I seem to have awakened after a long sleep. My mind and thoughts are still in 1536 but the date on this odd screen in front of me seems to suggest it is really nearly 500 years later… most puzzling, I am sure I will get the hang of it eventually. My great, great …..,great, great nephew Keith is helping me with what he calls “typing” and words seem to appear by magic here in front of me. It is amazing really and sometimes my eyes go a bit squiffy, reading the words as they appear.
I learnt to read at school when I was very young. The Church in Louth has a school, the Holy Trinity School, which has a schoolmaster paid for by the Holy Trinity Gild, who is under the obligation to teach the local boys good manners and polite letters. We have a fine tradition of singing in the Church, too, and although my singing voice these days is not what it was, it is wonderful to hear the boys’ choir on Holy Days through the year.
One of my great friends, Thomas Foster, who was in the choir with me when we were lads is still singing wonderfully and has a deep rich voice, marvellous to hear along with the other fine singers, including his father – Old Tom, who still sings every other Sunday or so – and we all sang together when the new Spire was finished in 1515, just after my 15th birthday.
I can remember the priests blessing the wonderful new golden weathercock before it was raised to the top of the tower. I think the parish priest at the time was old William Ayleby and he and the other priests were all dressed up in their finery waving holy water over this golden cockerel as it was lifted up the spire. The sun was shining and the gold flashed in the sunlight as it spun round on the rope. A wonderful sight….and the new bells were all ringing out, three new bells all the way from Nottingham and the old bell which had been sent to Nottingham to be re-cast.
Tom Foster and I were talking (it only seems like the other day!) about the time when we were boys at school. They were still building the Spire and I am fairly sure it was before we reached our teenage years…and the schoolmaster had told us the day before that we should turn up at school in our Sunday best on this particular day because we were to have a Special Visitor. Looking back, I think he did not tell us who the Special Visitor would be just in case he didn’t turn up but I remember thinking it was all a bit mysterious…
So, there we were, all in itchy “best” Sunday School outfits, trying to concentrate on normal lessons as the morning went by, wondering who was going to visit us that required our discomfort so! By the time this “someone” had arrived we were all getting hungry and wanting to go home to eat some lunch, but we were made to sit there and keep quiet!
All of a sudden we heard a carriage arriving on the cobbles. We could see nothing, of course, as the windows in the schoolroom were all too high to see out of unless you stood on tiptoe on one of the desks. (Actually, my friend Great James did not have to stand on tiptoe, he was so tall – but I will tell you all about him another day….!) We could hear greetings being exchanged between the visitor and the priest but not what was said, so we still had no idea who the visitor was!
Then a swishing of robes and other approaching noises and the door was flung open and, goodness me, Cardinal Wolsey himself swooshed into the room; all a picture of red from head to foot, hands ensconced in silk gloves with several rings on his fingers and a chain with bright jewels round his neck. He really was a Special Visitor! He had been Archbishop in Lincoln before he went on to York and then became a Cardinal, so we had heard a lot about him although we had never met him before.
I cannot really remember now what he said to us all those years ago but he bade us sing for him (he had, of course, heard our reputation as a wonderful Choir!!) so we sang him a piece written by the Music master of Louth Church, himself. We sang a capella, which was a bot wobbly at first because we were so nervous, but we quickly got right into it and the Cardinal clapped his hands together after we finished but that may have been because he was cold!?
Then, because it was so near to time for lunch, he gave us a long homily about the manners we should adopt when eating out in good company. He was very specific about cleanliness and bade us wipe our mouths and hands copiously on our napkins when we wanted to “…take some more wine…” so as not to leave greasy fingerprints or smears of grease from our lips on the goblet “…because fat and grease do no good to silverware!”
Well, it was all we could do not to laugh boldly at all of this. The only silverware we had ever seen was in church and apart from the communion wine which made your mouth shrivel none of us was used to indulging in wine at all! As for napkins not one of us lived in a house where such a thing existed! Still, he seemed a nice gentleman for all of that.
My eyes are going squiffy from looking at this ‘screen’ so I shall have to go now and will tell you more another day.
Bless you all,
Nicholas Melton – “Captain Cobbler”