A letter from the Dean of Hereford Cathedral

A letter from the Dean of Hereford Cathedral

Message from The Very Reverend Michael Tavinor, 
Dean of Hereford Cathedral to the people of St. Anselm’s, Hayes.

I suppose my roots in St Anselm’s go back to its very beginnings.  I was taught piano in Hayes 1960-72 by a lady called Mrs Rixon – as Olive Bishop she was the first person to be married in the new St Anselm’s in 1929.  Not that long after, my parents were married there in May 1931 – you can see a picture of their wedding, outside the main door.  It hasn’t changed that much, although the style of dress of the guests is very different, isn’t it?!   The Hayes Gazette for May 1931 tells us that the officiant at the wedding was the Revd. E F Bailey, the first vicar of the parish.  At the wedding, the organ was played by my aunt Hilda and the reception was at the Hayes Restaurant, near the church but long since closed.   Later, in 1938, my aunt Doris was married at St Anselm’s, and on that occasion, my father was the organist. Again, Fr Bailey officiated. 

I lived (until 1982, when I was ordained), in Stirling Road, just within St Anselm’s parish, on the estate off Coldharbour Lane.   I went to school, 1958-65 at Minet Infants/Junior – again, in the parish.   It is, of course, a Local Authority school, but the parish priest of St Anselm’s, Fr Albert Phyall, used to visit and took a group of us for a weekly class.   I visited the school a couple of years ago and spoke to the staff and pupils.  I was very impressed with the school today – lovely staff and pupils. Just one excerpt from my reminiscences of school life: 

I recall the wedding day of Princess Margaret in 1960.  I would have been 6.  We enacted the ceremony taking place in Westminster Abbey – the prettiest girl in the class, was Princess Margaret; the boy best at sport was Anthony Armstrong Jones and guess who I was?  Yes – you got it – the Archbishop of Canterbury!  (my note – mercifully, the prophecy was never fulfilled….!)

Hayes was a different place then – it had lots of independent shops. There were a lot of Co-op shops – drapers, undertaker, chemist, shoes, and whenever we went in there, I had to parrot out the Coop number – 945985.  Sainsbury’s was there too, just opposite St Anselm’s –  white marble counters, where one was always queuing – you queued for tea, and when you’d got that, and paid, you joined another queue for bacon, paid for that, then joined another queue for butter, and paid for that….  The butter was in huge blocks, and the ladies, wearing white turbans patted it about with things like ping-pong bats. When I recently visited Hayes, I counted just a handful of shops that were there when I was a boy – the banks, three opticians and Cain’s the undertakers!

For my early years, I was ‘sent’ to Hayes Baptist Church, Coldharbour Lane but in the 1960s, my father became organist of Harlington Parish church and that was my main association until I went to university in 1972.    But, as the call to ordination became stronger, it was to St Anselm’s, that I felt increasingly drawn.  

Yes, I remember Fr Phyall, who was parish priest 1944 – 75.  He was very much of the ‘old school’, and rumour had it that he even said Mass in Latin….!

His successor, in about 1975, was Fr Anthony Burge and I became friendly with him and his wife, Caroline.  He was Australian and returned there in 1979 – he has since died.    I made my first confession to him, in the sentry box confessional, which I think is still in the church.    At that time I also used to play the organ, on occasions at St Anselm’s – the organist was Edna Davies and I still use the Delia Smith Cookery Course that Edna gave me when I went to theological College!  

Fr Burge’s successor was Fr Michael Colclough.  I regularly attended daily mass, when back from Cuddesdon and there were often as many as 20 there.  In Fr Colclough’s time, the interior of the church was transformed. He used the designs of churchwarden, Terry Hamaton (who also designed, for me, the hangings of the life of St Thomas of Hereford in Hereford Cathedral)- and from this time came the statue of St Anselm (made by Anton Wagner, of Norfolk) and the new high altar arrangements.   

In my deacon’s year, 1982, Fr Colclough celebrated his tenth anniversary of priesthood and I deaconed for him (see attachment 2).  When I was ordained, the parish gave me a silver pyx, which I still use regularly today, when taking the Sacrament to the sick.  On it is engraved, ‘To Michael Tavinor, Deacon, June 1982 from St Anselm’s Hayes’.   After my First Mass at Ealing, in 1983, I celebrated the traditional two further ‘first masses’ – a requiem at Harlington, where my parents are buried – and first mass of Our Lady at St Anselm’s. 

I served 3 years as curate at St Peter, Ealing, then five and half years as Precentor at Ely Cathedral.  From 1990- 2002, I was Vicar of Tewkesbury Abbey in Gloucestershire and have been Dean of Hereford since 2002. 

So, St Anselm’s is a long time ago, but I’ve never forgotten the influence that the church and parish had on me.  It taught me the central place of the daily Mass and, although we can’t gather for Mass, in the usual way now, when we do gather again, may the Mass have real priority in your life as a parish.  You have a wonderful church building and a rich tradition – I shall pray for you and for Fr Matthew, as you look towards the next chapter of your life in Christ together. 

Michael Tavinor

Dean of Hereford Cathedral