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‘Stop This Protestant Coughing!’

The soul of a regal Anglo-Catholic cleric rises to eternity atop a plume of incense

An obituary of a flamboyantly High Church Anglican priest reminds us why there must always be an England:

After five years as a bishop’s chaplain in two dioceses, in 1983 Skeoch was appointed Vicar of St Gabriel’s, Pimlico, where he remained until his retirement in 2007. In terms of population, this was one of the largest parishes in central London, with the Churchill Gardens estate at one end of the housing spectrum and stuccoed streets and squares at the other. Skeoch and his curates were often seen out and about in their soutanes, perhaps, some said unkindly, more often shopping than visiting parishioners.

There was a pastoral strategy of a kind, however, and Skeoch, with his teaching experience, made the Church of England primary school in the heart of the council estate a key element in his plan. He began a weekly school Mass with full Catholic ceremonial, and woe to the child who reacted amiss to the incense – “Stop this Protestant coughing!” would be the invariable rebuke.

Late in life, Fr. Skeoch was received into the Roman church under the Ordinariate. His fellow convert priest, Fr. Hunwicke, remembers him fondly over at his blog. One of Fr. Hunwicke’s readers offers this anecdote about the dearly departed:

I understand that the late Canon was given to voicing his displeasure by using the phrase “This is monstrous! This is outrageous!” or words to that effect.

On one occasion on a Continental holiday he arrived very late in the day at an abbey, where the monk at the gatehouse, in a very scruffy and muddy habit, who had evidently been gardening, told him that he was unfortunately too late for the evening meal. The Canon went through his “monstrous, outrageous” routine whereupon with a sigh the monk went off and managed to procure a plate of food.

The next morning the Canon entered the Abbey church for Lauds to discover that the gardener had now morphed into the Abbot.

No other nation on earth could have produced P.G. Wodehouse.



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