From our Chaplain, Canon Graham Bettridge
Flotsam and jetsam
‘Nobody loves a fairy when she’s forty, nobody loves a fairy when she’s fat etc’, dressed in a tutu and wearing a tiara Margaret would on very special occasions be persuaded to render her party piece. (she was perfectly at ease with her size).
It was a bravura performance, and the heart and soul of the parish Hot Pot Supper evening.
By profession she was a pharmacist, her medical advice was often preferred to that of the Doctors.
The highlight of her year was the annual visit to Cornwall to her friend near Bude and participating in the great Harvest Festival rejoicings which took place a week before ours.
In the somewhat isolated Parish Church of Morwenstow she was welcomed back by the congregation. Margaret told of her role, playing the harmonium and singing in addition to the harvest favourites, the hymns for those in peril on the sea, and special prayers for those who ‘occupy their business in deep waters’.
From Margaret we learnt of the eccentric clergyman, Parson Hawker who had rekindled the Harvest Festival in the 1840s; he took the grain and the offerings from the sea and celebrated the generous gifts from our Creator. He recognised explicitly the holiness of the ordinary and brought the mundane and common to be solemnly blessed in the Sanctuary of his church.
Here was a Parson who gave his entire life to his God in his own individual way.
He loved his church with its mixture of early Saxon architecture and Norman arches, the sound of the crashing waves reminding him always of the dangerous waters around his parish.
His oddness and unconformity expressed itself in many ways: wearing a pink Fez and dressed in a yellow horse blanket which, he said, was the dress of St Padarn. In his little hut he wrote poetry inspired by the rolling Atlantic and his daily dose of opium. He also hosted in the hut Alfred Tennyson and Charles Kingsley.
This little hut remains and is the smallest National Trust property, just off the coastal path by the Church.
It is said that by making the Harvest Service into an enjoyable and welcoming festival for all parishioners he inadvertently touched the conscience of would be ‘wreckers’. He would lead the rescuers by swimming with them towards a distressed vessel. By putting himself in harm’s way alongside them he became a person of great trust within his community. He attracted many who came to share in ‘rescue’ rather than ‘wreck’. Much of the flotsam ‘floating’ articles and sometimes (when attempts had been made to lighten the ship) ‘jetsam’ found its way as part of the great Harvest Festival.
The Holiness of the ordinary and the preciousness of each person under heaven is germane to the Gospel of Christ. The late Bishop Ian of Carlisle taught me a great lesson in human friendships, ‘sometimes we must enter through their door in order that we may walk together through ours’.
Graham W Bettridge
Hon Chaplain Parcevall Hall