ACROSS THE IRISH SEA

Howard Waldron (left) & Dave Ireland at York Racecourse June 2013  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Howard Waldron (left) & Dave Ireland at York Racecourse June 2013 Photo: © Michael Fisher

I am taking a trip back in time across the Irish Sea. My first journey for 2014 involves a flight to Birmingham this afternoon (Thursday). A good friend died after Christmas and his funeral is tomorrow (Friday) at Robin Hood Crematorium. My obituary for Howard Waldron (RIP) will hopefully appear after I have spoken at the service.

With Marie & Howard Waldron & Dave Ireland on the walls at York, where we parted for the last time in June 2013  Photo: © Evelyn Fisher

With Marie & Howard Waldron & Dave Ireland on the walls at York, where we parted for the last time in June 2013 Photo: © Evelyn Fisher

Howard and his (then girlfriend) Marie were among the friends I got to know in Birmingham when I came to work there for BBC Radio Birmingham (now WM) in 1975. Elsewhere on these pages you will find my story about the Boomtown Rats, one of the many Irish groups I got to meet. The Dubliners and Horslips are among the others I interviewed at Pebble Mill, one of the finest broadcasting centres in England, sadly now demolished.

With Howard Waldron at York Racecourse, June 2013

With Howard Waldron at York Racecourse, June 2013

My journey on Friday evening will bring me back to London, where I grew up (1954-67) and where my younger daughter is now based. On Saturday I will get the first chance this season to see my football club AFC Wimbledon in action. They take on Torquay at Kingsmeadow in League 2. At the moment the Dons are in mid-table and hopefully after a good 3-0 win last weekend they can build on that form as the last thing we need is another end-of-season relegation scenario.

Sacred Heart Church, Wimbledon  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Sacred Heart Church, Wimbledon Photo: © Michael Fisher

As it happens, this is also a very important weekend for the Sacred Heart parish in Wimbledon where I used to live and go to school. After running the parish for over 100 years since they founded it in 1887, the Jesuits are handing over the administration to the Archdiocese of Southwark at a special Mass on Friday evening. The new Parish Priest is Monsignor Nick Hudson, a former Rector of the English College in Rome, who was ordained a priest in Wimbledon. There will still be a Jesuit presence in the parish, however, both at the schools (Donhead and Wimbledon College), at Jesuit Missions in Edge Hill and at a nearby Jesuit residence.

One of the reasons the Jesuits are handing over what was regarded as their most prestigious parish in England and Wales is the lack of voacations. They do not have the manpower to continue serving the normal parish needs. It is therefore interesting that my current parish of St Brigid’s in South Belfast will shortly be welcoming a Jesuit who is at his Tertiary stage, a period of reflection and parish experience that comes after ordination and before he makes his final vows.

Fr Nick Austin is a college professor lecturing in moral theology in London. He is a native of Coventry, an area I explored soon after I moved to Birmingham in 1975, visiting the Anglican Cathedral. It was bombed during the second world war but a new structure was designed for the 20thC and was consecrated in 1962. By coincidence I met at a friend’s house in Wimbledon on another occasion a relative of the late Keith New (died February 2012), who designed some of the stained glass windows for St Michael’s Cathedral. Coventry was also a city where Howard Waldron used to work.

In Bath with Dave Allen, Marie & Howard Waldron March 2013  Photo: © Evelyn Fisher

In Bath with Dave Allen, Marie & Howard Waldron March 2013 Photo: © Evelyn Fisher

The wheel will come full circle when I travel to Dublin next week, on my return from England.

BATH TIME

Roman Baths, Bath

Roman Baths, Bath

A very interesting visit to Bath to see the Roman Baths. The last time I was here was probably in 1975. Since then, more excavations have revealed further parts of the Roman complex. With the aid of a good audio guide, which was included in the admission price (£12.75 for adults), we spent two hours here. It’s easy to see why this is one of Britain’s top tourist attractions.  

Under floor heating!

Under floor heating!

Even on a dull day in March, there were queues to enter the complex, but the waiting time was not long. The Roman engineering and architectural skills were very similar to that in Pompeii, which I saw last August.

Bath Crescent

Bath Crescent

After visiting the Baths, it was time to see a bit more of Bath, including the famous Georgian Crescent and Bath Abbey, with its beautiful fan-vaulted roof and an impressive entrance door, where a Trident missile protest was being held.   

Bath Abbey entrance

Bath Abbey entrance

 

We took the train to and from Bristol. Less then a quarter of an hour’s journey for just over £2 each way on a group ticket (six travelling).  Very good value indeed for public transport.