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My Life and the Parish Church

Easter 1966

from The Barwicker No. 60
Dec. 2000

Raymond Collett
March 1978

Do you mind if I tell this story in my own words, as I am no author but just an ordinary village resident. Well, I begin my life with the church in my boyhood, having been made a member of the junior choir. That was in the late Rev. Harvey's time when we used to have choir practice in the parish rooms. When the first Christmas came round, we (the choirboys) were invited round to the rectory to a Christmas party. I shall never forget the game - I think it was called 'charades'. A man called Billy Teovil who used to live down at Throstle Nest Farm, got hold of Miss Harvey and said to her, "Make a noise like a turnip". "Mak' a noise like a turrop" was his expression.

As I got more used to mixing with people and when I was reaching the age of 11, a new rector was to be instituted. That was to be my first thrill in church life for being a member of the choir was a great honour. When we got to know the late Rev. Herbert Lovell Clarke, he became a great friend of ours. One day in early June of the year 1934, he took me for a ride out in his car, as he was going to an institution service in a little village called Selside, which is six miles from Kendal in Westmorland. That was a day I thoroughly enjoyed.

During the next winter I became very ill and was poorly for some weeks but it was then that I found out that people in the church really cared for me. I had a good friend in the rector and he did restore me back to fitness as good as any man could do. He came to my home and told me that I was to go into a Church of England convalescent home at Blackpool for a fortnight to recuperate after my illness, at which I was very thrilled. When I came out of the home I was full of life. From that day on I have done something practical in the way of raising money for the church.

At that time there used to be a certain group of men in the village; I will name them - Mr Leighton Smith, Mr William Markham and Mr Tom Robshaw, all of whom have passed on. Well, they used to form a committee for the garden parties which used to be held in the summer of each year in a small field opposite my home and it was great fun for us as there used to be no such thing as television. If you went into the field somebody would shout "Eh, you! Fetch that hammer here" or "Fetch the nails" or even a piece of wood - a job which I loved to do. Then there was the job of fetching forms and chairs - we used to love to fetch them.

While we are on the subject of garden parties, they used to be a money spinner for the church. All the monies used to go towards the upkeep of the church, because it is only just recently that the Free Will Offering has been circulated. There was one garden party at which I thoroughly enjoyed helping and that was the one in 1936. I was asked to stand at the back of a curtained petition with just the top of my head showing wearing a big tall hat and people used to come up, pay sixpence and take seven tennis balls and try to knock the hat off. It was seldom that they did because I kept moving.

As the next five to eight years rolled on I decided to join His Majesty's Armed Forces and when I came home on leave I used to be proud to be in the choir. Then the time came for service abroad, which included India, Burma, South Africa and Ceylon. Any things in those countries concerning the religions of the people are quite different to those at home and you have to be very careful what you do.

Having been invalided out of the army in 1942, I shall never forget the first Sunday I came home. I was welcomed by the rector from the pulpit. After a few months I found that the late rector, Rev. H Lovell Clarke had to retire from this parish having been promoted to Archdeacon of Leeds.

For the next 17 years we were to have a priest inducted who we cannot have enough praise for. The gentleman I am referring to is the Rev. Canon James Gray. He was also a very dear friend to me and still is (in 1966. Ed.). He knew that if ever he wanted anything doing he always knew which way to look.

During the war things were not too good for the church and making money to keep it going was hard to come by, so I did my best to help. I had been on the electoral roll for some time so I was asked if I would become a member of the Barwick Church Council, an invitation which I gladly accepted.

Keeping the churchyard tidy was a very big job and a man called Mr Mein used to have the job of mowing down the grass from in between the graves and I always used to like to go and take it off for him. We used to go two afternoons a week.

As time went by we were getting a very good choir together. As the children grow up their voices change, and tenors and basses are very hard to find. Well we had a few good men and boys, so the organist Mr H Walker decided to have a go at 'The Crucifixon' which I think went down as a success and the boys and girls did very well. I will mention no names. After a while we formed a choral society in which there were quite a few people interested but after a while it fell through.

A few more years roll on and after a while pigeons which had nested round the church tower had to be caught owing to the government seeking information about various things, so we were informed by the local police sergeant that we had to have them all caught. All those with rings on their legs had to be sent to the federation and all the others had to be killed. So we had the task of going up the big ladder which is kept in the bell tower and, as the pigeons were only in at night, that was the time we had to go. As they were perched on the beams at the top they were very difficult to get at.

Herbert Lovell Clarke Rector of Barwick (1933-42)

After they were all caught we had to clean out the belfrey and sixteen bags of manure had to be scraped from the gutters at the top of the tower and belfrey. I and the boys got to work getting the bags down the steps. We had them all to drag after getting them down and we let Mr Burke have them for his garden.

When the tower had been cleaned out people in the church were finding how dirty the interior was looking. A meeting was held on 30 September 1953 and a committee of 17 was elected. Four people were co-opted, two were deleted due to removals and all the others saw the job finished.

First of all an appeal letter was sent to every house in the parish and on a large notice board in the churchyard. The main thing that was wanted was money.

2000 was needed so collecting boxes were distributed to every household. After two collections by September 1954, 400 was in the bank. Grants of 100 from the Diocesan Advisory Committee and 500 from the Historic Churches Preservation Trust followed and a legacy and covenanted gifts yielded another 240. That was 1240 raised. Mr Guy Channon of Malton made an inspection of the church and so the work went on until eventually it was finished and a concluding meeting was held on Friday 11 July 1958.

In 1954 we had a new organ installed and the old one dismantled. All the parts had to be sent to Mr Cotteley who was an organ builder and all the pipes were painted by Mr Brett who lives in the village. I kept going in to see how they were getting on with it. Altogether it took six weeks; a very nice piece of work too.

While I have been writing my story I have missed out my confirmation. I must tell you that I was confirmed in 1934 at the age of 14.

So coming back to my story, it was about a few months after the restoration that I found out that Canon Gray was leaving the parish and going to retire and live at Scarborough, but I think that he helps with the ministry yet at times and is still as busy as ever. It was on the 21 March 1959 that we were to have inducted the Rev. Norman Butcher, the man who practically put the church on its feet having introduced the Free Will Offering. From 12 a month, the church has nearly 100. There is a vast difference you know.

It was decided by the church council that we were to have a peal of six bells; that meant that three smaller bells were to go into the belfrey. It had to have a new frame and the three older bells had to be re-cast. The cost of this was estimated to be 1750, to be paid over a period of five years.

Well, two men came from the bell factory at Loughborough to do the job. The problem was how they would get them down, the villagers were wondering, but they made it look quite simple. Of course there is an art in it.

Another thing which was introduced was a Church of England Men's Society, of which I was a member, and we have had some very good lectures dinners and outings, all of which I have thoroughly enjoyed. Church life in these days seems to be more enjoyable than it did in the past but one cannot forget the memories.

The jobs which have to be done before service take up quite a bit of time so I go every Sunday morning at 10.30am to put the books out for the choir, put the hymns on the board, light the altar candles and put out hymn sheets for the choir. It is surprising how time goes when you are doing jobs like these at both morning and evening services.

Not very long ago a curate was appointed. We have not had a curate in this parish since the time of Mr Cave, who I regret to say died after being a prisoner of war.

Well, I cannot conclude my little story without thanking my many good friends in the church who have enabled me to do it. So after serving 38 years at Whitsuntide in the choir, I shall look forward to many more in the future.

Easter 1966

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