Some former Curates.
Being about to lose my curate has made me remember some of the assistants I have had in other Church posts. There has been a wide variety if you include not only the young “real” curates, but also the priests who have helped me, who were either retired or in secular jobs.
At St Michael & All Saints, Edinburgh, I had no full-time curate for a year or so, but had the help of a great character, Canon Fred Bone. He was retired from the Diocese of Brechin, where he was well-known as an Anglo-Catholic of the old school. At one Diocesan Synod in Dundee, when some young liberal priest had been saying that Jesus was a man of his time and probably thought the world was flat, Canon Bone rose to his feet, and in his usual blunt fashion said: “Don’t talk daft! He knew it was round – he made the bloody thing!” Collapse of the Higher Criticism!
My first real curate was Fr David Smith, who had been a student at Salisbury Theological College when I was chaplain there. So I had no need to interview him, knowing him to be just what we needed in the parish. He then went to be Rector of St Peter’s, Galashiels, the parish where I grew up, and is now a Canon and Prebendary of York Minster and Rector of Whitby, Yorkshire.
When I arrived to be Provost of Inverness Cathedral, the Assistant Priest, called the Precentor, was Ian Young. After a year, he went to the Cathedral in Bahrain in the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf and later became Archdeacon of that diocese. He was succeeded by a young Royal Naval chaplain, Fr Stephen Evans who is now a Canon of Peterborough Cathedral, rejoices in the very English title of Rector of Uppingham with Ayston and Wardley with Belton, and is the Rural Dean of his area.
When I became Dean of Gibraltar, the Precentor of the Cathedral was Fr Michael Coombe, who is one of the kindest and most cooperative colleagues I have worked with. Fr Michael was also the Missions to Seamen’s Chaplain to the Port of Gibraltar and lived above the Club which he ran down by the docks. He diligently visited ships, from small merchant ships to huge luxury cruise liners. He loved the Diocese in Europe, having been Chaplain in places as diverse as Oslo, Belgrade with Zagreb, and Marseille with St Raphael and Aix-en-Provence. It was cause for rejoicing in Gibraltar when the Bishop made Fr Michael an Honorary Canon of the Cathedral
Not a curate, but a valued colleague was the Royal Naval Chaplain in Gibraltar, Fr Graeme Elmore, whom I greeted as an old friend, since he had also been a student at Salisbury when I was Chaplain there. Graeme and I worked well together: he had the King’s Chapel attached to the Governor’s Residence and we shared many services and, for example, the Holy Week observances. He had been a Naval Chaplain for fifteen years or so, and there was hardly a single British naval vessel that came into harbour where he did not know some of the crew. He was at ease with admirals as much as with young lads who had just joined the navy, and I saw the wisdom of the Royal Navy’s system of assigning no rank to Chaplains (unlike the Army and Air Force where you would get Squadron-Leader The Revd XY, who you knew could barely lead the Mother’s Union meeting!) Sadly Fr Graeme died just a few months ago, shortly after retiring.
When I moved to Milan to be Archdeacon of Italy and Malta, I was also Chaplain of All Saints Anglican Church there, and was lucky enough to have two assistants, both of whom had been Roman Catholic priests. The full-time one was Fr Patrick Coleman who had studied for several years in Rome, and therefore spoke good Italian (unlike me – when I arrived I could just manage Buon giorno and, of course essentials like vino and spaghetti). Fr Patrick lived in Varese and looked after a small congregation there, as well as teaching in the Sir James Henderson School in Milan. I had to be away quite a lot doing my Archidiaconal work in other bits of Italy or London, and could happily leave All Saints to him and the other assistant who was Italian, Sicilian in fact. Fr Antonino truly had no gift for languages, so even after years of being an Anglican and helping at All Saints, he was still very hard to understand. On the few occasions when neither Fr Patrick nor I could be in Milan, Fr Antonino celebrated the Mass, but as far as the congregation could tell, he might well have been saying it in Latin – or Polish, for that matter!
All these priests were very different from each other, but I enjoyed working with all of them and with many others who helped me in various ways over the years. Now I need a new curate here at St Clement’s. God already knows who that is, and I’m looking forward to finding out.