first thirty years of his work as priest was mostly devoted to education, and always “abroad”. They began with ten years as Prefect in Tullabeg, one in Clongowes, then came three years in North America and then fifteen in South America.
The last thirty years of his life were spent at Valkenburg, in Holland, where he was busied with the financial administration of the great philosophical and theological Seminary of the German Jesuits, until his 80th year. The last decade he was in charge of the Library and Archives. It is a remarkable proof of the strength and activity of mind and body in this old priest of between 80 and 90, that in the last ten years of his life, he wrote out up to 80,000 index-cards for the catalogue in a clear, legible hand an enormous service to all users of the Archives.
A tiny personal memory perhaps : One autumn evening I found him gazing at the wild vine on the side of the house, richly coloured in the gold of the sunset. “There's God with His paint brush”, said Father Wisthoff to me suddenly, his eyes lighting up with mischief. That was the real Father Wisthoff, the charm that won him so many friends,
To the happiest days of his later life belonged the celebration of the both anniversary of his ordination as priest, in 1936, and, a month before his death, the 75th anniversary of his entrance into the Society of Jesus. Among the many congratulations were letters from former pupils in Ireland and America; one of these, from Chile, only arrived after his death. For it was shortly after his last feast-day that he was called to his High Priest, Jesus Christ, Who for sixty years had come to him at the altar.
A last word from a memorial card : “Remarked for his kindness and delicacy in dealings with others, for breadth of mind in plan and execution, to which were joined strength of will and a tireless eagerness for work, with the best of good sense and good humour, Father Wisthoff was constantly winning new friends all his long life long”.
Paul Bolkovac SJ
Father Wisthoff : “The Boss”
by J Meldon
I was grieved to hear from Father Bolkovac SJ, Valkenburg, that Father Wisthoff's long life on earth had come to an end.
Edward Magawly Banon had written from Florida, and I from England, timing our letters to arrive in Valkenburg on the day he was to celebrate his Jubilee last year and informing him that we intended travelling to Valkenburg this summer specially to visit him. We had both corresponded with him at intervals since the closing of Tullabeg, as a school, 52 years ago (1886). He reigned there as Higher Line Prefect, and we had served him as Higher Line “Games Keepers” - an envied post under the Boss's régime. I mention this as I think it is a tribute to his gifts that two of his boys held himn in such affectionate veneration though so far apart for over half a century.
I never actually knew the origin of Father Wisthoff's soubriquet, “The Boss”. It certainly was apt. He was a Dictator in his own area - sometimes, I believe, a little out side it!
My reading of him came to be that in dealing with you as a boy, he took nothing for granted. He was his own Intelligence Officer, requiring no other, and when you were on trial or, worse still, under suspicion, he was an awkward customer: He possessed himself of your utmost character, but having once satisfied himself that you were on the square and loyal to him and to the School, he trusted you blindly from that moment, and nothing and nobody thereafter could shake his faith in your honesty of purpose.
Besides the post of Games Keeper, I held the much sought after appointment of “Net Maker”, an industry reflecting the economic genius of Father Wisthoff. The other favoured ones were Gerald Hart-Kelly, Denis Kane and Tom Considine. On wet days the Net Makers were '”privileged” to sit in the shop, breathing the mixed aroma of Nougat chocolate, oranges, apples, tar twine, and machine oil. We manufactured all the Cricket and Tennis nets for the School under the technical instruction of “The Boss”.
This may appear a somewhat mixed blessing!, but we loved it - a proof of the magnetism of the famous Prefect - and often we had a little feast to help us along. “The Boss” shed his reserve almost completely behind the closed doors of the Shop, and nothing being too good for us, once we had passed into his confidence, we were a happy family, and time passed merrily.
The more we saw of Father Wisthoff the greater our veneration for him grew, and I love to think back on those happy days, though of course there is always a tinge of loneliness when one hears of another dear friend passing on. RIP