The following article was a spin-off from a larger article I wrote about saints, their traditions, their myths and any other interesting facts. The article became too big, so I decided to split it. This is the result. The other article was published in Crystal Magazine (www.christinecrystal.blogspot,com.)
Saints mentioned in Dorset
Saints are all around us; their names appear anywhere from churches, schools, streets, parks and villages. Every day somebody, somewhere is probably celebrating a feast day for a saint, or invoking their help. It’s no different in Dorset; there are saints for everything and everyone.
Wool Catholic Church is dedicated to St Joseph. We all know of Joseph, the husband of Mary, mother of Jesus. Joseph was a good man; he was a carpenter, and St Joseph is thus the patron saint of carpenters. He was gentle, kind and no doubt suffered because of his situation. After all, he knew that the child Mary was carrying was not his. His feast day is March 19th.
St Joseph, along with St Thomas (doubting Thomas) is also the patron saint of doubters, and many more causes. He is among the most important of saints in the churches. All saints have an image in Christian art. St Joseph is depicted as an older man with a staff in his hand.
As mentioned previously there are other things than churches associated with saints. St Martin’s summer is an example sometimes heard. It refers to unusually warm weather late in the autumn. His feast day is November 11th. On this day, a lantern procession is held throughout parts of Europe, especially the Flemish part of Belgium, and in Germany.
St Martin’s church in Wareham is the most complete Saxon church in Dorset. At more than 1000 years old it is now famous for having an effigy of T.E. Lawrence, (Lawrence of Arabia), much visited by tourists. There are 12th Century Frescoes on the north wall of the chancel, depicting St Martin tearing his cloak into two pieces and giving part to a beggar. It is a well-known tale about St Martin, and accounts for the name of the church (actually St Martin’s on the Walls, as Wareham is a walled town.) This Saint Martin was Bishop of Tours. If you are connected to a soldier, as many people are in this area, you may want to call on this Saint Martin, as he is the patron saint of soldiers, and many other causes.
These days St Martin’s church in Wareham holds a communion service on Wednesdays, and the church can hold weddings and funerals, but only if there are no more than 40 people in the congregation. For larger services in Wareham there is an option though.
The Lady St Mary church is another Saxon church in Wareham, although the nave is Victorian. This is the place for big weddings and funerals. The church is in a most attractive location close to the River Frome. There is much history attached to it, as would be expected of a church this age. It was originally attached to a nunnery within the walls of Wareham. The south chapel is dedicated to St Edward who was martyred at Corfe in 978. His body was here in the church originally, but was later transferred to the abbey at Shaftesbury. The church is a Grade I listed building. Many parts of the church have been restored over the years. The Lady St Mary is also the name of a school in Wareham.
The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast Day of the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus in January. Among other things, she is the patron saint of motherhood, many countries, and the human race!
St John’s Hill in Wareham does not yield its history too readily, but is believed to have been the site used for medieval fairs held on the feast day of St John, June 24th. He is the Patron Saint of tailors, prosperity and baptism. St John’s Hill was probably the site where the markets were held, particularly for cattle. The charter for Saturday markets dates from at least 1272, and there was a fair for St John the Baptist in 1280, giving some credence to that idea that St John’s Hill was the fairground. There was a Chapel of St John the Baptist, long gone now.
Another local connection to St John the Baptist lies in Bere Regis, the church there being dedicated to him. This is another church 1000 years old. It was built mainly of timber to start with but part also of stone, to which much has been added. The church is much visited by historians who specialise in architecture as it has so many examples, from Saxon through Norman and with repairs and renovations being carried out over the years in various styles.
The church of St Nicholas in Moreton was originally dedicated to St Magnus the Martyr, who governed the Orkneys with his cousin Haco. His feast day was April 16th. He was murdered in 1107, and his remains were interred in Kirkwall at the Cathedral of St Magnus.
The church was rededicated around 1410 and was just a parish church until it was hit by bombs on October 8th 1940, and had to be rebuilt.
Those who are aware of the church travel from all around the globe, simply to see the windows in some cases. These were created by Laurence Whistler, a British poet and artist, famous for his glass engravings. He earned many honours, including an OBE and a CBE. The windows are wonderful and make a complete change from the more usual stained-glass windows of churches. Each window tells a story; information in the church explains each one in depth. The lightness coming through gives the church an ethereal feel.
We think of St Nicholas as Santa Claus. The real St Nicholas was born in Greece, (this area now part of Turkey), of wealthy parents who brought him up as a Christian. His parents died when he was young. Because of the lessons he’d learned as a Christian Nicholas gave away most of his money and belongings to those less fortunate than himself. He became a Bishop quite early on in life. He was known for his kindness and generosity, and love of children. This particular St Nicholas has a feast day on December 6th. He is the Patron Saint of sailors and children.
There have been relics for many saints in Dorset over the years. At Wimborne Minster, St Cuthberga, the Patron Saint of that church, has brought many pilgrims. She was a local abbess, related to kings. She was married, but left her husband in order to become a nun. Her feast day is September 3rd.
Wherever you live in Dorset, why not take a look around you? You may find yourself surprised and fascinated by references to saints, and what they stand for.
My First Radio
Children and teenagers nowadays almost take for granted such accoutrements as i-pods, MP3 players, play stations and of course the ubiquitous mobile phones. Not so when I was young.
At home we had the ‘wireless’; during my childhood television sets were introduced to the house. They were bulky items of furniture, with many viewing problems. It was early days for technology.
When I left home at 17½ to join the WRNS, my father gave me my first transistor radio. I was thrilled. It sat in my cabin and I immediately felt I’d found a friend. The first weekend of my training was my introduction to homesickness. I loved my family and missed them immensely, but I’d wanted to join the forces.
Frequently played on that radio at that time was the record by Allan Sherman ‘Hello Muddah, hello Fadduh’*, and it really summed up my feelings. After that first weekend, my spirits revived, as did those of the lad in the song. I can’t hear it without recalling my radio and my time in the WRNS.
Everywhere I went, my transistor went too. The work I was doing meant I could often have the radio on in the background. It led a checkered life though. One of my tasks involved being winched down from a helicopter onto a mountainside to watch Fleet Air Arm aircrew bombing and rocketing a target, and plotting their successes or otherwise. My radio came too, to while away the time between sorties.
On one occasion, while landing on that mountainside, my radio fell to the ground before me, and the tuning dial came off. Several other parts were also loose. It still worked, and a kind soul glued the dial back on.
I kept my faithful companion for many years after that, only discarding it when nearly everything had been broken and repaired many times, and the whole thing was totally ingrained with dust. Somehow I don’t imagine, in today’s throw-away society, that many people keep an i-pod, or even a mobile phone for as many years.
* For those of you too young to remember this song, it was about a young American lad spending his first time away from his family at a summer camp. It described in a letter to his parents the various hardships he went through. He almost begged them to let him come home. Suddenly the rain stopped, boys were playing and he wrote to his parents that they should disregard the letter.
Have you heard the news? they cried.
A massive rock – just rolled aside.
Prophecies fulfilled at last,
Pontius Pilate’s day has passed.
Your Jesus Christ has risen.
Every year when Easter comes
Around the world folks bang their drums.
Semana Santa, or Holy Week
Tableaux for the brave or meek
Exist to entertain and teach;
Re-enact for all to reach.
We will remember 2012, not just for the Olympics and other sporting achievements. Mainly we will remember the Queen’s diamond anniversary. There is another diamond anniversary this year, not such a happy memory involved in this one though. On 5th December 1952, the Great Smog fell on London; it lasted for 5 days, and caused great disruption to the capital. Cars were abandoned, airports closed and trains few and far between. An opera at Sadler’s Wells could not go ahead, as the theatre was filled with noxious smog.
The word smog is a combination of smoke and fog. There are two types, sulphurous and photochemical. The sulphurous type is the sort which became the pea-souper of those days. It is caused by burning fossil fuels, and in those days most people used coal as their means of keeping warm, and in some cases for cooking.
Photochemical smog is caused by the many emissions introduced by humans over the years, cars, factories, all have played their part in this toxic pollution.
The term smog was introduced around 1905 by one Dr H A Des Voeux, who was treasurer of the Coal Smoke Abatement Society. He wrote a paper entitled ‘Fog and Smoke’ and was an early advocate of cleaning up the air by discouraging coal fires. The Government hoped to phase them out completely, but of course this did not happen, although a lot of people looked to other methods of heating.
Back in 1952 around 4,000 people died as a result of the Great Smog. Most of them were either very young, very old or had pre-existing conditions which made them more susceptible. It wasn’t just people who died. Cattle and other animals were also affected.
The situation worsened because of the weather. Extreme cold and little wind did nothing to blow the damaging air away.
Thankfully we’re no longer affected by smog in this country, although the chemical variety still continues to be a problem worldwide. The fight for clean air is ongoing. Maybe we should remember this anniversary as something for which we should still be aiming.
One of the exercises we did in our Creative Writing Group was to write a poem or a piece of prose in a shape which hopefully reflected the words. My effort was a poem in the shape of a swan. Click on the link below to see it.