Stinking Soup and Sausages: Life in a Kerry Seminary in the 1960s

Urinating in the priests’ milk jug in the early hours of the morning shows a certain level of bravado among the male boarders of St Andrew’s seminary, the subject of the short, succinct Sausages for Tuesday.  It also displays, however, an inordinate level of resentment.


Sausages for Tuesday, a book by Patrick Kennelly, schoolteacher and brother of poet and lecturer, Brendan, was first published in 1969.  It is the journey of an adolescent boy – nicknamed Pompey – through the fictitious minor seminary boarding school of St Andrew’s College – a thinly disguised St Brendan’s College, Killarney – in the early 1960s.[1]


A fearful journey it is too, fear of school life, fear of society, fear of self, and of course, fear of ‘the Fathers’ – the teachers.  A scene of force-feeding serves well as illustration:


‘I don’t feel like soup today, Father.’

‘Well, you’ll have to feel like it, boss.  Either you take the soup or leave the College to make way for a more healthy specimen.’

Christ!  How could you take it?  But, you would have to, because Fr Daly meant what he said ... You took your spoon and began drinking ... It did not taste too bad but the smell! ... Suddenly the guts in your stomach contracted and pushed the soup back up.


Punishment for throwing up the force-fed soup for the hapless Pompey is a summons to the president’s office where the boy is treated to another bowl of ‘stinking soup,’ and informed that if he doesn’t take it, he can pack his bags and leave the college.


If being force-fed is not enough to fear, there are beatings too, and initiation ceremonies, and fear of expulsion from reading unsuitable material, in this case, Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover – a book held to be obscene literature, and banned in the UK until 1960.


Pompey had entered the seminary with the intention of becoming a priest but it is soon realised that he has no vocation, and after much inner torment, he finds the courage to confront the powers-that-be about it.  Indeed, his fearlessness in this respect, and Patrick Kennelly’s courage in penning the story, mirrors that of James Anthony Froude in his 1849 tract, Nemesis of Faith.[2] The consequences for Froude, however, saw him cast out by family and society – and his book publicly burned.


In 1969, the situation was not quite so dire for Patrick Kennelly, then a 23-year-old National Teacher in Duagh, Co Kerry, though the tut-tuts were loud enough.  As John B Keane put it, ‘The book is bound to annoy some people and it will probably offend others, but then it is easy to offend these.’[3]


Courageous: A young Patrick Kennelly (left) at the time of publication of his first book, Sausages for Tuesday, and right, the author today, and his second work, A Place Too Small for Secrets


Today, Sausages for Tuesday holds a dark appeal.  It is written in the third person, which creates a remarkable sense of distance and dislocation from the narrator, and adds to an atmosphere harsh, solitary and unpleasant.  The isolation is underscored by Pompey’s inability to talk to his own father.


Contemporary reviews of the book described it as ‘powerful and moving’ – in the same category as The Portrait of the Artist and Le Grand Meaulnes, the novel of adolescence – and its author ‘a courageous and candid young man’: [4]


His Sausages for Tuesday will offend a lot of people – certainly the academic clergy – but he pulls no punches … I finished the book with the nostalgic feeling that it could all have been written from the tattered remains of my own Biatas diaries.[5]


A copy of Sausages for Tuesday is held in the Castleisland District Heritage archive.[6]



[1] ‘So passionately is the book written that one must assume that much of the material must derive from personal experience.  Somewhere in Ireland, one must infer, exists a college that resembles the fictional institute described by the author, a savage indictment of an educational system dedicated to the formation of young priests … one expects the usual features of a public school, strict discipline, bullying and bad food, but not the cheerlessness, the brutality, and repression for which the authorities are responsible, and the drunkenness and homosexuality of which some of the boys are guilty’ (Irish Press, 1 November 1969).   

‘Kennelly, whose last published work, Sausages for Tuesday evoked the experience of all Irish Catholic boarding schools from his sojourn in St Brendan’s, Killarney, shows remarkable tolerance, understanding and perspicacity in his treatment of Knockore’ (Review of A Place Too Small for Secrets, Patrick Kennelly’s second book, published in 2002.  Review in Donegal News, 14 June 2002).

[2] ‘One is reminded of Joyce’s dictum that there is ‘no heresy or no philosophy which is so abhorrent to the church as a human being.’  But whereas Joyce’s rejection of authority was based on philosophical grounds, the rebellion of Pompey proceeds from his desire for a full, healthy, human life.  He is opposed to a repressive authority which promotes servility and mental dishonesty, and pursues his lonely path of self-discovery unaided by either mentors or parents’ (Review, Irish Press, 1 November 1969). 

[3] Limerick Leader, 1 November 1969.

[4] Review, Irish Press, 1 November 1969.  ‘It has some of the qualities of the short French novel, clarity, economy and intensity … a deeply-felt study of life in an Irish seminary during the final year of the nameless hero.’

[5] Tuam Herald, 24 January 1970.

[6] IE MOD/C98.