by Fr. Leo Smith
My dictionary tells me that a 'centenarian is a person who has reached the age of a hundred. There are eight men. born a hundred years ago, who are of outstanding renown. They are no longer with us. and in this sense are not entitled to be called 'centenarians.' Perhaps we might give them the honorary title.
The name of Gilbert Keith Chesterton is still remembered if only for his 'lather Brown Stories' which are at present being filmed in this hundredth anniversary of his birth. There is even a controversy in the press about whether the producers should make the famous priestdetective into a Jesuit, or respect his initial status as a member of the secular clergy. On May 29 we shall celebrate the centenary of the birth of G.K.C.. the essayist, poet and novelist, who was the first half of the 'Chesterbelloc.'
It was Bernard Shaw who thought up this name for the two Catholic writers of the first half of this century, who were not only the contemporaries of H.G.Wells and George Bernard Shaw, but were recognised as their equals. Probably we shall hear much about G.K,C. in the coming months. Reference will be made to his life and works. His life story was told by Maisie Ward, if memory serves me well. He wrote his own books, chief among tittem being Orthodoxy, What's Wrong With The World, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, and The Man Who Was Thursday. Two of his most delightful poems were: "The Donkey" and "The Rolling English Road."
At the moment it might he of interest to notice in what corn
pany this great author was born. Seven outstanding men share with him the year 1874 as the year of their birth. These include several other writers of equal fame.
In the order in which they first saw the light of day, we find Somerset Maugham. who was born on January 25. In February comes the author and antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest
Shackleton, with his natal day on the fifteenth. His two books on his expeditions in the frozen south give him a place among the literary, men. In April was born a man to whom we are all indebted for a new form of communications, the pioneer of radio. Guglielmo Marconi.
Two days later, On April 27! Maurice Baring came among us. He later became a close friend of Belloc and Chesterton. Although not of the same stature us an author, he wrote about his interesting experiences in Czarist Russia.
The following month comes a man who communicated to us in a different way, by uncovering the mysteries of ancient Egypt, in his . archaeological digging and writing with regard to Tutankhamen. This was Howard Carter.
Carter was horn on May 9. Twcrity days later G.K. Chestertowentered the realm of human existence.
Cancer, Leo and Virgo did not produce any of these prominent people. But on September 23 was horn a man whose success story has been an inspiration to many of those who found time to read his hook "Age and Youth." This man was Sir Ernest Barker. who began life as the poorest of boys, with no earthly chance of making a success of his life.
Owing to chance circumstances he was able to obtain a free place in a good school. and by his own efforts gained access tolOxford University, ending up as the head of one of its major colleges. before attaining the same position in the University of London and then of Cambridge, where he eventually retired to live a leisurely eventide.
His name was to become known to students of the classics because of his many books on the subject, as well as to those who studied history under his guidance. He was knighted by the King for his scholastic prowess.
The final name in this list of eight is without doubt the most well known. and the one that is least likely to be forgotten. He also. like Sir Ernest Barker. was knighted by the Sovereign, this time the Queen, and with the highest form of knighthood, that of the Garter. This was none other than Sir Winston Churchill, statesman, artist, orator and author.
One wonders if any other year produced such men as these
horn in Perhaps pile might also ponder as to the likelihood of any similar group of men being born in this year 1974. If so there is hope for the future, exert in these dark days.