The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


Festival Edition 2013

St Dunstan

St Dunstan has significance for us at St George’s in two different ways. Fr Timon Singh took charge of St Dunstan’s Church, Bellingham last year… and Eric Dinneen attended St Dunstan’s College as a student between 1935 and 1942. Eric writes that he is not entirely sure of his leaving date, as some records show him leaving in 1943, because he was Captain of Rugby in the term September 1942. In October 1942 he enlisted in the Royal Corps of Signals and was awaiting ‘call up’ which came in January 1943 or soon after! Eric has remained an active ‘Old Boy’ to his benefit during war service and visits abroad; ‘OD’s’ are generous in their help to each other in a world wide friendship. The original school was at St Dunstan’s in the East End of London with whom we retain close links….the new school was built in Catford in 1888. St Dunstan is respected for his rapid promotion to Archbishop of Canterbury!

In 2002, Bill Hutchings wrote in St George’s News about St Dunstan. The article is reproduced below.

 Dunstan lived through the greater part of the 10th century, was Archbishop of Canterbury for 28 years, and for much of this time the most influential figure in England in both Church and State. Regarded as a saint in his own lifetime, he combined the vision of a Christian leader with the wisdom of a statesman. He was also a gifted musician, painter, illuminator and metal worker. The religious ceremony he devised for the coronation of King Edgar at Bath in 973AD has provided the basis for all the subsequent coronation services in England.

Dunstan was born in 909AD in or near Glastonbury in Somerset. His father owned land adjoining Glastonbury Abbey which housed a community of Irish clerics who ran a school. It was at this school that Dunstan had his early education, becoming accomplished in the arts of metalworking, manuscript illumination, and music. His family had some influence at the court of King Athelstan, and, as was only to be expected, he was given a position there. But court life didn't suit him, and after a time he went back to Glastonbury and became a monk. Sometime around 943 he was appointed abbot of Glastonbury by Edmund I, Athelstan's successor. In this position he expanded the abbey, which became a famous school under his administration. And when Edred succeeded to the throne, Dunstan became his advisor, and found himself to be the virtual ruler of the kingdom. From this position he instituted religious reforms and policies for political unification and the establishment of royal authority. However, a hitch occurred in 955, when the teenage Edwy (or Edwig, depending on which book you read) was crowned king of Wessex. Dunstan fell into disfavour for reproving his conduct, was outlawed, and fled the country. One version of the story says that at the appointed hour of the coronation Edwy was nowhere to be seen. Dunstan went to look for him, and found him in bed with both his mistress and her daughter, and dragged him off to his coronation. Whatever it was that happened, his majesty’s displeasure obliged Dunstan to retire to Flanders.

But not for long. In the following year he was recalled by Edwy's brother, King Edgar of Mercia and Northumbria and later king of the entire English kingdom, who appointed him successively bishop of Worcester, bishop of London, and archbishop of Canterbury, all in a period of four years. Since the king was only in his twenties, he leaned heavily on the archbishop for guidance. In return he enthusiastically backed Dunstan's proposals for Church reform. He rebuilt churches and promoted education. An important development came at a synod in Winchester in 970. Although Dunstan was not present at the synod, his influence dominated the proceedings and the leadership came from two of his colleagues, Ethelwold, Bishop of Winchester, and Oswald, Bishop of Worcester. At the synod the bishops and abbots adopted the Regularis Concordia - a code of monastic observance that covered worship, the duties of abbots, processions and domestic matters (such as permitting fires to be lit in winter). This mirrored similar reforms taking place in Europe, but it was unique in prescribing prayers for the king and his family at monastic services.

When Edgar died in 975, Dunstan succeeded in placing the king's son, later Edward the Martyr, on the throne. When Edward was murdered that same year, the succession to the throne was disputed. Dunstan's influence declined, and he retired to Canterbury, but he remained a faithful pastor of that diocese and lived to crown two more kings. On Ascension Day 988 he preached in the cathedral and two days later died surrounded by his monks.

Dunstan is the patron saint of armourers, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, locksmiths and musicians. In art he is often represented holding an evil spirit's nose in a pair of tongs. His feast day is May 19, the anniversary of his death.

Bill Hutchings