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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, May 11, 2004
    To Jim - salter-up of the soup of life
     
    Next week the new Pevsner Architectural Guide, Liverpool is published. And I'm keenly waiting to see what the young man who last year visited Holy Trinity, notebook in hand, has changed of Pevsner's observations on the church.

    Describing the building in 1969, Pevsner exclaimed:

    "Where [Sir Charles] Reilly's work is truly remarkable is inside. A chancel is created by square pillars which stand free above low enclosed spaces, one of them the vestry, the other the organ chamber. The pillars here of course appear as pilasters. This, it will be noticed, is a St Georges Hall motif." His report ended curtly: "Many TABLETS, none noteworthy."

    Jim wouldn't agree. To Jim, everything about Holy Trinity was noteworthy. From choirboy through warden to mischevious elder Jim took note of every detail, not just the architectural detail but the detail of people's lives. A great conversationalist, a lovely humourist, Jim also became Holy Trinity's historian as he put together a lifetime's anecdotes, clippings, quotes and collections into the self-published bicentenary book, The Life and Times of Wavertree Parish Church of The Holy Trinity 1794-1994.

    It sounds it, but none of this was dry or dusty. Jim may have been of old school bearing but his observations were bang up-to-date, his ear for a good story always keen. I would always feel a small thrill of anticipation as Jim sidled up to me before a service to share some favourite tale from his deep well of wit or to offer some considered wisdom on an affair of the day. We sighed together often on Sunday mornings after yet another miserable Saturday for our football team. We shared long afternoons in his sitting room poring over all sorts of fascinating documents of 200 years of Wavertree life. And we stood together to welcome folks to heritage weekends in that place which is another of this city's monuments to a time of great confidence and faith.

    I'm glad there are Jims in the world - keepers of knowledge for their community, sharers of stories to salt up the soup of life. I'm glad I've known Jim, who deeply enriched my understanding of Wavertree through his friendship and his book.

    The cover of Jim's book bears the imprint, "I was glad when they said unto me; we will go into the house of the Lord." He was - always glad to be there; and he gladdened others there by his presence. We'll be sad next week when we go there, because it'll be for Jim's funeral. He passed away gently yesterday, while mowing the lawn under a kindly Liverpool afternoon sun. But we'll not be too sad, I hope, for we know Jim's bound to be a keen member of that cloud of witnesses who accompany us on our way. He'll have a few wry stories to tell us about that St Paul by the time we get up there...