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Diary

by
29 January 2008

by Glyn Paflin

Fine husbands

THEY were hardly the Mitford girls, but have you ever wondered whom Dean Farrar’s daughters married? Eric is not a girls’ book; but maybe it gave them insights into the male — at least, the schoolboy — mind.

Maud, Farrar’s third daughter, married Henry, later Bishop, Montgomery, father of “Monty”, the famous field-marshal. Sybil, his fourth, chose another action man. Her husband, the Revd Sidney Savage, was another of her father’s protégés — and one of those young men in whom Charles (Dean) Vaughan took an interest.

Savage moved from his curacy at St Margaret’s, Westminster, to a living at Barrow-in-Furness, where he boldly rebuked vice and spoke out against parish dances and ill-run pubs. After a brief incumbency in Jesmond, he began his great rebuilding work at Hexham Abbey, while finding time to take Sybil to Switzerland for her health — and himself there for the skiing, in which he is accounted a pioneer.

During the Great War, he did emergency work on the Continent for the YMCA — where, like a Buchan hero, he was tracked by Bulgarian spies — and when, amid all this absence, he thought of resigning his benefice, the people in Hexham petitioned him not to (though his time there was not without a contretemps).

Nevertheless, after a quiet post-war incumbency in Warwick, in 1929 he became Vicar of St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield, in London, a previously much ill-used building. He had advised his predecessor on the restoration, which he continued, and set about making the gatehouse a pied-à-terre, since he and Sybil had now made their home in Bexhill. She died in 1941, and he retired in 1944. The Times headed his obituary in 1947 “A Beloved Rector”.

I have gleaned this information from an “interim” life, Canon Sidney Savage (1862-1947): Cleric and man of action, by David Jennings, available from the Hexham Local History Society (6 Park Avenue, Hexham NE46 3EN; £5 including postage). I am sure he would be happy to hear from anyone who can fill in the gaps.

Friends of D. L. S.

THERE had to be Dante, of course — and the Ladies’ Guild of Change Ringers. And I am happy to report that the Revd Adrian Leak’s article (Features, 14 December) helped to swell the ranks at the 50th-anniversary service held in St Margaret’s, Westminster, to commemorate Dorothy L. Sayers.

Friends of D. L. S.

THERE had to be Dante, of course — and the Ladies’ Guild of Change Ringers. And I am happy to report that the Revd Adrian Leak’s article (Features, 14 December) helped to swell the ranks at the 50th-anniversary service held in St Margaret’s, Westminster, to commemorate Dorothy L. Sayers.

About 150 people attended the service, which brought together all kinds of Sayers associations — from St Anne’s, Soho, to the Oxford Bach Choir, the Detection Club, and the Charles Williams Society.

It was a feast of good things, too many to mention. The Revd Robert Beresford tells us that the keynote was her dictum “The only Christian work is good work, well done”; that Canon John Thurmer read 1 Corinthians 3.9-15; and that the congregation sang one of her favourite hymns — Peter Abelard’s O quanta qualia (“O what their joy and their glory must be”).

Baroness James (P. D. James) was unable to give her address in person, owing to ill-health; but it was read out, as were lines from Canto 33 of Dante’s Paradiso. “Dorothy was fully at one with Dante, and Dante is expressing all that it means to be a maker,” Mr Beresford, a Roman Catholic deacon, says.

Even the pre-service organ music played by Thomas Trotter seems to have been just right; for it was the Canzona from Percy Whitlock’s Organ Sonata in C Minor, which he dedicated to “D. L. S. and Harriet”. If I am not jumping to the wrong conclusion, is this dedication unique in including a fictional character?

Eastern shore

MENTION of Mersea Island in Essex (Time Out, 21/28 December) prompts a letter from Eunice Glass of Metton, in Norfolk, to champion East Mersea — which she recalls before the Second World War.

Eastern shore

MENTION of Mersea Island in Essex (Time Out, 21/28 December) prompts a letter from Eunice Glass of Metton, in Norfolk, to champion East Mersea — which she recalls before the Second World War.

Though it was not as smart as West Mersea, it was a place where she enjoyed the freedom today’s children can only read about. “Mud-crawling to the horizon was our favourite occupation, and I don’t remember ever having to tell my parents where I was going. . . No one got lost and no one drowned.”

She discovered lobster pots and dab-stabbing. “One lay on one’s front over a fairly fast-flowing stream, and caught the little fishes as they darted past. I can’t believe now that I was so horrible. We also collected cockles and winkles, and cooked them in a bucket over a small fire on the beach.”

Churchgoing in East Mersea sounds pleasantly untaxing. “I think the Rector’s name was Dunn. I remember him quite clearly: he was a small, gentle, and (to me) very old gentleman with white fluffy hair and a pink cherubic face. He had a wonderfully kind, if somewhat grave, manner, and spoke kindly, but with a certain degree of bewilderment, to the two or three small girls who walked from the beach to attend mattins.

“I can remember very little about the church building — it always seemed full of sunlight. I think the aisle was unpaved, just pure sand. . . There were a few cottages near by, and sometimes the people who lived there would be in church, too.”

I see from the 1938 Crockford that Ronald Dunn had been ordained in 1874, and had been Rector since 1903. It’s another world.

Discerning viewer

SURPRISINGLY, perhaps, given the opportunities for dropping a brick, Mark Vernon, an Anglican priest who turned his collar back round the other way, doesn’t tell all that many tales out of church in his book What Not to Say: Finding the right words at difficult moments*.

It is more a book of reflections than a guide to leaf through quickly in emergencies; but I liked his story of a friend who was stopped by a policeman for exceeding the speed limit slightly, and scolded with a reminder about a TV safe-driving campaign.

A fine was probably inescapable once the driver had replied in the style of Margot Leadbetter: “Advertisements? Officer, do I look like the sort of person who watches commercial television?”

*Weidenfeld & Nicolson (£12.99; 978-0-297-85302-2)

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