The cross and the engine

29 December 2008

by Margaret Duggan

FOND MEMORIES of Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends were evoked when a small olive-wood cross that belonged to Thomas’s creator, the Revd Wilbert Awdry, was blessed by the Revd Nigel Adams in its new home in the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in Tywyn, in Bangor diocese.

At the ceremony his daughters, Hilary and Veronica (above), told the story of how their father, in 1933, having graduated from Oxford and completed a year’s theological course at Wycliffe Hall, was told by his tutor that he should spend three years in a secular job before ordination.

As his tutor had just become head of St George’s School, Jerusalem, Mr Awdry agreed a three-year contract to teach there. The experience of living in the Holy Land had a profound effect on him, and a cross of local olive-wood “held a special place in his heart”.

It hung above his bed when he became bedridden, and he bequeathed it to the Talyllyn Railway, which was the inspiration for his much-loved children’s books.

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