It began as a tentative idea...
Monday, April 13, 2015
It began as a tentative idea...a series of Catholic History Walks around London, taking in places such as Westminster Cathedral, the Tower of London, St Thomas More's Chelsea That was a few years ago, and now the History Walks are a standard part of the London Catholic scene.

We have posters in various London and suburban churches, notably Westminster Cathedral, which we use as a sort of base. The Cathedral is near Victoria station, and it is convenient for History walkers to gather on the Cathedral steps after the 5.30pm Mass on a weekday. From there, we can walk down towards the river, taking in features such as the Grey Coat Hospital, (and the Blewcoat School, and the Green Coat Boy pub), and the Westminster City Hall (the City crest features the Blessed Virgin holding the Christ-child) and then of course the Abbey, and Parliament. Or we can walk across St James Park, and tackle a Royal theme, ending with prayers for HM the Queen outside Buckingham Palace (and we always give her three hearty cheers, too).

We sometimes get our timing exactly right we had a long-booked Royal-themed walk on the day when Buckingham Palace was suddenly swamped with crowds. The new Royal baby had just arrived Prince George of Cambridge. Oh, we'll finish the Walk here in St James, and avoid the crowds I said but nobody wanted that. They all wanted to have their moment in history and so we went on up the Mall to the Palace, and joined the crowds taking photographs of the printed announcement on its special stand at the gates: HRH the Duchess had given birth to a son.

Sometimes we finish with a cheery drink in a pub, sometimes it's been hot chocolate in a cafe sometimes we are so cold and wet that we all just want to hurry home and change our clothes and get dry, some summer evenings things run on late with conversation and laughter

Increasingly, I've been asked to lead specific groups young enthusiasts from different countries who gathered in London for a conference on 40 days for Life, some classes from Catholic schools, a large youth group from a London parish. I find the school groups especially touching they are often so ignorant of history, and yet so reverent and respectful in church: on one occasion I was leading a group of Catholic schoolgirls around Westminster Cathedral, and explained that as we drew near the Blessed Sacrament chapel we would kneel for a moment in silent prayer. I did so, and then after a few moments of prayer I glanced around to see if all were ready to move on and saw several of them prostrate on the ground, and all of them reverent, silent, heads bowed.

London is full of family history for any Londoner. I used to work in Parliament as a research assistant, hurrying every day across from the Norman Shaw Building (the old Scotland Yard) to the main building via that underground subway, meeting people in the Central Lobby under those fabulous mosaics depicting saints George, Andrew, Patrick and David

St Etheldreda's church in Ely Place was for many years the Guild Church of The Keys, the Catholic Writers' Guild and in the 1970s, 80s and 90s I spent many evenings there, with guest speakers including some of Britain's leading journalists, politicians, novelists...

My uncle and aunt were married in the Lady chapel in Westminster Cathedral, in a bomb-damaged London in World War II, wearing their Army uniforms. Many years later I wrote about it for the Cathedral magazine, with my aunt's memories of the day. My uncle had been badly wounded in the fighting in Burma and had lost his right hand

My father's office and his father's before that was in Hopton Street overlooked the Thames. A smart apartment block now stands on the site

Today London for me is meetings, conferences, friends-for-drinks, a buzz of events. The History Walks are adding a new dimension to my own lifetime of memories.

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