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Birthday socks

13 February 2015

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 gift".

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".

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