1916, 20 May – Batley News

Here is this week’s round-up of pieces from the Batley News relating to St Mary’s parishioners. As usual I have put in bold the names of those connected to the parish who served with the military. And, as ever, the spelling and punctuation matches that of the newspaper.

The death of Private James Rush reached the paper this week:

Batleyite Killed in Persian Gulf.

The first Batley fatality reported from the Persian Gulf concerns a member of a well-known family – Pte. James Rush, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Rush, 24a, Cobden Street, Batley.

An official intimation from the War Office was received on Saturday to the effect that their son was killed in action on the 6th April, and a slip was also enclosed expressing the King and Queen’s sympathy.

The deceased soldier, who was 21 years old, was well known in Batley, and prior to enlistment was a hurrier at Howley Park Colliery. At one time he also acted as limelight operator at Batley Hippodrome. Connected with St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, he was brought up at the school there. He joined the K.O.Y.L.I. on August 16th, 1916,1 but he was afterwards afterwards to another regiment, and with a detachment he left for the East in January.

After their son’s departure from England his parents received only one field post-card and one letter from him, and the latter, written on March 10th, arrived home some few days after his death occurred. He wrote that he was quite well and that his battalion had just come out of action.

Much sympathy is felt with the bereaved parents.

James Rush

There were two St Mary’s deaths in the family notices:

McHUGH. —On the 11th inst., aged 25 years, John McHugh, 2, Common Road.

GRIFFIN. —On the 12th inst., aged 9 months, Honora Griffin, 12, East Street.

There was more on Father Lea’s silver jubilee:

Father Lea’s completion of his semi-jubilee as a priest was marked by an imposing series of presentations from the parishioners at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church and School. The gifts included £120 in money, illuminated addresses, a bookcase, a set of breviaries, etc.; and the rev. gentleman expressed particular appreciation of the children’s self-denial of the pence in order to honour him.

Elsewhere in the paper a lengthier write-up of proceedings appeared:

Illuminated Addresses, Book-Case and Purse with £120.

A large and enthusiastic assembly in St. Mary’s School, Cross Bank, on Tuesday honoured Father Lea, who recently achieved the silver jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood. He was the recipient of many handsome presents as tokens of esteem from his parishioners. A sketch of his activities, with his portrait, appeared exclusively in last week’s “News.”

The Bishop of Leeds (Dr. Cowgill) presided over the gathering, and in addition to Father Lea there were present Fathers McBride (Batley), Russell (Birstall), Ennis (Dewsbury), O’Connor (Heckmondwike), Morrissey (Ossett), Dobson (Morley), Van de Pitte (Cleckheaton), and others from Bradford and Leeds. The presentation was preceded by an admirable concert arranged by Mr. W. Berry, who himself sang with distinction, and all the artistes received hearty plaudits.

The Bishop expressed pleasure that he had the opportunity to join in honouring Father Lea, for the semi-jubilee of his ordination was a great event, and Batley people knew how full had been the 16 years spent by Father Lea amongst them. Dr. Cowgill was glad to be here for several reasons. He would hear a good deal about Father Lea – and it was useful for a Bishop to know what parishioners thought of their priests. He would believe all the nice things said, for all his brother priests knew him as a very worthy man who had worked hard for 25 years in the Leeds diocese, under various circumstances and great difficulties. The Chairman was certain he voiced the wishes of all the clergy of the diocese when he associated them with his own good wishes, and hoped the rev. father would have a long life, God’s blessing, and be allowed to spend his golden jubilee with them in due course. (Applause.)

Mr. A. Cox, who handed a framed illuminated address to Father Lea, said the recipient deserved all the thanks they could give him, and they were glad to take the opportunity offered by the occasion to repay him in a small way for all he had done for them. The text of the address was:-

“Dear Rev. Father, – We, the members of St. Mary’s congregation, gladly take the opportunity presented by the celebration of your jubilee of expressing our thankfulness to god for the many blessings conferred on us through your sacred ministry, and also to show you our gratitude and appreciation for all you have done for us. For nearly 17 years you have laboured on our behalf. During that long period of your priestly life you have given us many proofs of your untiring and earnest devotion to our spiritual and temporal interests. Young and old of us have had in you a good shepherd, watchful, gentle, compassionate, and kind. Those who needed help and consolation have found in you a true and sympathetic friend. Whilst, dear Father, you have lived for us and your sole desire was to make us good and faithful members of the Holy Church, not only have you tended to our spiritual needs with the zeal and devotion worthy of your Divine Master, but you have also given us in your good and unostentatious way invaluable aid in everything that tended to our temporal welfare and in the advance of our rights as citizens. The effect and ability with which you have defended our schools in the interests of the people have won for you our livelong gratefulness, and we heartily congratulate you on the success which you have achieved in warding off the danger with which we were threatened. We thank you, therefore, for all you have done for us and we desire on this great occasion to give you the assurance of our affection and gratitude. We beg you, dear Rev. Father, to accept this address and purse of money as a small token of esteem and love. We earnestly hope and pray you may be spared to us for many years to rule and guide us. – P. Grogan (chairman), A. Cox (secretary), and J. Hines (treasurer), for the congregation.”

Mr. James Foley2 presented to Father Lea a purse with £120, on behalf of the congregation, and, with 17 years knowledge of the rev. gentleman, said he had never found him wanting or away from his post when required. There was no better priest in the county. “I wish you luck,” said Mr. Foley to Father Lea.

Miss Martha Brennan handed to the rev. father an illuminated address from the Children of Mary.

The Boys’ Brigade made him a gift of a set of breviaries; and three members of the Guild of St. Agnes asked Father Lea to accept a book-case as a token of esteem.

Father McBride described it as a great day for the Catholics of Batley that they were allowed to celebrate the silver jubilee of Father Lea – the first priest to keep such a festival in the town. With reference to the large debts liquidated under Father Lea’s regime, the speaker said that had been done by good administration, economy, and the support of the people. Sometimes priest were called bad administrators, but no one would deny that Father Lea was an exceedingly good one. He realised soon after he came that Birstall people wanted a mission and a priest of their own, and he used all his influence to that end, with success, His period of office at Batley had been one of sacrifice for himself. The parishioners wished him every joy, and hoped he would live to see not only his golden jubilee, but the one after that, whatever that might be. (Applause.)

Mr. J. Deasy deemed it a privilege in the absence of the Chairman of the Presentation Committee, to endorse the eulogies previously uttered. That was one of the too-rare occasions when a congregation had the opportunity to express its love, devotion and gratitude to its priest. Father Lea had been a good guide, philosopher and friend to Batley Catholics – ready in times of trouble with advice and help; in fact, he had given freely of the latter, because he knew it was most acceptable. One of the outstanding features of his stay in the town had been his great interest in the children and school, and the people owed him a debt of gratitude, because it was largely owing to his magnificent struggle and sacrifice that their scholars were in the forefront of the Batley elementary schools. They had had to fight for the barest justice, and, though things were a little better yet, the struggle went on and the results achieved were owing to Father Lea’s managership. Mr. Deasy recalled Father Lea’s service as a Catholic on the Dewsbury Board of Guardians, where he was one of the most judicious and able administrators, and many members wished he was back again. Whatever honours the Bishop wished to confer on Father Lea, Mr. Deasy hoped the latter would be left to Batley, because they wanted him. (Applause.) There were some of the best and worst people in Batley – (laughter) – and it was necessary to have a capable man over them.

Father Russell (Birstall) associated himself with all the good wishes, and said Father Lea deserved a V.C. for all his efforts. As that was perhaps impossible, perhaps the Bishop would provide a substitute and confer upon the rev. gentleman M.C.C (Member of the Cathedral Church), so that their priest would then be Canon Lea. (Applause.)

Father Lea, received with applause, referred to the wealth of expression and of generosity in the words, actions, and gifts of his friends. He had been quite inundated with gifts, but above all he appreciated the gift of the infants, who had collected their half-pence and pennies and kept the matter a religious secret. He valued that gift highly for what the children could not say in words they had expressed in looks as they sainted him in the streets. He looked upon all the expressions of gratitude as a thanksgiving to Almighty God for the graces and blessings received from the priesthood, and he accepted the gifts in that spirit. The words of the address did not exactly apply to him, he was afraid, but they told him what his people expected a priest to be, and he would try to live up to them. The address was a very good thing to knock all the conceit and pride out of him, and give him a standard to live up to. (Laughter.) Few though his words of gratitude were, they came from the depth of his heart. (Applause.)

The musicians acquitted themselves excellently. The concert opened well with a tenor song, “O Hear the Wild Winds Blow,” by Mr. Tom Scanlon. Miss M. A. Cox, who displayed a contralto voice of good quality, contributed “Rory Darlin’”; and Mr. A. Hughes, a Halifax elocutionist, recited in many amusing styles “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” Miss A. Mahon, the popular Dewsbury mezzo-soprano, sang “God Remembers When the World Forgets” with great feeling; an item by Mr. J. Needham, Halifax, was also applauded; and Mr. P. Judge, the Batley footballer, proved a popular descriptive vocalist. Perhaps the surprise of the evening was Mr. W. Berry, a Batley gentleman who was in Leeds Cathedral as a boy, but for a time has not taken part in musical affairs. Tuesday was his first appearance on a local platform for many years, and his excellent tenor voice was heard to advantage in “Maire My Girl.” Mr. J. H. Scanlon was pianist.

Votes of thanks to the Bishop for presiding, and to the artistes for their excellent services, closed the memorable proceedings.

Schools across Batley were to take part in Empire Day on 24 May.

Empire Day in Batley

Empire Day is to be honoured on an impressive scale by Batley scholars on Wednesday morning. Proceedings at the schools will begin with the hoisting of the Union Jack and the singing of the National Anthem; addresses will be given by head teachers on the duties and responsibilities attached to British citizenship; there will be short lectures on the geographical aspect of the British Empire; and Kipling’s “Recessional” will be recited. There is to be a great demonstration afterwards in the Market Place, whither children from senior departments will march from the schools. The Mayor, accompanied by the Corporation, will address the assembly from the Library steps and then proceed to the saluting base. In passing the flag each child will salute with the left hand, and teachers with the right hand. Old Band will attend.

1. This date is clearly an error.
2. This should be John Foley, father of Thomas Foley DCM. See newspaper of 13 May 1916.