THE COLUMNIST, by nature, roams far and wide in search of material. o it takes an occasion of ome importance to peruade him to take a look into his own world rather than into the worlds of others.
So, at the risk of being accused of blowing the eathc,lic Herald's corn, rnunal trumpet, 1 would like you to accompany me bn a tour of the paper's history. For this, ladies and gentlemen, is the last irne you will get a crick n your neck trying to read he title. The Catholic erald of Friday, March 5, 1968. will cost sevenence and the masthead ill be restored to its ormer proud position, ang on top of the front age.
In 1934 you could have ut,Tht three and a half opies of the paper for 7d. t was 2d. a copy then. and What's more, you would aave received 20 newseked pages for your oney. But in those days paper cost EH a ton as gainst today's price of 05.
[ The position of the Catholic Herald's masthead has changed rather less frequently than its price—only once, in fact, In November 1965. "The 'vecks of planning are over the deadline has been met; the printers have done their job. This is the new Catholic Herald. Now we must await our readers' reaction," the announcement said.
And react our readers did. "Your paper is no longer suitable for a Catholic gentleman," wrote a colonel from Dublin. "The new green lines do not serve any purpose apart from the insipidity of the green, echoing, to a certain extent, the platitude-ridden insipidity of yonr editorial and one or two other features and articles," said a gentleman called Gadd from Cheshire.
Others liked the new look. "Now we can really read the Catholic Herald in public transport without any embarrassment, I like the side title of the paper and the green is easy to the eye," was the comment of Mrs. Scully of London. And Miss Grant. another Londoner, raved at "a really wonderful arrangement of the 'new' Catholic Herald."
But although the design, the price, the editorship, the ownership and everything else about the Catholic Herald has changed over the years, one thing has not — the paper has always, in the words of Cardinal Heenan, enjoyed controversy. FROM ITS early days in 1884, when the paper was started as an organ for Irish immigrants by Charles Diamond, the Catholic Herald looked hell-bent on stirring it up. Diamond was an eccentric, colourful Ulsterman and one of the most successful owner-editors of his time. From one paper he built up forty and dabbled in many other business enterprises.
He edited the Catholic Herald for 50 years. It was always pro-Irish and often anti-British. Once Diamond was prosecuted for the publication of an article entitled "Killing No Murder," described as a discussion on the "ethics of tyrannicide." The Crown case charged that he had incited Irishmen to riot.
He was found guilty and jailed for six months. Legend has it that, such was his colourful nature, he arrived at Pentonville Prison in a Rolls-Royce.
In common with the times the Catholic Herald of those days reflected the "Catholic hen lays Catholic egg" mentality. In fact, in January 1934 it got perilously near to that very headline when it enthusiastically reported that it was a Catholic man in West Limerick who had shot "a rare specimen of wild duck in the inland parts of North Kerry."
When Diamond died in 1934 the paper gave his death the kind of coverage that would now be reserved for a Pope with page upon page of tributes. But though the journalism of Charles Diamond looks quaint to us in the 1960s, we shall never see the like of his achievements again.
He founded and edited for half a century the first lay-owned and lay-run Catholic newspaper in the world. All others have followed the trail he blazed.
AFTER Diamond's death the Catholic Herald was bought by a company headed by E. Vernor Mlles. Michael de la Bedoyere was appointed editor. It has been said of him that he took the Catholic Press out of the presbytery and into the world.
De la Bedoyere was the great campaigner and although half the Catholic world of his time thought his schemes were harebrained at best, his work in Catholic journalism can be seen today for what it was: prophetic.
He wrote about liturgical reform and the vernacular for years before the Vatican Council. He foresaw the development of ecumenism. For championing evening Mass the Catholic Herald was banned by a bishop. A few months later Rome introduced evening Mass.
The paper is still officially banned in one diocese, though the ban seems to operate rather like the old index—nobody takes any notice of it, Some of the greatest names in literature have written and continue to write for the paper. One was G. K. Chesterton, who said of the Catholic Herald: "There is only one paper I know in England which gives you some sort of idea of what Europe is like, and that is the Catholic Herald."
Hillaire Belloe was also a contributor. Evelyn Waugh had a curious habit of writing letters for publication under the pseudonym "Mrs. Pinfold" even before "The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold" appeared.
ORMER members of the staff include Douglas Hyde, who was news Editor of the paper after he left the Daily Worker; Andrew Boyle, the biographer and television personality, and Daniel Coonihan. Chief Diplomatic Correspondent of the B.B.C. Fleet Street's oldest and longest surviving journalist is John Fielding, who is 89. Now a director of the paper he has been involved in all the changes.
Fr. Bernard Basset started the "Put Christ Back into Christmas" campaign in his widely read column. And for years the readers of the Catholic Herald have been known for their extraordinary generosity. Our appeals bring in more pro rata than any other medium. The most popular, most banned and the bloodiest forum of opinion is, of course, the paper's letter page. Every possible sub ject has been aired, discussed and torn to pieces in those columns and they have acted as a safety valve for British Catholics.
Some subjects have appeared and quickly died.
Others come back year after year. One of the most popular dog fights is over liturgy—music, reform of the Mass, vernacular and so on.
The musicians keep up a regular ding-dong. In 1937 one poor chap advocated the use of brass bands to accompany plainsong. He got the appropriate treatment for that. But they did have a sense of humour in those days. One musician contributed this jingle: The Church Militant is the priest and his ministers, The Church Suffering is the congregation, The Church Triumphant is the choir.
The same year the Catholic Herald carried a news item concerning a letter that the News Review had recently carried. "Is it true," asked the correspondent, "that there is an oubliette under the large image of the Virgin in the Roman Catholic Cathedral at Westminster down which victims are pushed to drown in the Thames below? I have been told this on good authority."
In an editorial footnote the News Review replied that "on the better authority of the Cathedral Secretary and Archbishop it is not."
AFTER an editorship of 30 years Michael de Ia Bedoyere left the Catholic Herald in 1962. During his time in the chair he had been one of the strongest influences in forming Catholic opinion in this country: a shy, reserved man with a sharp and probing pen.
He was succeeded by Desmond Fisher who, like Diamond, was an Irishman. Fisher was the first editor to come from outside religious journalism. His reporting of the Vatican Council was acknowledged as the finest in any English-language newspaper.
In 1966 Desmond Albrow, formerly News Editor and Night Editor of the Sunday Telegraph took over the editorship — only the fourth editor in 82 years and the first to be recruited from a Fleet Street national.
And what of the future? As the reforms and controversies within the Church grow you can be sure of one thing—that the Catholic Herald will be there to report, to discuss, to explain and possibly to infuriate.