FOUNDER OF FIRST CATHOLIC SECONDARY SCHOOL IN BIRMINGHAM
The Birmingham Oratory lost one of its most lovable personalities with the death of the Rev. Richard Garnett Bellasis, on February 15, in his eightyninth year. On April 27 he would have celebrated his Diamond Jubilee in the priesthood, and he spent the whole of the time in the Birmingham Oratory.
Fr. Rinhard was the eldest son of the lawyer, Serjeant Bellasis, who was one of Cardinal Newman's closest friends, and he was the brother of the Rev. H. Lewis Bellasis, also of the Oratory, who died last February.
On May 2, 1859, he arrived as the first boy at the newly-founded Oratory School. and he was the first winner of the 120 Norfolk Prize. After taking a B.A. degree at London University, he entered the Oratory in 1875 and immediately made his presence felt. In 1877 he presented an organ to the old church and took in hand the musical arrangements. He introduced an all male choir in place of the mixed choir and he laid the foundation of a musical tradition at the Oratory which has no better in the Midlands.
In the same year, also as a layman, he revived the Brotherhood of the Little Oratory, which was St. Philip Neri's own society for men, and forty years later we find him organising the women into the Children of Mary which he also founded in the parish.
In 1879 he was ordained by Archbishop Ullathorne. Two years later he founded St. Philip's Grammar School and was its headmaster for twelve years. The school, which started in a very humble way, without any assistance or recognition from the education authority, has now grown into the official Catholic Secondary School for the Birmingham area, with nearly 300 pupils on the roll.
The school is now attached to the Oratory buildings, since taking over the old premises of the Oratory School in 1928, when that school was moved to Caversham.
Fr. Richard was Fr. Superior of the Oratory from 1913 to 1922 and served on the Queen's Hospital Financial Committee from 1909 to 1931.
Fr. Richard was a builder, a creator: wherever one looks in the Oratory there are things which remind one of him. Everywhere are things " started by Fr. Richard," but with all his achievements he will be remembered most by those who knew him for his kindness and gentleness. That is how he would have wished it, for his spiritual father, St. Philip, was always his model. He never tired of talking of him and preaching on him; he would wish nothing better than to be remembered by those very traits which make St. Philip such a lovable saint.
A Solemn Requiem Mass was celebrated at the Oratory on Friday morning. The celebrant was the Rev. F. Vincent Reade, Superior of the Oratory, and the deacon and sub-deacon were Fr. Philip Lynch and Fr. Stephen Dessain respectively. Later the interment took place near the grave of Cardinal Newman, at Rednal. There were present at the Mass Mgr, Thomas Williams, Archbishop of Birmingham; Mgr. Bernard Griffin, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham; merehers of the Cathedral Chapter and of the community of the Oratory, and a number of the local clergy. The Absolution was given by His Grace the Archbishop.