STORY'S FROM THE CATALYST.....
Siegfried Sassoon - War poet
One of the leading poets of the First World War, Siegfried Sassoon died 50 years ago, on 1st September 1967. His intense, dramatic verses highlighted the futility of war and attacked those who in his view sought to prolong it.
Sassoon was also known for his prose, particularly the semi-autobiographical “Memoirs of a Foxhunting Man” and its sequels, published in the 1920s and 30s.
He was the product of a wealthy Kent family: his father was a notable Jewish merchant and his mother came from a family of artists and sculptors. He went to Marlborough School and Cambridge University but did not obtain a degree. He served with distinction in the First World War, earning the Military Cross in 1916 for bringing wounded soldiers to safety.
He was discharged after being injured but remained deeply affected by the horrors of war, writing the anti-war “Soldiers’ Declaration” and flinging his MC into the Mersey – at least, that is what everyone thought, until it turned up at his ex-wife’s former home on the Isle of Mull in 2007.
Instead of being court-martialled, he was sent to Craiglockhart Military Hospital in Edinburgh for treatment. Here he met Wilfred Owen, several years younger than him, who was inspired to write Great War poetry himself. Owen was killed a week before the war ended after returning unnecessarily to the front – despite Sassoon trying to prevent him from doing so.
In his later years Sassoon became a devout Roman Catholic, and his final poems reflected that.
I knew a simple soldier boy
Does it matter? - losing your legs?
DIAMOND CELEBRATON FOR PETER AND PAT
On Thursday 29th June Pat and Pete Coward celebrated their Diamond Wedding Anniversary. At the 9.30am Eucharist in St Mary & St Helen, the Vicar offered them a special blessing during the service. Incidentally, they were married on the same day as our dear friends departed, Daphne and Bob Ellison. Pat and Pete were married in the morning, and Daphne and Bob in the afternoon of 29th June at St Mary & St Helen.
Round Robin via the West Coast and East Coast Main Lines
On Tuesday 4th July my alarm went off at 04.30 (no, not for work) to catch the 06.09am from Hooton, changing at Liverpool Lime Street and Wigan North Western for the Virgin Pendolino to Edinburgh.
I arrived at Edinburgh Waverley spot on time at 10.17am. This gave me just over five hours in the capital. The weather was rain, rain and more rain, but that didn’t dampen my spirits.
Walking into Princes Street my first spot was the buses in purple and white and then I saw the Scott Monument and in the distance Edinburgh Castle.
Time soon caught up with me and after something to eat I jumped on a tram back down Princes Street as I was booked on the 15.30, this time travelling down the East Coast. This was the main reason for the trip!
I was lucky to get a cheap advance 1st class with compliments. As the engine (named Durham Cathedral) pulled out of Waverley, the highlight of my day was beginning.
As it veered round heading towards Berwick, hugging the rugged coastline, the views were just breathtaking. Luckily, the rain had eased off and it was just like moving postcards. I was told to look out for Holy Island, but - blink, and you missed it! I journeyed on, crossing the bridge into Newcastle, passed Durham with views of the Cathedral and onwards to Darlington. From Darlington to York is the fastest part of the East Coast line.
The night Diana died
From time to time I am invited to a local group called ‘Speakability’. It is made up of people who have suffered a stroke or other condition which has made ordinary conversation difficult. Visitors like me are invited to introduce a topic which will encourage them to contribute to an animated discussion, forgetting any disability. For my last visit, I chose a topic which is particularly relevant this month, the twentieth anniversary of the event: ‘Where were you when you heard that Diana was dead?.
I began with a brief resume of my own experience - woken by my wife to be told that Diana had been killed in a car crash. An hour or two later the bedside phone rang. Would I present a live programme on Radio 2 that evening reflecting the amazing impact this still young woman had had on so many areas of life? I said I would, but only once I’d taken the early Communion service. When I went into church at 7.45 there was a bunch of flowers on the altar and a card, ‘For Diana’. The public response would be similarly spontaneous. When I got to London thousands of people had flocked to Kensington Palace, crowds that would grow bigger over the next few days.
Well, I said to them, what’s your story of that day? And out it all poured. The leader eventually had to call a halt
because we had to vacate the hall. Their stories were of shock, of tears, of feeling bereaved even though they had never met her. One man had been in Paris at the time and knew a nurse who was on the team that tried in vain to save her life. Another woman had got up early to visit her daughter and hadn’t heard the news. She arrived to find her daughter sobbing in her kitchen.
It was obvious that this one woman - ‘the People’s Princess’, as Tony Blair dubbed her - had made an enormous impact on their lives. It might be interesting at your next home meeting or family gathering to repeat that exercise. I think you’ll be surprised at the response.
A DINNER FOR DOREEN
Doreen Gordon ‘retired’ from her position as Churchwarden at the Annual Meeting in April, and friends and church colleagues joined her for a meal at the Hinderton Arms on Monday 29th May.