Virginia Barton

30 June 2017: Church furniture

30 June 2017: Church furniture


30 June 2017



Patrick died in mid-June, he was 88. A fixture in our church for many years, his death is akin to kicking out the wedge that was propping up that old cupboard you’d always meant to repair, but never got round to. The wedge kept the cupboard straight which in turn meant the door would shut. Without the wedge the whole thing listed and the door kept swinging open.

Please don’t mistake me, I intend no comparison between our lovely church building and an old cupboard. I was writing metaphorically.


Actually, there was a wedgey woodiness about Patrick, a hewn figure, hardy, strong. There were few practical tasks he couldn’t tackle. He dealt with the rubbish and the recycling — you can imagine the mountains of paper in a parish church. He cleaned things, trimmed candles and carried chairs. He went up ladders without number to change spent light bulbs or clear gutters. He swabbed floors when things were spilled and did the shopping for the needs of the Meeting Room: tea bags, biscuits, sugar and the like.

Patrick knew the names of the local homeless, the tramps and the beggars; many of whom he would entertain in the said Meeting Room. He was the exemplar of giving his tunic as well as the shirt off his back and of going the extra mile. In autumn swept up the leaves, in winter the snow, as the season dictated so that no-one should slip when they came to Mass.

As often as not he was here about, part of the furniture of our church.


Some kindly Saint seems to make sure that as one Patrick leaves us another takes his place. There was Michael, and his brother Tim; and before Tim, Clem. Clem who came when the church was built in the Sixties and set the benchmark for all the sacristans that followed.

Now Brian silently slips into Patrick’s role as guardian; preparing the hymn books and Newsletters for Sunday, filling the holy water stoup, changing the light in the sanctuary, laying the altar and a hundred other duties, week in week out.

Thank heavens for these humble, generous, tireless men; they are indeed heaven sent.





  • Jack L says on: June 30, 2017 at 12:04 am


    May Patrick rest in peace!

    The sacristan in our church is Marian, and she is 87 years old and indefatigable. She is unfailingly at her post every single day, cleaning the sanctuary with care (she uses a toothbrush to clean the deep crevices in the marble statue of Mary), keeping the sacristy in order, and even taking all the altar linens home to launder and iron. Like your Patrick, Marian is considered irreplaceable.

    You’re blessed to find a “new” Patrick. I fear we’ll not encounter such dedication to duty in this generation. And Marian is an unpaid volunteer to boot!

    • Ginny says on: June 30, 2017 at 2:27 pm


      May he rest in peace indeed Jack. I think you should ask your indomitable Marian who preceded her — I bet there was such a one, though possibly not as punctilious.

      On par with Marian and her toothbrush, was Patrick soaking the wax off innumerable brass candlesticks in buckets of hot water before they could be polished. A frightful job and one for which we have never found a satisfactory alternative.

      We honestly thought Clem was irreplaceable — but as my Dad was fond of saying to me, no one is! Very crushing. Virginia

  • Nadine says on: June 30, 2017 at 4:36 am


    What a charming obituary… even though I never met Patrick, now I feel I knew him. How much he will be missed. One of life’s silent heroes… the salt of the earth.

    • Ginny says on: June 30, 2017 at 2:28 pm


      I’m so glad Patrick came alive for you Nadine, he was pretty special. His Requiem is next Thursday and I bet the church will be packed! I hope there will be rousing hymns — he dearly loved a good hymn and sang well. In fact we could have done with him at The Chickadees this week.

      I think Onward Christian Soldiers would suit very well. Ginny

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