The Essexvale Church was growing towards completion and it looked as though the consecration would take place just after we got back. Gresham had been asked to train up the choir for the occasion and all the boys involved in building the church were to be present to see the Bishop knock three times on the big wooden doors.
The carpentry boys under Roger Malusalila were in the process of designing and carving those doors and they looked as though they would be appropriately magnificent. The church looked gracious and cool with its lofty roof. It was built using an attractive local stone and became another vital project for the boys, as many of them came from areas where there was a lot of good building stone. Their skills had been honed in this process and the stonework was good. The doors were also suitably impressive and fitted together perfectly.
The whole school turned out as a sort of guard of honour, handing out leaflets and welcoming the guests. Rex Coleman and Trevor Booth would be opening the doors in response to the Bishop’s knock. I was playing the piano for the grand entry and the subsequent hymns and had dressed up in my best finery – flouncy hat and all.
The church was filled to capacity. Three loud knocks echoed around the stone building. There was hushed expectation as Rex and Trevor moved forward to sweep their respective doors open with a flourish. Nothing happened.
The way they were made meant that one had to be opened just slightly ahead of the other for either to open. Three times they tried. Nothing happened. Slight panic and a few speculative looks… another three knocks… then Rex pulled his door a fraction before Trevor and thank God, they swung open.
The Bishop and his suitably impressive retinue walked in with solemn pomp and unruffled ceremony. The doors now let in a shaft of sunlight so bright that I couldn’t see my music! Someone rushed over with a sunshade and shaded the pages for me, but was so busy watching what else was going on that the spines caught up in my hat.
I hung suspended by my hat for the rest of the hymn before my assistant realised what had happened. The rest of the occasion passed without any further commotion!
We were very pleased at the level of recognition given to the school, ‘a living memorial to these boys…’ the Bishop intoned.