The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


We were first attracted to St. George’s for several reasons. The church reminded us of St. Peter, St. Helier, Morden, where we were married in 1957. It was a curate and nurse romance and in both churches people were welcoming and helpful and the services were very well organised and the type of worship we had grown used to in South Africa.

The crucifix over the altar we found inspiring.

After our first encounter many benefits flowed. When I broke my leg and later when I broke my arm, I was well looked after both at home and when I got to church.

My memories - Holy Week and Easter and Don Lloyd playing Mozart’s bassoon concerto!

 So had begun a new chapter in a whole lifetime of experiences.

Twenty of us being ordained in Southwark Cathedral by dear old Bishop Bertram Simpson.

Landing in South Africa at Cape Town and afterwards at Durban in the apartheid era (the word is pronounced somewhat sinisterly as apart-hate, not apart-hide).  Learning the famous click language of siXhosa from an old grammar book.  Riding on horseback to outstations at Clydesdale Mission.

Negotiating with the Headman at St. Mark’s - he was also interpreter. Teaching the Old Testament, a lifelong passion, to students in Grahamstown, where our eldest son was born. This joy (the Old Testament) I owe to a kindly schoolmaster in Chester and to a thrilling lecturer in London, Ulrich Simon, himself a Jewish exile from Nazi Germany, converted to Christ.

Confirmations in Transkei, my Diocese in South Africa, then called St. John’s, now divided into three dioceses.

St. Andrew’s Lusikisiki, when all the candidates had come in the evening before and had slept at or  near the Mission. They arrived in the church at kwakumpondo zankomo (when the horns of the cattle in the kraal are visible).  The Eucharist began with full throated singing of hymns and the local Xhosa setting of the Eucharist in harmony. The Eucharist and lessons (always three) began with the sort of ceremonies we are  used to at St. George’s, followed by the sermon - I was gradually gaining confidence to preach in Xhosa. The  confirmation what seemed like hundreds of candidates of all ages (I once, not in Transkei, confirmed an old man of 90), even though the priest had previously sent some of them home as not being adequately prepared. Then we prayed, all together, some in their own language, some in tongues, until the priest held up his hands and they stopped. The Eucharist then proceeded, censings, consecration, bells and communion for rows and rows of people.  Then we went out of church and a splendid meal was provided for us all by the Mothers’ Union after which people went home to their various (41 in that parish) outstations, often hours away over dirt roads and tracks.

Wits university, when the struggle was reaching its climax. On one occasion the academic staff were ordered by the Vice Chancellor to put their academic robes on and stand between chanting students and rows of fierce looking police.

Drama of a different sort at Grahamstown, when I was at Rhodes University, Sally and I in a production of  ‘Man for All Seasons’.

And, before I become more of a bore, Victorin’s warbler in the fynbos overlooking the Indian Ocean where gannets dived into the waves and a hobby sat on a post looking for little animals - not to forget the puff adder that bit our Jack Russell so that she died before the vet could save her - and Sally’s garden, with its glorious colours and the swee waxbills feeding outside and an occasional Diderik cuckoo and a colourful Touraco (Knysna Lourie) and the African Goshawk clicking way up in the skies above, ‘these are my favourite things’!

When our family meet next year coming from Texas, Tanzania, Copenhagen, East London (South Africa), Southwark and Petersfield, we shall remember many things and anecdotes, including our time at Waterlooville and Abe’s baptism and our friends in Jay Close and at St George’s.

From a quiet home in a quiet village with the roar of the M5 over the fields.

Our love and gratitude,

Godfrey and Sally Ashby

Christmas Edition 2011

From Bishop Godfrey Ashby