Saturday, 27 February 2010



The Dalesman's Litany, or why I am the Rector of 'ell.


It's hard when folks can't find the work where they've been bred and born
When I was young I always thought I'd bide 'midst roots and corn
But I've been forced to work in town so here's my litany
From Hull and Halifax and Hell, good Lord deliver me


A version by Dave Keddie of Bradford, of a song either written or collected by a Dr Moorman around 1900, The Dalesman's Litany tells the story of a lament for pre-industrial Yorkshire, its refrain, From Hull and Halifax and Hell, ( or from 'ull, 'alifax and 'ell) taking us as far back as a 16th Century Folk Song, The Beggar's Litany. At the time, both the Halifax area and the sea port of Hull reserved a particular form of justice for Coiners, those who doctored the legal coins of the Realm. In both places they faced execution, by hanging in Hull, and by the Gibbet, a primitive guillotine, in Halifax. (A replica of the Gibbet still sands on Gibbet Street, sadly it seems to have no part in the Town's Civic and Corporate identity...)

It is just possible that and 'ell in the refrain should be Elland, referring either to the settlement in Lower Calderdale, or to a contemporary Lord Savile of Elland, not noted for his compassion towards criminals, the Savile family roots being found in Elland.

Either way, as the Rector of Elland, it may just be I am the Rector of 'ell.

For a lovely version of The Dalesman's Litany sung by the late and much missed Tim Hart click here
It's hard when folks can't find the work where they've been bred and born
When I was young I always thought I'd bide 'midst roots and corn
But I've been forced to work in town so here's my litany
From Hull and Halifax and Hell, good Lord deliver me

When I was courting Mary Jane, the old squire he says to me
I've got no rooms for wedded folk, choose whether to go or to stay
I could not give up the girl I loved, so to town I was forced to flee
From Hull and Halifax and Hell, good Lord deliver me

I've worked in Leeds and Huddersfied and I've earned some honest brass
In Bradford, Keighley, Rotherham I've kept my bairns and lass
I've travelled all three Ridings round and once I went to sea
From forges, mills and coaling boats, good Lord deliver me

I've walked at night through Sheffield lanes, 'twas just as being in hell
Where furnaces thrust out tongues of fire and roared like the wind on the fell
I've sammed up coals in Barnsley pits with muck up to my knee
From Barnsley, Sheffield, Rotherham, good Lord deliver me

I've seen fog creep across Leeds bridge as thick as the Bastille soup
I've lived where folks were stowed away like rabbits in a coop
I've seen snow float down Bradford Beck as black as ebony
From Hunslet, Holbeck, Wibsey Stack, good Lord deliver me


But now that all our children have gone, to the country we've come back
There's forty mile of heathery moor 'twixt us and the coalpits' stack
And as I sit by the fire at night, I laugh and shout with glee
From Hull and Halifax and Hell the good Lord delivered me

Monday, 15 February 2010

The Burial of the Alleluia

Alleluia, song of sweetness, voice of joy that cannot die;
alleluia is the anthem ever raised by choirs on high;
in the house of God abiding thus they sing eternally.
Alleluia thou resoundest, true Jerusalem and free;
alleluia, joyful mother,all thy children sing with thee;
but by Babylon's sad waters mourning exiles now are we.
Alleluia cannot always be our song while here below;
alleluia our transgressionsmake us for a while forgo;
for the solemn time is coming when our tears for sin must flow.
Therefore in our hymns we pray Thee, grant us, blessed Trinity,
at the last to keep Thine Easter, in our home beyond the sky,
there to Thee for ever singing alleluia joyfully.
A Rubric in Common Worship: Daily Prayer records:
On Shrove Tuesday, ‘Alleluia, alleluia’ may be added to the financial versicle and response at Evening Prayer. After Night Prayer on Shrove Tuesday, ‘Alleluia’ is not said again until Easter Day.
This is a remnant of the Burial of the Alleluia, a medieval ceremony that marked a certain amount of liturgical restraint during the season of Lent. Before the reform of the Church’s Calendar, JM Neale’s translation of a Latin Hymn, described simply as Before 11th Century in The English Hymnal, was set to be sung on Septuagesima, 70 days before Easter, when the Lenten mood of the Liturgy began. The version quoted here, from a translation in New English Praise, is suggested for use on the Sunday next before Lent.
A Liturgical farewell to the shout of praise, the restraint from Alleluia is a sign of the Church’s exile in this coming season of Lent. Medieval Liturgy, half religious ceremony, half pageant, found ways of literally burying a piece of parchment on which the word was inscribed, sometimes with musical notation. Sometimes the burial took place in the Churchyard, sometimes in the Easter Sepulchre, where it was joined by the Blessed Sacrament on Maundy Thursday, and a wooden cross on Good Friday, for all three had a part to play in the Easter Liturgy.
The musical notation gave the note for the Song of Triumph on Easter Day, for it is the joyful restoration of Alleluia, not its absence that is the point. When the Bishop presides at the Easter Vigil, a modern Roman Rubric suggests that, before the first Alleluia that precedes the Easter Gospel, a deacon should approach with the words, ‘’Most Reverend Father, I bring you a message of great joy, the message of Alleluia’. Liturgical restraint does not forbid the use of the word in other contexts of course; I treasure a story told by a priest friend, of how the choir in his first Parish practised for Easter Day by miming the word, not so much ‘He said Jehovah’, (Life of Brian fans), more don’t mention the Scottish Play, (or Macbeth, Macbeth, Macbeth, Simpsons fans.)
May the Lord of all compassion grant us grace to keep a holy and joyful Lent.
Let us Bless the Lord, Alleluia, Alleluia
Thank be to God, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Snow has fallen, Snow on Snow..
Well, not really today, just the briefest of flurries, but it does give me the excuse to post this wonderful picture of All Saints Elland, taken just before Christmass by Angela Byram.

Fags, Mags and Bags
It's finally back for another series - the funniest half hour on the radio. Wednesdays, Radio 4, 11.30am. If you missed it, catch up by clicking here.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Anglican Franciscan Pioneers

On this day, members of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis keep a commemoration of the Anglican Franciscan Pioneers, giving thanks for the vision and faith of those who established the Franciscan Life in the Anglican Communion in its Three Orders. It gives me a good opportunity to quote one of the heroes of this particular Communion of Saints, Father Andrew of the Society of the Divine Compassion. Fr Andrew died in 1946, having been ordained over 50 years, the first Religious to be ordained in a habit since the Reformation. Although none of his work remains in print, copies can often be found lurking in second hand bookstores. (Many of his Retreat addresses were transcribed by participants, and so are printed in appropriately bite-sized forms for a new Century, now none of us allegedly has an attention span!)
Fr Andrew wrote, in words that continue to inspire:
Never judge God by what happens to you; but see what happens to you in the light of the Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of Jesus.

Monday, 8 February 2010













He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy.


Its probably 30 years since I saw it all the way through, but it was good to see Life of Brian again at the second of my colleague's occasional series of Film and Faith Evenings. I suspect a film like this couldn't even be made today. Too many people to risk upsetting, too many fundamentalists too ready to resort to a violent and aggressive response, missing the fact that this in itself contradicts of the 'fundamentals' of the Biblical record. What struck me most was how tame it felt, certainly compared with when I first saw it on release, my home town being one of few that didn't seem to have any concerns in showing it. The 17 year old me laughed at it then, and the 47 year old me still does. It is a beautiful looking Film, Director Terry Jones wanted it to look like a French Art Film, and succeeded.


If the Pythons had known in advance how some Church hierarchies would respond, the film's gentle criticism of organised religion and of the human need for a Messiah would surely have been much stronger. As it is, it's the political scene of the 1970s that is really in view, as Reg and his anarcho-syndicalist collective of Judean Revolutionaries continue to miss the point. While the closing scene's cheery stoicism, Always looking on the Bright Side of Life, is certainly not the Gospel understanding of Death and Resurrection, there was one truly chilling scene that could not have been intended at the time - the crack suicide squad of the Judean Popular Front, and their mass suicide, while Brian looks helplessly on. In 1979 we laughed at the idea of a political suicide, Kamikaze pilots notwithstanding, little knowing what the suicide bombers of the 21st Century would bring. Ironically perhaps, but the Life of Brian stands now for a slightly old fashioned understanding of human nature, a gentle reminder that we can and should do all this living thing a lot better.
Random and Occasional

This is a blog for my Random and Occasional Jottings on Parish Life, Liturgy and Spirituality, Music, the mighty Leeds Rhinos and Leeds United, and whatever else takes my attention. Having tried occasional blogging in the past with articles on the Parish websites, I'm bemused that a return to regular blogging on my part should have coincided with Pope Benedict's call to priests to Blog. Perhaps more than anything else, this Blog is a challenge to myself. I am not good with words, especially if they are my own. Praying the Liturgy however is a joy, as (most) of those words are given. As a child there was considerable doubt whether I would ever be able to speak clearly. Nowadays we would call it speech therapy, but then it was perhaps simply common sense on my parents behalf that transformed a situation. But I am left with the recurring sense that any words, spoken or written, of mine, are at best a challenge, and sometimes an ordeal, to one person in particular - me. So may I occasionally make a little sense at least, and carrying on trying to live out this priestly vocation!