Thoughts for March 31 from Fr Willie Doyle

Fr Doyle recorded the following incident relating to this day 100 years ago. It was his first night sleeping in a dug out.

I had rather an amusing experience the first night I spent in the trenches. On arriving here I found two officers in the dug-out, which was intended for me, but as they were leaving the next day, I did not care to evict them. After some search I came across an unoccupied, glorified rabbit hole (any port in a storm.) It was not too inviting looking, and rather damp, but I got a trench- board which made a capital foundation for a bed and spread my sleeping bag over it. Let me say here that I do not recommend ‘trench-boards’ for beds. It is simply a kind of ladder with flat steps, which is laid at the bottom of the trench, but being rather narrow requires great skill to prevent yourself from rolling off during the night. In addition, the sharp edges of the steps have a trick of cutting into your back and ribs making you feel in the morning as if you had been at Donnybrook Fair the night before.

In spite of it all I slept soundly till I was awakened by feeling a huge rat sitting on my sheet. The rats round here beat anything I have ever seen. If I told you they were as big as sheep you would scarcely believe me, so let me say a lamb: in any case this fellow was a whopper, weighing fully 7 pounds as I proved afterwards. I thought first of all that ‘I had them again’, but as I was gradually awoke more fully I felt his weight and could dimly see the black outline. Before I quite realised what was happening, a warm soft tongue began to lick my face, and I recognised my old friend – the dog.

Today also marks an important anniversary in Fr Doyle’s life – he entered the Jesuit novitiate 125 years ago today.