The first church I attended was a high Anglican church. The priest in charge was a canon and quite scary. He was more of a “Hell and Damnation” type of preacher than a “God is love” type.  He was a tall thin, seemingly humourless man. There was much more parish visiting then and he was often to be seen, striding along, black cloak flying, biretta firmly planted on his head and black umbrella in hand. If he came upon boys fighting he would flail around indiscriminately with the umbrella, whether they were part of his congregation or not! I suppose today he would find himself in court on charges of assault, but in those days you always hoped that your parents would not find out that you had been in trouble, so nobody reported him.   

The only Sunday school teacher I remember from that church was B., a gentle girl in her early twenties. She was the daughter of staunch church members and her brother was in the choir. They had a very sad event which rocked the establishment in the church. Her brother was an accountant and something went wrong with one of his transactions and people lost their savings. Unable to live with the shame of it, he gassed himself. I suppose now he would be moved to another branch and given a bonus! I think people valued their good names more in those days and I heard of one or two people committing suicide rather than face the shame of bankrupcy or criminal proceedings.

We moved to a different church when I was about eight. Some of the families there had had ancestors attending that church for several generations, but they were very welcoming to us. There were quite a few spinsters of the age when a generation of young men had been wiped out in WW1.

One of them was my teacher when I was about ten. I think she was quite poor because she seemed to have only two outfits, one for the Summer, a cream linen coat and straw hat, and one for the Winter, a long navy coat and felt hat. Although the clothes were old they were always neatly pressed and her shoes highly polished.

She was very gentle and goodness seemed to shine out of her. Later when I  nursed nuns they had that same quality.  Everyone seemed to feel this because we never misbehaved in her class, you just knew that it would make her sad. Although she had little money she bought pretty text cards and handed them out each week. She was quite shy I think and at church functions she was usually to be found washing up or some other background activity. I never heard her speak ill of anyone, or anyone speak ill of her, though there was a bit of speculation about her background. She did  not  belong to one of the long established families and did not seem to mix with anyone very much. She was very well spoken, without a trace of a Nottingham accent.

When I left home to go to start my nursing career she rather shyly came up to me after the service and handed me a small prayer book. On the flyleaf she had written, “May God always be with you as you join that most noble of  professions”

Was there a hint there?  Had she too been a nurse?

Advertisements