From Dr John A. Florance
Sir, - The Revd Stephen Brown's tribute to Richard
Attenborough (Comment, 29 August)
is right, I am sure, about the great director and actor's mistrust
of organised religion. As a producer and presenter at BBC Radio
Leicester, I met and interviewed him many times. In 2007, I asked
him about his religious affiliations, and for once he was a little
hesitant. But here, in part, is his answer.
"I'm not a religious character, I'm afraid. I'm apprehensive as
far as religion is concerned. I feel that in the name of the great
religious figures the most terrible things have been wrought. . .
That I find very distressing. I am not a sacrilegious person. I
dislike very much the ridicule and derision and antagonism created
by some forms of religious belief. . . I'm a mess as far as
religion is concerned."
Having said that, he went on to say that he considered
Shadowlands was his best picture as a director. This might
seem slightly odd. But at one time Lord Attenborough knew
Christianity from the inside.
A friend of mine, Glyn Haines, tells me that his cousin, Malcolm
Rowland, was Richard's contemporary at Wyggeston Boys' School,
Leicester. "While at Wyggy Malcolm led a group of Crusaders in the
school. When he was about to leave he was given a Book of Common
Prayer and Hymns A&M. Inside is written 'To Malcolm J.
Rowland with best wishes for the ensuing years. From two of his
converts Richard and Arthur, Christmas 1940.' 'Richard' is indeed
Richard Attenborough, and I understand 'Arthur' became an Anglican
priest, later at St Mary's in Melton Mowbray."
It is possible that Lord Attenborough came to know of C. S.
Lewis through his involvement with the Crusaders, and that
Shadowlands was the fruit of that experience.
JOHN A. FLORANCE
19 Sweetbriar Road