/ WAS delighted to receive some exciting news concerning one of my oldest and best friends among the clergy of the Arundel and Brighton pasturelands. He is Fr Gerard ("Joe") Candy the extremely popular parish priest, of St Gabriel's, Billingshurst.
We used to play golf together when I had occasion to visit his pleasant corner of Sussex. With a deceptively nonchalant looking swing he could drive the ball a dauntingly long distance. Such is his style in life itself.
On Thursday, November 4, Bishop Cormac Murphy O'Connor will be at Billingshurst to consecrate Fr Joe's church. But, no, the church is not a new one.
The story of St Gabriel's began in 1936 when Margaret Amis was killed in a car accident in Worthing. Her parents, Mr and Mrs Hubert Maile, decided to have a church built in her memory. They duly purchased a field in the village which they presented to the parish.
Father Candy arrived in Billingshurst in 1956. After facing many problems and overcoming a host of difficulties, he saw the foundation stone of the present church laid on August 26 1961, on the land given by Mr and Mrs Maile.
A document, together with newly minted coins of the realm, was placed in a steel tube and sealed inside the foundation stone, which was laid by the Bishop of Southwark, the Bishop Cyril Cowderoy.
Planning permission for housing was obtained for the remainder of the land, and, by selling this area, Fr Candy was able both to pay off the costs of building the Church and to finance the building of a Hall in 1978.
The Hall, through its many uses, is now well known by people of all denominations in the area.
During the service on November 4, Bishop Cormac will present the Bene Merenti Medal to two members of the congregation. The recipients are Mr Richard Barton and Miss Anse11.
Mr Barton, besides devoting most of his time to voluntary youth work — canoeing, climbing etc — has been an altar server for 62 years.
After the Consecration of the church there will be a reception in the hall for the bishop and all those present, including many visiting clergy and representatives of other denominations in the area. It will, I know, be a convivial occasion in the best sense of that expression.
Porter takes the reins
ONE EVENING, not long ago, at a club near Trafalgar Square with some friends including a director of the National Gallery, resulted in the latter arranging a spontaneous visit to the Gallery to which he was admitted by a side door.
This afforded an unusual perspective of some of the Gallery's famous rooms, whose romantic atmosphere was heightened by the emptiness and the subdued lighting.
In answer to a rather technical question, the leader of the nocturnal tour said "Oh, you'll have to ask the artist in residence about that."
Who — you may ask — is the "Artist in Residence"?
Well, the title is a fairly new one and it has so far been held by two people for six month periods. The current holder is Michael Porter (pictured on this page) who began his stint of "residence" last Monday.
He is a teacher as well as wellknown artist and the importance of his presence at the National Gallery for the general public is that members thereof can come
and visit him in his studio (next. to the Gallery's restaurant) between 2.30 and S pm on any Friday from early November.
Hopefully they will receive answers to everything they may want to know about the National Gallery's current Collection and, as far as possible, about painting in general.
Poetry, pure sheer poetry
THE CATHOLIC Poetry Society is one of many associations of its kind which surely deserves to be better known.
It meets at 5.15 on the second Sunday of each month in the crypt of London's (Kensington) Carmelite church and all those interested, particularly from a Catholic point of view, in writing poetry or listening to its being read can be sure of a warm welcome at such meetings.
Recently a rather special event was arranged when twelve poets, who are members of the Society, organised an evening of poetry and music for the entertainment of the Catholic Stage Guild.
The programme was arranged and compered by Miss Joyce Carpenter organizing Secretary of the Catholic Poetry society and herself a published poet and professional actress.
Guest artist Miss Elizabeth Thorndike niece of the late Dame Sybil Thorndike joined the poets to read extracts of Shaw's St Joan, and music in between the poetry was given by Richard Chatto's string quartet and songs with a guitar by David Russel.
Leslie Jackson (ex BBC producer and Vice Chairman of the Catholic Stage Guild) in thanking Miss Carpenter and the Catholic Poetry Society said what a happy thought it had been to bring Catholic poets and actors together and what a mutually inspiring evening it had been.
The Catholic Poetry Society was founded in the early thirties. At one time G K Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc were members. It continued through the years going through (as most societies do) lean times when it almost lapsed into abeyance. But at present it is going strong with members in several countries and a flourishing London membership.
Islip, or little Westminster
AN OXFORD comrade-inarms has reminded me, following on last week's reference to St Edward, of the significance of the Oxfordshire village of Islip, sometimes known as a "mini-Westminster."
The curious title refers to a village north of Oxford itself where the Confessor was born in 1003. Commuting a vow to do a pilgrimage to Rome, he undertook to restore the Abbey and community of Westminster, the new choir and transcepts being dedicated in late 1065, months before he was buried The monks of Westminster, it is said, descend in frayed but unbroken lineage to today's Ampleforth community; and a visiting Yorkshire while the charming brotherly and ecumenical custom finds the Dean and Chapter of the Abbey monks visit the Abbey, on notable occasions to sing the appropriate Latin vespers there.
THE DUCHESS of Norfolk will be speaking at all Masses at Westminster Cathedral on Sunday, October 31. Permission for something so unusual has been given because of the uniqueness of her appeal, about which I will be writing next week.