A Roving Causerie
By G. E. ANSTRUTHER
That Alfred Byrne—" Alf " to his nationwide familiars—should have been elected Lord Mayor of his country's capital for the ninth consecutive year, is matter to excite no envy in anybody's bosom, unless the shade of Dick Whittington should feel put out about it, on account of so heavy a defeat of London's record by the Sister Isle. Dublin, having found the eminently right man for her mayoral chair and chain, has secured him by the chain to the chair, in a bondage of favour that shows no sign of breaking.
Honoured by the Holy See for his sterling worth as a Catholic, and by his fellowcitizens, time after time, for his civic qualities, Alfred Byrne is easily one of the most popular men in Ireland. There is general satisfaction that by agreement of all parties Dr. Hyde is Eire's President; but had the choice for that high office been in the hands of an electorate, " Alf," if a candidate, might quite possibly have had to shoulder a burden of State.
This week's celebrations at Oscott, for the centenary, will have filled the halls and chapel of St. Mary's College with distinguished guests from various parts of the country, many Old Oscotians among their number. Now an Old Oscotian is not an alumnus of Old Oscott; for an Old Oscott there is, a house of humbler proportions, at some distance from the present college. Maryvale is a shrine of memories, carrying the mind back to a time when the Midland District, progressive as it even then was, presented but a small picture of Catholic strength compared with diocesan successors in the Province of Birmingham, Of Milner, of Newman, the historians have told. All that this note seeks to do is to remind readers of the old building which, with all Time's changes, continues in usefulness.
Further north, another centenary has come by its celebration. When St. Austin's, Grassendale, opened its doors a hundred years ago, Liverpool had not spread its urban net and noises along that road. Even today, fronting a busy modern thoroughfare within the city boundary, St. Austin's can claim more of the air of old-fashioned reposefulness than belongs to most of Liverpool's outlying churches.
At the centenary celebrations the names were recalled, in gratitude, of a line of Benedictine pastors whose ministry is in the history of the parish. Those of Grassendale's congregation who are now " getting towards elderly " as local residents, will remember among those priests the saintly old abbot who on fine evenings, when not saying his prayers, was as likely as not to be found in his delightful garden, busy with the rose-bushes and others of Nature's gifts in bloom or blossom. * * * *
A saint in his youth is not necessarily saintly, else would there he, for instance, no St. Augustine of Hippo; so none of us need wax particularly indignant because St. Thomas More has lately been named, by the genial " Observator " of the Observer. as expert, when young, in the unpleasant art of "cock-throwing." All the same, " Observator " here did St. Thomas an injustice. Knowing nothing about it, he relied upon Lecky, an historian of rash deduction who has let him badly down.
We can be grateful to Mr. R. W. Chambers, of University College, for his full and interesting vindication of the saint in last Sunday's issue. St. Thomas More certainly wrote a verse, as a young man, of which the opening lines run : " I am called Chyldhod, in play is all my mynde, To cast a coyte, a cockstele and a ball." But the poet, in this case, did no more than equip an impersonal character with attributes belonging to his time, the lines being written for one of a set of pictures illustrating nine different ages of man. Rushing at interpretation like a bull at a gate, Lecky seems to have read : " I am called Chyldhod, otherwise Thomas More," and by way of a little extra spice he made St. Thomas " especially expert " at the cockkilling game.
Professor Chambers shows from Utopia that More, so far from being a votary of blood sports, disliked and criticised them; and he is able to cite Erasmus in proof of the saint's love for animals, including that commonest animal of the chase, the fox.
" St. Pancras through the Ages " sounds alluring as the title for an exhibition which the Council is organising in that borough. The nucleus is already possessed in the collection bequeathed by the late Ambrose Heat, but loans in addition, bearing upon the borough's history and antiquities, are invited.
It is to be feared that most Londoner's identify St. Pancras by a railway terminus rather than in his own saintly person, and many in the borough itself might be hard put to it to locate there the young saint's outdoor statue. Distinctively Catholic interest was greater in that part when the old cemetery held the bodies of English VicarsApostolic who now have honoured reburial at St. Edmund's College.
Word-making in the Courts is not a pastime of wide indulgence by the Bar; but where the word is coined to meet the susceptibilities of a witness, we are surely in presence of a friendly and commendable act. The following is clipped from a London evening newspaper:
Mr. Tleyfois Would it be right to say that your assistants got the impression that they were living on the edge of a volcano?
—No. I don't like being called a volcano. Mr. Beyfua—T suggest that you were a vol
981110 . .
There was Dickensian warrant for this. The cross-examining K.C. remembered, perhaps, the similar suggestion made by Tony Weller • "Spell it with a we,' Samival "1