(Silly season post 2)
In the 1930s novel High Rising by Angela Thirkell, Laura and Amy are talking about the names of clergy. (See previous blog on the names of bishops). Laura remarks “It’s just as peculiar in the Roman Catholic Church. If you see announcements of preachers outside the Oratory they are called Monsignor Cuthbert Bede Wilkinson, or Dom Boniface Chrysostom Butts.” (Lovely to see there a sighting of ‘Chrysostom’)
Well, rather than looking at RC clergy names we thought we’d look at Anglo Catholic clergy of the past and see what unusual ones we find there. In the higher layers of Anglo Catholicism we often find the unusual and the exotic, and sure enough the names of some of the clergy contribute to this.
In a previous blog we mentioned Fr Peter Eugene Blagdon-Gamlen, famous for his guide to Anglo Catholic churches, The Church Travellers Directory (online version here). The Anglo Catholic History Society has recently published a biography of the splendidly named Henry Joy Fynes-Clinton, former Rector of St Magnus the Martyr, London, and a leading Anglo Papalist. A lovely story relates that Fr Fynes-Clinton went to see the Bishop of London who said to him “Take a chair Clinton” to which he replied “Its Fynes-Clinton.” “In that case” said the Bishop “take two.”
Fr Gonville Aubie ffrench-Beytagh had a notable ministry in South African and later as Vicar of St Vedast, in the City of London. He was a sought after spiritual guide. Fr John Brabazon Brabazon-Lowther, of Shrigley Park, Cheshire was an Anglo Catholic priest and later an Archbishop of ‘The Ancient Catholic Church.’ (And yes the Brabazon is repeated). Fr Desmond Morse-Boycott was well known for ‘Fr Desmond’s Window’ which regularly appeared in the Church Times. Further back in Anglo Catholic history we have: Fr Edward Bowles Knottesford-Fortescue, first priest at Wilmcote and son of Revd Francis Fortescue-Knottesford (yes the names are reversed.)
The list almost seems endless, and includes appropriate, even amusing surnames, for example; Fr Tabernacle, Fr Christmas, Fr Page-Turner, Fr Pickles, Fr Careful, Fr Tooth, Fr Churchyard, Fr Challis, Fr Precious and Fr Blood.
Novelists have picked up the theme too – Fr Hugh Chantry-Pigg, is the comic priest in Rose Macaulay’s Towers of Trebizond. There is, of course Oscar Wilde’s Canon Chasuble, and Barbara Pymm invented Father Marius Lovejoy Ransome.
There is evidence that some clergy wishing to ascend to the higher levels of Anglo Catholicism may have developed their names (or had that done for them). Fr Edwards of Prestbury changed his name to Fr Baghot de la Bere. Fr Hope Patten of Walsingham fame was in earlier life Alfred Patten. Fr Kitkat, former Vicar of St Benedict, Ardwick added the name de Winton immediately before Kitkat to his five sons’ names, who subsequently identified themselves as having the surname ‘de Winton Kitcat.’
Of course it is easy, and can be fun, to pick out unusual names, and unusual names were not confined to Anglo Catholic clergy. However, it does seem that Laura’s remarks about the RC clergy may have some resonance in the Anglo Catholicism of her time too.
Now… if you were a novelist what name would you create for an Anglo Catholic priest? (And perhaps we could update from Angela Thirkell’s day by adding women Anglo Catholic clergy to the list) Do put your answer as a comment below, – or by clicking here – please)