A SMALL church in West Yorkshire has benefited from an unexpected legacy left by a leading figure in Scottish heraldry.
The heraldic artist Romilly Squire, of Rubislaw, was born in Glasgow, lived in Edinburgh, and was a larger-than-life expert in all things to do with noble ancestry north of the Border. In 2008, as chairman of the Heraldry Society of Scotland, he took Donald Trump to task for creating his own coat of arms, which he described as “amateur” and breaking heraldic conventions.
His interest in his own roots was such that, when he died, in 2016, he left £9140 to Whitechapel Church, Cleckheaton, where his Yorkshire ancestors are buried, and a request that his ashes be scattered beside their tomb.
The Vicar, the Revd Brunel James, said: “For a church like ours, someone suddenly popping up and giving you £9000 is pretty amazing. We are in a poor area, and our annual budget is little over twice that. It was a surprise when we were told. It came out of the blue.”
It has taken until now for the legalities to be sorted out, and the ashes will finally be scattered this month. The legacy will be used to complete refurbishments at the Grade II listed church, including rewiring and improved heating.
Philip Hardill, a churchwarden, said: “We were aware of his connections with us, as he had visited the church ten years ago to see the grave of his fourth-great-grandfather, William Squire, but the bequest was unexpected. He was proud of his Yorkshire roots, and even had the county’s white rose emblem included in his own coat of arms.
“We want to retain the connection. Simply burying the ashes would not record anything further. We are looking into maybe engraving the current headstone, so there is, at least, a record that his ashes are here, as well as the remains of his predecessors.”
Mr Squire was the Limner (official heraldic artist) of the Order of St John in Scotland, and also worked at the Court of the Lord Lyon, the Scottish equivalent of the College of Arms in England. His executor, Sheriff George Way, described him as “the doyen of Scottish heraldic artists, with a worldwide reputation”. His obituary in The Scotsman said: “He brought life to colour, cross, and creature, imbuing vivacity in the simplest of charges. There was never a lion that lacked a glint in its eye, nor a castle where the battlements didn’t frown, nor a sabre that well-nigh rattled.”
He also had second and third careers as a model and a bit-part actor; he played a villager at a witch-burning in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.