Category Archives: Comment

Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2: 41-52 & 1 Samuel 2: 18-20, 26)

I’ve discovered that as I’ve got older it has become easier to forget where I’ve put things. It’s actually quite worring.

Keys – losing my house keys would be a nightmare. But some of you will know that I have left church keys in all sorts of places in the last few years, fortunately without dire consequences as yet.

Notes for my sermon – imagine getting to church just before the service and discovering you’ve left your notes at home. I have managed it at least once recently and had to adlib the sermon. Some might say, why, couldn’t we have just got on with the service without a sermon?

Jo – I do know my wife’s name, I promise you but I have caught myself calling her Gill on a number of occasions recently. Gill is my sister’s name.

I hope you can sympathise with me!

I wonder, have you ever searched for something only to find that it wasn’t really lost? You ransack the house looking for spectacles, only to find that they’re on your head. You turn out the drawer looking for the tin-opener, only to find that it was already on the work-top. You search down the sides of the cushions on the sofa for your car-keys, only to find them in your pocket.

Embarrassing, isn’t it! You want to hide! If you’re like me you’re tempted to make up a good story about how you found them, especially if you’ve involved other people in an unnecessary search!

Mary and Joseph search Jerusalem for three days thinking that Jesus is lost. When they finally track him down in the temple they find that he isn=t lost at all. Jesus says very calmly, “Why were you searching for me?”

Jesus has recognised his identity as God’s son: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Just like Samuel in the Old Testament reading above, Jesus was at home, most at home in God’s house. He was not lost at all.

This visit of Jesus to the temple at twelve years of age – perhaps his bar-mitzfer – is like a homecoming. He’s in his Father’s house. For him, a theological principle has become an intimate, personal experience. The Jews believed in the divine fatherhood of God. For Jesus this was not just theory, it was a lived out experience – time and again throughout the Gospels we are reminded that he knew God as his Father. In the Temple, Jesus was at home.

You might know this quotation from a prayer of St. Augustine: “Lord, you have made us and our hearts are restless until they find their resting place in you.”

Jesus experienced a homecoming in his visit to the temple. We can similarly experience a homecoming – finding our resting place in Christ. Jesus says: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Many people spend their lives searching for something – not sure exactly what it is they’re looking for. It is the Bible’s claim, not just St. Augustine’s, that we find ourselves when we find God – that our searching ceases when we find our rest in God.

For Christians that sense of belonging, of being at home, is embodied in the Eucharist. At God’s table, we are welcomed without condemnation, without question. As we take the bread and as we take the wine, we are at home, sharing in fellowship with the God who made us, is with us, and thinks the world of us. We’re not lost – we’re at home.

Uganda Railways – Part 29 – The Railway Magazine 1950 – April 1950

I have been looking through old railway magazines over the Christmas break this year (2018) and came  across articles in the 1950 editions of the Railway Magazine which relate to this series of posts. The first is in the April 1950 edition of the magazine. ……..

The April 1950 edition of The Railway Magazine [1] contains the first of these articles written by Thomas H. Cobb. The next three images are scans of the relevant pages of The Railway MagazineThe text is reproduced below:

At 10 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays the down Uganda Mail starts from Kampala on its 884-mile journey to the coast at Mombasa. In its course it crosses the Nile within a mile of its source, the highest railway summit in the British Empire, the equator three times, and diagonally the Eastern Rift Valley and up the eastern wall of it. From Nairobi it drops over 5,000 ft. to the sea in little more than 300 miles, and the whole journey takes just under 48 hours.

The Uganda Railway was begun on December 11, 1895, with construction on a few miles on Mombasa island and on the adjacent mainland. There was con¬siderable skepticism as to whether the line would pay, but its avowed intention was to put an end to the slave trade. The work was done at high speed and survey parties were always busy on the next section ahead of the construction. By 1899 the railhead had reached the further edge of the Athi Plain at mile 315, and halted while the survey parties went ahead, and a supply base was established at the foot of the hills. This spot has become Nairobi. Indians were imported to build the line to the metre-gauge (which it still remains). object of the builders was to push on to Uganda as quickly as possible; one result was that Kenya was ‘discovered’ on the way.

After Nairobi the line climbed into the Kikuyu Hills and dropped down the escarpment into the Eastern Rift Valley. Such was the hurry to get the line open that the word ‘dropped’ is almost literal; a temporary line was laid to overcome this descent of 1,552ft on gradients varying from 1 in 7 to 1 in 1.75. This section was worked by ropes and for the steeper two parts a carrier was used for the trucks, as at Hownes Gill on the Stanhope & Tyne Railway in County Durham. The permanent line was brought into use in 1901, and the ‘lift’ remains only a scar on the hil-face. North-west along and across the bottom of the valley construction was easy, but at Nakuru the line had to begin to surmount the Mau Plateau over which it passes,with asummit of 8,322 ft. There are 27 steel trestle viaducts on this section, and the temporary line climbed down one side of the ravines on a gradient of 1 in 30, reversed and climbed out the other side on the same grade. From the summit the descent to the Lake is steeper, about 4,500 ft. in 80 miles. The first loco¬motive reached Port Florence (Kisumu) on Lake Victoria on December 20, 1901. Kisumu is 179 miles by water from Port Bell, which is 6 miles by rail from Kampala, the commercial capital of Uganda.

This land and water route remained the route to Uganda till the first half of the 1920s, when the all-rail route was completed, branching northwards from. the Kisumu line at Nakuru and sur- mounting the Uasin Gishu Plateau near Timboroa, over the record summit of 9,136 ft. The line then descended into Uganda and joined the Busoga Railway, which was already in existence from Jinja to Namasagali, circumventing the rapids of the Nile. The junction, at Mbulamuti, about 30 miles north of Jinja, was reached in 1928. In 1931 the last section of the main line was opened, from Jinja to Kampala. The main engineering feature of this section is the single-span rail and road bridge over the Nile at Jinja, just below the Ripon Falls, where the Nile starts its 3,000-mile journey to the Mediterranean.

The Uganda Railway reached Tororo, the first station in Uganda, in 1927; just before it reached the objective that its name implied, it was renamed the Kenya & Uganda Railway, which it remained till May 1, 1948, when all the railway and steamship services in Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika amalgamated to form the East African Railways & Harbours. These lines have always been state railways, though they are administered as a separate department.

A journey from Mombasa to Kampala is by no means dull. The mail train consists of about 13 carriages, three first, three second, three or four third, a restaurant car and two or three old first class non-corridor carriages used as seconds. This comes to about 400 tons tare. In addition, there are two vans for crew and three or four covered freight trucks. From Mombasa the train is worked by a Mikado, built in 1927 by Robert Stephenson, Darlington, originally intended for shunting, but now used on most passenger trains between Mombasa and Nairobi, where the lines are 80lb to the yard, laid in 40 ft. lengths. The ruling grade from Mombasa to Nairobi is 1.18 per cent. in the up direction and 1.05 per cent. in the down, apart from the first few miles, where it is 2 per cent. to get clear of the coast. Up means up¬country. All gradient posts are marked in percentages.

The line is single throughout, with passing loops at most of the stations, and water at intervals of some 20 miles. Signals guard the entrance to each loop, one above the other on the one post, the top indicating the left-hand loop, and the bottom the right. There is a daily service from Mombasa to Nairobi, and twice a week the trains run right through to Kampala. The train leaves Mombasa at 4.30 p.m. and reaches Nairobi (315 miles) at 8.52 the next morning. First and second class carriages have side corridors, and the seats form sleeping berths at night, four to a compartment as the racks let down to form the upper berths.

There is practically no difference between first and second class, except that the former have a fan and bed-reading lamps, and are slightly less crowded. Third class carriages have wooden seats and centre corridors; they are always crammed to bursting point. Hire of bedding, and food in the restaurant cars is cheap, and passengers are officially encouraged not to tip company servants – but they do. Speed is never high; the up mail train covers the first 30 miles out of Mombasa in 100 min., including two stops. All trains stop at all stations, with the exception of a few ‘local’ stations neat Mombasa and an odd flag stop or two usually missed by the mails. The Uganda Mail heading for Lake Victoria in the Kikuyu Hills, banked by 4-8-0 Locomotive No. 69. [2][4]

Before it gets dark you can see the whole of Mombasa Island and Kilindini Harbour as the line clears the coconut groves and negotiates the first spiral into the hills. The first thing that strikes a stranger is the sharpness of the curves on the metre-gauge; it is not unusual for a long train to be travelling in three directions at once, and the engine is frequently in full view of he windows of the ninth or tenth carriage. After dark the train is a lighted snake, as, even when the passengers’ lights are out, each carriage has a side-light in the middle just under the eaves. The engine pierces a tunnel in the darkness with its search-light. In the night are passed, Mackinnon Road, the new military headquarters of growing importance; Voi, junction for Moshi on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, and the Tanga line (the only physical connection with the railways of Tanganyika); and Tsavo, famous for its man-eater lions which made havoc of the construction gangs.[3]

You wake up next morning on what looks like Salisbury Plain, only here you climb up the side of every combe, round the end and out the other side. When I later saw this country from the air it looked quite flat and the railway seemed to be making an absurd fuss. At Nairobi the mail waits an hour-and-¬a-half. The station has three long platforms, mostly covered with awnings. the island connected with the main platform (which is used by the mails in both directions) by a subway. There is a complete set of signals, and it is the only station on the line which has the air of a station such as we know it in England. As at Marylebone, with luck one might see a train at any hour of the day. The mail endures some mar¬shalling, and some coaches are added for the longer stage on to Kampala.

When I came up we started from Nairobi with thirteen large coaches and several smaller ones, vans and trucks on the back, a tare weight of 470 tons. We were headed by a 4-8-2 + 2-8-4 Beyer Garratt, and were banked by one of the shapely 4-8-0 tender engines which are the maids of all work. The line turns a sharp right-angle to the north to circumvent the town, and then plunges straight into the 1 in 50, which lasts for nearly 20 miles with few intermissions, and some pitches of 1 in 40. The scenery changes to woods of eucalyptus and intensive cultivation.

At lunch time, after a morning of heavy slogging, the train reaches Uplands, and suddenly, the Rift Valley is spread at your feet. Here a new alignment, the third in 50 years, was brought into use at the beginning of 1948, and the trees have not had time to grow high enough to obscure the view. The valley stretches as far as you can see, blue in the midday haze, and in the middle you look down into the crater of the extinct volcano Longonot. The railway winds down the face of the escarpment on a steady grade of 1.05 per cent., which is considerably better than the old route, up which trains took 2 hr. to struggle 15 miles, with two stops. In the floor of the valley the line passes hills of fantastic shape, like sleeping camels and inverted washbasins, and you can see the beautiful lakes Naivasha and Elementeita; at Eburru jets of steam spurt out of the ground. There are all kinds of game in the valley, and you are unlucky it you do not see a giraffe or an ostrich, or at least a herd of buck. In the evening the train arrives at Nakuru; 120 miles in just under 8 hr.

After Nakuru the light remains only long enough to see the Lake Nakuru, away to the south, with its fringe of pink flamingos, and as the darkness falls the old main line to Kisumu branches to the left. The line to Uganda goes up the side of a slope in a series of S-bends, and as the telegraph wires follow the line, from below they look like a forest as they thread backwards and forwards about six times. To see the next 125 miles to Eldoret, in some ways the most interesting of all, it is necessary to travel in a goods train which starts at dawn and arrives at dusk, taking just 12 hr. on the journey. The mail trains traverse this section in the night in both directions.

Some goods trains have a third class carriage at the back, and as the whole train is continuous-braked, travelling is not uncomfortable. Speed between stops is not much slower than the passenger trains, but crossing places may entail waits of over an hour, so heavily occupied is this section with goods trains during the day time. Soon the climbing starts in earnest, and the line is much on a shelf in wooded ravines, crossing side valleys on horseshoe embankments. From Maji Mazuri to Equator Station is over 20 miles, dreaded by enginemen for fear the water will run out; this stretch is over an hour’s collar work.

Below Equator station the line rises clear of the trees and the country is grassy and open, the scenery Alpine without the mountains or snow. An S-bend, and the lower of the two spirals is encountered. In the station the ‘line’ runs through the platform, at an altitude of 8,716 ft., 1,050 ft. above Maji Mazuri. The equator is crossed again, the second spiral is threaded, and the equator is crossed for the third and last time. An EC3 at the spiral close to Timboroa Station. [2]

Before the summit, the line ploughs into wonderful cuttings and woods, and the absolute top is reached at 9,136 ft.The Summit, the highest altitude reached by any British colonial railway. [5]

Timboroa station, 9,001 ft., is just beyond the Summit. Because of these altitudes it was considered that the vacuum brake would not hold, so the Westinghouse is fitted.

The descent to Eldoret is quite different in scenery. First come bamboo forests, and a steel trestle over a ravine, then open country not unlike the moors between Riccarton Junction and Whitrope summit on the Waverley route. At times you might think you were coming down Shap to the south, or crossing the blasted heath between Penruddock and Troutbeck. The kindlier country begins at Eldoret, where you are down to 6,000ft again. Eldoret, a thriving centre of Kenya settlers, has the unfortunate distinction of having its two passenger trains a week in each direction in the station between 1 and 1.30 a.m. From Eldoret to Tororo I have not travelled by daylight, even in a goods train.

At Tororo the line enters Uganda. It is hotter and greener than Kenya, but, apart from the rocks of Tororo, reputed scene of Conan Doyle’s Lost World, the scenery as far as Jinja is dull. The line runs up and down small slopes, between elephant grass, sometimes as tall as 20 ft., bananas, coffee and cassava. At one place the Mpologoma swamp is crossed, an oasis of bright green papyrus, on a 2-mile embankment which gives continual trouble to the maintenance department. Near Jinja, extensive sugar estates are passed. The wealthy Kampala dwellers cut this last bit out by having their cars to meet them at Nsinze, whence it takes about 3 hr. by road to get home; the train, winding northwards through Busoga, and wandering back south with a touch of east, spends 7 hr. After Jinja, which is reached after lunch, the line twists and plunges down to cross the Nile. This is one of the highlights of the journey.

The bridge is in sight of the Ripon and the Owen Falls, and the line swings round and climbs till it passes just above the former. The clear blue of Lake Victoria and the broken white of the falls are not only a relief to the eye of the hot and dusty traveller, but here at your feet is the answer to the age-old riddle of where the Nile comes from; this is its very source. One wonders if the
Baganda and Basoga, who lived in mutual enmity on either side of it, ever used to ask themselves where the river went to. Opposite is the golf-course on which hippopotami form natural bunkers; and are the rub of the green.

Buganda, entered on crossing the Nile, is a country of hills all same-height with flat tops, divided by swamps. The line was built more cheaply here, and there are many short stretches of 2 per cent. uncompensated on the curves. The line rises and falls to cross almost every anthill. The downhill stretches lead to swamps which are crossed on embankments with right-angle bends, and as speed gathers you wonder what will happen at the bottom as you see the Beyer-Garratt swing round in full view of your window. About 10 years ago there was a terrible accident, and a crowded train plunged into a swamp. Over 20 passengers from the teeming third class carriages were pinned into the ooze and drowned.

Kampala, reached almost exactly 48 hr. after leaving Mombasa, is a single-platform station with a short bay at the eastern end. It is built at the top of a single line ramp of 2 per cent., and the yards are in the lower ground below. There is no turntable, but a triangle is laid. out among the eucalyptus trees. The platform is covered most of its length, and the offices and station building are the best in the town. There are plans to extend the railway 200 -miles farther west to Toro, on the slopes of Ruwenzori, which divides Uganda from the Belgian Congo. There are vast copper deposits there, but the proposed railway may be abandoned in favour of a canal, which will involve the deepening of a river whose flow is so sluggish that it is marked on maps as flowing both ways.

Some curiosities to end with: from Mbulamuti to Jinja the east-west main line runs distinctly eastwards for about 20 miles. The curves on the line have the inner edge of the outer rail oiled by hand twice a week. The two summits of 8,322 and 9,136 ft. on the Kisumu and Kampala lines respectively are only 20 miles apart, but on quite separate lines, yet they have each pursued an independent course of over 60 miles from their divergence at Nakuru. The main line from Nairobi to Uplands is being re-aligned, which will entail a completely new course for about 20 miles, and the complete abandonment of one station; at one point a tunnel is being cut, which will rob the tunnel on the Kisumu line of its uniqueness in East Africa. The only racial discrimination on the railway is against Europeans, as they are not issued with tickets below second class, even for trains which consist of third class carriages only.

References

  1. Thomas H. Cobb; The Kenya-Uganda Railway; in The Railway Magazine No. 588 Vol. 96 April 1950, p262-267.
  2. The Railway Magazine April 1950, p250.
  3. The Railway Magazine April 1950, p265.
  4. The Railway Magazine April 1950, p264.
  5. The Railway Magazine April 1950, p251.

New Year – New Beginnings

NEW YEAR – NEW BEGINNINGS?

As the New Year arrives I often find myself looking back – pondering what has happened over the last 12 months – and looking forward, wondering what is ahead.

The past year has included for me, most recently, the death of my mother. In the past 18 months I have lost both of my parents. They both had good long lives and strong faith and they were both looking forward to being at home with their Lord in heaven. Some of Dad’s last words to Mum were, “I go to a better, better place.” We reflected on the truth of that hope as part of Dad’s funeral. More recently at Mums’ funeral, we again reminded ourselves of the depth of love with which we are surrounded as followers of Jesus. We can let go of our loved ones confident that ‘they rest in him, our shield and our defender’, that they are surrounded and held in the loving arms of our Father God.

Jo, my wife, has been appointed Chair of the House of Clergy for Diocesan Synod and as result is now, for three years, one of the senior women priests in our Diocese. She holds this new role in tandem with her other roles in Parish life and as Ecumenical Officer for Manchester Diocese. Jo thrives in these roles and we look forward for God’s guidance for her for the future.

This has been a year when I have become more aware of both my gifts/strengths and of my weaknesses. It was hard to let go of the role of Area Dean for the Deanery of Ashton and a delight to be asked to be Borough Dean of Tameside, a role to which I was licenced in February 2018. This role recognises the work that I have been doing over many years to create space in the public sphere in Tameside for faith communities and some of the roles that I have played in more recent years in the wider charitable sector in Tameside.

Our personal circumstances are not the only things to reflect on. The war in Yemen, the ongoing saga of Brexit, the continuing sense that we have of being ‘at risk’ in a world where terrorism is a serious threat, all crowd in on our thinking. The uncertainty in national politics and the reducing value of the pound suggest that change in coming months is not going to be easy, whatever political negotiations bring about. Many things can leave us leave us with a real sense of worry and concern.

What was 2018 like for you? What were the ‘highlights’ and the ‘lowlights’? What seemed to leave you in the dark? What seemed to leave you basking in the light, in the sunshine of God’s love? What things excite you or worry you about the year ahead?

Things of the past as well as our present experiences and our anticipation of what the future holds, make us into the people that we are today. Each of our experiences over the past year are like ‘holy ground’, they are places where God was present, even if we couldn’t feel him there. They may have been places where faith was tested, sometimes to the limit, or even beyond. They may have been places of illumination where God’s grace and love for us became almost tangible. They may have felt mundane and ordinary. There may well be things which it is impossible to make sense of at the moment, storms which will not die down, emotions and fears which overwhelm us. All of these are ‘holy ground’.

In a beautiful passage in Isaiah, God speaks to his people:

“Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through rivers they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.” (Isaiah 43:1-3. NRSV)

A New Year brings opportunities for new beginnings, a chance to start over. It can be a time when we take a significant step forward in faith, or in our life circumstances. It can be a time when we hear again God’s promises to us, when hope is renewed, when we determine again to commit ourselves to serve others. A New Year can be a time when we break with the past, when we leave behind the old and move on to the new. A time to ‘wipe the slate clean’. And rightly so!

However, let me encourage you to remember that we are not just people who look forward to the future with hope. We are people who live in the present, and whose identities are shaped by the past. We are who we are because we have our own story to tell. We belong to a particular community and share in its joys and sorrows; we have a specific family background which has shaped who we are; we went to a particular school or schools; we have lived alone or with a partner; we have had children, or we have not had children, either by choice or because of force of circumstance. We have each faced the reality of loss in our own way. We have been able to delight in good news, and have shared in the joys of others. And we can all be encouraged by the words of St. Paul in Romans:

“I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, NRSV)

God does want to break into our lives, if we let him, to bring healing and hope, just as he burst into the world on that first Christmas morning. Healing and hope for our past, for our present and for our future.

This New Year, like every New Year, brings the promise of new hope, new chances, new life. God also wants to build on the foundations of the past, helping us to become the people we long to be. People who are confident of God’s love through all the experiences of our lives. People whose faith is built on strong foundations, people who have found security in his love, even in the most difficult of times. People whose relationship with God is real. People whose lives, past, present and future, can be, and are being, redeemed by God’s love.

We don’t just have hope for the future. God is at work in all of us, none of us is the finished article. God is redeeming each of us, our past, our present and our future.

Peace Babies

Jelly Babies and Peace in the World!

In August 2014, I wrote a post about the history of Jelly Babies and their first being produced at the end of the 1st World War in 1918. This is the link. …

https://rogerfarnworth.com/2014/08/03/jelly-babies-and-the-peace-of-the-world

Recently, Maynard Bassett’s have produced a special edition pack of Jelly Babies which have them renamed as “Peace Babies.”

This gives another really good excuse to buy and eat Jelly Babies which while high in sugar content are fat-free!

“In celebration of the end of the First World War in 1918, George Bassett & Co. produced Peace Babies – what would later become the confectionery classic we all know as Jelly Babies.

Now, to commemorate the centenary of the end of World War One, Maynards Bassetts has designed a special limited-edition pack of Peace Babies available at Tesco. Aiming to raise over £25,000 for Help for Heroes*, the money raised will help us support those who put their lives on the line for us to have a second chance at life for them and their families.

Archivists at Mondelez trawled through records and found a rare surviving copy of an export list mentioning the sweet treat. Thought to be from the 1920s or 30s, this shows a ‘hundred-weight’ (100lb or 45kg) of Peace Babies listed for sale in ‘4lb wood boxes’, for the grand total of 68 shillings. This would be the equivalent of £139.60 in today’s money!

It is thought that these were on sale until a shortage of raw materials put a stop to production during World War Two. In 1953, they were relaunched as Jelly Babies – the rest, as they say, is history!

(Available at selected Tesco stores and http://www.tesco.com while stocks last ….. A A5p donation from the sale of each product sold in Tesco and http://www.tesco.com between 05/09/2018 and 06/11/2018 will go to Help for Heroes Trading Ltd, which gifts all its taxable profits to Help for Heroes (a charity registered in England and Wales , number 1120920 , and in Scotland SCO44984).”

It seems as though the jelly baby first appeared by mistake! Legend has it that it was an Australian immigrant in 1864 that made the first Jelly Baby, although he chose to call them “unclaimed babies.” He was meant to create a mould for jelly bears, however, (for reasons which may be forever lost in time) it seems the jelly baby was born instead – pun wholly intended. [2]

And thus, jelly babies became a firm favourite in the UK.

After a short hiatus, classic sweet manufacturer Basset’s took up the style of the rather darker original name ‘unclaimed babies’ and rebranded them ‘Peace Babies’ to mark the end of World War I. These new sweets had a more realistic baby look , closer to the sweets we know today.[2]

References

1. https://www.helpforheroes.org.uk/news/2018/september/peace-babies

2. https://www.sweetsinthecity.co.uk/news/post/jelly-babies-facts

 

 

 

Christ the King – Sunday 25th November 2018

This is the Sunday before the start of the Church Year. Advent Sunday and a period of waiting for the coming of the King precede the celebration of Christmas. Christians wait in the dark, for the coming of the light. ……

The Church has set three readings for the principle service on the Festival of Christ the King:

Daniel 7: 9-10, 13-14; Revelation 1:4-8; John 18:33-37

The world can be a very dark place.

It is difficult to avoid the darkness without pretending it does not exist. Some people close the curtains and put on the fire, others make their escape to warmer climes – Jo and I are just back from a week in the South of France. Increasingly people spend the summer in the UK and the winter in Spain. The shops throw themselves wholeheartedly into Christmas no more than weeks after the summer holidays are over. We don’t cope well with waiting, we don’t cope well with the darkness.

How do you cope – do you try to hide, try to escape, rush through the darkness looking for light and hope? How do you cope with the world as it is?

So many of us look for ways to avoid the bleakness of our world. And it is almost as though the readings for the festival of ‘Christ the King’ collude with our desire to escape the realities of our world, the darkness which sometimes seems as though it will overwhelm us. …….

Have you heard these before: “Pie in the sky when you die.” “Your faith is no earthly use, it does not affect the world in which we live, just a safety net when you die.” ….. And on “Christ the King” we listen to readings which are about that future – Christ in glory – and even Jesus in the Gospel reading says, “My kingdom is not from this world.”

For me, personally, at this time, having so recently lost my mother, these promises have substance. … Yes, I am sure of Mum’s place at home with her Lord. … And despite the tears, when she asked me earlier in November to pray that she would be able to go home soon to be with her heavenly father, I prayed that prayer with confidence and hope. We were both crying, but we both knew that it was right. She was on her final journey and she was going home. For her, the journey was taking longer than she hoped, but her faith was firm.

The question of how we cope with the realities of our world has exercised the minds of people down through the centuries. Some people have retreated from the world, retreated into closed communities refusing to partake in the life of the world – people like the Hamish, like some very closed monastic orders. Others have given up on their faith altogether, becoming fatalistic – “How can God care,” they say, “when we see all this going on?”

The literature of Daniel and Revelation (and some other books of the bible) was one of the ways that people of Bible times were helped to cope with the realities of their world. They are books which still today mean a great deal to church communities facing persecution for their faith. In their difficult language they grapple with the reality of the world as it was when they were written, pointing to the signs of hope in the world of the day and on into the future to a time when God will put all things right.

Our churches are increasingly welcoming people from other parts of the world who have faced persecution, who are looking to escape the darkness, who long to live in the light of the Gospel. These are people we have come to love, who while their asylum applications are being considered still live in fear of the darkness. We pray with them in hope.

We live in difficult times. Times when the darkness feels like it might overwhelm us. ‘In-between times’ – times between Christ’s first coming and a day when he will return – times when we glimpse God at work in our world but when we also see things which make us wonder where on earth he is. More often than not our media and, in we are honest, we ourselves focus on the negative, we see the darkness rather than the light.

There are good things going on in our world. We could call them “signs of the Kingdom.”  But, in the end, we are still waiting for the fullness of God’s kingdom to come – the time when we will see for real, the whole of history enfolded in the arms of the God who created and sustains our world.

The readings for ‘Christ the King’ encourage us to believe, in the midst of darkness, that God is still Lord of History, that in the words of Baldrick off Black Adder, God still has a cunning plan, a plan which he will bring to fulfilment in due time.

Christ will one-day reign with obvious authority.

But these readings also encourage us to believe that God’s Kingdom is not just something for the future, that it is a reality now, and that it is something that we can work to bring to greater reality in our world.

How? … Through our faithfulness to the promise in the midst of darkness. We are called to faithfulness, to living God’s way, to being the people and the place where hope can be re-born in our towns and communities.

Ultimately, as Christians, we cannot flee the darkness or hide away from it or pretend it doesn’t exist.  We’re intended, by God, to be the one’s who are able, with the eye of faith, to see Christ, the Crucified King, in all his Kingly Glory and who can help those around us to sense the light and warmth of God in their lives. People who see things from God’s perspective and help others to do the same. Not people who escape the world, but people who enter the world with hope, bringing light into darkness and despair.

Mum and Dad – Part 2 – Mum

This the second of two posts about my parents. The first tells Dad’s story:

https://rogerfarnworth.com/2018/11/12/mum-and-dad-part-1-dad

This post tells Mum’s story, predominently in her own words ….

Mum was born in Tonbridge, Kent [1] in the home of friends of her parents on 14th December 1929. She had an older brother, Bernard, born on 2nd January 1924 in a hospital in London. Her maiden name was Phyllis Rosanna Ellen Norton (Rosanna was her Mother’s Mother’s name and Ellen was her Father’s Mother’s name).

Mum was actually Christened ‘Hosanna’ as the clergyman didn’t hear properly!

Early in her life, Mum lived in Tonbridge – she says that she did not play out as a child, nor go to school until she was 6 years old; her mother didn’t want to part with her. The ‘school-board’ man came to visit to see why she was not there!

Mum’s dad (we called him Garpe) had his own business and was doing reasonably well, but his brother joined him and became a sleeping partner, needing a share in the profits but doing very little. To ease the situation, Garpe returned to being a shipwright in Chatham dockyard and moved his family to Gillingham. The house in Tonbridge was let out and they rented one in Gillingham. Mum thinks that this happened early 1938.

Later in 1938, with the scare of war, she was sent back from Gillingham to Tonbridge to live with her Uncle Syd and family. Mum did not think thatbshe was too unhappy, but her mother (our Nana) was and as a reult Mum went back to Gillingham in 1939. School was an unhappy time for Mum in Gillingham. She says: “I was picked on by head and staff and children.”

In 1939, Mum sat the scholarship and passed. She and her family moved to Plymouth in 1940 as Garpe (misguidedly, as it turned out) thought it would be safer – he transferred to Plymouth dockyard. Mum went to a local primary school, but was transferred to Devonport High School – in a blue summer dress, while everyone else was in a brown uniform!

Devonport High School for Girls (1940). [2]

Early that first term,  as far as Mum can remember, Devonport High School was evacuated to Tiverton, but she stayed in Plymouth and went to Plymouth Emergency High School. Before the evacuation, Mum remembered crossing one of the quadrangles and being fired on from an aeroplane. She also remembered a land-mine landing just in front of the school one night.

For a while, mum and her mother slept out of town at Bere Ferrers to avoid the worst bombing, although that didn’t last long. She remembered watching incendiaries being dropped in fields opposite the family home, also hearing explosions when a fort nearby was hit, and, going up a road close by to witness Plymouth on fire from end to end!

In Spring 1945, Mum had some 6 weeks off school with scarlet fever – during that time,she says: “I read a book called ‘Stepping Heavenwards’ and it helped me, as I’d been lacking assurance (I was never sure that I was truly converted).” After that time Mum returned to school in time for School Certificate at Plymouth Emergency High School.

St. Budeaux Parish Church.[5]

Mum and her family continued living in Higher St. Budeaux during the war and going to St. Budeaux Parish Church and she went to Sunday School there too. Come Summer 1945, the war ended and life returned somewhat to as it had been. Mum returned to Devonport High School;  In her own words: “I think mornings only to start with, I went into the 6th Form and was over zealous for the Lord – nevertheless a number of girls came to know Him, both at school and other friends too. Miss Moore, the head at that time, asked me what I wanted to do and I said I didn’t mind as long as it was what God wanted! She called another teacher and I had to repeat myself. Later, I presumed they were both Christians.”

Just a bit later, with a new head, Miss Vale, interviewing Nana, she said, ‘I’d be alright when I got rid of the Youth for Christ’ nonsense. Mum says, “I was so thankful it was my mother, who was a Christian and not one of the other girls’ parents, who weren’t Christians.”

Mum organised a group of students who used to meet, before school, in the Physics lab dark room to pray once a week. She had three years in the 6th Form and then went to Stockwell Teacher Training College in Bromley, Kent to train for teaching. At that time is was a 2 year course.

While at college, she was involved with the Christian Union and held responsible positions both in the hostel (1st year) and then in college. During this time, the Christian Union booked General Dobbie to speak, but as he was such an important person, the Principal made it a compulsory lecture for the whole college, so everyone heard his testimony.

In the Summer holiday before the second year’s training it was expected that you’d do some teaching practice. However, if you were to help lead a holiday camp, that would count, so Mum opted to help at a Church Pastoral Aid camp in the South of England.

Following college, Mum started teaching Reception Class in West Park Primary, Plymouth and also took on responsibility for Plymouth National Young Life Campaign and she was baptised (by full immersion) and went to St. Budeaux Baptist to worship. As Garpe was not happy to use public transport on Sundays – the family used to walk to and fro to church. At this time, she was very involved with Open-air work and preaching on the Baptist Lay Preachers plan. Open-air work was Saturday night in the red-light district in Plymouth, while Sunday afternoons they hired p.a. equipment and went to beaches – Kings and Cawsand, etc.

After 18 months teaching, which Mum says she thoroughly enjoyed – sometimes 50+ in class. Mum applied to go nursing 18 months ahead, but live at home (her parents had never wanted Mum to nurse! She applied early so that they would get used to the idea). However, Mum failed the medical!! Although she was later accepted.

Proof that Mum worked as a nurse can be found in the Ladybird Book of Nursing! In this picture, Mum is on the left holding the lantern over the piano. [4]

Mum says: “All except one person thought I was stepping out of God’s will in going nursing! It was not easy to start with, but again despite a lot of ups and downs, overall I enjoyed it. While nursing, often when I had an evening off, I would phone a friend of ours at the Royal Engineering College near home, and invite any Christians to come round for a time of fellowship (prayer, bible study and refreshments). I’d collect any nurses interested as well. It was at this time that Fred first appeared.”

Mum moved round from different hospitals and wards, for experience, including the Fever hospital, sometimes having to walk several miles to start work at 7.30am! She completed her studies with the Gold Medal and a Nursing Prize. Later, she got the midwifery prize too. In those days for midwifery you did 6 months in different departments in the hospital and then 6 months on the district, working with a midwife and always on call.

Having done S.R.N. and S.C.M. Mum wondered what God would have her do. Mum says: “Church reckoned I was going to the mission field! I applied to go back teaching, but was turned down!! A job opened up to teach at a school for cerebral palsy children and they were thrilled to have me.”

Dad (Fred) appeared back on the scene (some years later now) and during late 58 and early 59, Mum says: “We felt we should marry – hence on 1st August 1959, we married and had Psalm 34:3 ‘Let us exalt his name together’ engraved in our rings as that was what we hoped our marriage would do.”

Mum and Dad set up home in a flat near Altrincham, buying a house in mid-December in Altrincham as well. They had folks staying for Christmas too!! Dad was working for Shell and Mum taught in a primary school at that time. Roger arrived in May 1960. He was born in the local hospital on Sinderland Road, just round the corner; as was Gill some 19 months later, on 27th December 1961.

At this time they worshipped at Devonshire Road Evangelical Church (which was Brethren based).Devonshire Road Evangelical Church in the early 21st Century. The old building which we attended and which abutted the old Ice Rink in Altircham has long gone.

Each Christmas from 1960 on, for 11 years, they had both sets of parents and Fred’s younger sister, Christine, to stay. Mum and Dad thought that they might change the pattern, but then one of them was not well, so the pattern changed anyway.

In January 1965, until the end of that year, Dad went to Bolton each day to study for a teaching certificate. It was 2nd May that year that David was born by Caesarian Section at Wythenshawe Hospital. Mum says: “He didn’t make his own way into the world as he had a broader head than Roger and Gill. Roger and Gill stayed with Fred’s Mum and Dad for the spring of that year.”

Amazingly, having had no income for the year, after Dad had finished at Bolton, Mum and Dad bought their first car – a Reliant 3-wheeler van, which Dad drove on a motor-cycle licence. There was no reverse gear in these Reliant’s and there were a few occasions on holiday in rural areas when some awkward moments occurred when on narrow lanes other drivers expected Dad to reverse out of their way.

Kingston-upon-Hull was Dad’s first teaching post, starting at the beginning of January 1966. We all moved house after Christmas, from Altrincham to Willerby, on the outskirts of Hull, just in time for Dad to start at the college at the beginning of term. This happene,” says Mum, “thanks to me ringing our buyer’s solicitor just before Christmas, as the solicitors were sitting on the papers and we could not move – the Solicitor’s comment to our buyers was ‘That woman rang me up!’ Our buyer was grateful anyway.”

Roger and Gill went to school further down Carr Lane, where we were living. It was in October 1966 that Ian was born at Beverley. He had been elbow and cord presenting, but was delivered breach under anaesthetic. The Doctors reckoned that Mum should not have any more children as she had been through most of the midwife’s textbook! (What would it have been like to have younger siblings after Ian?

While we lived in Hull we worshipped at Walton Street Gospel Hall. Mum was involved with an evangelistic team that visited Hull prison and the mental hospital in Willerby. The picture above shows Walton Street at the approximate location of the Gospel Hall which now seems to have been removed. It stood opposite the fairground where the Nottingham Goose Fair came each year.

It was in 1970 that we moved to Braintree, Essex. Dad had accepted a position as a Senior lecturer at the technical College in Chelmsford. We sold our home in Willerby and the furniture went into store. Dad started his job and looked for a property for us. Meanwhile, with the children, Mum moved in with Nana, in Tonbridge. We found a 5-bedroomed house and eventually moved in, in Braintree.

We applied to the primary school in Braintree, hoping that Roger, Gill and David would be admitted there. Ian was still too young for school. A letter arrived from the school and Mum feared they weren’t able to accept the children, but it was to ask her to teach a class of Junior age children. She didn’t really want to refuse in case it was what God had planned, but she did rather hope that the Education Authority would not accept her!!!

Manor Road Primary School, Braintree Essex. Roger can remember: playing in the playground; teachers names such as Mr West and Mr Broad; being forced by the school bully to suport Arsenal and then discovering that they had won the double.

In September of that year, Roger, Gill, David and Ian all started with Mum at the school. Ian in Reception class! Mum says: “Over all I think we coped until Fred accepted a post in Kings Lynn. That was after a couple of years. His post was for Head of Department – we weren’t sure what we should do as a family. However, we thought if I applied for a job in Kings Lynn and got it then we’d take it that we should all move.”

Sprite Major Caravan from the early 1970s.

Mum continues: “Then started a bit of a picnic!?! We couldn’t sell our house (that’s a story in itself). So we bought a towing caravan that would cater for 6 of us and moved to Kings Lynn on a caravan site in Pentney, outside Kings Lynn.”

From Monday to Friday we all lived in the caravan, going back to Braintree for weekends to get the washing done. After a few weeks, a memo came round the schools about a school house, available to rent at Terrington St. Clements. We rented it, taking our caravan with us and moving some furniture up from Braintree – eventually our Braintree house sold and we bought a new four-bedroom house on the outskirts of Kings Lynn, near the new hospital.During this time we worshipped at Seabank Chapel. Dad led the Covenantors and Mum was in the Sunday School. She was Area Secretary for Scripture Union and helped with Crusaders on Fairstead Estate and at Sandringham.Life continued quite busily. Mum and Dad offered for her mother (Nana) to come and live with us after her father died in 1968, but it wasn’t until 1980 that she felt that she’d had enough in Tonbridge. We had a Granny flat built and two extra bedrooms over the top – so that all the children had their own bedroom. Mum became a part-time teacher at Pott Row (before that she’d taught at Rosebery Avenue).Rosebery Avenue Primary School. [6]

After Pott Row, she taught for a while at a private school (where Princess Diana had been a pupil), and at the same time at a special school for ESN children, as the school hours were different.

Mum says: “Fred retired at the end of 1985, I think. I had already retired by then. We wondered what the Lord would have us do. After various opportunities, we left Kings Lynn and moved to rural Oxfordshire to look after 14 bungalows for Datchet Evangelical Fellowship. We had No. 12 and Nana, No. 11. They had been built for retired missionaries and full-time Christian workers.” The family had more-or-less all left home by then.The Red Lion in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, the village was dominated by thatched properties.

After about 6 months to a year after arriving in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, the pastor at the little chapel resigned as he had a nervous breakdown. Mum says: “We then led the little church for about 7 years until they appointed a full-time worker. About the same time, Datchet Evangelical Fellowship decided to sell the bungalows and Nana died at the age of 99.”

Mum continues: “What next Lord? … We moved to our little place in Didcot and worshipped at East Hanney Mission. In the meanwhile we were sorting out ready to go to Lusaka, Zambia with Africa Evangelical Fellowship, officially for Fred to be a Town and Travel Manager. I usually helped, but also, we provided meals for missionaries passing through Lusaka and did clinics and radio work when missionaries had gone home for furlough. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Africa.”

Part way through the time, Mum came back through the U.K. to Pakistan, as Gill was expecting their third child and giving birth in the Aga Khan Hospital in Karachi. They had a 2-bed room and Mum was able to sleep in the bed next to Gill. The surgery was good, but the nursing left a lot to be desired!

After Mum returned to Zambia, she was not well. In looking back, it was due to endeavouring to remove burglar wires and decorate our bungalow. Mum says: “At the time the missionary doctor thought I had a brain tumour. I came to the U.K. for tests, etc. and Fred delights to tell people that the Neurological Hospital in London could find nothing … no brain!! I did join Fred again in Lusaka and we completed our 2 year stint.”

Returning to the UK, Mum and Dad felt that they should look for a town, not to large, where there was a hospital and shopping centre and where they could do something useful. Retford seemed to fit the bill and they were able to help at Book Aid, part-time. They lived in Mattersey Thorpe and worshipped in Bawtry at the Evangelical Church.At this stage Mum and Dad were fairly active, but thought it was time to consider their Home-call (Mum’s words) and after much prayer and thought moved to a bungalow in Auchlochan – a Christian retirement complex, having several buildings catering for different stages of old age, including full care, if necessary. Mum and Dad had one of the bungalows at the right-hand side of the above plan.

Mum says: “We did enjoy it, but one problem was accessibility to hospitals in Glasgow or Edinburgh. So, when I was not well, we felt we should come back to England. From first thinking this to moving in at Royd Court in Mirfield (a Pilgrim Home) it was about 3 months. We sold the bungalow, got rid of loads of books, furniture, etc., bought a two-bedroom flat in a Pilgrim Homes Independent Living Complex! What a blessing – had an excellent doctor across the road who set the ball rolling for me to go to St. James’ Hospital in Leeds for major surgery for removal of a cancerous growth – a Whipples operation. This operation was really successful.”

Mum concludes her own notes by saying that they worshipped at Batley Evangelical Church and have been very blessed and encouraged there. Since Mum wrote those notes a few years ago, she has suffered from womb cancer and most recently from the effects of secondaries from the womb cancer on her lungs.

Once Mum had her diagnosis and had been told that there was little that could be done for her, she began to put her affairs in order and until very recently used the time God left her in ministry within the confines of Royd Court. Mum was greatly looking forward to what she called her ‘home-call’.

As a family, we have seen the love and care that Mum and Dad have experienced in the immediate communities to which they have belonged in the Mirfield area, at Royd Court and at Batley Evangelical Church. And we are grateful to all who have provided care for Mum in these last few months.

References

  1. https://www.webbaviation.co.uk, accessed first on 1st August 2016.
  2. https://www.dhsg.co.uk/gallery/?pid=113&gcatid=1&albumid=7 accessed on 13th November 2018.
  3. https://www.architecture.com/image-library/RIBApix/gallery-product/poster/former-stockwell-teachers-training-college-in-the-grounds-of-bromley-civic-centre-stockwell-close-br/posterid/RIBA58194.html?tab=print, accessed on 13th November 2018.
  4. https://www.jenniferslittleworld.com/2013/10/ladybird-tuesday-people-at-work-nurse.html, accessed on 13th November 2018.
  5. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Budeaux, accessed on 13th November 2018.
  6. http://www.kingslynn-forums.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=3512&start=60, accessed first on 1st August 2016.

 

 

Mum and Dad – Part 1 – Dad

We lost my father in the Summer last year (2017) and as I write (11th November 2018), Mum is on her way to glory. Both of them had a strong Christian faith and were sure of their place with the Lord in heaven. Some of Dad’s last words to Mum were … ‘I go to a better, better place.’

I want to write a little about both Mum and Dad. I hope that you will indulge me in a couple of posts! The second of these posts tells Mum’s story and can be found at:

https://rogerfarnworth.com/2018/11/13/mum-and-dad-part-2-mum

I have just said in sermons on Remembrance Sunday (2018) that we are rooted in who we are most effectively when we tell our own stories and as we hear the stories of our communities. …… So perhaps it is appropriate that I tell the story of two saints that I remember with affection.

The words below are predominantly those that Dad wanted to say about himself.

In the second post I’ll share Mum’s story too.  …

Dad was born on 29th September 1931 at Nelson Street, Horwich, to Wilfred and Hilda Mary (nee Carr) Farnworth. His Dad (Grandad) was a blacksmith at Horwich Loco Works and his Mum was a Cotton Mill worker prior to getting married. Dad’s first visit to church was when he was 2 weeks old. His family went to Horwich Gospel Hall. Apparently he was not interested in the message but was reported to be sucking noisily and had a good meal!

Dad was not sure of the date, but his family moved to 29 (I think), Crown Lane  when Grandad became unemployed. For a time Grandad worked for engine builders in the Salford area (possibly Beyer Garrett) before finding work at Derby L.M.S.  Loco Works.

Before moving to the Midlands they were living next door to Grandma’s parents and Dad had his first experience of death when his Grandma died. Dad was about 3 years old and was found sitting on the bed talking to the corpse. They also lived within 300 yards of Grandad’s parents who had a chicken farm. Dad said: “I was a regular visitor, primarily to get in on Gran’s cooking!”

Dad shares two things that he was reputed to have done. He said …. “I eloped to school when about 3 years old. All the kids down the row were going, so I just joined them!” and, “During a particularly dry summer, the women were asked not to empty their wash tubs so that local gardeners could use the water. I ended up in our’s and was fished out by my Grandad – very wet!”

Around 1935, Dad and his family moved to Derby for Grandad’s work. They lived at 768 Osmaston Road and went to church at Curzon Street Gospel Hall in the City centre. Dad says it was a “solemn assembly!”

He started school at Nightingale Road School which was next door to the Rolls Royce factory. “The nearest,” says Dad, “that I ever got to a ‘Roller’. He made a second attempt at drowning himself by falling through the ice on the frozen canal and being fished out by a passing stranger who took him home – again dripping wet! 

Around 1938 Grandad was, again, out of work until he found a job as a blacksmith working for Stanton (later Stanton and Staveley) Iron Works. They moved to 28, Shanklin Drive, Stapleford and went to church at Eatons Road Gospel Hall (another solemn assembly!). Church was made more solemn by all the younger men going off to war.

Dad attended Albany Primary School and Grandma worked at the local ‘National Feeding Centre’. Eventually, Grandad went back to Derby L.M.S. Works, mainly working nights, but we continued to live in Stapleford.

In September 1942, Dad went to Henry Mellish Grammar School, Bulwell and remained there until 1949,  for School Certificate and Higher School Certificate. He couldn’t remember the results. He was far more interested in rugby, swimming, cricket and athletics at school, and soccer (Stapleford Rovers and others) out of school. The round ball was banned at the grammar school! There were no more drowning incidents, but he did learn to swim in the local canal – warm, smelly and dirty!

In September 1949, Dad went to Loughborough College (as it was then, now Loughborough University),  staying there for 3 years. He studied Mechanical Engineering. It was an unusual arrangement – one week in lectures and then the next week in the extensive college workshops. He gained a 1st Class honours Mechanical Engineering Diploma. His priorities were quite clear. He says: “I went home most weekends to play football.”

While at College Dad had contact with a strong Christian Union, a number of members later became Christian Leaders and Missionaries.

After College, in 1952, Dad started working in Birmingham  for the General  Electric Company (GEC) as a graduate apprentice at their Witton Works. He was mainly working on heavy electrical machinery for the first year.

Dad was in digs with the Fletcher family at 47, Wheelwright Road, Erdington. Mrs Fletcher was the widow of the man who’d headed up the GEC Accounts Department. She was a rather presidential Victorian old lady who was rather domineering. Dad says: “Just imagine my reaction.”

Two of their 4 children had married and incurred disapproval, and so were never mentioned! The two remaining children were Kitty, who was a rather sour middle-aged spinster who taught at a Girl’s Grammar School; and  Theo who brought some reality into the setup! He worked at GEC in Research and was one of the leaders of the Erdington Boy Crusader Class. Interestingly, Theo married immediately after his mother died!i

The Fletchers had a live-in maid, an old spinster who was a very good cook. Dad says: “That enabled me to bear with the rest of it!”

Dad comments: “After an introduction to church at two weeks of age, and with biblical things running like blood through my veins it was not, however, until the time spent in Birmingham that Jesus became real to me and I was baptised at Charlton Road Gospel Hall.

In about August 1953, Dad was transferred to London (Erith) by GEC to Fraser and Chalmers – manufacturers of heavy  mining  machinery for a period of just over 12 months. He lived in Rostrevor Guest House, Belvedere and worshipped at Belvedere Gospel Hall – a happy family – a time of spiritual growth. He was involved as a Counsellor at the 1954 Harringay Billy Graham Crusade.

From November 1954 until November 1956, Dad did his 2 years National Service in the Royal Navy (RNVR). He says: “Initially, for basic courses, I was a Stoker at HMS Raleigh in Plymouth. Then as a Sub.Lt(E) for 3 months at R.N. Engineering College Manadon, Plymouth. It was during this time that I first met Phyl (and her very welcome cheese pies) at times of fellowship at her home with other naval folk and some nurses. I was then posted abroad.”

(You may have picked up a common theme in Dad’s autobiography …. food!)

Dad served in Malta on HMS Striker (a tank landing craft) and HMS Whirlwind (a frigate) around the Mediterranean, Northern Ireland, Spain, France and Bermuda – all for short stays Finally, he served on HMS Savage for trials of low noise propellers to avoid submarine detection.

Dad says: “These were times of spiritual growth and great fellowship, both with naval personnel an in the churches that I visited, particularly in Malta. I found my theological views being broadened!”

In November 1956, Dad found himself working with ‘Shell’ at Stanlow Refinery as plant maintenance engineer for major petrochemical plants. He lived in Chester and worshipped at Chester Gospel Hall.

In February 1958, Dad was transferred to ‘Shell Chemicals’ at Carrington as Project Engineer for the production of petrochemicals (polyethylene and polystyrene). It was at this time that he became a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Dad was living initially in Sale, and then later (1960) in Broadheath at 112, Lindsell Road. he says: “I married Phyl in August 1959 and we were worshipping at Hebron Hall, close to the ice-rink in Altrincham. For some of the time I served as an Elder. Over the next few years, Roger, Gill and Dave joined the family.”

In 1965, Dad gave up working for Shell Chemicals and studied at Bolton Teacher Training College.The family continued living in Broadheath. 

We moved, right at the end of 1965, to Hull. From January 1966 to 1970 we lived at 103, Carr Lane, Willerby and Dad was lecturing at Hull Technical College. We were worshipping at Walton Street Gospel Hall and Dad was an Elder for part of the time that we were there.  Ian, my youngest brother joined us in 1966 and  Dad says, “We became ‘F, P & Co. Ltd’!”

From 1970 to 1972 we lived in Braintree in Essex and Dad taught at Chelmsford Tech. (Dovedale) as a Senior Lecturer. We lived on Sycamore Grove in Braintree and worshipped at Coggeshall Road Gospel Hall in Braintree.

We lived in Kings Lynn, Norfolk from 1972. Mum and Dad stayed there until 1986. Dad was based Norfolk College in Kings Lynn as Head of the Engineering Department and later as Head of the Faculty of Technology until early retirement in December 1985.

We lived, first, for about 12 months in Terrington St. Clement and then at 5, Elvington in Gaywood in King’s Lynn We worshipped at Seabank Chapel and I led the Covenantor Group for several years. During this time, Nana, Phyl’s mum came to live with us in a Granny Flat extension to the house.

There is, perhaps, a lot more to tell about Mum and Dad’s last few years in King’s Lynn as they found themselves in the midst of difficult times at Seabank Chapel. Dad chose not to focus on this in his notes, but they really were difficult times for both Mum and Dad. By this time, I was living in Manchester and watching from afar. Dad and Mum showed great integrity and leadership during this time and suffered some significant levels of stress.

Dad and I had/have differing views about our shared faith and he struggled with my decision to become an Anglican priest, feeling unable to take Communion from me. However, he always acted with integrity and at times found remaining true to his convictions difficult, physically, spiritually and emotionally.

Mum and Dad moved to Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, in South Oxfordshire in August 1986 to manage a small estate  of 15 bungalows mainly provided for retired missionaries and Christian workers. There were some very interesting folk. Nana had her own bungalow. The estate belonged to the Datchet Evangelical Fellowship (later to be known as ‘Rural Ministries’).

Dad and Mum also had a small house in Didcot because their bungalow on site in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell was very small. They worshipped in the little free church (FIEC) in the village. After about 6 months of being there, the young pastor of the church had a breakdown and eventually resigned and moved away. Dad led the church for about 7 years until a new pastor was appointed. At almost the same tim as the new pastor was appointed, Nana died at the age of 99 years and the Datchet Evangelical Fellowship decided to sell the  complex of bungalows. Mum and Dad moved into their house in Didcot.

While Dad and Mum were in Brightwell they were involved not only in looking after the bungalows and leading the FIEC church, but also took part in various village-wide things like Lent Courses and a Men’s Prayer Breakfast.

Mum and Dad lived in Didcot for a further 12 months, worshipping and helping out in a small Mission Church in Hanney, Oxfordshire. At the end of that 12 months they rented out the Didcot house and set off for Zambia!

From 1994 to 1996, Mum and Dad worked for ‘Africa Evangelical Fellowship’ seconded to the ‘Evangelical Church in Zambia’. The brief said: ‘To work as Town & Travel Manager’. The job spec. included the phrase: ‘must be able to cope with a high degree of ambiguity’ – Spot on! The job involved virtually all of the mission business in Lusaka – immigration, customs, banking, post office, travel agents, technical shopping for folks up country, and airport duties (meeting people coming into the country and helping others leave.

Dad says: “I succeeded in losing the Australian Office Manager. Having delivered him to the airport at 5am om a Sunday morning for a flight to Namibia (2 hours), we received a call at 2pm: ‘Where is he?’ I guess that he got there eventually but I have never heard of him since.  Was this a case of lions at the airport?”

Meanwhile, Dad says, “Phyl did all kinds of things – helping him in Lusaka, standing in for folks who should have spoken on the radio, various clinics, etc.”

They lived at Chamba valley, 10 kilometres outside Lusaka and worshipped at the mission church on site. Occasionally they travelled in, on a Sunday evening, to worship at Lusaka Baptist Church. Their little car, a Subaru Justy, enabled them to travel out quite a bit on business and for holidays to:

  • North West and South West Zambia
  • Zimbabwe (several times) – to Kariba, Harare, Victoria Falls and the eastern highlands
  • Botswana
  • South Africa – to Johannesburg, Durban and the Kruger Game Park
  • Malawi – including a 4 day sail down the lake on a ferry as it carried local passengers and goods from port to port. 

From 1996 to 1997, after getting back from Zambia, Dad and Mum spent about 12 months living in Didcot before selling up and moving to Mattersey Thorpe, North Nottinghamshire.

From 1997-2005, Mum and Dad worked part-time with Book Aid, in their Ranskill Store, and  worshipped at Bawtry Evangelical Church.

In 2005, Mum and Dad moved North to Scotland. They lived in Auchlochan, a privately run retirement village built around 4 small lochs. It was a complex of Bungalows, flats, apartments and units for residential care. Mum and Dad bought a bungalow and worshipped at the fellowship on site. The complex is now operated by Methodist Homes.

In 2010, Dad and Mum moved South again to a flat at Royd Court, Mirfield, West Yorkshire, in a group of 56 flats run by Pilgrim Homes. They worshipped on site and attended Batley Evangelical Church as well.

We lost Dad in August 2017. Mum continued to live in their flat in Royd Court and often spoke longingly of going home …. She too is now at rest, at home with her Lord.