On this, the holiest day of the Christian year, I am reminded of the part religion played on everyday life when I was growing up. I lived in a neighbourhood of mixed religions, Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish. I don’t think there were any of the Asian religions because there weren’t any Asians.

The highest proportion were Anglican (if only nominally) but there were several Methodists and Baptists, a few Roman Catholics and two Jewish families. It caused no problems, we socialised together and accepted that we worshipped in our own ways. Sometimes the Protestants attended functions in each others church or chapel, but the Catholics and Jews tended to keep to their own places of worship.

The clergy were very much in evidence on the streets and it was not unusual to see Canon Leper coming round one corner and Father Harrington or a non conformist Minister coming round the other and even occasionally the Rabbi. If any of the boys were misbehaving they were quite inter- denominational in wading in to stop any fighting etc. Canon Leper would lash out with his umbrella, Father Harrington, who was much younger just used his hands! I never heard of any parents complaining about this.

All the churches had their various youth groups Scouts and Guides, Boys Brigade, Lifeboys and Girls as well as the youth clubs in the various churches and were all ecumenical in these, so had you wanted to you could be occupied every evening.

Even during the war Sundays were quite different from weekdays. There were no church bells of course, but there was a sort of quietness and most people had “Sunday best”  clothes. The shops were closed and there were no major sporting events. Many of the children went to Sunday school, even if their parents were not churchgoers. Some may have gone for the treats provided for regular attendance, Christmas parties, summer day trips,and the annual prizegiving etc.

We went to the Anglican church which was very “high” and used lots of candles and incense. It was presided over by Canon Leper who was tall, thin and pale and always wore his full black clerical outfit, even in the street. When he swept round the corner of the street, brandishing his umbrella and his cloak billowing out, he was quite terrifying.

I was “in love”  with Father Harrington, a young handsome friendly Catholic priest, from a very early age and begged my mother to change religion, but to no avail. 🙂

When my Dad came home after the war he told us little of his experiences other than a few humorous anecdotes but I think he was very much affected by some of the things he had seen and he would not accompany us to church. We had moved to another church by this time, but my father went off for long walks on his own when we went to church. Some time after this we had a new curate who had also served in the RN and maybe he had more understanding of Dad’s feelings because, after a few visits from him, Dad seemed to get his faith back and remained a steady member of the church and became first a sidesman and then a churchwarden for 25 years. It was many years later that he told us of the part he played in helping to dig out the bomb victims in Plymouth and being torpedoed in the Atlantic.

When we were about fourteen we finished Sunday School and became Sunday School teachers. About the same time we started going to the Youth Club where they had table tennis, billiard tables, amateur dramatics and had dances on a Friday night, all very innocent and strictly teetotal! By the time we were 16-17 rock and roll was coming in and several of the boys bought guitars and kidded themselves they were going to be the next rock star.:)

We had several occasions in the year when all ages in the church got together for functions, Shrove Tuesday, Easter Monday, Harvest Festival, Christmas and New Years Eve, where we had a simple supper and a social and dance. There didn’t seem to be any generation gap.

I think we were lucky to grow up in such innocent times. I never knew anyone to take drugs (other than the boys sneaking into a pub before they were 18) and although there were Teddy Boys who reputedly carried bike chains and knuckle dusters, I never personally met any of them, just read about them in the Sunday papers .

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