Posted in Inspirational

Wilf Farrell – 90 years in the making!

This month we celebrated the 90th birthday of ward member Wilf Farrell. To commemorate this event we compiled a book containing some of Wilf’s talks, excerpts from his ward history and ward newsletter and tributes from friends. The book ‘Wilf Farrell – 90 years in the making’ is available on Amazon as a paperback or a Kindle ebook. Here is the text of the book.

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Reminiscences on the life of Wilf Farrell (by Bart Johnson)

Wilfred Farrell was born the 14 May 1925 to Michael and Elsie Farrell.  He already had older brothers to learn from.  His mother was a war widow as so many of the women were in those days and so his two oldest brothers Rob and Harry were really half-brothers but Wilf never thought of them as anything but his brothers. Rob died some time ago but Harry passed away just this year.

After Elsie married again she had three more sons, Les, Wilf and Michael.  They didn’t have any girls in the family but they met plenty at school and dances.  Wilf was born and grew up in South Bank, which in those days was part of North Yorkshire.  South Bank was known as “Slaggy Island” because of the slag tips from three blast furnaces. It had two steel mills and Cleveland Works was just at the bottom of their street. Almost everyone worked in the steel mills.

Wilf went to Branch End School just around the corner in South Bank until he was 12 and then he was moved to South Bank Central until he was 14.  “In those days everyone just finished school at 14 there wasn’t much choice about it like the young people of today have.”

Wilf went on to an apprenticeship at 15.  It was his wish to be an electrician and that is what he applied for but the foreman said you will be an office clerk and that was all there was to it he was the law and you did what you were told to do.

Junior Office Clerks in those days had little say about their work; they just did as they were told or rather ordered to do.  Make the tea get me this or get me that was the normal routine.

Wilf’s older brothers were already in the RAF and Green Howards before the War started and it was Wilf’s dream to go into the RAF and he was working toward that goal.

Everyone went everywhere on bikes in those days and so did Wilf. Your groceries were delivered by a boy on a bike with a big basket not in vans and cars like today. One day he had an accident with a vehicle and broke his leg in two places.  It was a severe accident and they didn’t have x-rays and medical equipment like they have now so it was over a year healing and that was the end of his dream to be in the RAF.  It was always one of his big regrets.

South Bank was a big target in the War with its steel mills and they had a big camp with two rings of anti-aircraft defence and Wilf worked there.

His older brothers were good dancers and the younger ones all followed their lead and liked to dance, as Wilf says “That is where you met the girls”.  As well as dancing, Wilf loved music and the theatre especially bands. His brothers liked to wear their dress uniforms and they looked very smart in them and I’m sure it was a big attraction to the girls as well.

Wilf continued his work as a junior office clerk at the Dorman Long Cargo Fleet offices, which eventually was to become British Steel.  Everyone seemed to work on these large ledgers and the Senior Clerks would work in their fancy black coats. Although Wilf worked himself up the ladder wearing a big black coat, sitting on a high stool and ordering the Junior Clerks around was never his style.

After the War he and many of his colleagues were moved out to the Lackenby Works.  The offices there were not nearly as nice as the Cargo Fleet offices but you had no choice you went where you were sent.  For a while he was sent to work at the British Steel works in Hartlepool near where the present day Pipe Mill is.  After his time in Hartlepool he was sent back to the Lackenby Works again.  As he says British Steel were very good at moving people around, wherever they wanted you to be.

All of his life Wilf has loved music and especially military bands.  He was a founder member of the International Music Society and very much enjoyed going to the quarterly meetings in London and around the Country.  He especially enjoyed visiting the different bands where they would have a dinner and then a special performance. Each one was different but he enjoyed them all and found they had wonderful talent.

Going to the Lord Mayor’s show in London on the Saturday and then to the Remembrance Day Service on the Sunday, was a yearly event he never missed.  To get into the evening performance you had to be either Royalty or a member of the Royal British Legion but they always did a full dress performance on the afternoon and he loved going to them.

Listing all bands and musical performances Wilf attended over the years would fill a book but here are some memories. Hearing a great orchestra for the first time (The Royal Philharmonic with Thomas Beecham in 1946), his first opera (The Carl Rosa at Stockton Globe), Beniamino Gigli also at Stockton (Gigli was two hours late for the concert, but after hearing him nobody complained).

He saw the cricketer Don Bradman at Leeds in 1948 and Len Hutton’s 167 at Sheffield. He feels these were great players and artists who have no equal today.

Wilf went to both local and national venues with his great love for music for example The Forum in Billingham, Sunderland Empire, Darlington Civic, Bradford, Leeds Grand, Leeds North Command Tattoo and the Edinburgh Tattoo, York Racecourse (for music not horse racing), Stockton Globe, taking a whole weeks holiday for Ballet, going to the London Coliseum for Opera (by clever booking you could get a seat for as little as £7), Saddlers Wells Touring Company.  He has always been a great supporter of the Billingham Folklore Festival and went on many coach trips, sometimes mystery trips where you didn’t know your destination.

After Wilf was back at Lackenby Works he had the opportunity to take early retirement.  He was living in Ormesby and had been an active member of the Methodist Church for much of his life.  Retirement gave him the opportunity to move home and after much searching he chose Billingham. 20 Bainton Close had just been built and seemed to meet his requirements.

An interesting set of events was to change his life forever. After going to the Yorkshire Bank he was going to buy carpets. Instead of turning right as planned he turned left and a pleasant voice greeted him. “Have you an open mind?” – almost her first words – came from Sister Benson.  “I paused to think (always a painful experience). An open mind, not at my age I haven’t. My mind is closed to any suggestion of acknowledging any new ideas these days. Nothing is as good as it used to be, the Golden Times are behind me and nobody – and certainly not this young hussy – can persuade me to think otherwise.  Really the cheek of it, asking me that!”

But Wilf did give Sister Mary Benson and her companion his address.  “Mine is a new area with building still going on around it.  They will never find it.”

But they did find it and Wilf became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the 18th December 1986.  Wilf is very grateful for that day, when he turned left instead of right and met his very good friend Sister Mary Benson and her companion.  He found they have a common love of music, she is a very good flautist, and the love of the Gospel has kept them in contact over all these years. Sister Benson has married and is now Sister Richards with a lovely husband and family but to Wilf she will always be remembered as Sister Benson.

Wilf has never liked butcher shops and has been a vegetarian since he was 16. It has not always been easy to get what you need but he has stayed with it, despite his mother not giving him any encouragement.  For example during the war he used cashew nuts instead of lard or butter.  He joined the London Vegetarian Society (now the Vegetarian Society) and you could get their quarterly book for half a crown per year.  It gave you recipes and good ideas for meals.  He is now a vegan and it has proved to be a good healthy way to live as he has now achieved his 90th Birthday and is still totally independent.

Wilf likes the quote “We are three people, the one others see, the one we think we are and the one we are.”

Wilf has been a tremendous strength to the Ward since the day he was baptized.  You can depend on him being there every Sunday rain or sunshine with a friendly handshake for all. He has filled many positions in both the Ward and Stake; Teacher, Counsellor on the Bishopric, Music Director, High Council but we all probably remember him best as the Ward and Stake Historian and the Producer of the Billingham Ward Newsletter which he produced each Fast Sunday for over 20 years.

Perhaps his greatest legacy is the DVD “Pathway Bright” produced in 2001.  It gives the history of the Billingham Ward from 1960 to 2000 and also some historical background from the time the Missionaries first arrived in 1837 up to modern times in 130 pages of narrative and pictures.

Also included on the same disk are “Ever Onward” 96 pages of history of Ward Members and events over the years in narrative and pictures and finally 39 pages of “Marching On” with additional narrative and pictures.  The only thing missing is the details about Wilf himself.  However, he was honoured for his work in the Ward “Hearts of Gold” Evening the 13th of November 2001 for his work on the Ward Newsletter and for the kindness he showed to the children in running competitions and providing the ever popular prizes for those who completed them first.

Dear Wilf,

Below is a journal entry from November 9, 1986 after I met you in Billingham:

“The other good news is about this lovely gentleman named Mr. Farrell. I met him in the town centre. He is strong Methodist but he accepted a Book of Mormon and we went by to teach him on November 1. He is very humble and meek — but clearly indoctrinated in Methodism. But the bottom line is he is ELECT. I could feel it instantly and loved him immediately.”

I remember that Sister Robertson and I (Sister Benson) were street contacting with a survey.  You were kind enough to talk to me and I felt really pleased. You gave us your address and so we went by for a first discussion. I remember your lovely home and how polite you were to us. I also mentioned in my journal that Bro. Dale and Bro. Crawford helped us in the teaching appointments.

About one discussion with you and Bro. Dale I wrote this, “We showed a filmstrip ‘The Restoration of the Priesthood’ and then discussed it, hoping that he (Wilf) would open up and share his feelings. We talked about the Church, his Book of Mormon reading, etc. Bro. Dale was marvellous and pulled out his scriptures and related the story of Alma the Younger. He talked about how although Alma had seen an angel; his testimony had come through the Sprit. He read Alma 5:45-46. The Spirit descended and it was wonderful!! We had to dash off to another appointment, but we left the two of them further discussing and eating the wholemeal biscuits and carrot cake that Mr. Farrell had made.”

One of my strongest memories of teaching you was the fourth discussion.  In that lesson we presented the “Word of Wisdom”.  I remember that I was speaking and you looked at me and said, “You can stop. I have heard enough.” I was devastated. I thought you were going to send us packing. I believed that you were golden and were developing a testimony, and so my heart sank. But then you went on and said, “I know what you are teaching is true and I want to be baptized.” I about fell over! That had never happened to me before!  It was one of the sweetest experiences of my mission.

I remember that you gave Sis. Robertson and me earmuffs for Christmas. It was such a thoughtful gift!

I also remember you telling me years later in a Christmas card that the best Christmas gift you ever received was your membership in the Church and the gift of the Holy Ghost. I think about that EVERY Christmas.

I have loved receiving your beautiful Christmas cards every year for almost 30 years now! God put you in my path. I feel blessed to have been part of the miracle of you joining the Church. I know you have been a blessing to so many people through your faithful life and service.

I love you, Wilf Farrell.  As I said in my journal, I loved you immediately, and my love and gratitude for our friendship has grown over these many years.

Happy Birthday.

Love,

Sister Mary Benson Richards

 A Song of Harvest Home by Wilf Farrell

Well-I am sure we are still a thankful people. But it seems that we have perhaps got out of the habit of “Raising the Song of Harvest Home”

Although our climate may be changing the calendar reminds us that autumn has returned to this part of the Western hemisphere. ‘A season of mists and fruitfulness’ as John Keats put it. It used to be regarded as the fullness of all seasons.

The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us that

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the Heaven;” “A time to be born; and a time to plant, a time to pluck up that which is planted”.

And so it is the time of the harvest

It also makes me aware that I am now well into the autumn of my life. Oh! The past recollections of energetic youth and the present frailties of age! I can only return to my youth in memories. However; – Proverbs 20:29 tells me”the glory of young men is their strength – the beauty of old men is the grey head.” In that case I just about have enough grey hair left to earn that distinction. It is – I think – a rather dubious one, but at my age it’s the only one I’m likely to get.

September for me can still evoke memories of harvest thanksgiving.

Have I ever mentioned that I am South Bank bred and born? It is always worth mentioning again.

As any old “South Banker” will readily tell “in the beginning was South Bank – and it was good”

South Bank – just about 6 miles from here – is – or was a small town built to house workers in the two steel works nearby. The heart of the town consisted of 24 streets of back-to-back houses built in the middle 1800’s, and in the mid 1930’s of my youth – and of my memories – it was still mainly steel workers who lived in the town.

Now – I must admit that it was perhaps not the prettiest of towns. Not with two steelworks within a hundred yard of each other, and four blast furnaces belching out sulphuric fumes – we were known as “slaggy island” because the waste product of the furnaces – molten slag – had – for half a century – been tipped on two sides of the town, and was still being added to daily. So – yes- the town was perhaps just a little unsightly.

The atmosphere was at its worst early morning, when the fog rolled in from the river Tees, add to that the fumes from the chimney in all the homes, the blast furnaces from the gas works, and you can perhaps appreciate that conditions were not ideal. It was at such moments that newcomers and visitors to the town were apt to be critical. “Look” – they would complain “Even the pigeons are walking about coughing”

Well – what did they expect! We were a steel town for goodness sake. Anyway, when they stopped grumbling they were soon coughing better”.

A hundred yards away from our street, and right across the road from number two furnace, there was a farm – cows – horses. That farmer was our milkman – he delivered milk straight from the cow into the churn, untested – unpasteurised – and then from the churn ladled into our jugs. You couldn’t just go to the co-op and get a bottle or carton of milk. Dairies came later. That milk was lovely; the cream would rise to the top to form a thick layer. It was delicious to taste.

Well we had pride in our famous football team, we loved our silver prize band, and there was an operatic society: an amateur dramatic society, a very popular concert party, two dance halls and three picture houses.

We took pride in our streets; our town – it was our town. It may well have been an ugly place, and conditions may well have been considered a nightmare by the environmentalists of today. But there was a great community spirit on each street. The people made the town – and they were the best. No social services existed, and so we looked after our own. There was a spirit within a spirit you might say, it was a great little town.

Ecclesiastes says – “there is a time to weep: a time to laugh: a time to mourn: a time to dance:”

As we would say, “Aye. There were all that an all”

We lads learned early in life that misbehaviour was not to be tolerated: retribution for any street mischief was dealt with by the nearest adult – a big beefy hand would clip the ear of the culprits – aye, and that was the women.

Respectability meant everything to a street, and school discipline was sternly maintained by the liberal use of a cane, so we lads grew up with thick ears and red hands.

Well many a steel worker – just like miners- had the “green fingers” skill, and the passion for growing, so alongside the gas works there were lots of allotments all with lots of plants growing in them. Many of the prized vegetables and flowers from those allotments would be displayed at the annual South Bank horticultural show in August. Then in September there was the chrysanthemum society show when I think competition was the keenest; such wonderfully large blooms to be seen: I remember! Such colour!

Just a half mile away in Normanby Road was an orchard in September, for three pence a bagful we could go there and collect the windfall fruit. Can you remember the hazel pears – so juicy and sweet? I haven’t seen one for years and the large coxes, orange pippins – so vividly orange and red and sweet. The Laxton reds, Prince Alberts, Crispins, and all the different variety of Russetts? Whatever has happened to them? It seems that the common market has stopped all that. In their place we have the ghastly “misnamed golden delicious” and other equally tasteless things.

In late autumn we lads would spend a day on Eston Hills just a couple of miles away – picking the wild brambles bushes galore, called for some reason blackberries these days. We could each collect a large biscuit tin full; the reward to us was of course hot delicious bramble pie for tea the next day. These days all I can see on market stalls and supermarkets are a few pathetically small blackberries offered for sale in a plastic dish.

Life it seemed was so tasty then in the 1930’s.

So – amidst all the ugliness: the grime and smoky atmosphere it was still possible to nurture beauty and goodness and we had entertainment of good taste. We didn’t need to venture outside our town we had everything.

It was around this time of year that my church just like most denominations – would hold a harvest festival of thanksgiving, and it was then that the farmer and small holders and allotment owners came along with their generous offerings of fruit and vegetables. The women of the church would bake lots of loaves of bread and so it all would be displayed in church.

Afterwards, the fruit and vegetables and breads would be delivered to the aged and needy – and there were lots of needy people and it would be gratefully received. And those people would also be invited to the harvest supper on the Monday night.

So although perhaps not so widely recognised now, September is still traditionally the month of harvest and thanksgiving festivals in this country.

Ecclesiastes remind us “There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat, and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God”.

So as in hymn 94, we still traditionally sing – “God our maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied”.

But – to a lot of people, a harvest festival of thanksgiving will seem out of place, in an age when people just go to the supermarket to buy all the food that they need. It is hardly surprising that people are not readily concerned about how much time and effort is needed to grow things from seeds, because these days all manner of foods from around the world are readily available all year round and come to the shops nicely pre-packaged.

Well that small town of my youth is still there; but the streets where neighbours lived cheek by jowl no longer exist; the furnaces – the works – have gone. And I dare say the town spirit has gone. You could say that the new South Bank is like much of society in this country in this day and age.

My youth may have been spent in an unhealthy atmosphere full of grime, but the people of the town were full of respect for each other, and their streets. The discipline of youth may have been harsh-but it was effective; we now live in a society, with a large section displaying a lack of respect. Much abuse prevails, the world may be learning to be more environmental friendly, but – in place of grime of my youth, there is now filth. Many young people in these drug related times suffer from more pollution than I ever did. Political correctness has replaced common sense;

YES – there is now all this an all.

And – as for memories of good taste, I think that there is a lack of it today. In behaviour, dress style, speech, so called pop songs and other dubious entertainment, I think we now live in an age of mediocrity.

Hymn 94 says “all the world is Gods own field”

“Fruit unto His praise to yield” and it’s still a beautiful world.

But as Ecclesiastes says “God hath made man upright; but they have sought out, many inventions, devices, arts”

Some of the fruit of man’s labour – unlike the fruit of youthful memory – is not always praiseworthy or beautiful, or desirable.

And – probably as a result – for many people in this land their lives may well raise a harvest of corruption. Which is a reminder that as latter day saints, we still have to hold an increasingly difficult test of how to live in this world and yet be not of it.

In a way; I think – for us, “come ye thankful people”, is just as powerful a prayer of thanksgiving as it ever was. We can still sing “God our maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied”. And I think we can surely still hopefully at least “raise the song of harvest home”, but for us it will be a different harvest.

To live as we must seek to do in this world we‘ve just got to make sure that we order our lives so that we are a thankful people, and we harvest life eternal.

Which means for us, that, while the festival in this country is still looked on as an agricultural thanksgiving, we in this church have to look at it also as a spiritual thanksgiving.

We-of all people take time to consider our personal spiritual harvest. We can of course be thankful for material possessions that make our lives so comfortable these days, and still be thankful for the food that is produced, but firstly I think we ought to remember the less tangible, but much more precious gift of spiritual understanding that we – as latter day saints can have; for the gift of our knowledge of the purpose of life for knowing that we are children of a living Father in heaven, and that we are here to be tried and tested to show our faithfulness.

And perhaps – while we are thanking the Lord for these gifts, we should I think, spare some words of gratitude for knowing that greater blessings are in store for us – that is – if we do as the Lord commands us to.

It is said that this life is designed to produce for us, – if we are willing and obedient, a harvest of experience. Our mortal life is really a short growing season; but —- for the disobedient it will not only be a long “winter of discontent” but despair for all their season.

But – if we can sow the seeds of spiritual righteousness, our mortal life can be worthwhile. If we can also nurture those seeds, our mortal life will surely be doubly worthwhile.

That really I imagine is our real test for living in this world

So – the truth for us living in this unchristian country; there is no harvest comes anywhere near to comparison with the harvest of eternal life. Which I suppose, that spiritually for us, every day is a harvest thanksgiving day.

We sing in hymn 94 “wheat and tares together sown, unto joy or sorrow grown” in this present world there are more tares than wheat. We can be greatly blessed because we can have the Holy Ghost to remind us – guide us – in what is right. And we can really be in this world but not of it.

Ecclesiastes says “I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works, for that is his portion “. His lot in life. Now – I am inclined to take the simplistic view and say that it means that – in this mortal life – to pass the test, we reap the best – and leave the rest.

So – we can still sing “come ye thankful people come” it does, after all, contain the heartfelt prayer “Lord of harvest, grant that we, wholesome grain and pure may be”.

Hymn 94 also has another verse in our book.

“Gather though thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin” “there forever purified, in thy presence to abide” and that surely is the great goal for us. We, I think have to aspire to make that a happy lot in eternal life. There is surely no reward of greater magnitude than eternal life.

And – no harvest comes anywhere near to equalling our own spiritual harvest.

With all our blessings in store, we should be able to “raise our song of harvest home”.

So. All of us – better make sure that it is a good harvest; good enough so that we may one day stand forever purified in the presence of the Lord.

TEN TOP THINGS ABOUT A TOP BLOKE – WILF!

  1.  His love of the ‘old’ hymns, both Methodist and others, reminiscent of our schooldays, I share in that love.
  2. His gentlemanly demeanour, always polite, always kind and a cheery word for everyone.
  3. The twinkle in his eye as he greets you.
  4. And talking of greeting, it’s always with a smile, no matter how he is feeling.  Even enquiring about his frequent ill-health will always be met with a “mustn’t grumble”, and a cheery wave of the hand.
  5. His refined taste in classical music, his constant companion to lift and inspire.
  6. His love of the past.  He brings it alive in his talks and reminiscences. He makes it come alive.
  7. His wry humour.  When I shop and the assistant gives me my purchases and change and says “there you go” I always think of Wilf and his retort “where do I go?”  “what do they mean by that?” as he so memorably expressed it in one of his talks.  It continues to tickle my funny bone.
  8. I very much admire Wilf as he lives the principle that has been emphasised this year – self-reliance.  The most we have ever been able to do for him is for Ian to give him the occasional lift home. I know how much he values his independence and we respect and admire him for that.
  9. And of course, I love his talks.  When he walks up to the stand with his big red book, I know we are in for a treat.  He weaves the most magical stories about days gone by, from his childhood, throughout the war years, etc. but always in the cleverest manner including gospel principles and we are well taught whilst being entertained.
  10. His testimony – If there is one phrase I always associate with Wilf it is his assertion that “to be a member of this church is both a blessing and a privilege”.  It always reminds me not to take my membership for granted and I try to follow Wilf’s example in being more appreciative, and not to take my membership of the Church for granted.

Wilf, you are a top bloke! We are blessed to have you as one of our friends.  We are always there for you day or night for anything you may ever need.  God bless you on your 90th birthday!

Love.

Ann Helps

My abiding memory of Wilf will be from his time on the high council.

I used to be his driver as we toured the stake when he was on high council speaking assignment. Without fail people would speak of how his talks had influenced them, how they enjoyed his remarks. As an individual he had respect of the people.  When I spoke with bishops and branch presidents they were always keen to have him come to speak in some cases requesting I assign him to their unit.

When he was released from the high council I still had bishops wanting him to be assigned to speak in their units. Scott Anderson was the stake president at the time and he had also spoken to me following Wilf’s release asking that Wilf still be included in the speaking rota. Says it all really when people think that highly of you, good man is Wilf.

Ian Helps

Well, what do you say about Wilf, one of the most distinctive and well-loved members of our congregation?

 Loveable, kindly, courteous, individualistic, original, eccentric, wise, knowledgeable are all adjectives that come to mind but don’t do justice to our remarkable friend.  He probably has no idea how much he is respected and how much we enjoy having him around.

 His wonderful sacrament meeting talks have entertained and inspired us for years.  His unique delivery and fascinating text are a joy to listen to.  The application of his wonderful store of memories to modern gospel living is interesting and compelling.  When Wilf is announced as a speaker, the congregation perks up and looks forward to his instruction.

 We are also indebted to his service at Church as an historian.  His compilation and organisation of ward events and development could have been done by no-one else.  We now benefit from his love of music in his selections of hymns for our sacrament meetings.

 We rejoice in his association, and grieve at his failing sight, hearing and mobility in his advanced years.  As we celebrate his 90th birthday we hope for some improvement and his enjoyment of many more years amongst us.  We love him and appreciate his presence among us.  Even though he is not as active as he once was, when Wilf is missing we are all a little diminished and look forward with anticipation to seeing him again.

 Thank you Wilf, for the remarkable person you are and all you have done for our ward.

Bishop Craig Marshall

  

From Wilf’s Ward Newsletter:

In early 1960 a shy withdrawn young Middlesbrough teenager was invited by a friend from next door to go with her to a Mutual Improvement Association meeting and social evening at the Mormon Church in Stockton Road. She went; she met her future husband; and she returned as often as she was able to MIA nights, although parental oppositions caused some difficulties right from the start. Her friend never went back.

The timid introvert was, we are assured, Barbara Appleby, and she had been brought up in the Catholic faith, and educated at St Mary’s Convent. But the strength of the gospel and those early days in MIA brought about a change. Confidence replaced timidity and she developed into a forward looking person. Five years later she was baptized into the Church by Craig Marshall and three years after that they were married.

Congratulations on your 90th Birthday Wilf,

From the days when we first met you seemed to fulfil all the requirements of the 13th Article of Faith. You looked and acted like a man who was honest, trustworthy, faithful, diligent, industrious, independent, cheerful, and self-reliant and believed in doing good to all men. The years have proved our initial impressions to be correct in every way.

We have learned so much from your good example and teaching over the last nearly 30 years.  Your wisdom and humour have made your talks and testimonies both instructive and enjoyable.  We always knew you would be there with a firm handshake, cheerful smile and kind word for everyone.

You have taught us both in word and example of your great love and faith in our Saviour, Jesus Christ and sacred things. We also learned of the importance of great historical events and giving appreciation for those who have gone before, particularly those who gave their lives to ensure our freedom.

Your love and appreciation for good music has inspired many and we are indebted to you for your efforts to ensure we had good music in the Ward. I have enjoyed being in your Priesthood Choirs and inspired by your enthusiastic conducting.  Though it is not a talent of mine I am grateful you encouraged the participation of all regardless of our natural abilities or otherwise.

Thank you also for your hours and hours and faithful research and diligence in recording both the Ward and Stake History over so many years.  Much of what you did would be lost for future generations had you not done it.  We are also very grateful for the Ward Newsletters for so many years. They gave us information, provided encouragement and gave us a good laugh.

I hope the exaple of your faithful Home Teaching each month with John Dale will always be admired and copied by the Priesthood of the Ward as well as by those who benefited from the visits.

We hope to hear your standard answer to the question “How are you today Wilf?” “Just as well as can be expected!” for many, many years to come.

With our grateful Love and Appreciation,

 Bart and Val Johnson

 In all the years that I’ve known Wilf I’ve never known him to age! He always seems the same! This has me suspecting that he may be one of the three Nephites who chose to remain here on Earth doing missionary work and sharing powerful testimony of our Savior Jesus Christ. Wilf has an incredibly powerful testimony which I love to hear him share whenever he visits Redcar – or ‘Sunshine Corner’ as he likes to call it!

My husband Paul and I were honoured to have Wilf speak at our wedding. It was a surprise to me when Wilf said that he had never been asked to speak at a wedding before! His wonderful words of wisdom set the tone for the most treasured day of our lives…and let’s be honest, how many other people can say that they may have had one of the three Nephites speak at their wedding?!!

Michelle Christon (nee Broadbent)

This really happened (well almost!). Many years ago when I was High Priest Group Leader in Billingham Ward. Wilf had been missing from Church a couple of weeks, and hadn’t been answering his phone, so I went round to his house and while banging on his door, his neighbour came out and said they hadn’t seen anything of him either for quite a while. So I panicked and decided to call on the services of Paul Henderson (fireman), to come and break his door down! However, trying one last time to call him from my mobile, he answered and said he’d been asleep! He also said he hadn’t been out for a couple of weeks due to illness. But after that, whenever he knew he wasn’t going to be at church for whatever reason, he always made a point of telling me in advance NOT to go breaking his door down!

We always looked forward to the monthly newsletter which Wilf used to produce. Since (as the then, Ward Mission Leader) I regarded the newsletter as a small but very powerful “digest” to take out to less-active members, I always requested 10 copies, and therefore helped Wilf in the production of them by doing the photocopying for him.

Tony Broadbent

 

From Wilf’s Ward Newsletter:

In common with many active sisters in the ward (but perhaps not so common with the brethren) Rosemary leaves an impression of sustained energy and needless to say when it comes to personal commitment no second thoughts are necessary.

I enjoyed the activities Wilf put in the programme for the children and the chocolate bars he would give to the winner 🙂

Wilf’s appreciation of music – I remember when I played prelude music, Wilf would turn to the page of the hymn in the hymnbook. I remember Wilf taking the time to tell me about the history of some of the classical prelude pieces I played.

Wilf has such a pleasant and kind nature.

Happy 90th Birthday Wilf.

Lauren Jewson Birk.

 

When I played prelude music from the back of the Primary songbook {pink section} in sacrament meeting, Wilf you would always comment on the songs and often times would tell me the composer of the classical pieces. Thank you for taking interest in the music I chose.

Loved the Thorntons treats after sacrament meeting.

Happy 90th birthday Wilf.

Amy Jewson Hunt.

 

Wilf, you were part of my baby blessing when I was a newborn.

When I was in Primary I remember sitting on the edge of the pew at the end of sacrament meeting ready to race to you with my completed Newsletter Quiz, eager to win one of your Thornton’s chocolate bars.

As a teenager my family and I would usually bake for you around Christmas time, made with your preference of only natural butter!

After moving to attend BYU, my husband Scott and I visited with you on our holiday back to England and it was lovely to talk about Billingham Ward.

Happy 90th Birthday Wilf!

We hope you even splash out and have a taste of margarine!

Harriet {Jewson}, Scott, & Esther Welling.

 

Happy memories Wilf, from the Father, Son & Holy Ghost bishopric!

You brought humour to our meetings without taking away the reverence.

Such entertaining talks of knowledge and interesting stories from the war times.

Thank you for all those years dedicated to writing and compiling the ward newsletters. At times more interesting and amusing than the meetings! And thank you for the sweet memories you have given our daughters.

On this very special occasion, we wish you a Happy Birthday. Enjoy all the attention and celebrations you rightly deserve.

We may build more splendid habitations,

Fill our rooms with paintings and with sculptures,

But we cannot buy with gold the old associations!

The Golden Mile-stone. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

with love,

Keith & Olwen Jewson.

 

From Wilf’s Ward History:

It is not often that a father goes off to begin a four year University course at the same time as his daughter, but that is what Keith Jewson did. While Amy started at BYU, Keith began at Teesside University. He decided to throw up his welding quality inspection job and take the opportunity of going for something entirely different – in this case an occupational therapy degree was his goal.

We first met Wilf, when he was an investigator, at our house at the top of Billingham Bank and he had a lot of questions. We remember John Dale and I answering his questions in a rather doctrinal manner and a new member (we think her name was Anna) who overheard our conversation put John and I to shame by telling Wilf “All that matters is whether the Church is true or not”.

He discovered it was, and the rest is just a matter of history.

When Wilf started to pray and speak in public, he had an unexpected and significant effect on the young boys in the ward, since Wilf had a sectarian upbringing he said Ahmen not Aymen so all the boys followed his example saying Ahmen in honour of the noble Wilf, who had become a teen idol without knowing it.

When Wilf speaks the youth listen!

When we travelled to the London Temple open house or dedication, because of his chronic travel sickness Wilf STOOD all the way to the temple and back, a long tiring journey if you have a seat, but to stand all that time shows a total dedication we can all take an example from.

He has earned his status as an Icon.

Sid Crawford

 I remember Wilf as my family’s home teacher. He and John Dale would visit every month. As a family we would always be called in to hear the message. I must admit that I cannot remember any of the messages, but I do remember the dedication of two men who came by every month to share a message of Jesus Christ.

I also remember when Chris and I moved to Nuneaton in the Midlands we regularly received a copy of the Billingham Ward Newsletter. Although I had moved away from Billingham two years before it was great to be reminded of all the great things going on in the ward. It helped to fill the gap created because I could not be with my family and friends. It was great to carry on reading it when we eventually moved into the ward.

 Rachel McKenna

 From Wilf’s Ward Newsletter:

Geordie born Sidney first met Jean Henwood at Stake MIA meetings which were held at Sunderland Stake House, but it was cupid Alex Stewart who decided it was time for proper introductions to be made. Jean played the violin at a social function and Sid afterwards remarked to her that his sister’s cat made the same noise when he trod on it. Those ‘complimentary’ words must (somehow) have struck the right note with Jean, because that was the start of their courtship. She never played the violin again.

Dear Wilf

You have had a huge impact on our home for many, many years – one that will be lasting.  To me – you remind me of my dad, independent, self-sufficient, stubborn, man with integrity, a huge heart and “say it as it is” person.  I have discussed this with you on many occasions.  We love your talks, we love your memories and we love the fact that when you speak everyone listens and everyone learns.  You are a gem.

In our family you have been the point of discussions on many a Sunday lunch.  Our boys have loved you for many years.  Your impact on the primary children is phenomenal from the moment you came into closing exercises as a member of the bishopric.  You had the children engaged and really really listening.  I think you must have the power of hypnosis as no matter what talk you gave – they were hooked before you even spoke.

Then, of course, was the impact of your quiz page on Fast Sundays, the “AMEN” race to see who could hand over their completed puzzle page to you the quickest.  Where, of course, the prize was vegetarian chocolate.

You are a hero in our eyes Wilf, one whom we love and respect.  We would love to wish you a very special happy birthday Wilf and thank you from our hearts for the love you have shared over the years with us and our family.

All our love,

John and Alison Leonard

Dear Wilf,

You seem to have always been there at church sitting on the front pew, yet we know you have not always been there, we have so many fond memories of you and all the wonderful talks that you have shared. How is it that some people in our lives we class as wonderful speakers, they can make sacrament talks so interesting and bless us with feelings of the spirit as they share their experiences and thoughts, safe in the knowledge that if you are the last speaker everyone will listen, the meeting will be reverent and even the youngest seems to pay attention.

How you have made young children feel as important as any adult and listened attentively while they regale a tale to two to you.

When the priesthood sing it is great to watch you conduct them and Glen has mentioned the comment, “it could be better”.

The songs that are chosen on a Sunday that sometimes you must feel as if we are murdering them because we just don’t know them at all, the challenge to learn a new song in relief society and priesthood because we would be singing it in sacrament meeting.

Some people are spiritual giants who have a greater impact on people around them than they ever know and we think that you are one of these people, have a fantastic birthday

Tina enjoys her chats with you on a Sunday

All our love,

The Rowbotham Family

 

I remember Wilf as most do by the anecdotes he regales to us. I love to hear the stories of his child hood. It makes me reflect on my own child hood and the tales my grandad used to tell me.

Jane Wicks

 

Dear Wilf, I respect you for your constant, quiet presence, and really enjoy listening to you talk. Your Sunday service talks are so interesting, and you have a really great sense of humour.

Carol Ingram

 

Thank you Wilf for your kind remarks of playing the piano for sacrament meeting. Encouraging me to go ahead with musical items has helped me to try. I have enjoyed your conducting of the priesthood singing – please do it again!

I will not forget your passionate thanks to the soldiers of the Great War. Thank you for passing the memory on.

Jenny Emily Shotton

 Wilf is a legend. Growing up in the ward, we always paid attention to his talks, which included tales from his childhood with vivid descriptions of characters – school teachers, neighbourhood children etc. He is always welcoming and friendly, happy to see us whenever we have visited the ward. The Ward Newsletter was always a great read, largely because of Wilf’s touches – my brother Paul used to submit a comic strip that was often included and I had ambitions to do the same. I even received the ward newsletter while serving my mission in Germany. Wilf always led the music in priesthood with an enthusiasm that blew off the cobwebs on a Sunday morning.

Congratulations on your 90th birthday, Wilf!

David Burdon

 The Festive Season in the Burdon household was never complete without a Christmas Eve visit to Wilf’s cosy home. I’m not sure the neighbours appreciated our musical talents but as we approached the door, singing carols, we were always welcomed by a smiling face and stack of CDs wrapped in Christmas paper. For Wilf, we chose the classic hymns and Christmas carols. Despite Mam’s protests and the chilly December weather, he would stand at the door until we pulled away, still singing. A visit to Wilf reminded us of our wider family – the Church community. As we sprouted in size each year, we were always excited and happy to have him as a part of our tradition.

Laura Burdon

 The first time Paul met Wilf was at a Fireside (at the Crawford home he thinks) when he was investigating the Church. He thought that he was argumentative and inflexible in his views. He came home and reported back to Carole that he was certain he would never join the Church! See how good Paul is at prophecy!

We have got to know Wilf better over the years and have come to love him greatly. As Laura has written, he has become an integral part of our Christmas Eve celebrations – standing at his doorway with cap and scarf, listening politely as assorted Burdons, sometimes with tenor horn, guitar or bells, mangle festive songs.

As well as a great love for Wilf, we have a great respect also. We admire the way he has always served the Lord to the best of his ability whether it be as a counsellor on the Bishopric, as a High Councillor, ward historian, newsletter editor, music chairman or member of the ward. We enjoy his cheery demeanour, his sense of humour and, it almost goes without saying, his wonderful talks. When Wilf comes to the stand to speak there is a tremor of anticipation – we know this is going to be good.

Paul came across this poem by someone called Debora Ann. It describes what Wilf stands for:

 Living a godly life,
is not very popular today
it’s getting much harder
to follow the true and righteous way.

It can be very lonely,
to stand up for what is right
when you speak the Gospel truth
it becomes a lifelong fight.

It takes determination,
some good old fashioned discipline
when you love the things of God
you’ll be deemed a simpleton.

Many evil things in this world,
are vying for our attention
but, we must strive to do good
so to leave a faithful impression.

It is hard to live a godly life,
it takes a lot of work . . .
but, living a life pleasing to God
comes with eternal perks!

Paul & Carole Burdon

 

From Wilf’s Ward Newsletter:

[Carole] first met young Paul Burdon at the monthly Seminary meetings then held at the Sunderland Stake house. Young people certainly seemed to be keen at that time, considering the distance some had to travel.

The Paul Burdon of those days is described as being attractive and greatly popular with the girls in Seminary. Whatever the merits of that particular description, he showed commendable vision by becoming attracted to Carole.


I was Bishop when Wilf was being taught by the sister missionaries and also at the time of his subsequent baptism. I was there at the last lesson prior to his baptism and I was quite impressed with his desire to be a member. As the sisters were recapping the word of wisdom with him, I knew that it would be very easy for Wilf to follow knowing Wilf’s lifestyle. Afterwards we were chatting and he said that he had just moved to Billingham following his retirement so he could be closer to the Theatre and the Billingham Folklore Festival. He had been “street contacted” by the sisters in the town centre.

I also attended his baptism and was a witness for the baptism and I always remember John Dale baptized Wilf and he had to be baptised twice because John said Wilf Farrell as opposed to Wilfred Farrell in the baptismal prayer.

Ray Cummins

  I remember that every Sunday during sacrament meeting, Wilf would always have puzzles for us children to do. During the closing hymn, all the kids would move to the end of their rows and as soon as AMEN was said on the closing prayer, everyone would run to Wilf to give in their answers.

There would always be loads of us huddled around Wilf, as whoever got there first would always get first pick of chocolate. Also, it wasn’t just any chocolate, it was always Thorntons!!!

It was always something to look forward to on a Sunday. I will always remember it and have fond memories, as I am sure other people do too!!!

Alex Cummins

I remember as a busy Bishop feeling grateful to have Wilf give our Remembrance Day Sunday talk. The eloquence, thoughtfulness, insight and authenticity. Our members felt enlightened and enlarged from the experience. An example of endurance, love and good old fashioned integrity. Everyone should have a friend like Wilf.

Love

President Mark Stewart

 From Wilf’s Ward History (2002):

When it comes to social events within the ward, one has felt for some time that more could or should be done to encourage members to be more socially active. All it really needed was someone with enough innovative qualities to organize quality activities.

With the calling of Ray Cummins as Activities Chairman we found such a person, and it was not long before Ray organized the first ward social evening in October. The evening was interesting, with groups going from room to room trying to resolve various problems. Food prepared by the inevitable Sid was on offer and the venture deserved more support.

The ward Christmas party was obviously devised with both children and adults in mind, and with much use of paper and sticky tape, everyone had a good time. Various people provided entertainment – and apart from a paper tearing act by the young men – the whole evening was a success.

 

 

Wilf and I have talked many times about music, about his life growing up in South Bank, and the many changes in the world since his youth.

Wilf will tell you he enjoys the light classics, operettas by Gilbert and Sullivan, and the music of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, Gershwin, Ivor Novello, Cole Porter and all the great songs and music writers of that time.

We have talked about the ability of the machines we have used over the years to reproduce the music he is fond of, and the differences in technology over the years he has lived.

He is up to scratch with all the modern technology.  Buying his Brennan music hard drive was a particularly special event for him.

He transferred hundreds of tracks from vinyl and cassette tapes onto it, sharing his records and tapes which he did not now need with anyone who wanted them.

He has brought me many of the computer magazines he has read, telling me of new innovations and asking my opinion.

I have great memories of Wilf standing up in Priesthood meeting trying to get his brothers old and young to sing, and take it seriously.

With an “aaah, right, that’s a good note. Are you ready? Who is not singing?”  Persevering until we have made some semblance of a tuneful sound.

When he made a comment one day in Priesthood “you can’t have a good singalong to the tunes these days”, and I commented, “Oh I don’t know, Firestarter’s not bad.” Wilf looked bemused and wondered why Alistair was almost falling off his chair laughing.

Wilf for many years compiled a wonderful ward historical report and sent this to the brethren for us. It took him many hours to compile, but along with his other work for the ward – he just got on with it.

I have many memories of Wilf, all of them good.

I feel he is a good friend and brother.

David Shotton

 

 I enjoy reliving in my mind the times when Wilf has given talks in Sacrament Meeting.  He always makes his talks spiritual, historical and very interesting, flecked with his wonderful humour.  Wilf has always been honest when speaking from the stand and his words are always uplifting.

I have especially enjoyed hearing Wilf speak about his early life in Middlesbrough (being a Middlesbrough girl myself.)

The pictures he manages to create of years gone by are just like those an artist would paint and someone then hang on a wall to enjoy looking at day after day.  Fortunately, Wilf’s words are always in my mind and I can recall them at will.

Like David and myself, Wilf has a great love of music and I have derived great pleasure from listening to many of his selections, especially when he gave away most of his precious music tapes when he transferred all his music to his hard-drive.

Wilf is always the true gentleman when we meet.  He is caring, kind and a pleasure to spend time with.

I look forward to many, many more years of being in Wilf’s company and having the pleasure of listening to his wonderful, eloquent stories of times past or talks from the stand.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY WILF.

Jenny Shotton

 

Dear Wilf,

I can’t remember how many years it is since you joined the church and we first met. I reckon about twenty or more years ago, excuse me if I am wrong but my memory is not very reliable.

The first time I had spoken to you I thought you were quite stern, a no nonsense sort of guy but since then I’ve been able to recognise that you have a sense of humour.

I have dared to send you some humorous birthday cards over the last few years.

I have always looked forward to your talks in sacrament or on other occasions where the humour comes out.

The things we have talked about lately are usually about our health issues and how many times we fall over but we still manage to have a laugh too. I hope you can enjoy many more years of life trying not to fall or at least to have a safe and soft landing.

Best wishes

 Beryl Ghani

 

From Wilf’s Ward Newsletter:

Beryl Ghani’s first visit to Billingham ward was anything but a happy experience. She found the noise and behaviour most upsetting, and she left after Sacrament meeting vowing to have nothing more to do with the Church. Beryl admits that she fought against an inclination to return, and needless to say, she did come back.

That happened fourteen years ago: Caution is perhaps a by-word with Beryl, and the lessons preceding her eventual conversion were received very much against her natural disposition. The challenge given to her by Elder Kendrick and Brink was to read the Book of Mormon. It was a challenge most reluctantly accepted. She was urged to stop ‘kicking’ and start reading, and so with much prompting, she actually read the Book of Mormon from beginning to end inside three months.

 I remember meeting Wilf when we first arrived in Billingham ward nearly 11 years ago. He was a very polite and genuine man who seemed to have a wealth of experiences to share. I was touched by the first talk that I had heard him give for Remembrance Sunday. He so eloquently told of personal experiences of the war merging them alongside gospel truths. I remember listening to every word and commenting to my husband what a fantastic speaker this gentleman was. I loved that talk and have enjoyed and been so impressed by all the talks he has given since. He has a way with words and tells the most amazing stories about his life. I have even asked him to send me copies of his talks and shared parts of them with my history classes at school. When I have missed a Sunday when he has spoken I have asked him for a copy of his talk so that I don’t feel like I miss out on his treasures. He is able to reflect on society and traditions and articulate the changes for good and bad. He has a strong testimony of his saviour and the light that Christ gives. He has so much to teach us, and I personally can’t wait to hear more of his teachings.

Thanks

Lindsey Brass

 

The Muppets had Waldorf and Statler, Billingham ward had its own great double act in Wilf and John. Wilf and John Dale were home teaching companions, fellow tenants of the front pew and great friends. When John died in 2001 Wilf recorded the following in the Ward Newsletter:

Stockton-born John Dale saw war-time service in the Royal Corps of Signals. His first contact with church missionaries was in 1957. Six months later on March 9th 1958, he was baptized into the church at Hartlepool. Within three months he was serving as second counsellor to the branch president, and at the same time – with his appointment as branch genealogical chairman – began an unbroken association with family history work.

By 1959, he was serving as second counsellor in the Newcastle District Presidency and also as a local missionary. John was Branch President at Billingham from 1961-62. In 1963, the Sunderland Stake was organized and John was called to serve as Bishop of the newly-organised Billingham ward. Half-way through his tenure, work began on the building of Billingham chapel, and along with a number of members, he spent many hours working on the site.

In 1973, after ten years as Bishop, John was released and he became Stake Executive Secretary. In 1976, with the creation of the Hartlepool (later Billingham) Stake, John was invited to serve as second counsellor in the presidency for a short time, but ministration work was not really his forte and John was at his happiest in family history and temple work.

The funeral service of Brother John Dale was held in Billingham chapel on Tuesday March 20th 2001, followed by interment in Billingham cemetery.

  

The Importance of the Birth of Jesus Christ (by Wilf Farrell)

I like the radio – it’s my favourite home entertainment and – I still haven’t got a television – so ….. being the inverted snob that I am …. I don’t care what other people have to watch – that’s their concern. I’m old-fashioned enough to prefer the old steam wireless- …. Well – actually it is digital surround sound …. But it is still good old radio.

So – my favourite listening for a Sunday evening is “Sunday half hour”. Some of you may share my liking for this programme……. Hymns that are sung by various church choirs and the programme is introduced by Roger Royle – an Anglican minister. This church has a monopoly on being the true church – but it certainly does not hold a monopoly when it comes to good hymns. I only wish we could include in our hymn book many of the hymns I hear and enjoy so much on “Sunday half hour”.

Roger Royle is – bless him – obviously a nice man, but it is around this time of the year that he talks in an earnest tone about the “true meaning of Christmas”.

Well – to my – admittedly simple-mind there is no such thing as the true meaning of Christmas. There is, I think a spirit of Christmas – and a message for Christmas – but certainly not a true meaning. We all know why we celebrate the birth of the Saviour, and we go along with the idea of celebrating in December because it is a good idea – and we are not going to pass up the chance of celebration are we? Even though we know it is not the Saviour’s real birthdate. But I think really is different of each of us – and we change our views with the passing years. And so we look forward to a Christmas that will be different to the one we remember ten years ago.

But there are certain aspects of this season of good will that bother me. For instance, I take a rather cynical view of some of the somewhat dubious charity activity that Christmas generates …. Alright Christmas is about giving, but I prefer to give to the charities of my own choosing at all times in the year without having a bucket pushed under my nose every five yards along a shopping centre in Christmas week.

And – you know – for the past fifty years I have had to suffer in one way or another the sound of a certain Mister Bing Crosby —– or others ….. telling me that they are dreaming of a white Christmas… I have an intense dislike of tune and words.

And the sentiment expressed now – I don’t wish you to think I am in anyway a scrooge otherwise I shall be forced to tell you in earnest tunes about the true meaning of a Christmas carol. Because – apart from those views. I like the seasonal atmosphere in most shops and streets, even though I think many of the smiles seem a little strained at times, I appreciate the attempts of the people in the shopping centres to go along with the idea that Christmas is fun – and a jolly good time…. Which it is.

I like the singing of carols – such as the Cowboy Carol – and the Yodeling Carol and the Jamaican Carol, and any carol in fact that bears the John Rutter stamp.

The old adage says “the music of Christmas is laughter – and the warmth of Christmas is friendship and the spirit of Christmas is love”. And I like that adage.

And…. In the true Christmas spirit… I don’t mind Christmas shoppers barging into me. I’m even prepared to tolerate “Jingle Bells” and – “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer”.

I can smile benevolently at those neighbours who – over the last few years have added more and more tasteless lighting to their houses.

Christmas does indeed bring a cheerful spirit to all. And also a message – I think it is a message that will prevail long after the tinsel and those revolting lights have been put away – it is the message that will – hopefully – grow with understanding as we go through a new year – a message that sustains and strengthens…

The old message of hope of peace and goodwill which the angels brought to the shepherds has never at any time had a hope, that we each, I think, can receive a different message,…. We certainly have different thoughts at Christmas…. That’s my belief – after all we each have the spirit with each of us to personally guide us in our lives haven’t we, because no matter what gifts we may or may not receive or give, the greatest gift is of course the gift of the Holy Ghost. What your personal thoughts of Christmas are I don’t really know of course -….

But there are many kind observations to be made aware of at this time of year.

Because, Christmas is about kindness – there is of course a universal message that says if you haven’t Christmas in your heart you won’t find it under the tree.

And there is remembrance:-

Of past times – of friends – of family – it is traditionally the time of family gathering.

And there is giving –

And – as the old poem says

“You will not know what Christmas is”

“Unless it is in the heart”

And there are of course children

I like the Ogden Nash poem which begins….

God rest you merry innocence

Let nothing you dismay

Let nothing wound an eager heart

Upon this Christmas day

Sure that’s how it should be for the children…. And may they keep merry innocence for many Christmas’

And there is prophecy fulfilled –

Which is perhaps not the most evident thought at this time for many preparing to celebrate…, for to my mind the most wonderful of all ways of looking at Christmas.

Well – those statements will probably be lost on the shoppers frantically running around on Christmas Eve. The season often seems to come upon many people by surprise – the shops are ready but not the people. And it is the same with the gospel message; the scriptures are ready to give the message…. But too many people are not prepared to receive the message. … they are not ready. The message… the message of how to get the best out of Christmas.

So… how do we each get the best out of Christmas. And… more to the point… will our personal thoughts of Christmas enrich and gladden our hearts at this particular time of year?

It is said that the Saviour is crucified again and again by those who once accepted Him and His teachings… and then forsake Him. …. Yet He is born again and again as others accept Him through covenant and baptism. And so in a way Christmas – as we celebrate his birth – is in a way – I suppose – a rebirth for us of our beliefs.

That’s one way of looking at it – I think.

But —- I go back to prophecy and the fulfilment…. And share some of my thoughts with you.

…. And offer some messages

There is one particular wonderful message that I think Christmas has for each of us

And if we read that message fully… well – the spirit of Christmas will indeed shine in our lives throughout the year

Christmas for me really arrives when I hear a performance of Handel’s Messiah. I can of course these days hear it at the touch of a button, – and how lovely that is… but whenever possible I do prefer a live performance. And I suppose that over the years I’ve attended many performances – some much better than others, but – no matter how indifferent the singing maybe – or whether I happen to be… there come moments in the Messiah when the spirit of Christmas shines through – especially in the words of Isaiah and Job… many of the scriptures are used of course – but it is the words of Isaiah and Job that seems to bring the Messiah to live.

And then it becomes not “Handel’s Messiah”… but our Messiah

I suppose that if the Messiah holds a particular appeal for many people – it may well be thought to be one for Easter – that’s really when it was first performed. But it says much for both words and music that it should have many performances at Christmas.

And…. As we know…. The words of Messiah and others are for all seasons –

And… just to remind you…

The Messiah tells the story firstly of the expectancy of the Saviour through the prophecies of the Old Testament.

As Hosea says

“Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a child and shall call His name Emmanuel”

Isaiah proclaims “Every valley will be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low”

In other words every hindrance will be overcome. And as Micah says “The glory of the Lord will be revealed and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.”

Our Messiah will be acclaimed as the Wonderful – The Counsellor – The Prince of Peace.

And then comes the news proclaiming great tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. But as the singer narrator proclaims… “The people were not satisfied with a meek and lowly Messiah – ….” He goes on …- “They did not understand the two fold mission of the Lord, they did not understand that the cross must come before the crown.”

But then I think – neither do many of the people today do they? And so we hear the words “He is despised and rejected of man – a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief”. All that see Him laugh him to scorn” and so He dies up on the cross. But soon after we hear the great chorus of “lift up your heads, and the King of Glory shall come in”

Now there’s a sentence…. The words of Isaiah are magnificent… especially when sung by many voices

“Lift up your head… and the King of Glory shall come in”

And we have one message from the Messiah – His coming gives us hope of eternal live… isn’t eternal live worth having?

And the choir echo the words of Psalm 2 “Why do the nations so furiously rage together?” and the people imagine the vain thing? “and the Kings of the earth rise up and take counsel together against the Lord”?

It seems that those words are the eternal question that should be asked today – why indeed do nations rage especially in the country of His birth?

But then comes the wonderful chorus of Hallelujah “King of Kings – and Lord of Lords” –

And another great message of His oratorio – proclaiming that He is indeed King – and will yet show Himself to the world.

“Every knee shall bow” we hear

And the glorious words “How beautiful are the feet of they that preach the gospel of peace and bring tidings of good things”

And then – for me the moment when the spirit of Christmas seems to fill any place.

The wonderful solo

“I know that my Redeemer liveth” “and that he shall stand at the latter day up on the earth”

And that’s the great message

That the Saviour lives

The words of Job – plus the music – never fail to move me perhaps it’s the same for you? They really do come alive – those words… and for me Christmas is alive!

So there it is – not quite “away in a manger”

“Silent Night”… or

“Shepherds Watching Their Flocks”

But … rather “Every valley will be exalted”

“Every knee shall bow”

“King of Kings – Lord of Lords”

And

“I Know that my Redeemer liveth

And He shall stand

At the latter day

Upon the earth….

Yet in my flesh shall I see God”

And so of course we have prophecy fulfilled

Perhaps some of you may think that this is looking at Christmas from the wrong end as it were – it is supposed to be a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ for goodness sake ————-

Well the young will have their wonderful starry eyed excitement, and others have their lovely parties planned. I have been through all that and so have many of you – we do change with the years. And so perhaps for each as for myself we can find our Christmas message not only in the words of Luke or Matthew… but also in the Old Testament prophets. It is a message that is not often to be found on Christmas cards.

The words of Isaiah and Job have a universal seasonal message that also brings in thoughts which go beyond reminding us that the Saviour lives.

The thought could be that it isn’t what you have that counts; it’s how much of yourself you have to give – not at Christmas but all the year. It could be that you feel as I do that in that single voice proclaiming

“I know my Redeemer liveth”

comes the single most affective Christmas message we shall ever hear. It proclaims that we are all children of our Heavenly Father and so we may wonder at the wonder of it all at this Christmas time…. .

I rather like the Appalachian carol… it begins…

I wonder as I wander out under the sky

How Jesus the Saviour did come to die

For poor ordinary people like you and I

Well… we can’t claim to be that humble or poor… we at least have the blessed assurance of knowing how and why.

For our part… it is a matter of accepting the truth of an age old message which is the same each year… but seems to me to be reinforced in a wonderful way at Christmas.

It can I think bring to us the true magic of Christmas

“I know my Redeemer liveth”

Now… I believe that is the tidings of great joy which indeed are to all people … if only they knew it. … Surely… a great gift of Christmas is for each of us to really know it… and accept it… as the great gift it is

In the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

 

A regular feature in the Ward Newsletter was Wilf’s favourite quotes from the stand. Here is a selection:

“Church history is great – if we stick around long enough we become part of it.” – Sid Crawford.

“The three foot rule should apply to all members when seeking to proclaim the gospel. Haven’t you heard of the three foot rule? If a person is within three feet of you, you speak to him; if he isn’t you move.” – Harry Beaumont.

“It is some years since I came to a Billingham Stake Conference and I’d forgotten that the first thing you need is a hankie.”  – Sheila Maxwell.

“I watch successful men who can have anything they want in this world. All I want in my life is my family. This church teaches us the principle of family first.” – Jon Huntsman.

“My dad says there are now photographs in his wallet where his money used to be.” – Rachel Norton.

“To be the father of one child is to be a father. To be the father of two children is to be a referee.” – Ray Cummins.

“I was talking to a man about the church and he kept asking a question about Brigham Young. Eventually I told him I didn’t know the answer but when I get to Heaven I’d ask him. He said ‘Brigham Young didn’t go to Heaven.’ So I said ‘In that case you can ask him’.”– Paul Burdon Jr.

 

Another popular feature in the Ward Newsletter was Wilf’s biographical sketches of ward members. Here is one he wrote for Joe Bousefield:

Joseph Nephi Bousefield was certainly one of the oldest members in the ward if not the whole stake. Born in 1909, he was baptized in 1917 at the age of eight. In those days baptisms were performed in the most suitable stretch of water – in his case it was the North Sea at Blackhall Rocks.

His father first became acquainted with the Church as a young man while helping to build a railway in South Africa. On returning home to Darlington, he taught the gospel to his own parents and they were soon baptized into the Church.

One of Joe’s earliest recollections is walking with his father, mother and younger brother from their Grangetown home to attend meetings at Middlesbrough branch. At that time, two sessions were held, with Sunday School at 2.30pm and Sacrament in the evening. Not content with the walk to church, his father would sometimes take young Joseph for a little walk between meetings. Sometimes the little ‘stroll’ would take them as far as Thornaby.

After wartime service in the RAF Joe was called as 1st Counsellor in the Middlesbrough branch, then situated in a converted house in Stockton Road, and he often found himself in charge of meetings which were less formal than today. The pianist, for instance, was a sister who would only play hymns that she knew and she didn’t seem to know too many because there would often be a plaintive cry ‘I can’t play that one.’

Joe married his Mary and then moved to Billingham, and in 1965 along with other stalwarts, he applied his bricklaying skills to the task of building the Billingham church. Mary was one of two sisters from the then Newcastle district selected to join the international singing mothers’ choir, and it was while listening to the choir in Newcastle City Hall that Joe decided he would like to marry Mary.

Joe died on January 20th 1994. His funeral on 24th January coincidentally would have been his 85th birthday. His wife Mary died three years later.

 

THE LEGION OF THE LOST (by Wilf Farrell)

 IF – AS WE STOOD ON THE STROKE OF ELEVEN AM – WE HAD BEEN ABLE TO CAST AN OMNISCIENT EYE UPON THE 60,000 WAR MEMORIALS – FROM THE GREAT CENOTAPH IN WHITEHALL WITH THE MASSED BANDS AND THE PEOPLE IN THEIR THOUSANDS, TO THE LONE BUGLER IN A TINY VILLAGE, I THINK WE WOULD    WITNESS THE GREAT SILENCE AND PERHAPS FEEL A POIGNANCY THAT – DESPITE THE CYNICS –   WILL STILL EXIST ACROSS THIS LAND AS LONG AS A NATION REMEMBERS ITS FALLEN.

THOUGHTS – MEMORIES ARE INCLINED TO CROWD THE MIND ON THIS DAY.  INEVITABLY.  SO MY THOUGHTS ARE A COLLECTION OF THE SAD AND THE INSPIRING.

TODAY  IN REMEMBRANCE SERVICES AT HUNDREDS OF CHURCHES YOU CAN BE SURE THAT THERE WILL BE ONE PARTICULAR HYMN BELOVED BY SO MANY THAT WILL BE SUNG WITH – I DARE SAY  – MANY A TEAR MOISTENING THE EYE.  THOSE OF YOU WHO KNOW THE HYMN WILL UNDERSTAND.

O VALIANT HEARTS” WAS WRITTEN IN COMMEMORATION OF THE FALLEN IN THE GREAT WAR:

          “O VALIANT HEARTS WHO TO YOUR GLORY CAME”                                  “THROUGH DUST OF CONFLICT AND THROUGH BATTLE FLAME”

  AND ITS AUTHOR PARTICULARLY REMEMBERED ONE PLACE. IN ALL THE DARK HORROR OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR THERE EMERGED A LIGHT OF HOPE AND GRATITUDE – YPRES.

TO THE WEST OF FLANDERS IN BELGIUM STANDS THE TOWN. OF YPRES.   IT NOW HAS A POPULATION OF 20,000.

IN 1914 THE MAIN ROAD OUT OF THE TOWN WAS USED BY MANY THOUSANDS OF BRITISH AND COMMONWEALTH SOLDIERS WHO PASSED THROUGH ON THEIR WAY TO THE FRONT – MANY OF THEM NEVER TO RETURN.  YPRES IS WHERE THE TRENCH WARFARE OF 1914 BEGAN – IT IS WHERE OUR STORY OF REMARKABLE REMEMBRANCE BEGINS – ONE MANY OF YOU WILL KNOW OF.

THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A WAR FOR SHEER CARNAGE LIKE THE GREAT WAR.  HERE IS STILL A DEEP SADNESS FELT ABOUT THE NAMES WHERE THE BATTLES WERE FOUGHT.     MONS, VERDUN, PASSCHENDAELE, THE SOMME, VIMY RIDGE, – AND YPRES – NO WONDER IT IS STILL WRITTEN ABOUT.

WITH TWO ARMIES FACING EACH OTHER,  SOMETIMES JUST A FEW  HUNDRED YARDS APART, THE FULL EFFECT OF MODERN SHELLFIRE WAS TRULY TERRIBLE, AND YPRES WAS RIGHT ON THE EDGE.

BY 1915 THE TOWN WAS REDUCED TO RUBBLE.    WHEN THE THIRD BATTLE OF YPRES WAS FINALLY OVER IN 1917 THE COST COULD THEN BE COUNTED. THREE QUARTERS OF A MILLION LEFT DEAD IN THAT AREA OF FLANDERS ALONE.  AND THE RESULTS OF THAT DEVASTATING SHELLFIRE?  OVER 90,000 BRITISH AND COMMONWEALTH SOLDIERS BLOWN TO PIECES – JUST IN THE YPRES REGION ALONE.  THEY SIMPLY VANISHED FROM THE FACE OF THE EARTH, AND SO THEY BECAME WHAT THE WAR OFFICE CALLED “MISSING PRESUMED DEAD – 90,000 WITH NO KNOWN GRAVE!

THAT WELL-REMEMBERED HYMN REMINDS US OF ANOTHER VALIANT HEART OF 2000 YEARS BEFORE:

“LONG YEARS AGO AS EARTH LAY DARK AND STILL”

“ROSE A LOUD CRY UPON A LONELY HILL”

“WHILE IN THE FRAILITY OF OUR HUMAN CLAY”

“CHRIST, OUR REDEEMER PASSED THE SELF-SAME WAY”

AFTER THE WAR WAS FINALLY OVER THERE WERE PLANS FOR THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT TO BUILD A MEMORIAL IN YPRES, AND IT WAS DECIDED THAT IT SHOULD COMMEMORATE THE MISSING.     BUT FIRST, THE TOWN OF YPRES HAD TO BE REBUILT, AND SO IT WAS IN 1927 – TEN YEARS AFTER THAT HORRIBLE THIRD BATTLE OF YPRES THAT THE MEMORIAL WAS FINALLY COMPLETED.

AND SO THERE IT STANDS TODAY – A HUGE ARCHWAY KNOWN AS THE MENIN GATE.  WHEN IT WAS COMPLETED IT WAS FOUND THAT THE SIDE PANELS COULD NOT CONTAIN ALL THE NAMES OF THE MISSING SO 54,896 OFFICERS AND MEN WHO DIED BETWEEN 1914 – 1917 ARE COMMEMORATED INCLUDING 7 WHO WERE AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS.    THE OTHER 30,000 WHO DIED BETWEEN 1917 – 1918 ARE COMMEMORATED AT THE TYNE COT CEMETARY JUST BELOW PASSCHENDAELE, AND THERE ARE ANOTHER 21 MEMORIALS TO THE OTHER 120,000 SOLDIERS WITH NO KNOWN GRAVE.

JUST THINK OF IT – AT THE END OF THE GREAT WAR THERE WERE 218,201 BRITISH AND COMMONWEALTH SOLDIERS, MOSTLY BRITISH, WITH NO KNOWN GRAVE. THAT’S TWICE AS MANY AS THE WHOLE OF TODAY’S BRITISH ARMY.

NO WONDER THOSE WHO SURVIVED CALLED THEM “THE LEGION OF THE LOST”

PERHAPS SOME OF YOU HAVE SEEN IT?  AND THE REMARKABLE CEREMONY THAT IS PERFORMED THERE? THE MENIN GATE IS NOT TUCKED AWAY IN A REMOTE PART OF YPRES; IT IS THERE WHERE THE MAIN TRAFFIC PASSES THROUGH – WHERE IN FACT THE BRITISH AND COMMONWEALTH ARMIES PASSED THROUGH.

AND SO IN 1928 IN YPRES BEGAN A REMARKABLE CEREMONY OF REMEMBRANCE.  EVERY SINGLE NIGHT OF THE YEAR – WITHOUT EXCEPTION – POLICEMEN CLOSE THE ROAD TO TRAFFIC AT 8.00PM AND SIVER BUGLES OF THE LOCAL FIRE BRIGADE BAND PLAY THE “LAST POST”   AND “REVEILLE” IS SOUNDED.

IT IS A CEREMONY OFTEN WATCHED BY HUNDREDS – SOMETIMES IN BAD WEATHER, JUST A FEW.  BUT THERE ARE ALWAYS PEOPLE THERE.

DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR WHEN THE GERMAN ARMY OCCUPIED YPRES THEY BANNED THE CEREMONY.  THE PRECIOUS SILVER BUGLES WERE KEPT SAFE, HOWEVER, AND THE SAME NIGHT THAT THE GERMANS BEGAN THEIR RETREAT; THE NOTES FROM THOSE BUGLES WERE HEARD AGAIN.  AND IT HAS GONE ON WITHOUT EXCEPTION EVER SINCE.  I THINK IT IS A REMARKABLE EXAMPLE OF REMEMBRANCE AND GRATITUDE.

WELL THE GREAT WAR IS NOW MORE THAN NINETY YEARS INTO THE PAST – THE LAST KNOWN SOLDIER WHO FOUGHT IN THOSE TRENCHES HARRY PATCH DIED THIS YEAR.   EVEN THE LAST WAR HAPPENED MORE THAN 60 YEARS AGO.  SOON, THERE WILL BE NONE OF US LEFT ALIVE WHO REMEMBER THOSE WARS.      SO WHY PERPETUATE THE MEMORY?      THEY ARE OVER – PAST – FINISHED – LONG GONE.     THEY SHOULD SURELY MEAN NOTHING TO US NOW?

WELL – I’LL REMIND YOU OF A STORY SOME OF YOU WILL KNOW.   I HOPE YOU DO – I INCLUDED IT IN OUR WARD HISTORY.   I THINK IT IS WORTH REMINDING YOU.

AT THE OUTBREAK OF THE LAST WAR ALL THE 320 MISSIONARIES SERVING IN THIS COUNTRY WERE RECALLED HOME, AND SO THEY LEFT BY SHIP – NO AIR LINERS IN THOSE DAYS.   THEY WERE ALL AMERICANS, AND THEY INCLUDED HUGH CARD BROWN – ELDEST SON OF PRESIDENT HUGH B BROWN – WHO WAS THE BRITISH MISSION PRESIDENT AT THE TIME.     HUGH CARD BROWN HAD JUST HAD TIME TO COMPLETE HIS MISSION, AND SO HE WENT BACK TO CALIFORNIA TO PRESUMABLY RESTART UNIVERSITY STUDIES.    PRES. BROWN WAS RECALLED A FEW WEEKS LATER.

BUT, JUST A FEW MONTHS LATER HUGH CARD BROWN WAS BACK IN THIS COUNTRY, AND HE JOINED THE RAF.     OUR WARD HISTORY INCLUDES A PHOTO OF PILOT OFFICER BROWN LOOKING VERY ENGLISH IN UNIFORM – AS HE SHOULD – HE AFTER ALL HAD IDENTIFIED HIMSELF WITH US, AND WITH OUR CAUSE.    OUR WAR BECAME HIS WAR.

AFTER COMPLETING HIS TRAINING AS A SPITFIRE PILOT HE JOINED EAGLE SQUADRON.    WELL HE SURVIVED THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN, BUT IN 1942 HE WENT ON LONE PATROL OVER THE NORTH SEA AND NEVER RETURNED.    SO HE TOO BECAME “ONE OF THE LEGION OF THE LOST” WITH NO KNOWN GRAVE EXCEPT IT’S SOMEWHERE IN THE NORTH SEA.

FOR A SHORT TIME HIS SQUADRON WAS STATIONED AT COXHOE IN COUNTY DURHAM AND SO HUGH VISITED AND SPOKE AT MIDDLESBROUGH BRANCH THEN IN RENTED PREMISES IN BOTTOMLEY STREET.    SO YOU SEE THERE IS THAT LINK – I LIKE TO THINK WE CAN ALL RELATE TO HIM.   WHAT MADE HUGH BROWN 24 YEARS OLD. AN AMERICAN, – AND A LATTER-DAY SAINT AT THAT.- WHAT MADE HIM WANT TO COME AND FIGHT FOR A COUNTRY THAT HE HAD NO PARTICULAR ALEGIANCE TO. HE WAS A NEUTRAL THE WAR AT THAT STAGE WAS NOT HIS WAR.     JUST THINK! HE’D SPENT EVERY DAY OF TWO YEARS JUST ARMED WITH SCRIPTURES, SEEKING TO PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL OF CHRISTIAN LOVE TO ALL MANKIND.    AND NOW HERE HE WAS ARMED WITH THE MOST POWERFUL FIGHTING AIR MACHINE OF THE WAR – ARMED THIS TIME WITH EIGHT BROWNING MACHINE GUNS, AND WITH A MISSION NOW TO SEEK OUT AND DESTROY HIS FELLOW MEN.

AN ENORMOUS CONTRAST; WHY DID HE WISH TO DO IT?    WHY?

WELL JUST A WEEK BEFORE HE WAS KILLED, HUGH HAD WRITTEN TO THE “MILLENIAL STAR” THAT LOVELY BRITISH JOURNAL NOW SADLY DEFUNCT.    AND PART OF THAT LETTER SAID:

“THIS IS NOT A WAR OF THE BRITISH PEOPLE AGAINST THE GERMAN PEOPLE, BUT RATHER ANOTHER PHASE OF THE SAME OLD WAR WHICH BEGAN IN THE HEAVENS BEFORE THE WORLD WAS – A WAR OF RIGHT AGAINST WRONG, AND – AS SURELY AS CHRIST’S PLAN OF LIBERTY, LOVE, AND FREE AGENCY WAS FAVOURED AND CHOSEN BY GOD IN THE BEGINNING, WE MAY KNOW THAT LUCIFER’S PLAN OF COMPULSION, DICTATION, AND SELF-GLORIFICATION MUST FAIL AND MEET ITS DOOM”

“WE MUST REALISE, HOWEVER, THAT SATAN AND THOSE WHOM HE POSSESSES ARE MAKING THEIR LAST GREAT ATTEMPT TO DESTROY OUR SAVIOUR AND HIS WORK, AND TO PREVENT HIS SECOND AND TRIUMPHANT COMING.    WE MUST PREPARE OURSELVES NOW, AS NEVER BEFORE, FROM WITHIN AS WELL AS OUTWARDLY, RESISTING EVIL BY EMBRACING TRUTH, AND CLOTHING OURSELVES WITH THE AMOUR OF THE GOSPEL.”

“BE TRUE TO YOURSELVES AS CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS.    THAT’S THE KIND OF LOYALTY THE LORD ASKS OF US”

AND HE ENDED WITH “THERE’LL ALWAYS BE AN ENGLAND”   WHICH WAS THE TITLE OF A POPULAR SONG OF THE DAY – A SONG THAT IN ITS WAY RAISED THE SPIRITS OF THE PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY.   HUGH BROWN WELL KNEW WHAT THAT SONG MEANT TO US.     AND HE ALSO   HAD A CLEAR IDEA OF JUST WHY HE HAD TO DO WHAT HE DID.    HE HAD NO ILLUSIONS.    WE SHOULD NOT HAVE ANY ILLUSIONS EITHER.      THE WAR OF RIGHT AGAINST WRONG IS GOING ON AROUND US, WITH TREMENDOUS CASUALTIES.    AND THAT  IS WHY MEN OF HONOUR SUCH AS HUGH BROWN DESERVE OUR RESPECT, AND OUR REMEMBRANCE  HE’S ONE OF THE VALIANT HEARTS –     YOU MIGHT SAY THAT HE SERVED IN HIS TIME TWO MISSIONS – IN BOTH  HE WAS TRUE TO HIMSELF.     IT IS WHY I THINK HE DESERVES TO BE WHERE I PLACE HIM IN OUR WARD MEMORIES – AMONG THE HEROES OF THE NORTH-EAST.

THAT LAST GREAT ATTEMPT BY SATAN IS BY NO MEANS OVER.     2000 YEARS AGO ANOTHER SOLDIER OF CHRIST – PAUL- ECHOED HUGH BROWN’S WORDS  WHEN HE WROTE TO THE EPHESIANS “TAKE UNTO YOU THE WHOLE ARMOUR OF GOD, WITH THE LOINS GIRDED WITH TRUTH; AND HAVING THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, THE SHIELD OF FAITH, THE HELMET OF SALVATION, THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT – WHICH IS THE WORD OF GOD”.

THIS MORNING, THE BUGLES WILL HAVE SOUNDED OUT THE OLD TRADITIONAL CALLS AT THE WAR MEMORIALS.    THE LAST POST – THE EVENING CALL, AND THEN FINALLY REVEILLE – THE MORNING CALL THAT ALL OLD SOLDIERS CAN PUT WORDS TO

“SOLDIER ARISE! AND PUT YOUR ARMOUR ON!

IT SEEMS TO ME THAT MANY PEOPLE HEAR THE LAST POST BUT THEY NEVER HEAR REVEILLE.    THAT WAKE – UP CALL GOES UNHEEDED.

SO THE WORDS OF PAUL ARE ECHOED BY HUGH BROWN – BOTH KNEW WHAT THEY WERE FIGHTING FOR.    THE MESSAGE DOWN THROUGH THE AGES IS THE SAME – WE MUST CLOTHE OURSELVES WITH THE ARMOUR OF THE GOSPEL.   WE SHOULD ALSO KNOW WHAT WE ARE FIGHTING FOR.

WELL THERE WILL ALWAYS BE AN ENGLAND, BUT IT ISN’T THE ENGLAND THAT PILOT OFFICER BROWN KNEW: IT ISN’T THE WORLD THAT HE KNEW – BUT IT IS STILL BEAUTIFUL.   AND LIFE – TRUE LIVING – IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR.    AND OF COURSE HUGH BROWN IS NOT MISSING – HIS EARTHLY REMAINS MAY LIE SOMEWHERE IN THE NORTH SEA BUT HE HAS BEEN CALLED HOME – JUST LIKE SO MANY OTHER GALLANT SOULS WHO HAVE FOUGHT IN DEFENCE OF OUR FREEDOM AND WHO SHOULD NEVER BE FORGOTTEN.

INSCRIBED ON MANY OF THE WAR MEMORIALS IN THIS COUNTRY YOU WILL FIND THE WORDS “LEST WE FORGET”.      THEY ARE WORDS WRITTEN BY RUDYARD KIPLING. HIS OWN SON IS AMONG THE NAMES INSCRIBED ON THE MENIN GATE.    IN HIS POEM “THE RECESSIONAL” KIPLING RECOGNISED THAT THE BOASTING OF MILITARY MIGHT AND JINGOISM WHICH PREVAILED IN THIS COUNTRY AFTER THE BOER WAR, WAS ALL RATHER VAIN IN THE LIGHT OF THE HEAVENLY FATHER’S DOMINION OVER THE WORLD.    AND HE WARNED THAT THE BRITISH EMPIRE MAY WELL GO THE WAY OF OTHER SO-CALLED GREAT EMPIRES OF THE PAST –.

“THE CAPTAINS AND THE KINGS DEPART STILL STANDS THINE ANCIENT SACRIFICE”“AN HUMBLE AND A CONTRITE HEART – LORD GOD OF HOSTS BE WITH US YET – LEST WE FORGET”

 WELL – WE NO LONGER HAVE AN EMPIRE ON WHICH THE SUN NEVER SETS, SO THERE IS – I THINK – MUCH MORE TRUTH NOW IN THAT WARNING THAN WHEN IT WAS FIRST WRITTEN

THE FINAL TRADITIONAL WORDS WHICH WILL HAVE BEEN SAID AT ALL REMEMBRANCE PARADES THIS MORNING AND HAVE BEEN SAID EVER SINCE THEY BEGAN 88 YEARS AGO WOULD BE – :

AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN, AND IN THE MORNING, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM

SO – JUST LIKE AT THE MENIN GATE WE NEED TO REMEMBER – WHETHER IT IS AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN OR IN THE MORNING.   WE NEED TO REMEMBER TO SPIRITUALLY ARM OURSELVES EVERY SINGLE DAY.

WE ARE OFTEN TOLD THAT RIGHTEOUSNESS IS A COMPANION OF FAITH, AND FAITH IS EARNED BY KEEPING TO THE COMMANDMENTS – WHICH IN TURN HELPS TO CLOTHE US IN THE WHOLE ARMOUR OF GOD.

PAUL REMINDS US THAT “STRENGTH TO DO BATTLE BEGINS WITH ENLISTING THE STRENGTH OF THE LORD”,

IN THAT CASE – LEST WE FORGET – WE NEED TO DO ALL THAT WE CAN TO BE VIRTUOUS, HONEST AND PURE IN HEART AND MIND.

LEST WE FORGET – WE NEED TO INCREASE AND STRENGTHEN OUR TESTIMONY – KEEP THE SABBATH HOLY.

LEST WE FORGET – WE MUST FIGHT THE EVILS AROUND US – AND IN DOING SO, STAND UP FOR OUR CONVICTIONS, AND – AS HUGH BROWN REMINDED US – “BE TRUE TO OURSELVES”

LEST WE FORGET

THE TRAGEDY OF THE TWO WORLD WARS IS THAT SO MANY VALIANT HEARTS – TWO GOLDEN GENERATIONS OF YOUNG MEN HAD TO PAY SUCH A TERRIBLE PRICE TO KEEP THIS COUNTRY FREE.

“O VALIANT HEARTS TO YOUR GLORY CAME”     

THE GREAT SURRENDER MADE”      

 “INTO THE LIGHT THAT NEVERMORE SHALL FADE”

IT SEEMS TO ME THAT IN THIS VICIOUS AND AWFUL AND EVIL AND DEADLY WAR WITH SATAN THAT IS BEING WAGED SO DREADFULLY THE REAL TRAGEDY IS THAT SO MANY FAINT HEARTS ARE PAYING THE TERRIBLE PRICE FOR GIVING UP THE FIGHT AGAINST SATAN.   THEY’VE CHOSEN TO SURRENDER INTO SPIRITUAL DARKNESS.    THEY HAVE   JOINED    THE LEGION OF THE SPIRITUALLY LOST”

THE SORT OF LOYALTY TO THE LORD THAT HUGH BROWN SHOWED IS NEEDED BY US EVERY SINGLE MINUTE OF THE DAY – UNLESS WE WISH TO JOIN THE RANKS OF THE “MISSING PRESUMED SPIRITUALLY DEAD”.

ONCE A YEAR REMEMBRANCE OF THE FALLEN IS THE LEAST WE CAN OFFER TO ALL THOSE BRAVE SOULS.  SO MANY VALIANT HEARTS

SO – I’VE THOUGHT OF THE LEGION OF THE LOST; A HYMN; A MAN AND HIS MISSION; AND THE CALL OF REVEILLE;

AND ALL THESE THOUGHTS ARE INEVITABLEY LINKED WITH ONE WORD:-

SACRIFICE

THE FINAL VERSE OF THE HYMN READS

“THESE WERE HIS SERVANTS, IN HIS STEPS THEY TROD”                                “FOLLOWING THROUGH DEATH THE MARTYRED SON OF GOD”

“VICTOR, HE ROSE; VICTORIOUS TOO SHALL RISE”
“THEY WHO HAVE DRUNK HIS CUP OF SACRIFICE”

THOSE VALIANT HEARTS MADE THE GREAT SACRIFICE. THAT WE MAY BE FREE TO LIVE AS WE WISH. THE SAVIOUR MADE THAT SUPREME SACRIFICE. THE SUPREME SACRIFICE WHICH IN THE END CAN BRING FOR US ALL GLORIOUS VICTORY. HE DIED THAT WE MAY LIVE

Acknowledgements:

Thank you to all of Wilf’s friends for their contributions to this book. Special thanks to Bart Johnson for collating the biographical information and to Jackie Rowbotham for all of the typing she did.

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One thought on “Wilf Farrell – 90 years in the making!

  1. I just loved this story. Thank you so much for sharing. I giggled when it said he had to be baptized twice, because he didn’t like his full name. Now that is funny. Good man. Thanks again. Hugs, from an older, elder sister.

    Like

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