Ray Winch, early April 1997 – and a reflection

This letter is undated, but his allusion to Easter 1997 (30th March) would place it around the first week of April. Monastic Lent is not something easy to live through, though guests were allowed meat on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Indeed, monks don’t receive mail from family or friends and the almost Orwellian atmosphere of the modern monastery is quite overbearing for the dreamer I am! Anyway, I was grateful for this piece of sympathy from a good friend. Actually, as a working guest I was allowed my mail at any time and my freedom.

* * *

Dear Anthony,

I excuse my delay in writing on the grounds that monks ought not to receive letters during Lent and that diligent monks may be bold enough to impose this rule on their captives. Lo, happy Easter; and here is a Winch Puzzle to help you through Paschaltide!

After applying to Mrs Hall and receiving from her a formal invitation, I went to Spanish Place on March 1st. The church was nearly full. The few empty seats were balanced by a small group of which I was one, who prefer to stand through services. There were a few clerics in choir including three Black Monks and a lesser prelate in a mantella. As is always the case on such occasions, the congregation was predominately male. Most of us went to the crypt for a lavish professionally-made buffet. Mrs Hall made a brief speech thanking the curé, etc. For an hour or so there was good humoured conversation. Then some men with authority attempted to clear the chamber. (My attempt to assist him by calling out Domni domaque exite. Per gratias vestras exite was greeted with some applause.) But, when we were all outside and making off in various directions, I realized that there had been no meeting! It was for the meeting that I had gone. I had assumed that, at the very least, there would have been an announcement of provisionally chosen officers and a call for suggestion about future activities. There was not even a collection of the names of those present or a request for means of future contacts, etc. It was a most agreeable way of spending a Saturday, but, it seemed to me, strangely inconclusive. Perhaps an opportunity missed.

Among the present were two undergraduates and a post-graduate whose names I had sent Mr Hall when asking for my own invitation, and the ubiquitous Robert. Also present was the Rev’d Father Michael Mowbray Silver, now known as Archithurifer to the Bishop of Worthing. There were a few sacristy queens, either dissenting Anglicans or Catholics of Anglican vintage.

The service was a High Mass with choreography by Fortescue. However, it differed from the old days on these counts:- then, under no circumstances would High Mass been celebrated in a parish church on a weekday; there were clergy in choir; all were attempting to follow the service; there were many communicants. Unfortunately it was exactly like the old days in that it seemed to be assumed that none were able to follow the Latin directly. Even the lessons were sung without regard of intelligibility.

There was a brief sermon. That, of course, was intended to be understood. The preacher praised the silent Canon. He seemed unaware that this latter was a very late corruption caused by excessively elaborate music for the Sanctus and then applied, by the rubricists, to the Missa Lecta. Obviously the priest read the Gospel to himself before the deacon sang it softly to the north wall. None of the old decadence was omitted.

Robert had me to London again on Good Friday to attend the c. 1960 liturgy at Corpus Christi [Maiden Lane]. The congregation was almost exclusively male but elderly. Most traditionalist services that I have attended – including those at Oxford and Durham – were mostly patronized by boys and young men. Robert said that the authorities at Maiden Lane were not allowed to advertise the services in any way and this explains the congregation. Is this correct? Corpus Christi is obviously the church in the opening pages of How Far Can You Go?, the novel by David Lodge. I think that, in my student days, it was used for early morning “corporate communions” of members of the University. But, as I did not live in the centre, I attended none of these. Univ. Coll. Catholic Society celebrated an academic High Mass each year during the annual Foundation Week. Once, when an undergraduate died, there was Placebo and Dirige. Functions of this sort were at St Anselm’s in Kingsway.

Last evening I had a ‘phone call from a man whose name I did not catch. He seemed to suppose that I knew it. He is a member of C.I.E.L. but, apparently, he had heard of me by another route. It appears that he has set up a small publishing business. I think that he said that he was responsible for the small volume with the Waugh – Heenan correspondence. He said that he would like to publish a small volume by me under a title like Daily Worship in a Medieval Parish Church and an “article in a news-letter” about Catholic Parish Worship before 1955. He took little notice of my protests, that I would find it difficult to set out a book without a colleague (though, perhaps, I rather over did this).

All my longer stuff, except Canonical Mass  has been done with a colleague:

British Empirical Philosophers – Ayer and Winch

The Assumption – Bennett and Winch

La Storiografia Inglese nei Secoli XIX e XX – Flessati [?] & Winch

Would you, by any chance, like to be the Chadwick of a Chadwick and Winch? When you are at your presbytère, possibly time may hang heavily. If I were to come out with all my material, we might cooperate to produce a slim volume. (La Storiografia was done in less than three weeks of a long vac. and there had been no preparation.) This may well not appeal to you: there may well be a multitude of reasons why it may not be feasible. However I cast forth the idea. I suppose I could come July, Aug and Sept.

[I find no further page of this letter in my little folder.]

* * *

April 15th, ’97

Dear Anthony

When I wrote to you recently (my only letter to you at the monastery, posted about April 4th [which accurately dates the above letter], I told you that I had been approached, by telephone, by a small Catholic publisher who wanted me to write up my researches for a book. He had told me that he would follow up the ‘phone conversation with a letter. I had told you that I would send you a copy of his letter when it came. Here it is.

I replied to his letter on April 10th when I said that: (i) I was generally agreeable, (ii) my field was a little less wide than he seemed to think though I was not adverse to some extension, (iii) that I would not expect remuneration – at least for a first edition, though I would welcome, but not demand, a contribution towards any expenses which I might incur. So far I have not heard from him, but I posted the letter only five days ago.

I have become a trifle puzzled by this Saint Austin Press. I have a certain instinctive notion that it is rather more than a publishing venture with a concern for traditionalist Catholicism. It may be excellent but I would like to know. Do you know? I’ll not tell the pursuivants nor even the Curia!

I sent you, on an earlier occasion, a typescript De Divino Officio. This was used as a handout for my lecture last year. As I then explained to my audience, besides providing a document in evidence, it has also a piece of experimental history. I dictated it to a man who had not learnt Latin and who had never been to a service in Latin. The only help I gave him was clarity of diction. We proceeded swiftly. He makes no more mistakes than one would expect of a medieval scribe. Indeed some of the spelling “mistakes” are in the original document. I am sure that you have noticed that “ae” and “e” are often used at random. Thus we discover how Latin was pronounced.

Do you know what is a cappa clausa? Yes, I know it means “closed cloak”; but what is it? It was to be worn if there was no superpellicium available.

I hope that you continue to enjoy monastic life. As I said before, I would jump at the chance of being a custodian at a place like Downside. This time last year I had a most agreeable part-time job. I was then able to do more of my own work than I am doing now.

There is to be a parliamentary election here. It is all very babyish. I shall not vote. No principles seem to be at stake. Each party tries to collect votes by printing out how bad the other parties are.



* * *

The Saint Austin Press
Box 610
Southampton SO1E OYY

Tel. 01703 235966
Fax 01703 346953

3rd April, 1997

Dear Mr. Wynch,

Further to our telephone conversation of the other evening, here are a few thoughts which stayed with me after we had finished our discussion:

It was proposed that you should write a small book, of between 70 and 150 pages of double-spaced type on the subject of Mediaeval Parish life in England, with particular emphasis on the liturgical aspects.

We have to think of an imaginative title, but that can wait until later. In the first instance, we need to develop a plan of the book.

The main sections might be:

• the life of a mediaeval parish priest,
• the way in which boys came to be trained as priests or ‘clerkes’, and your evidence for the existence of several clerics in each parish.
• the liturgy, broken down into two sub-sections: (i)the Office, and (ii)the Mass. You might also have a sub-section on special feasts.

One would also need a short introduction, and perhaps a few closing paragraphs. Perhaps I have also overlooked some other areas of study which might make up additional sections.

We also need to decide quite early on about any illustrations which we might like to include. If you could compile a list of up to twenty (maximum) then I could begin to seek permissions for their use. This is sometimes quite expensive, but we will see what can be done.

A Select bibliography would also be useful, and that could be begun now. We could add to it as we go along.

As for eventual remuneration, if we both decide that this is a project with a future, I would guess that we might be able to offer you 5% of the cover price on all sales. This is about the usual level of royalties.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas on all this in the near future. I will perhaps telephone you again in a week or two.

Yours in Domino,
Ferdi McDermott

* * *

That is all I have from Ray Winch. By 1997, he was in his late 70’s and he was only four years from his death. The little I saw of him between the end of my stay at Triors (July 1997) and his death, I found someone suffering from chronic tiredness, depression and the heart and circulation problems that brought on his death. His mind and longing were there, but all slowed down.

In April 1997, I was charged by the Abbot to go and find a pipe organ in England and arrange for its transport to the Abbey. The work of repairs and installation took until July 1997 with the help of some brothers for making a new console and the marble platform on which the organ was to stand. On my return to Bouloire, Ray’s idea of getting me to help him write this small volume was unfortunately forgotten. Perhaps I should attempt to do something on these lines with whatever can be found from Ray’s papers (I do believe someone stepped in and preserved them) and the plans discussed in the correspondence.

I have more faith in Terence Duffy (I have The Stripping of the Altars facing me as I write now) than Ray did, but I would need to try to find other sources for comparison using the amazing amount of stuff available on the Internet. I am too far away from a university library, but references can be found and copied. I’ll think about a plan and whether I could do justice to such a project. Ray tended to get bogged down in details and flights of imagination and forgot the need for the academic methodology in which he was trained. I am sure that Dr William Tighe will come up with some ideas of books and Internet resources to complete those I already have in my liturgy and church history libraries. I’ll do my best, and it will be dedicated to his memory. There will be hundreds of books written by Romantic historians in the mid nineteenth century, also people like J.M. Neale and Wickham Legg. It’s just a matter of having a good plan, and doing the work.

Ray shared the lot of many who have run out of energy and “punch”. If we depend on other people, we won’t get anywhere in life. We have to find the resources within ourselves and take the responsibility of getting the job done. Ray had part-time library work which did him good and encouraged creativity and curiosity. My translating job keeps me motivated and used to sustained work. Life is short, and when our time runs out here on earth, we won’t be able to do any more. I am only too aware of my mortality, as he certainly was – and before death, we are usually faced with declining health, eyes that need stronger glasses, inability to concentrate, the list is endless.

I’ll do what I can, perhaps for the first issue of The Blue Flower.

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5 Responses to Ray Winch, early April 1997 – and a reflection

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Thank you for these as for those which preceded them!

    First Letter: 1 March would have been the Saturday before the Third Sunday in Lent. Spanish Place is presumably St. James’s, and “the meeting” the Annual General Meeting of the Latin Mass Society.

    C.I.E.L.: Centre International d’Etudes Liturgiques

    A Bitter Trial: Evelyn Waugh and John Carmel Cardinal Heenan on the Liturgical Changes. Edited by Scott M.P. [Dom Alcuin] Reid (Saint Austin Press, Dec. 1996).

    3 April 1997 enclosure: Ferdi McDermott is, among other things, founder of the St. Austin Review and the Principal of Chavagnes International College, a Catholic boarding school for boys, situated in the west of France.

    • Robert Stevens says:

      The Spanish Place Mass on 1.3.97 was the Launch of C.I.E.L or at least it’s launch here in England. There was a smattering of Arch-dukes and the like in their finery at the Lunch afterwards.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Thank you!
        In some basic searching, I found references to Father Michael Mowbray Silver with and without hyphen and with and without Mowbray, as recently as 2014, but don’t know which are or are not the same person!

        Can you tell us what the “Bishop of Worthing” joke is, Worthing being neither a C of E or RC diocese?

      • The “Bishop of Worthing” might have been Bp Leslie Whiting, former vicar of St Matthew’s Willesdon, who founded the Traditional Church of England. This denomination still exists under another bishop since Bp Whiting’s death. Notes on its history

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Wikipedia is not very helpful in English or French about CIEL UK! Michael Davies is noted as speaking at the second colloquium in France in the French article, though: was he involved in setting up the UK branch?

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