Updated December 15, 2016 10:51 PM
Photo courtesy of Susan Chapman
Rev Moss and 11th Bolton Scout Group
Kenneth Ashley Lucas
Though the family were nominally CofE they were mainly what I would describe later as H.M.D.s – Hatches Matches and Dispatches. Furthermore, as our local parish church, St. Mark’s, was some distance away, when it came to Sundays I was sent first to the Sunday School at the Nonconformist Chapel in the High Street – a place generally known as the Band of Hope.
However the father of one of my playmates, Mr Tinsley, was the caretaker at St. Mark’s and eventually I was allowed to go there with my young friend, an event which had a profound influence on my life. The C. of E. Sunday School brought us to the notice of the C. of E, parson – the Rev. Harry George Moss, who lived at the Vicarage just round the corner from us. Vicar Moss was a young Anglo-Catholic priest settling into his first parish after serving a curacy at St. Phillips, Salford under the famous canon Peter Green. Being a Catholic, he always wore a cassock and I can picture him now in our living room in Broach Street, sitting in a rocking chair, smoking his pipe and chatting to my mother. He was a regular visitor.
My life centred on the church. Living in these godless days it is hard to convey the centrality of the parish and its church in pre-war days. There was of course, no radio or TV, little private transport and certainly no holidays abroad. Consequently, the church and its associated buildings was not only the centre of religious life but also the base of most social activity as well.
St Mark’s Church was no exception. The church rooms were used for all kinds of activities and meetings of Societies and Clubs innumerable so there was something on at all times, every day of the week. Many of these were devoted to fund-raising, simply to keep the church afloat in a poor, working-class parish. There were organisations for women and girls (M.U., G.F.S., Guides and Brownies etc.) and for men and boys (C.E.M.S., Men’s Club, Scouts and Cubs etc). There were whist drives, beetle drives, hot pot suppers, jumble sales, bazaars and dances in the School on Saturday evenings.
In Church itself there were teams of servers, sidesmen, a large choir and a vast Sunday School meeting in the school on Sunday afternoons.
How the Vicar coped with all this activity I will never know but he was familiar figure all round the parish on his old ‘sit up and beg’ bone shaker with his black cassock looped up and the breeze blowing up the brim of his ancient, wide-brimmed hat so that it took on a Napoleonic air.
I became more involved in all these activities – as a member of the choir, a server, a member of the Scouts and later on as a Sunday School teacher. Consequently, I was out at Church activities two or three evenings a week and two or three times on Sunday.
Of all these things, the one which had the deepest and longest lasting effect was being a server. Vicar Moss prepared me for Confirmation when I was about 13 and I was confirmed in Bolton Parish Church.
Once confirmed, I became an altar server and there was something about the 8.00 am service of Holy Communion which, I suspect, settled the path of my life. As I have already mentioned, Vicar Moss was an Anglo-Catholic so vestments were worn and I was properly trained in all the ritual and ceremonial of the Anglo-Catholic Mass.
The Sanctuary was full of colour, candles, vestments, vessels and brilliant light. This was such a contrast to the rows of black houses and mills outside that the effect was pronounced. For the rest of my life, whenever I hear the words “O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” I was immediately transported to 8:00 am and the Sanctuary of St Marks. Perhaps there, watching and assisting Vicar Moss, I was given the first glimpse of what I wanted to do in life. I wanted to be like him.
Kenneth Ashley Lucas
* Kenneth Ashley Lucas was ordained as a vicar in the Church of England in 1969 at the age of 51.
Kenneth Ashley Lucas was born in 1918, and for lived for 20 years with
his widowed mother and grandparents at 11 Broach Street Bolton.
Kenneth died in 2003, and I was privileged to receive a box containing lots of family photographs and a copy of his own auto-biography.
The auto biography is now held by Bolton Archives
and Local Studies department, and some of the photos are on the St Marks
Web site. Here are extracts from Kenneth’s autobiography that
are relevant to St Marks Church. Kenneth attended Clarendon St School.