John Edward Cooper’s Notes

HomeContentsAlphabetical listingWhom I’d like to meet in eternity…

Sunday School

Early Days
 1. We moved from Preston to Thornton in September or October 1955; and some time after this, arrangements were made for our Steve and me to attend Sunday School. The Sunday School chosen for us was at Wignall Memorial Methodist Church: Methodist, presumably, because Nanny and Grandad Cooper, who lived near us and who had some influence in my immediate family, were Methodists; Wignall, because this was the nearest Methodist church—and it was “their” church, even though, I believe, they no longer regularly attended services.
 2. Although both morning and afternoon school were held at Wignall, Steve and I were only sent to the morning session, to leave the afternoon free for family activities.

 3. So it was, then, that our Steve and I would walk along to Sunday School on Sunday mornings, then halfway through the session transfer from the red brick Sunday School building to the rather grand-looking main church building where the grown-ups were gathered, deposit our threepenny bits in the collection plate, and walk home again.
[1] The red brick Sunday School building… the rather grand-looking main church building: I took some photographs in 1979. These show an approach to the church from the east, but at the time Steven and I would have approached from the opposite direction, i.e. from Four Lane Ends.

Additional photos, taken 6 December 2003:

 4. And that, as far as I was concerned, was Sunday School: a weekly ritual that I acted out because I had to, and one which I would, given any opportunity, feel very relieved and glad to avoid. (“No Sunday School next week, Mummy!” I could occasionally say, with my face aglow with joy.)

 5. Of course, there was more to Sunday School than what I have just described, but nothing of positive spiritual significance to me that I can recall. And there weren’t even any material incentives for our Steve and me to attend, such as prizes; only those who attended in the afternoons got cards marked with stars, which went towards qualifying for prizes. (“Why haven’t we got star cards?” “’Cause you don’t come in the afternoon.”)

 6. I can remember certain incidental events at Sunday School, like when one of the teachers—a tall, thin, dark-haired man with glasses, who was short-tongued—told us about a certain large church building, and I asked my Mum afterwards what a “cassedral” was.
 “A what?”
 “Oh, you mean a ‘cathedral’!”

 7. And I can still picture one of the men in the choir in the main church building, a red-cheeked man;
[2] but I only remember him because I dreamt one night that his horse was shot and it keeled over, stiff-legged, as if it was a stuffed horse, and the red-faced man wept bitterly. (It was the kind of dream that one wakes up from with a feeling of horror. I don’t suppose for a minute that the man really did have a horse!)
[2] One of the men in the choir…, a red-cheeked man: He looked a bit like the actor Terence Alexander.
 8. And I remember the first minister:[3] a youngish man with straight dark hair; plumpish, with black framed glasses like my Dad’s; leaning over the pulpit with his hands lightly clasped, and his nostrils flaring in time with his words.
[3] The first minister: His name, on Chris Woodhead’s information, was Mr. Tudor. John Tudor was probably, in fact, not the “first minister” at Wignall when I went to Sunday School there, just the first that I can remember, for his tenure there was from 1957 to autumn 1960.
 According to an article “Superintendent Ministers” that I found in 2009 on the Methodist Central Hall Westminster website:
Rev. Richard John Tudor…
 John was born in Northampton in 1930, a son of the Manse, and was accepted for the Methodist Ministry after serving in the RAF (1948–51). His stations have been at East Ham (1954–1957), Thornton Cleveleys, Blackpool (1957–1960), and as Superintendant Minister at Derby Methodist Mission (1960–1971); Coventry Methodist Mission (1971–1975); Brighton Dome Methodist Mission (1975–1981) and Methodist Central Hall, Westminster (1981–1995).… John “sat down” in 1995 and retired to Brighton…
And the Derby Evening Telegraph bygones website “You & Yesterday”:
He came to Derby, he says, after “a lovely ministry” near Blackpool where the church, again, was usually packed. “We were sent to Derby in the autumn of 1960 to try to achieve similar results and with the warning that, if we didn’t, then the Queen’s Hall might close before Christmas. Fortunately, that did not happen and, very soon, we found people began to return.”
This article also included a photo of John Tudor with his wife, Cynthia, and children, Peter and Helen, in the Manse Garden, Crich Avenue, Littleover, 11 years later in 1971. The image doesn’t quite match my recollection of him, though the “black framed glasses like my Dad’s” are in evidence.

It was sad to find a Derby Evening Telegraph article dated 24 November 2009:
A retired minister who once acted as chaplain to the players of Derby County Football Club has died at the age of 79. John Tudor served in the city for 11 years between 1960 and 1971 and became reverend of Mackworth Methodist Church. During his time in Derby, he was also a minister at Queen’s Hall Methodist Mission, in London Road, and acted as chaplain to Rams players including Roy McFarland, Alan Hinton and Kevin Hector. He was also heavily involved in a range of community groups and projects and became a well-known figure — even opening an extension at Royal Crown Derby, in Denby.
 9. When he addressed a special little word to us children he would lean further forward and look upon us benignly, and his voice would become softer. It was possibly on one of these occasions that I first noticed his nostril-flarings.

 10. One of his sermon illustrations, I recall, involved a fishmonger who painted on the bare wall of his shop the words:
FRESH FISH SOLD HERE. But it seemed superfluous to state that his fish was fresh; he wouldn’t sell bad fish: so he painted out the word “fresh”. FISH SOLD HERE. But then, it was obvious that he sold fish; he didn’t give it away: so he painted out the word “sold”. FISH HERE. And still it didn’t look right. “Fish here”? Of course it was here! So he painted out the word “here”. FISH. That looked silly, just the word “fish”, standing alone. So he got rid of that, too. And so, he was left in the end with just a bare wall again.

Perhaps September 1960
 11. I remember that I liked this man; but when he left Wignall Methodist Church, I didn’t like his successor, the Rev. W.R. Davies,
M.A., B.D., who seemed by comparison cold and more formal. I don’t recall going to Sunday School for very long after that.

 12. Once, the service didn’t end as it usually did, but just seemed to go on and on. And people started getting out of their pews, row by row, going to the front of the church and drinking red stuff out of glasses, before returning to their seats. I wondered what I would do when it was the turn of my row to go out, but somehow our turn never arrived, before the end of the service and our release from the church. I can’t remember if this rite was explained at home to be “Communion” or not; but I seem to remember subsequent Communions provided opportunity to miss Sunday School because they went on so long and we found them boring.
More photos of Wignall Memorial Methodist Church, taken on 19th June 2009:

And look who the speaker is the following Sunday!

Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]