Friday, 17 September 2010


Remember the story I told you last week about the Priest,the Bishop, the Pope and the stolen umbrellas?

His name was Father Brian Jones and the day the new Pope arrived, he died. I must say summoning him to Head Office was coming it a bit strong. A lot of fuss over six umbrellas.

I can make that sort of tasteless quip because he would have loved it and would certainly have said something similar if I had gone first.
Indeed the first time he took the umbrella for an airing was to play golf at a municipal course with my wife. As they teed up a wild storm blew up.

"Oh heck," said Father Brian, "He has spotted the Pope's umbrella."

They drove off. It looked as though my wife had driven nearer to the pin. Along came a greensman and moved it to within a foot of Brian's ball.

"That is what I like about Him," said Brian, "He doesn't bear a grudge.

Once in Menai Bridge my car stalled as he past by. He gave me a thumbs up, waved his hands over the bonnet and it started at once.
"He is very good with cars," he told me.

There were great depths of seriousness. One Easter I invited him to mark the day on my radio programme. I thought he would be good for a laugh. No chance.

He began by saying, "We all talk glibly about crucifixion. But we never really understand what that means..." And he gave us the most horriying account of the methods of crucifixion I have ever heard,
ending: "Never forget. That is what Our Lord suffered for love of you."

Glad I didn't die before him. He threatened to come to my bedside when I was dying and just as I was nearing my last breath he would baptise me into the Catholic faith."

Father Brian had the most spectacular ordination. There were only chapels in Ruabon, the North Wales village in which he lived. So the Catholics for miles around got together and built him a church.

He was obviously designated for high office. The church sent him to Valladolid, the Spanish Theological College where the High Honchos are educated.

Father Brian would have none of that. He lived and died a Parish Priest. His parishoners loved him. The local poacher used to tie braces of pheasants, salmon and wild duck to the vestry door. He loved fine wines and was at his most sparkling at the dinner parties given by his devoted friend Dr Margaret Wood, a superlative cook who gave him a home in his retirement. He called her his Spiritual Sister and we should all have sisters like her.

I covered his ordination but we lost touch. Years later I moved to Anglesey. Visiting us, my Catholic father-in-law came back from Mass in Menai Bridge. He said, "I have just heard the most wonderful sermon ever. And the only one that included jokes. No wonder the church was packed."

Later the same week in my local pub I saw a priest surrounded by an admiring crowd who were hooting at his jokes.

"My father-in-law has told me about you," I said,

"Ah yes," said the priest, "that will be Dr Lucas." He had taken the trouble to meet the stranger. We became instant friends and have remained so for over thirty years.

When my great friend Walter Payne died in Chester, his sisters asked me to do the eulogy at his funeral but the Vicar would not hear of a lay person officiating at a funeral in his church. On the day, Father Brian marched up in his full canonicals, commandeered the pulpit and read my speech.

It was no wonder his parishoners loved him, a love which he returned fourfold.

He loved to tell stories like the one about the little boy who came for Christmas wearing his new cowboy outfit. "He marched up the aisle to the crib, pulled out his sixshooter and shot the Virgin Mary."

A succession of bishops were less enamoured. One tried to punish him by sending him to Llandidrod Wells. "The armpit of the Catholic Church," Father Brian told him, and refused to go. So the Bishop sent him to Llanwrst where he spent many happy years.

This blog ends here. I usually like to end with a funny story. Not today. I know better than to follow Father Brian.



Sir George said...

Correction Mr Skidmore, not only do I differ from you regarding "Bert" but also the Court of Appeal, which called him a liar!

ian skidmore said...

I think you can have treatment. Shouldn't you be getting on with your novel and not wasting time reviling the deasd. I wish you would't send these unproductive comments

Sir George said...

But Mr Skidmore (and I promise this is my last word on the subject) wasn't it Mr Balmer who reviled the dead in his 1967memoirs, when repeating his lies about Kelly and Devlin & Burns, when he knew that they had been hanged wrongly through his own evil actions?
Finally,as a serious and humane writer myself, I will never understand how a fellow writer of such obvious literary talent as yourself can possibly turn a blind eye to such unspeakable evil perpetrated by a "chum" of yours - Assistant Chief Constable or not!

ian skidmore said...

Delighted to hear you have given me your last word, I haven't seen or heard of Bert for m,ore than half a century so have bnothing tyo contribute to the discussion
good wishesni