When you’re smiling…

George Harrison once said that you can’t hear a ukulele without wanting to smile. I know what he meant: I was beaming throughout the Ukulele Orchestra of Spalding concert at Holbeach St John church last night. As the sound of church bells is naturally joyful, the sound of the ukulele just brings a smile to your face.

It helped that the Orchestra played familiar songs with style, adding colour with flashes of violin, trumpet, recorder – and triangle. It helped that their performance was full of self-deprecating wit, and the jokes nicely polished by age. It helped too that the church members who’d organised the concert to raise funds were so welcoming, providing an interval buffet of heroic generosity.

It all made as happy an event as one could wish for on a summer’s evening in a fenland village. C community, art and church in easy harmony: at the end of the evening, the Orchestra returned what they’d been given to help with church funds. Everybody went home with a smile and a tune in their heads.

PS The Ukulele Orchestra of Spalding plays about 50 concerts a year, all in aid of local charities: they will be performing at Gosberton Church on Saturday 25 October: more details on their website.

An impromptu recital

Among the people I met last week at Sutton St James was Tony Fitt-Savage, who retired in 2006 after 39 years as organist at St Mary Magdalene in Sandringham. Tony was kind enough to play for us, four people in a sunlit church on a quiet Thursday morning.

The organ at Sutton St James was installed in 1910, by Cousans, Sons & Co, of Lincoln, at a cost of £160. It’s a modest instrument, but one that has accompanied weddings, funerals and everyday services in the church for more than a century, a consistent sound amidst the changing styles of congregations.

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Pinchbeck

Steeple Jackass

‘Climbing church steeples appears to have been an unusual pastime, with those conquering the climb usually leaving a ribbon for challengers to retrieve. In 1812, labourer Robert Jarvis is said to have taken this recreation to new extremes by climbing Moulton church spire with his small child in his arms and tying the infant to the weathercock with his handkerchief. Leaving the child there
 he returned to earth and went home to fetch his wife to view the spectacle and admire his skill before ascending once again and safely retrieving the child. His wife’s reaction is not recorded!’

This extraordinary story appears in Wide Horizons: A History of South Holland’s Landscape and People.

Mary Bryce, who lives in Moulton, sent me these photographs, taken from the church tower (though not the top of the spire where Robert Jarvis dangled his child); they give some sense of what the climb involved. The originals are in the collection of the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society, the learned society which marked its 300th anniversary in 2010.

And the British Pathé film of Mr. C. L. Ager, though filmed in Surrey, shows that the tradition of tying a handkerchief to a weathercock was still alive in 1920. The way in which he presents the handkerchief to the vicar at the end of the film suggests the social deference that still existed too.

Wide Horizons was commissioned by South Holland District Council in 2010, written by Paul Cope-Faulkner, Hilary Healey, Tom Lane John Honnor and Liam Robinson, and published by Heritage Lincolnshire. A fascinating insight into how this part of the county came to be as it is, the book can be downloaded free from the Council’s website.

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PS And this is what the spire looks like from the ground up…

Moulton Church Spire