Charles Gardiner, class '46
1929 - 2006
With some people the emphasis is always on what they did. With Charlie, one instinctively thinks of what he was. Through the years, he was a consistent person with his own special style, as recognisably the same person I first met at school as years later when he paid his final visit to Mill Hill three months before he died.
Slender build, always with the slightest of stoops, long narrow face, mobile lips, observant eyes under neat wavy hair. Strong wiry build, long tapering capable hands. A body built for action, but not particularly a games person, though a competent tennis player when younger. He enjoyed almost any form of physical work, often to the limit of his strength. Walking, too, he enjoyed, though at a fast rate, often unaware that others could not keep up.
A mind full of contradictions. One of the mysteries of his life was reading. He was seldom seen to read yet seemed to have absorbed much that could only be gained through reading. Almost innocent of Latin yet a with a mind stocked with Latin botanical names which seemed to cause him no trouble at all. An obviously excellent mathematician who, nevertheless, struggled to gain his academic qualifications, a trial which he bore with a certain stoicism.
A night time person. With a seemingly endless capacity to watch both late-night films and nature documentaries and to absorb what they presented. His mind was stocked with information, enabling him to bring out jewels of instruction about the abstruse and obscure in the areas in which he was interested.
He had a capacity for detail which shaped his interest in computers, which increasingly occupied him in the last twenty years five of his life. He did not write much, nor was he given to keeping accounts, so word processing and accounting programmes did not occupy him. What fascinated him was the devising of programmes. It was the technical challenge that attracted him, rather than the more pedestrian use. But, late at night the night owl in him had him crouched before the screen playing some computer game.
Those hands were skilled in the use of a range of tools. He always wanted to fit the room he occupied with extra shelving or even, in one instance, with a complete wardrobe. But these additions always had a Heath Robinson quality about them and were never quite completed, for he had no interest in the external appearance of the things he made and had little interest in his material surroundings. What mattered was that a thing should work and serve the purpose he had in mind. One marvelle to see the neatness of his personal appearance emerging from a room in chaos. Drawers would lie open, odd shoes scattered haphazardly around, a desk in disarray and money – to which again he had no great attachment – deposited seemingly at random.
After God, his abiding life-centre was his family. Both his mother and father came from large families. He had two sisters and two brothers, who all married and had families. In a mind which seemed to have no capacity for history, and lacked even a skeleton framework of the past, he knew the exact relationship of even the remotest of cousins, in a family network which must have extended to several hundreds. He was proud of them, and interested in all their doings, with that affectionate curiosity and retentiveness that characterised him when dealing with things that mattered to him. Weddings and baptisms were the cement on which his family relationships were held together and as family chaplain he was always available for these occasions.
For many years he acted as support to Fr Joe McCann in the ‘Sing Out’ at St Paul’s. Stage scenery was something that suited his DIY instincts. And he developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the younger generation of Clontarf boys, somehow always linked in his mind to his knowledge of their sisters and their lives. And this ‘distaff’ approach was to be seen also in his work for nurses in Clonsilla Hospital where he acted as chaplain for some years while in Castleknock. For the rest of his life he was in demand as a celebrant for their weddings and as a seemingly unstoppable baptiser of their children.
He worked in three parishes in England, first in St Cedd’s, Goodmayes, then in St Vincent’s, Sheffield, where he was parish priest and, finally, in Sacred Heart in Mill Hill. In each, he showed the same capacity to forge warm family friendships, backed by a detailed knowledge of the doings of the family, a knowledge which was regularly topped up as he visited through the years. Through all of this the linking thread was a deep interest in and concern for people. They sensed it and mourned, as we all do, at his passing.
Philip Walshe CM
Charles Gardiner CM
Born: Ballina, Co Mayo, 3 June 1929
Entered the CM: 7 September 1946
Vows: 8 September 1948
Ordained Priest: 30 May 1954 at Holy Cross College, Clonliffe, by Dr John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin
1954-’67: St Paul’s, Raheny
1967-’69: St Cedd’s, Goodmayes
1969-’71: St Mary’s, Strawberry Hill
1971-’81: St Paul’s, Raheny
1981-’88: St Vincent’s, Castleknock
1988-’96: St Vincent’s, Sheffield
1996-’99: Sacred Heart, Mill Hill
1999-2006 St Paul’s, Raheny
Died; 20 October 2006