CANON Cecil Wray, who served the church that became
Manchester Cathedral for 56 years, was a prolific
baptiser and conductor of weddings. Like other clergy of his era,
he believed in regularising the lives of the rapidly growing
industrial population. By the time he died, in 1866, the records
show that he had presided over 33,211 baptisms, and 13,196
marriages. He had also taken 9996 funerals.
Disciplinarian though he may have been, he also cared a great
deal about the poor, and campaigned on many political and social
issues, including new schools, and a reduction of the working day
to ten hours.
Nor did he forget the poor in his will. Among his bequests was a
fund to provide the Minor Canons of the cathedral with £4 a year to
spend on socks: two pairs of "good worsted stockings" to be given
to each of "eight poor men and eight poor women usually attending
services at the cathedral". They were to be given each year on his
birthday, 21 January, and to be known as "Canon Wray's birthday
Sadly, the £100 trust fund that he left no longer buys many
socks. Instead, the cathedral collects new socks - including
unwanted Christmas gifts - from the public, in the lead-up to Canon
Wray's birthday date. They are then passed to the Booth Centre for
distribution among the homeless on the streets of Manchester.
Last time I asked, they hadn't had a chance to count the socks
donated, but they knew that this year's collection amounted to
"hundreds of pairs".