Father Pollock And His Brother:
Mission Priests of St. Albans Birmingham
Transcribed by Robert Stevens
THE SUN SETTING
sun goes down, but as the glow
Is fading on the clouds of time,
It rises in a purer clime
Whose light we wait and long to know.Ó
the end of July 1895 Father Pollock again became ill, and was sent away for
three months for change and rest. He returned to S. AlbanÕs in the early
autumn, seemingly benefited by his visit to Scotland; but it was with a hope
that trembled into fear that his people heard him on September 15, 1895 (three
months before he was called away), announce from the pulpit ÒJames Pollock
desires to return thanks to Almighty GOD for recovery from sickness.Ó
recovery was only temporary. On Sunday, November 17, he preached his last
sermon. On the 23rd of that month the foundation stone of the new S. PatrickÕs
was laid by Earl Beauchamp. Both Father Pollock and his Brother looked extremely
ill. The appearance of the former was painfully fragile, and one of his people
was heard to remark, ÒHe has got gloves on, poor dear!Ó It was the first
time any one had seen him wear them. He was, however, able to be present at S.
AlbanÕs tea party on November 27, and the words of both brothers on this last
occasion were most touching.
Advent, 1895, Father Pollock again became very seriously ill, and a deep shadow
of foreboding fell over the whole parish.
recovered slightly once or twice, and on the fourth Sunday in Advent, December
22, 1895, a day never to be forgotten, Father Tom felt able to leave him and
come down to the Choral Eucharist at S. AlbanÕs. But during the Celebration an
urgent message called Father Tom from the Altar. His place was at once taken by
one of the assistant Clergy. The Divine Service was continued; and for the first
time in the history of S. AlbanÕs, the Priest at the Altar wore no vestments.
There were some long moments of
anguished suspense,. and then the solemn music of ChopinÕs ÒFuneral MarchÓ
told the kneeling flock that their beloved Pastor was in Paradise.
grief of that bereaved flock is a thing not to be described or dwelt on. The
following lines, written by one of them, and much treasured by Father
PollockÕs brother, express what was in those stricken hearts
whom Thou lovest, LORD, is sick.Õ
Our hearts For many days this mournful burden bore:
Then came Thy call; and our loved shepherd feeds
Thy flock on earth no more.
lamp, that long before Thine Altar burned
With flame so pure, is from the Temple reft,
And we, who in its beams sure guidance found,
In gloom and grief are left.
whom Thou lovest.Õ Was it not, dear LORD,
A very token of Thy lovingness
That Thou didst with the signet of Thy Hand
His parting moments bless?
he, who ever with deep love was filled,
And adoration for Thy Gift unpriced,
Should be called upward in the blessed hour
Of solemn Eucharist?
whom Thou lovest.Õ While his children knelt
The sacred pledges of Thy Love to claim,
Thine Angel, with glad tidings of great joy
To his still chamber came.
with those sheep for whom his life was spent
His soul was knit in that Communion blest,
And prayerÕs sweet incense for him Heavenward soared,
He entered into Rest.
whom Thou lovest.Õ LORD, to that dear Love
We leave him, while our eyes with tears are dim
By our heartsÕ anguish we may faintly know
What is Thy love for him.
Brother, born for sore adversity,
Be, LORD, to him, whose life is rent in twain,
And grant us all in peace around Thy Feet,
JESU, to meet again.Ó
Tom was not in time to see his brother alive.
am alone for the rest of my life,Ó was his heart-broken cry when told that his
best beloved had gone from him.
The scenes of the week that
followed were indelibly stamped upon all who saw them. The empty, or ape-hung
stall, the surplice and stole laid upon it, the coffin before the AltarÑand no
one who was present could ever forget Father TomÕs face as, standing in the
chancel, he placed with his own hands every wreath upon his brotherÕs bier.
Father Pollock was laid to rest
in Moseley Churchyard on the Feast of S. John the Evangelist, December 27, 1895.
There had been an early Celebration at S. AlbanÕs Church at 7.30. Then came
the funeral service, with a church filled with mourners, and the long procession
to the churchyard, a procession how different from those which the whole
neighbourhood had so often turned out to see, and then the laying in the earth
of all that was mortal of him who was to so many their dearest and best.
Pollock was in his sixty-second year, and among other points of resemblance, the
term of their earthly span was almost the same, Father Tom being just over
threescore when his call came to go up higher.
entire route of the funeral procession was lined with silent crowds on that
December day; for there was no one in Birmingham, whatever might be his
religious Opinions, who did not respect Father Pollock. The churchyard was
filled with a throng of mourners, amongst whom were the children of S. AlbanÕs
Mission, sobbing as if their hearts would break. It was characteristic of Father
Tom that even in this hour of deepest sorrow he took thought for the children,
and arranged that they should be driven to the churchyard in brakes.
Many words of eulogy were spoken
and written about the saintly Pastor whom GOD had taken to Himself, but it was
in the hearts of his people that his truest epitaph was written.
saddest year of Father TomÕs life had now begun. The desire of his eyes had
been taken from him, and he was, as he said, Òalone.Ó His brother had been
all to him, and it made the heart ache to hear of his coming, as he did, into
the empty house, and forgetting what had happened, calling ÒJames, James,Ó
at the foot of the stairs.
He never occupied his
brotherÕs stall, and the asterisks (* * *) with which on The Gospeller
cover he had marked the absence of Father PollockÕs name, remained till
his own name was also missing.
His own Òin memoriamÓ words
preceding that empty space are these:Ñ
who for thirty years guided and inspired the work of S. AlbanÕs rests from his
labours. Let us all pray that the Divine care and blessing may abide upon the
work for which he lived and for which he gave his life.Ó
star of Father TomÕs life had set. He was in the most delicate state of
health, and seemed to know that the shadow of death was hovering near him also.
ÒAh, youÕll lay me there before the year is out,Ó he said, as he was
standing one day near his brotherÕs grave.
Father Tom was a soldier, of the sort that dies game. A true hero of the Cross,
he, though with trembling hands and bowed shoulders, took up the burden of his
life and mission work again. He went in and out among his people, preached and
visited as long as he could do so. At the earnest desire of his people, though
he did not feel, and was not physically, fit, he accepted the vacant cure, and
became Vicar of S. AlbanÕs. On the occasion of his institution in March 1896,
his words to his people were:Ñ
is with great misgivings I have accepted this work. I never wished to be beneficed. I do not feel physically fit
for it, and have other misgivings, known only to GOD and myself. I would much
rather have taken a subordinate position, but this has been represented to me as
impossible. I must leave altogether or take the position I have accepted, and
which, I am told, is the united wish of the communicants of S. AlbanÕs. I
thank GOD for two thingsÑone, for the helpers I have in the clergy; the other,
for your great sympathy, not your sympathy to me personally. This is not the
place to speak of that which will be one of my tenderest memories while life
shall last, but of your sympathy in this work.
have accepted, and now throw myself upon GOD and your prayers. I know you will
pray and strive for this work, which is weakened by the loss of him who is gone
from us in body, not in spirit, and who intercedes for you, and whose joy, if
possible, is made greater by seeing his work prove by its continuance that it is
This was Father TomÕs mind.
Having accepted the charge, he would have fulfilled it to his very utmost. But
our loving FATHER does not lay upon His children impossible burdens. Father Tom
could not have carried on their livesÕ work without his brother, and he was
not called upon to do so.
His health continued to grow
weaker. He was obliged to go away from Birmingham, and it seemed sad that a part
of his little remaining time should have been spent in a spot so uncongenial and
ÒunpeacefulÓ as a large Hydropathic Establishment.
A few extracts from letters
written during that time will speak for themselves:Ñ
is not pleasant,Ó he wrote in March, Òto be chained down and unable to see
people about whom I am anxious.
In a later letter, alluding to
lengthened absence from work: ÒIt troubles me much to throw so great a burden
of work on other men.
One of his letters says: ÒI am
putting in a window in memory of my brother. The subject is the Resurrection, my
Other letters when, as he said,
ÒI do not mend so quickly as I should like,Ó contain pathetic words.
ÒI do long to be home among
the people of S. AlbanÕs, who are almost all I have to live for.Ó And again,
ÒI trust I may look forward to my exile ending.Ó
Sorrow could not make Father Tom
selfish or faint-hearted, or anything but what he had ever been. He would have
struggled on for the sake of his people even under his fresh and overwhelming
load; but his ÒexileÓ was indeed near its ending. He became very seriously
ill in October, and was brought back to Birmingham. After some weeks of great
sufferingÑfor his illness was most painful and tryingÑhe also fell asleep on
December 15, 1896, within just a week of the anniversary of the passing of his
brother. Those who had been so truly lovely and pleasant in their lives were not
long divided, and Father Pollock had but to wait a short time in Paradise for
the brother he so tenderly loved.
Again the flock of S. AlbanÕs
were sorrow-stricken, this time with a double grief, and again through the
silent throngs that lined the streets the mournful procession passed; and on the
Vigil of S. Thomas, and also that of his own Ordination, the dear form of Father
Tom was laid to rest with his brother. His own beautiful hymn, ÒWe are
soldiers of CHRIST,Ó was very fitly sung over this Ògood soldierÕsÓ
grave. To quote the words of his funeral sermon: ÒThere was one thing he could
not doÑhe could not give up. Retreat
was the one thing impossible to him, and
so he died at his postÑthirty years Curate,
ten months Vicar, of S. AlbanÕs, Birmingham.Ó
Of Father Tom, no less than of
Father Pollock, it may truly be said that he lived and died for S. AlbanÕs Mission. They gave to it their prospects,
their hopes of preferment, their money, their patrimony, and their health, for
the anxieties of their work, and their unceasing and almost incredible
exertions, undoubtedly hastened the day of their departure. Their removal from
this world was a loss not only to S. AlbanÕs Mission and to Birmingham, but to
the whole Church.
Of none of CHRISTÕS toilers
has it ever been more true to say that they died in harness, and of none are we
more certain that they now, to use Father PollockÕs own words, experience
Òthe running overÓ of their Òmeasure,Ó Òthe fulness of joy in GODÕS
Presence for evermore.
A lovely little poem, ÒThe
Beech in the Forest,Ó by E. H. Mitchell, which either by design or coincidence
appeared in the issue of the Church Times
containing the notice of Father PollockÕs call to rest, concludes with
They are a fitting and beautiful description of the life of each of these two sainted Mission Priests.
ÒIt is fashioned by pain for a glorious part,
For the Face of GOD is carved on its heart.Ó