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Memories of Parish Life

Written in 1999 by Tony Wheeler (1915-2008)

In 1936 when our family came down from the north (at the request of the Priest who advertised [in 'The Universe'] for Catholics to come to Glastonbury) the PP then was Fr P J O'Beirne, a very holy and humble priest,  very generous too. After he was transferred to Chard, our new PP was Fr M J Fitzpatrick [who] in 1938 had the church* demolished to make way for our new church. It was arranged by the Diocese to buy all the material needed, because of the threat of war. Progress was being made and it was nearly half built in 1939 when war began...Mass was said in the Convent chapel during those days; and as there was not much transport, the Street people had Mass in Strode School...Fr Fitzpatrick organised weekly whist drives (20 tables), socials in the Convent hall, with our own parish band, and grand dances in the Town Hall or the village hall in West Pennard, that attracted about 400, two or three times a year. There was much activity then!

Pre-war there was a yearly pilgrimage on the Tor; cancelled during the war years. Then in 1951 (?) there was a great [new] beginning, organised by the K.S.C., with Mass on the Tor [in later years in the Convent field] and Benediction in the Convent fields...The K. S. C. Diocesan councils had (14) huge crosses made according to the weight of the True Cross (168 lbs+). These were then carried by each 'Council' each year...Normally the Pilgrimage had about 4000 [attending] annually, but there have been up to 20,000 on special occasions. The Pilgrimage began with Stations of the Cross on the Tor...The Knights of St Columba have done a great deal of the organising every year.

When we came here [from Oldham] in 1936, there was a weekly Mass attendance of about 50. During the war years, there were about 100 children [who] came from bombed areas with 2 nuns to care for them. They used to walk around Street and Glastonbury every Sunday, to knock on doors, to bring the children to Mass.

+actually estimated at 157lbs: see the 1960 Pilgrimage programme, p.9, for an article giving details. 

*See his drawing (from memory) of the stable -church, reproduced in the CTS 'Christian shrines series' booklet, 'Glastonbury: a Pilgrim's Companion' by David Baldwin (2013), p.45.