Just recently, I’ve been having moments of nostalgia, remembering people and places from quite a few years ago. I think this was sparked by +Edwin’s forthcoming ordination to the priesthood in Portsmouth RC Cathedral (St. John’s). Whenever I was in the vicinity of the Cathedral, I used to go in for a few moments of quiet amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. I watched as the interior all changed (for the better) due to Vatican ll. Shortly after the new organ was installed I was fortunate to be able to go and play it. Sometime later I played there for a couple of weddings. In my youth when I worked for Portsmouth City Council I used the organ at St. Jude’s Church, Southsea for practice, moving when it became unavailable to the Garrison Church also n Southsea.
For a while I was County Music Advisor for Hampshire Girl Guides and performed for their conferences on the Guildhall Organ, quite a fine instrument but poorly looked after by the Council in those days.
We lived just of the sea front at Lee-on-the-Solent for a few years before I went to Salisbury & Well Theological College. One beautiful summer recovering from an illness I was able to go swimming every single day for a couple of months. Despite not living near the sea for some 25 years I still miss it and can’t wait to walk along a sea front to smell the ozone and watch the waves as they come in or go out.
Living at Lee-on-the Solent, I became the Organist & Choirmaster of St. John’s, Forton in the days of Father Garth Munro who, after retirement was succeeded by Father Douglas Freeman who came to us from St. Ives, Cornwall. Both priests were stalwarts in the Catholic Faith and would be horrified to know that St. John’s now has a woman priest, losing many of the congregation who have taken refuge in another Anglo-Catholic parish.
At Lee-on-the-Solent, we had a wonderful priest, a Roman Catholic, Father Percy Collier who was very involved in the life of the village and known and respected by everyone who lived there. You would often see him walking along the road as he eschewed (or couldn’t afford) to use public transport. He would walk to Portsmouth and back. An expert on Harmoniums and an excellent musician, he travelled in Europe mainly France, to find them and play them. My deputy Organist and I played the organ for Fr. Percy mainly for Rosary and Benediction when his own organist was not available. About the time I left Lee-on-the-Solent to go to College, one of his congregation started to train as a permanent deacon. I was very touched to find that Father Percy regularly offered Mass for us both. In those heady days, I really believed that reunion with Rome would happen in my lifetime. Perhaps the Ordinariate is the answer to that optimism and to those prayers – only time will tell.