The Thumbnail Chain

Back to the September magazine

The paper version of this page was so full, there was no space for an introduction to Alan Ratledge!  However, Alan is the sort of man for whom no introduction is necessary!

He writes…

Doreen and I had several moves before we arrived in Cononley at the back end of 1976 to live with our two children opposite the churchyard. Reactions from other villagers at the time were mixed, comments varying from ‘I wouldn’t live there – next to all those graves and dead people’ to ‘Well, you will never be lonely there, will you!’.

Getting used to life in new village surroundings is not without its problems. We imagined that all of the established residents had been born and bred in Cononley and were probably closely related to one another. We were on our guard, but we gradually got to know that many of our neighbours were offcomers too. It helped that the children both went to the village school and quickly got to know their compatriots, so effecting introductions to their parents. The two of us had been regular church and chapel goers, and through the late Bill Spencer I became a member of the Cononley Church council when Stuart MacDougall was the incumbent. He and I had disagreements over the church liturgy, but I was able to help him when he was worried about a crisis within the council. Now that I myself am old and infirm I am only too grateful for the help and kindness shown by other people including friends from among the church congregation.

One peculiarity about the two of us is that I, my two sisters, Doreen and her sister, and one of our brothers in law, all attended the same local Grammar School. The headmaster at that time was one Mr. P.G.F. Clarke and not for nothing the school was often known as ‘Mr. Clarke’s matrimonial agency’ owing to the number of relationships that had their origins in those days at school. Now, after all those years, with silver, ruby, golden and diamond wedding anniversaries behind us, Doreen and I live quietly as befits our combined ages of 180 years. I know that there are single people in Cononley of a greater age than either of us, but I do wonder if there are any other couples in the village who exceed our total. I would be interested to know.

Finally, I have to say that during this period of lockdown I have found the online services celebrated in Roman Catholic churches more inspiring than the Anglican equivalent. Both churches are suffering from manpower shortages, falling congregations and reduced income. Could not this wretched coronavirus provide an opportunity for the two churches to come together in some form of joint worship as a witness to their common creed in this difficult and secular age?

Alan Ratledge

Next month…  we hear a snippet from Elsie Clarke

Back to the September magazine