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A Shout From The Attic: Faith Lost And Found - 2

...I attended a meeting of a spiritualist church down Kirkgate above the Army Recruiting Office. The sign on the wall read “No Prophesying,” and “Silver Collection.”...

As a teenager Ronnie Bray found himself visiting a variety of churches'.

During a visit to Blackpool with the family - Grandparents and Ma and Dad and René and Arthur, I visited the local Roman Catholic church with the landlord and his family. I enjoyed the sense of theatre and drama. The visit rekindled some warmth towards Christianity and I contemplated attending church again. In discussing this with my mother, one of the very few discussions I can remember, she said that she didn’t mind which church I went to as long as I went somewhere. As it happened, I didn’t go anywhere.

My association with the Roman Catholics did not end there. My sister blames someone else, I forget whom, but some of us went into St Patrick’s Church in New North Road, and helped ourselves to candles. We hid them in the pixie hood of a girl who lived on Portland Street. We probably used them to make light in dark places. The morality of the venture was not discussed, but the fact that we felt it necessary to hide them speaks for itself. Morality was the sort of thing that lurked around the fringes of childhood, but did not intrude far enough to prevent much mischief. On the other hand, we had no disposition to great wickedness. Checks and balances, checks and balances.

I had left school and was still keeping company with Peter West although we no longer worked together: I was at the Co-operative Transport on Deadwaters, when Pete told me about the spiritualist church. He said that someone had told him that at these churches some very strange things happened and that we should go along just “for a laugh.” Our first visit was to Ramsden Street Spiritualist Church. It was strange; a medium told a woman that she could see a baby floating around her head. I couldn’t see any baby. After the close of that service we raced up town to another meeting held in a room above the yard behind the Huddersfield Youth Cafe. A visiting couple of speakers from Bradford were introducing themselves. She said that we were “very lucky to have us here tonight, and we usually charge.” They sat one each side of a small table facing the congregation. On the table sat a good-sized Dundee Cake to be raffled, which the husband kept attacking, picking off the almonds one at a time and devouring them. Apart from this, the meeting was unremarkable.

Huddersfield Youth Café was a cool place to be. The coffee was unpretentious, but good. The table tennis tables were always in full use, and some very good players were evident. About this time, I started doing some hurdling in a barn at Almondbury. Opposite the Parish Church, there was this old barn, and somehow I got involved in the activities there. I was being coached at hurdling, and being complimented on my position floating over the bar. I was fourteen, so it was the year before Pete and I visited the Spiritualist Church. I know because I had two milk teeth for front uppers. It is hard to forget when ones last teeth went, especially if one is a teenager.

Although teenagers had not yet been invented, certain things embarrassed youngsters then as now. Going over the hurdles, spurred to greater heights by unaccustomed praise, my mouth hit my left knee with some force. My mouth felt sore, but I took little notice. I may have muttered some self-deprecatory remarks, then went straight around to have another go. This time, I thought, and launched myself at the hurdle. My mouth hit my knee again, this time with flesh-splitting force. Blood trickled into my mouth, and the two front teeth wobbled. I felt them tenderly; they came out in my hand. I lost my last milk teeth and fourteen, and my passion for hurdling at the same time.

I attended a meeting of a spiritualist church down Kirkgate above the Army Recruiting Office. The sign on the wall read “No Prophesying,” and “Silver Collection.” The meeting was given over to psychometry, during which the medium gave information to the ladies present - I was the sole male - about their husbands by holding, feeling and smelling articles belonging to their husbands that the ladies had smuggled in.


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