Project Canterbury

Father Pollock And His Brother:
Mission Priests Of St. Alban’s Birmingham

Transcribed by Robert Stevens
AD 2001


CHAPTER VII.
FATHER POLLOCK AND HIS BROTHER

"Is there record of any that loved better?"
—The Two Noble Kinsmen.

‘WHEN Cato of Utica was asked who was his best friend, he replied, ‘My brother.’

"‘But next to him?’

"‘My brother.’

"‘And who after that?’

"‘Still my brother.’"

The little old-world story brings before the mind irresistibly a vivid picture of Father Pollock and his Brother. One of the most beautiful features of their lives was the affection which knit the two Priest-Brothers together. It was of such a nature that one could not, and cannot, ever be thought of apart from the other. Father Tom was, as he said, "wedded" to his brother, who, next to his Divine Master, was his one ideal, the centre of his life and hopes.

His love for his brother was amply returned. many who knew both thought that, had the younger been called to rest first, Father Pollock would not have survived him many days. As it was, Father Tom practically died with his brother, though his bodily frame lingered on earth for almost a year after.

The two brothers were inseparably united, and no thought of parting could be endured by either. Father Tom refused preferment because he would not leave his brother, or seem to be put above him, and was therefore content to remain, as he phrased it, "a common curate" all his life. As he often said, when he first came to Vaughton’s Hole, he "thought he could not stay a week." He ended by remaining till his death, and during all that period scarcely ever, if at all, preached a sermon in any other parish. He was the chief mover in all affairs of business, and was wont to say half jestingly, "My brother would have been in the workhouse long ago but for me."

Yet in their spirit of giving, which was princely, as in all else, the brothers were as one. When a legacy of 1000 was once left to one of them, almost his first words were, "What shall we do with it?"

Until Father Pollock’s last illness the two brothers always waited upon each other. Indeed, during the greater part of their mission work in Birmingham they lived by themselves. They had, however, for four years—she was taken to rest on Holy Innocents’ Day 1884—the comfort of the companionship of a sister, much older than either of them. Old friends will remember her genial, sensible face, and her quaint bonnet with blue strings. This sister Anna Elizabeth, Father Pollock, and Father Tom, were the sole survivors of a family of eleven. The title-page of Father Pollock’s book, Dead and Gone, bears the following pathetic inscription:—

"To my
BROTHER AND FOUR SISTERS,
who rested from their labours
before I entered into mine,
this effort to promote faith in
HIM
Whom having not seen we love,
and communion with
them
whose faces we see not, or have not seen,
who live, and have not left us,
is dedicated, with a brother’s love."

Father Pollock and his Brother had the deepest love and veneration for their sister, and took the utmost care of her. The present writer remembers hearing her ask, after tea, when the hour for Evensong was approaching, "Is it a fit night to go out?" and Father Tom’s characteristic, carefully worded reply, "That depends upon who wants to go."

In all their labours of love, literary and parochial, as well as spiritual, the Priest-Brothers were indissolubly linked together. During Advent and Lent, and at other seasons, Father Pollock’s sweet musical voice would be heard at the close of Evensong singing the alternate verses of one of his brother’s beautiful Litanies, of "The Four Last Things," "Of Penitence," or "Of the Church."

Father Pollock used to say that his brother went about the house humming the tunes of these Litanies, and that, for his warning, he related to him the terrible story of a man who was driven crazy by his search for rhymes! Father Tom would tell with much relish this story against himself, emphasising the dire result; the poet’s after life being devoted incessantly to such exercises as "bent, spent, rent, went, lent," &c. &c.

The Gospeller, S. Alban’s Parish Magazine, already alluded to, is mentioned more particularly in this chapter as being a striking example of how in their literary labours the brothers were co-workers for GOD.

The aim and scope of The Gospeller. A Church Paper, conducted by Mission Priests," is set forth in an announcement of "Our Twenty-ninth Year," written while Father Pollock was still upon earth.

"The Gospeller has been prepared from the first number till now by Mission Priests who had a spiritual aim and no other in editing it. They continue their work, and have no intention of deviating in the slightest degree from the straight course which has been followed during twenty-eight years. Mission work has, for the most part, suggested the subjects treated and the mode of treating them. We labour to promote practical religion, and to teach it in words easy to be understood. Our doctrine has not varied; because it is not ours, but the authoritative testimony of the Church of England.

"The Gospeller is not a business speculation, promoted under the name of the Church or of Religion. It has a definite work before it, and invites the co-operation of faithful Church people."

The "definite work" was, as its editors were careful repeatedly to explain, to "teach in plain English the full doctrine of the Catholic Church."

The Gospeller was a large and very important part of the mission work of S. Alban’s in days when magazines of Catholic tone and definite Church teaching were very few. The Gospeller, especially in its old broadsheet or quarto form, found its way into hands which would not have picked up the more conventional Church periodicals. It was widely circulated, but not being "a business speculation" it was never a financial success, and was, like other good works of the Mission, largely assisted from the private purse of its Founders.

The parochial sheet Almanac, now so universally popular, was originally "The Gospeller Almanac," and started from S. Alban’s Mission.

The editors of The Gospeller were also large contributors to its pages. All the unsigned articles it contained were written by one or other of the brothers, and all the unsigned verses were from the pen of Father Tom. Gospeller volumes have now a unique value, as being the only record of Father Pollock’s able and brilliant sermons. His preaching was practically extempore, and his scanty sermon notes offer small material for reconstruction. Father Tom always wrote his excellent practical discourses out at length. Another striking example of their united literary labour may be found in the "Introduction" to Resting Places, one of Father Pollock’s admirable little manuals of devotion, taken in connection with Father Tom’s "Litany of the Path of Life."

PART 1.—Life is the gift of GOD.. Faith is the first resting-place of the soul. Born of water and of the SPIRIT, we can take our place in the New Creation.

PART II.—But life is a precious thing. It needs support, and is exposed to enemies. We forget that we were purged from our old sins. Then the gift of Health is needed, and it comes in GOD’S appointed way of repentance.

PART III.—When the healing has been in some degree perfected, the weakness of disease departs, and new Strength comes from the HOLY GHOST in answer to fervent daily prayer.

PART IV.—But the strength is itself a danger. It needs Rule to guide and restrain it all the day.

PART V.—When the rule is fixed, then the duties of daily Work in the world may be safely entered upon, and Christian families may call upon the Name of the LORD.

PART VI.—The next most needful "measure" is the Food which the LORD commanded to be received. For after the hard work of life, daily bread must be supplied for the strengthening and refreshing of our souls.

PART VII.—Now it is the time of Rest. Temptation and affliction will not disturb a peace which passeth understanding, or destroy our great and endless comfort.

PART VIII.—Seven things only may be spoken of now. But there is an eighth. Life, Health, Strength, Rule, Work, Food, Rest, are nothing if every "Christian Year" does not lead the soul nearer to the final result of all—the manifestation of their perfection, the crown of their plans, the "running over" of their "measure," the "fulness of Joy" in GOD'S Presence for evermore.

JAMES S POLLOCK.
Epiphany, 1877.

LITANY OF THE PATH OF LIFE.

[The following Litany is taken from the Litany Appendix, by the Rev. Thomas B. Pollock, M.A. other contributions from my brother are marked by his initials. The Litany of the "Path of Life" is placed here as an epitome of Resting Places in its new arrangement. The "Introduction" follows the same train of thought; it is the recapitulation of a companion volume, The Measure of Faith, in which the details of the system are fully explained.]

LIFE.— GOD from all eternity,
Ever-living One In Three,
All Thy creatures live by Thee;
Hear us, we beseech Thee.
Dwell within us, Life Divine,
May our life with glory shine,
Joined in holy bonds to Thine;
Hear us, we beseech Thee.
II HEALTH.— Healer of the sin-sick soul,
Thou canst make the wounded whole;
Evil yields to Thy control;
Hear us, we beseech Thee.
Let Thy pardoning grace restore,
Balm upon our bruises pour;
Bid us go and sin no more;
Hear us, we beseech Thee.
  1. STRENGTH.—
Strength of souls infirm and frail,
Making brave the hearts that quail,
Only help when foes assail
Hear us, we beseech Thee.
Nerve us for the holy fight,
Give the sevenfold gifts of might,
Clothe us in Thine armour bright;
Hear us, we beseech Thee.
  1. RULE.—
LORD of all, Whose forming will
Gave the worlds their place to fill
Ruling all in order still
Hear us, we beseech Thee.
Make our path and calling plain,
Our unruly wills restrain,
Guide us till the end we gain;
Hear us, we beseech Thee.
  1. WORK.—
LORD, Whose works Thy power declare,.
And Who callest men to share
In Thy work by toil and prayer;
Hear us, we beseech Thee.
Give us love and holy fear,
May we, while we labour here,
Serve our GOD with conscience clear,
Hear us, we beseech Thee.
  1. FOOD.—
LORD, our life’s support and stay,
Giving us from day to day
Daily bread for which we pray;
Hear us, we beseech Thee.
Give us wisely what we need,
And our hungering spirits feed
With the "meat and drink indeed"
Hear us, we beseech Thee.
  1. REST.—
Shelter when the storms are high,
Shield and help when foes are nigh,
Rest for Whom the weary sigh;
Hear us, we beseech Thee.
Rest and sweet refreshment be,
Give a heart from evil free,
Calm in faith and love of Thee;
Hear us, we beseech Thee.
  1. JOY.—
Joy of the Angelic Throng,
Theme of man’s eternal song,
Source of joy for which we long;
Hear us, we beseech Thee.
Be our joy on earth’s dark shore,
Cheer us till our cares are o’er,
Be our joy for evermore.

A similar instance of co-operation is afforded by a little four-page leaflet, Your Children for God, published by the S.P.C.K., consisting of an earnest address by Father Pollock, and of Father Tom’s touching and beautiful verses, "Mother and Child." It was the custom at S. Alban’s for one of these leaflets to be given to parents bringing their little ones to Holy Baptism.

To conclude with a very touching token of their devoted affection for each other. Father Tom during the last months of his earthly life collected, only "because my brother wished it," his own poems with an idea of publication, and he also intended to publish Father Pollock’s writings on the unseen world. He did not, however, live to carry out either of these projects.


Project Canterbury