Memories of a Choirboy at Harvest Festival!

Memories of a Choirboy at Harvest Festival!

Sitting back in church and listening to the recording of the Harvest Service from all those years ago reminded me of so many people and how life at St Katharine’s had changed!

I had joined the church choir in 1946, and fellow choristers at the time were Cliff and Eric Brownlow, Gwennie Speak, Hilda & Jimmy Farrar, Arthur and Allan Benthom, as well as Stanley and Alfred Smith.  There were about 12 choir boys and about the same in the adult section at the time. Canon Pugh was the Vicar but he moved on in 1947. Interregnums were nothing new and Luther Bullough, Lay Reader,  and Harry Fowles, Headmaster at Scot Lane, kept church going until Rev Austin Thorburn arrived in 1948 from his missionary work in India. He was a character! He could regularly be seen visiting his congregation on his motor assisted bike with his cassock tucked in his belt!

At that time we had a low form of worship so lots of things changed for us – vestments came in, we adopted a higher form of worship and even had confessions for a short time! Service times on Sundays were 7.30am, 9.30am and 6.30pm. The Vicar’s vestry was then behind the organ, accessed through the old choir vestry, and parish breakfasts were available every Sunday across in the Parish Hall.

In those days the Harvest Festival was a huge country village event and church was filled with loads of fruit and veg and the altar was overflowing. Sunday School was about 30 strong and they all brought baskets of produce which then lined the chancel all the way to the altar, which was against the East Wall in those days. When we heard that the Harvest Service was to come from our church and be broadcast on the BBC Home Service we were very excited, and I remember there being lots of rehearsals with Mr Chapman our organist.  A Vicar from the BBC was to be the narrator assisted by Mr Senior from Haigh. Harvest Sunday arrived and we had to attend the early communion that day as we couldn’t move out of the choir stalls because of the noise that would be made and the amount of wires covering the floor!

The service was wonderful, and the fact that we can now all relive that day in 1951 is amazing. Special thanks must go to Jimmy Farrar who was custodian of those 78’s records for many years and passed them down to me to hand on. Sincere thanks to Peter Wynne for the time and effort he has spent in finding the right people to transfer it all to CD.

Happy memories indeed!

Frank Speak.


If anyone would like a copy of the CD, please contact the Vicar.