St Thomas the Apostle


Yesterday I went to The Royal Hospital, Chelsea. It was a Vets’ Service. Let’s get something clear. If you are an American you will assume it was a Service for Veterans; if not you will intuit that it was attended by uniformed members of The Royal Army Veterinary Corps.  –more–>

After they had filed into the Chapel, designed by Christopher Wren after our Civil War, a motley bunch of uniformed Cadets slouched in. My disapproval waned when I read on the Service sheet that they were from 104 Irish Guards Army Cadet Detachment in Hayes. They sat on the knife boards* facing each other. My observations may not surprise you. They had no knowledge of the liturgy, drummed into me by going to church at home and at school. They didn’t know the hymns but neither did I. When it came to the last one, For All The Saints, they didn’t even know that; I belted it out. At the Royal Hospital one sings the National Anthem. They didn’t stand to attention, although in uniform, and again didn’t know the words. I was little better as, unusually, we sang the second verse which I don’t know, so I goldfished them. However, I felt proud that they had chosen to become Cadets and especially of the Irish Guards. Hard to know how Irish they are but there was one carrot-haired boy who looked like he’d make a great wartime soldier.

The music yesterday is worth mentioning. It was the Feast of St Thomas the Apostle so the Introit was Quia Vibist Me, by Hans Leo Hassler. The words aren’t too long so I can squeeze them in.

Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. Alleluia.

The Missa Brevis was by Zoltán Kodály, the Communion Motet, Glorious in Heaven, by Percy Whitlock and the organ voluntary, Marche Pontificale, by Charles-Marie Widor.

When I reflect on life and eternity I am without doubt a Doubting Thomas. When I go to the Royal Hospital I don’t lose those doubts but I do have a chance to recite a liturgy remembered from my childhood, to enjoy beautiful music and to reflect.

*The seats on the gangway in the Eton College Chapel are popularly known as the “knife-board.”

Professor Lord Pinkrose

Alan Bennett as Professor Lord Pinkrose

Professor Lord Pinkrose is a fictional character in Olivia Manning’s Fortunes of War.  Alan Bennett plays him to perfection in the 1987 BBC adaptation. He is portrayed by Manning as being self-important, self-centred, snobbish and rude. It’s interesting to discover that he is not entirely fictional. Continue reading Professor Lord Pinkrose

Two Birthdays


St. Borchill is a now obscure Irish saint. She must have been better known 250 years ago as the church at Dysart in Co Louth (above) bears her name. The church was built in 1766, early as anti-Catholic legislation had not yet started to be repealed. The site is carved out of a corner of the Barmeath estate and must have been a gift from my family. It is an austere but handsome building and still in use. Continue reading Two Birthdays