1988 – Maundy Thursday (Part 2)

Welcome to the 2nd part of Maundy Thursday 1988.

After learning about the origins and the historic rise of Maundy Thursday, we ended the previous episode, part 1, unsure where the next Royal Maundy Service was going to take place.

Was it going be 200 miles away at Westminster Abbey in London – just like my dad said – or was it going be at another venue? Hmm, we’ll soon see…

If you can remember, part 1, predominantly looked into the Maundy history from a Royal point of view, involving the Kings and Queens of England, but today in part 2, the story looks into things quite differently, this time from a more personal perspective, where it eventually introduces Cecil Hodgson into his own story.

During this family history blog, we’ll first be touching upon the events that occurred towards the end of 1987, before edging into the first three months of 1988.

The story comes equipped with supporting evidence including correspondences, documents, letters, newspaper cuttings and original comments or quotes that helps to legitimise the story.

All of this adds depth and a good insight into the unfolding drama that was to come for Cecil Hodgson. (Don’t forget to click on the newspapers and images to read any small print)

Cecil’s story now resumes from August 1987…

My youngest daughter, Dee was born at West Bromwich during this month, our family of two daughters now being complete. At that time in my life, I was a mere young man, aged 26 with short black Afro-hair. Whatever happened it, where did it all go? Let’s just move swiftly on!

Yours Truly In 1987 with that short Afro!

By the November of 1987 – just three months after the birth of my daughter – a new venue had now been chosen by Buckingham Palace to host the upcoming Royal Maundy.

Now, for those of you that read part 1, you can be forgiven for thinking that it was going to be held at Westminster Abbey, just as I thought. But we were all so wrong.

Ok, so it wasn’t going to be at Westminster Abbey after all. Now this really surprised me. I was very disappointed to see the ‘Westminster Abbey myth’ evaporate away, because I’d so much wanted to travel to London to research that world famous and historical building, but sadly, it was just not meant to be.

However, what compensated me for the huge disappointment, was when I discovered where the Maundy was going to be actually taking place instead! Here’s where it was going to be. The 1988 Maundy Thursday Ceremony would be taking place at… Lichfield Cathedral in the County of Staffordshire.

What a huge anti-climax this first appeared to be, but afterwards I soon remembered that Lichfield – which is not too far from West Bromwich – was a place that held a little piece of history from my own past. In fact, I’d been inside Lichfield Cathedral once before, but that was way back when I was a just small boy of about 10 years of age, so the thought of actually going back to see the old Cathedral would be like being catapulted back into time. That really intrigued me.

Lichfield Mercury Newspaper. November 1987.

So after being selected by Buckingham Palace, Lichfield Cathedral was officially announced and unveiled in the media to be the venue for the next annual Royal Maundy Service, which was due to take place just five months later in the March of 1988.

The Dean of Lichfield Cathedral, The Very Reverend John Lang, soon announced in the press to members of the public that they could apply to go into a ballot to become one of the 2,000 plus invited guests to be allowed inside the Cathedral to attend the Royal Service.

Members of the public would go into a ballot

LICHFIELD CATHEDRAL

The imposing ornate frontage of Lichfield Cathedral with it’s three spires and many historical figures carved into the stone. The West door, where the Queen would be entering during the Maundy Service, can be seen in the centre. Ok, so it was not the iconic Westminster Abbey, but what a magnificent substitute!

After those two press announcements, huge excitement immediately gripped the people of Lichfield, especially since it was going to be the very first time in it’s long Medieval history that the City had ever been chosen for such a unique Royal occasion.

Lichfield though, was no stranger to a Royal occasion. Infact, the Queen had visited Lichfield more than once before, the first time being back in 1946 while she was just a mere young ‘Princess’ when, accompanied by her Mom, ‘the Queen Mother’ they attended Lichfield Cathedral’s 750th Anniversary Festival, staying overnight at ‘Bishop’s Palace’ – the Bishop of Lichfield’s fine residence. (This residence features later in Cecil’s story, all will be explained in Part 3)

‘THE SEARCH’

So now with just five months to go until Maundy Thursday 1988, the frantic search began to find 124 retired pensioners who were above the age of 65. There were strict conditions attached, that in order to qualify, it was imperative that they held;

A good record of Christian service to their church and local community”.

In 1988, Queen Elizabeth II was 62 years of age at that time, therefore 62 men and 62 women would be needed for the very special day in Lichfield. To be even considered though, all the candidates would need to reside within three specific area’s of the Midlands;

  • The county of Staffordshire
  • A large part of the county of Shropshire
  • Large parts of the ‘Black Country.’

(See County map further below)

An advertisement was placed in newspapers, asking for candidates to apply to be a Maundy Recipient. The ‘final decision’ on who was to be chosen, would ultimately be made by Queen Elizabeth.

“THE BLACK COUNTRY”

One of the qualifying catchment area’s mentioned above was the ‘Black Country’. There may well be people, unfamilar with this place, you might be wondering what or where it is.

It is infact an old name that began around the mid 1840’s, given to a large area, that was once designated to be lying within the County of Staffordshire (but now lying in the re-structured new additional County boundary of the West Midlands)

The Black Country originally gained it’s name due to all the smoke, coal pits and foundry’s that heavily existed during the Industrial times. With it being an area or region, the Black Country name does not seem to appear on any official maps.

Located right within the heart of the Black Country region is the town of West Bromwich. Cecil Hodgson’s town. My town.

The Black Country gained it’s name from all the smoke, coal pits and foundries in the region.

For those who watch our brilliant English drama’s, you may be familiar with ‘Peaky Blinders’ the popular television series that is based in and around the Black Country. Infact, much of this series was shot at the renowned ‘Black Country Museum’ which is just ‘up the road’ from where I live. (This temporary redundant venue has recently become a Covid Centre, where just a few week ago, I received my ‘long awaited’ 1st Covid Vaccination Jab)

Peaky Blinders is filmed at The Black Country Museum
County map. West Bromwich, located near the centre, is part of the Black Country

“SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS”

With the rapid expansion of online records these days, trying to discover the basic skeletal facts of your long deceased ancestors can be considered to be quite achievable for most people. When I say “skeletal facts,” what I really mean is finding the spine of your ancestors, in other words when they were born, when they got married and when they died. These are the three most basic records that all aspiring genealogists will first need to look for.

But after finding their births, marriages and deaths why not explore even further and attempt to ‘put some meat on the bones’ of your ancestors – in other words, search to see if you can discover their secrets and stories. This for me, is by far more rewarding and interesting than anything else you will ever discover in the exciting world of family history.

Sometimes these premium sought-after stories might not exist or maybe you just cannot find them, but this is something that all genealogists should always attempt to do. But how far your diligence and perseverance, takes you on your research journey, is ultimately down to your own will power and stubborn determination not to give in…

The Vicar of Cecil’s Church For many years, I’d often wondered how or why Uncle Cecil was chosen to be a Maundy Recipient. To find out these answers, I desperately needed to seek out and find the man who used to be the Vicar of Cecil’s Church during the decade of the 1980’s. Hopefully, I’d be able to locate and make contact with him to ask if he knew anything about my Great Uncle.

Being already aware that this Vicar’s name was Rev. David Wiseman, I needed to know where he was now. Would I be able find him, was he even still living?

One Wednesday evening in 2016, out of the blue, something made me look-up the telephone number for the Vicarage of Saint Phillip’s Church, West Bromwich. When I found the number, it enabled me to make contact with a lady who was the current Vicar of Saint Phillip’s at that time.

Speaking to the Reverend Pamela Daniel, she told me that she had only been the Vicar there since 2010 but had heard all about the former Churchwarden Cecil Hodgson. She loved my Maundy story about him and arranged for me to meet up with her at the upcoming Sunday Service.

On that crisp Sunday morning, feeling in need of moral support, I contacted my eldest sister Joan, asking her if she wouldn’t mind coming to the church with me. I thought Joan would be ideally suited to accompany me on this visit because she’d actually lived in this street as a baby, and then in later years received her confirmation there at Saint Phillip’s.

Myself and my sister Joan at our family history tour that I conducted in 2016

In separate vehicles, we both drove to the street, Beeches Road, hoping to rendezvous at Cecil’s church. I arrived and parked outside the church, but wait, where was my sister. She wasn’t there?

I soon discovered that I’d actually drove to the wrong church, Joan telling me that Uncle Cecil & Aunt Helen’s Church was infact at the opposite end of the street to where I’d parked.

This completely threw me, for I’d always believed that this was where Uncle Cecil and Aunt Helen had worshipped all those many years ago.

Meeting my sister at the ‘correct’ church, we then strolled in together through the holy doors, just in time to catch the last 10 minutes of the Sunday service. As far as I was aware, this was the very first time that I’d ever set foot inside Uncle Cecil’s small Church.

“CECIL’S CHURCH”

Saint Phillip’s Church, in Beeches Road, West Bromwich

We walked in and sat alone on the sacred pews in an obscure corner, keeping ourselves hidden away from the small congregation, who were just sitting to the left of us. Reverend Pamela Daniel soon peered up and noticed us while she was conducting her sermon.

A warm feeling of pride engulfed me as I sat in Cecil & Helen’s Church for the very first time, quickly realising that I’d now arrived at a huge moment in my research journey. I’d actually transported myself right into the ‘very heart’ of Cecil’s Maundy story.

I decided to quickly capture some memrobillia footage, so took out my smartphone and filmed this 15 second clip.

Just as the service was about to come to an end, the Reverend surprisingly announced us to her congregation, inviting me and Joan both to come upfront with her.

Did we not expect this!

However, making the most of this slightly awkward encounter, we hesitantly trudged forward, finding ourselves stood right next to Rev. Pamela Daniel, front of church, peering sheepishly into the eyes of her bemused Jamaican congregation.

What were they expecting to hear from us?

The words flowed as I began to tell them that our great uncle, Cecil Hodgson had been the Churchwarden of their church from the 1950’s and had been rewarded with the Royal Maundy by the Queen In 1988. I told them that myself and Joan were the great niece and nephew of Cecil.

The small congregation could be forgiven for appearing a little bit perplexed, that was except for one person, a parishioner named Lloyd Hamilton, who Rev. Pamela Daniel had apparently pre-warned that we were coming to the church that day.

Mr Hamilton called out to us from the congregation to come and see him after the end of the service. Now this sounded quite promising. I wondered what information he was going to share with us?

The Photograph – With the service now over, we moved to the back of the church and were kindly served hot drinks. Lloyd Hamilton then surprised both of us by saying he knew Cecil very well and he was also aware that he had met the Queen in the 1980’s. He remarked that he went to Lichfield Cathedral as well.

He then suddenly whipped out a colour photograph of a smiling Cecil & Helen, who were both formerly dressed in their best attire, standing outside Lichfield Cathedral on that Maundy Thursday. Wow, we were both totally gobsmacked. It was such a brilliant moment!

But how did Mr Hamilton get that photograph, I thought?

He later explained to me that he lives in Jesson Street and used to be a close neighbour of Cecil & Helen, and although he was a generation younger than them, he told me that he had been good to Cecil, and was therefore given the photograph by him just after Cecil came back from the Maundy Service In 1988. I asked him if I could take a copy of the photograph if I visited the church again.

“Absolutely” he replied.

But being already in possession of a very similar photograph to the one that he had, for one reason or another, I never did quite manage to go back to the church for a copy of that photograph, but a few years later, in 2019, I spoke to Lloyd Hamilton once more, this time by telephone, asking him about an important ‘missing link’ to Cecil’s Maundy story.

I asked him if he knew what had happened to Rev. David Wiseman, the man who had been the Vicar of the Church during the Maundy years, telling him that it was my quest to try and make contact with him.

He told me he knew him, but said the Rev. had moved away from West Bromwich to the Manchester area some years ago, but he didn’t know exactly where he’d gone to.

“THE THREE WISEMAN”

“You wait a long time for a bus, then three of them turn up at the same time!”

As explained earlier, I already knew that his name was Rev. David Wiseman, but I ran into a problem, especially when I discovered that there had existed at least three Reverends with exactly the same name.

All three were named Rev. David Wiseman and I don’t think they were even related. Quite unbelievable isn’t it!

Well anyway, this is how the whole search unfolded after my conversations with Mr Lloyd Hamilton…

One of the three Reverend Wiseman’s that I’d had my eyes on, turned out to be a red herring, totally unconnected because he’d actually died 1932 in Scotland, so obviously he wasn’t the ‘man of the cloth’ I was looking for. He was eliminated from my search.

This left two more Rev. David Wiseman’s to try and locate.

I managed to find a telephone number for one of the remaining two and left a message on his answerphone, asking him if he could contact me. I didn’t get a reply, so I tried again, this time sending him an email instead, mentioning Cecil & Saint Phillip’s Church etc.

Within a few days I received this interesting email on the 2nd December 2019;

Press play, then continue to read

Very interesting indeed! So just one candidate now remained. Surely this last Rev. Wiseman was going to be the Vicar that I’d been praying to find?

After reading that promising above email off Rev. Wiseman number two (the Vicar of Rochdale) I clambered into my ‘Sherlock Holmes’ attire, minus the famous pipe and magnifying glass of course – and began enthusiastically investigating online, quickly finding out information about the remaining candidate number 3, the one described as the ‘Vicar of Oldham.’
Bad luck then ensued when I couldn’t find a phone number or email address for him, but I soon became aware that although this man was now retired, I discovered that he was associated or connected to a church in the County of Shropshire.
Opting for random pot luck, I sent out an email, a plea, to that church, in the hope that somebody, anybody, would forward my message on to Rev. David Wiseman, this third man of mystery in my frustrating clerical journey. Was he going to be the West Bromwich Reverend that I’d been searching so long for?
Here’s the email that I sent to the Shropshire church on the 2nd December 2019…

I received this reply 4 days later…

Rev. David Wiseman, former Vicar of Saint Phillip’s Church. West Bromwich

I couldn’t believe it, I’d found the ‘real’ Reverend David Wiseman. I excitedly telephoned him within a short time of receiving his very welcome email.

It was amazing to finally get in touch with him, and he had such a lot to tell me about Uncle Cecil. (Some of which will be revealed in a future blog.)

During our long telephone conversation on the 6th December, Rev. Wiseman told me how he’d first arrived at Cecil’s West Bromwich Church about 1986, eighteen months before the Maundy event took place, when he became the Vicar of Saint Phillip’s Church. This was how he first met Cecil. He also informed me that Cecil had been the first ever ‘West Indian’ Churchwarden of Saint Phillip’s. Not the first black man, but the first West Indian.

Rev. Wiseman spoke with warmth and fondness about Cecil & Helen, He knew them well and used to visit their home. He admired them greatly and being the former head of their church, he recalled to me what he could remember about how Cecil was chosen to become a Maundy Recipient;

“The Lichfield Diocese wrote to our church, Saint Phillip’s in West Bromwich, asking if we had two people that we could recommend.
We put forward the name of Cecil Hodgson.
He was chosen because of all the good work he had done for the church and local community.
Later we asked if his wife Helen could also be included because she had also similarly been involved in helping her local community.”

Keen to tie up any loose ends and to cement everything down that he’d told me, I asked if he wouldn’t mind writing out the information instead, so I sent him another email on the 9th December;

It had been 30 years since Maundy 1988 had occurred. Rev. Wiseman revised his thoughts in his next email on the 11th December, remembering more accurate additional details about why Cecil was chosen.

Cecil’s wife Helen was Infact not nominated as a Maundy Recipient as I first thought.

Ok, so through David Wiseman’s crucial involvement in the whole process, we now know why and how Cecil Hodgson was chosen by his church. However, that was infact just the ‘first phase’ of how Cecil Hodgson managed to get chosen for his Maundy journey.

Rev. Wiseman had recommended Cecil Hodgson to be a Maundy Recipient, writing details about the good service he had given to his church and the local community over the years and the reasons why he thought Cecil was worthy to be considered a Maundy Recipient candidate. As you can see, his wonderful contribution was a key ingredient that played a huge part in Cecil Hodgson being selected for the Royal Maundy.

Rev. Wiseman posted Cecil’s application details off to the Rural Dean of Lichfield.

After becoming the first ever West Indian Churchwarden of Saint Phillip’s, it was in the church that Cecil had made his greatest mark. He was heavily involved in the workings of his church for nearly four decades, and had received various awards and honours for his church work at West Bromwich.

You can see below, that Cecil, and indeed his wife Helen, were both remarkable and inspirational people of their community, deserving people who had helped many folks in times of need. Here’s a list of just some of the many ways they helped and nurtured people of the area;

  • Cecil taught many people to drive
  • Shopped for the elderly
  • Offered accommodation to those who needed it
  • Gave countless meals
  • Ran concerts
  • Counselled couples in difficulty and parents whose children were in trouble
  • Visited the sick in Hospital
  • Helped young people through adolescence
  • Visited the bereaved
  • Prayed with people in need, even through the night
  • Gave hospitality to people in their home
  • Held bible studies in their home on Sunday nights and weekdays
  • Gave good advice and practical help in finding work. Helped people settle.
  • Cecil became the first ‘West Indian’ Churchwarden of his church

THE DEAN OF LICHFIELD

We now move into another phase of the Maundy process, bringing into play, the Dean of Lichfield, the Very Reverend John Lang of the Lichfield Diocese.

Rev. Lang duly accepted Rev. Wiseman’s written recommendations of Cecil Hodgson, then either he or the Bishop of Lichfield – I’m not quite sure who – officially nominated him as a ‘potential Royal Maundy Recipient’ posting his nomination details off to the Royal Almonry Office, Buckingham Palace.

The late Dean Of Lichfield, The Very Reverend John Laing was instrumental in helping to nominate members from across the Lichfield Diocese to be considered for Maundy Service to be held at the Cathedral.

The role of Rev. Lang and/or the Bishop of Lichfield was to submit the names and details of Cecil Hodgson and all the other Maundy candidates to Buckingham Palace. This was an important part in the early proceedings of Maundy Thursday 1988.

The ancient Lichfield Cathedral had been in need of restoration for some time. A restoration project was hence developed and the Dean had been heavily involved in this project for two years in a £1.25 million pound appeal restoration project of Lichfield Cathedral. Infact, mine and Cecil’s local Council, ‘Sandwell Metropolitan Borough’ made a contribution of £20,000 towards that restoration fund.

Being a man of such importance to the Cathedral, in later years, Rev. John Lang and his wife’s figures were immortally sculptured into the stone structure of Lichfield Cathedral. Their stone busts can be seen today on the North West tower of the Cathedral.

ROYAL MAUNDY LETTERS

We now move into the next phase of the Maundy process. This section covers the interesting correspondences and letters that were sent from Buckingham Palace to each of the candidates.

I do not have the letters that were written by Uncle Cecil to Buckingham Palace!

After receiving the candidates nominations from the Lichfield Diocese, Buckingham Palace then became central to the whole process. A series of letters now began to be sent out from Buckingham Palace to every single nominated person of Staffordshire, Shropshire and the Black Country. These communication details were excellent and very precise.

These letters shown below all come from actual collections of Maundy Recipient’s original letters, paperwork, and other memorabilia correspondence.

A Collection set of Maundy letters and correspondence received by a Maundy Recipient in 1989.

Hold on, before we go any further, I must tell you about the bad news! Unfortunately, I do not have Cecil’s original letters that he received from Buckingham Palace. (there’s a heartbreaking story to tell you about this at another time.)

However, there’s also some good news…

With me not having Cecil’s original Buckingham Palace letters, I knew I’d hit a huge stumbling block in my research journey, but I wasn’t going to let this sway me. Was I going to accept this missing link and just give in?

Absolutely not.

I figured these letters were such a key ingredient as to how Cecil was chosen that I knew it was very important to discover what sort of correspondence he would have received.

I began looking at letters that other Maundy Recipients had received from Buckingham Palace over the decades.

Would it be possible for me to re-create Cecil’s letters?

By carefully studying other people’s letters, I was able to copy, edit or simulate with good accuracy, the correspondence that Cecil Hodgson would have received from Buckingham Palace too.

To give you an idea of the importance of these letters, coming up below are the various stream of continuous letters and documents that were sent out to Cecil over a period of about three months from January to March 1988.

January 1988

The nomination of Cecil Hodgson sent in by the Dean of Lichfield/Bishop of Lichfield to Buckingham Palace, was duly accepted by the Royal Almonry Office.

The Secretary of the Royal Almonry Office then sent this letter below to Cecil, confirming that he was now considered a ‘possible Maundy Recipient.’

Cecil was nominated as a possible Recipient.

Enclosed within this letter from Secretary Peter Wright was an acceptance form that Cecil needed to complete. He then had to get it signed by Rev. Wiseman, before sending the acceptance form off in a pre-paid envelope to the Royal Almonry Office.

Secretary, Peter Wright, the signatory to the above letter and all the other ones which were to follow later, had been established as Secretary of the Royal Almonry, for around 30 years. One of his important Maundy roles was to write to each potential recipient on behalf of Buckingham Palace.

During his long service, he had also attended each yearly Maundy Ceremony, dutifully guiding the Queen along each row of recipients in the Cathedrals around the country, just as they were about to receive their monetary gifts from her.

He was pivotal to the Maundy administration effort, becoming an important point of contact for Cecil and all the other recipient’s.

Peter Wright, Secretary of the Royal Almonry Office, Buckingham Palace, can be seen behind the Queen on the right wearing a white sash over his right shoulder.

With the personal knowledge gained by corresponding with all the potential Recipient’s, Mr Wright would quite naturally be the ideal person to advise the Queen who to choose for the 124 Recipients needed for Maundy Thursday 1988.

Over a period of about three months, Mr. Wright also posted out a series of letters to each of them and would later proudly appear alongside the Queen and the Royal Party at Lichfield Cathedral for the Ceremony.

After Cecil had completed Royal Maundy application form, he then sent it off to the Royal Almonry Office. The Secretary Peter Wright, wrote back, confirming that he had received Cecil’s application form.

The Secretary confirmed the receipt of Cecil’s application form. He was now being considered a Maundy Recipient, but would have to wait to see if his application would be successful.

THE SELECTION PROCESS

There was now going to be a selection process. Buckingham Palace had received not only Cecil’s application, but also a host of other nominated persons from all over Shropshire, Staffordshire and the Black Country.

This list now needed to be trimmed down to the limited 62 males and 62 females that were required. You could say it was maybe a bit like being chosen by the judging panel on Simon Cowell’s TV talent show, the XFactor.

Minus the singing of course!

There were going to be some happy people chosen by the ‘Buckingham Palace judging panel’ but there would also be some devastated people who were unfortunately not going to be picked. How fortunate though that Uncle Cecil wasn’t going to be one of the latter!

The Queens Decision – Under the guidance of Peter Wright, Queen Elizabeth II then made the final decisions, ultimately choosing each of the 124 Maundy Recipient’s, one of whom we now know was our Cecil Hodgson.

Those who had been selected and also those who had not, now all needed to be contacted. This became the arduous task of Peter Wright, Secretary for the Office of the Royal Almonry, Buckingham Palace, whose job it was to make personal contact by letter with everyone who had been nominated and applied for the Royal Maundy.

So with his fingers firmly crossed, Cecil waited to see if his application was going to be successful or not. Now here’s something quite incredible!

Although Cecil was not to know it, he needn’t have worried about not being chosen, because he was ‘absolutely guaranteed’ to be chosen by the Queen (This subject will be discussed two blogs from now and it really is a story not to be missed!)

The Bishop of Lichfield – The letter below shows the Royal Almonry Office writing to Cecil, informing him that Lichfield Cathedral’s highest order, the Bishop of Lichfield had officially submitted his name to the Almonry Office, for him to become a Maundy Recipient.

The Bishop, the Right Reverend Keith Sutton, who had been installed as the 94th Bishop of Lichfield Cathedral in 1984, had been a Missionary Bishop and had strong links to South Africa. He was very passionate about Social injustice, defiant of Apartheid and was a supporter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

After visiting South Africa for 4 days in March 1988, the Bishop came back just in time for the Maundy Thursday Ceremony to officially greet Queen Elizabeth at the doors of Lichfield Cathedral.

The Bishop of Lichfield, Right Reverend Keith Sutton supported Desmond Tutu in Apartheid torn South Africa.

 

Details about the Maundy Service.

There was an enclosed form in the confirmation letter above that Cecil needed to fill in and send off, writing the name of the person who he’d like to accompany him. The letter stated he could also bring a Companion to accompany him. Before it could all be made official though, he needed to write back, confirming to the Royal Almonry Office that he would accept this honour.

It was now up to Cecil to decide if he wanted to accept the honour. He had to write back to them with his answer. Was this a joke! Of course my proud Uncle would be attending!

The above Royal Maundy Service letter also revealed that Cecil had to name a Companion to accompany him on the day. Who was he going to choose?

It was now getting rather exciting for Uncle Cecil. I wonder how he was feeling at this time?

Cecil received from the Secretary, an acknowledgment that his application form had been safely received. He now had to wait and see if he was going to be officially named as a Lichfield Maundy Recipient!

February 1988

I have simulated some the answers that Cecil may have given on this form.

Obviously he chose his wife, Helen.

Cecil posted the form off to the Almonry Office, confirming that he was most certainly going to attend the Royal Maundy Service and that his wife Helen would be his named Companion.

While awaiting his confirmation and the clearance that his wife Helen would be allowed to attend, at this stage, Cecil still awaited official confirmation that he had been accepted.

That was until he received this next letter!

Official confirmation that Uncle Cecil would be going to Lichfield

At last, It was now official.

So after going through the long heart-stopping process, Cecil’s nervous wait finally ended after Secretary Peter Wright sent him that confirmation letter with the exciting news that he’d now been officially chosen to be a Maundy Recipient at Lichfield Cathedral.

So seventy-seven year old Jamaican, Cecil Hodgson, a West Bromwich resident who had been suffering with Prostate Cancer for about 10 years, was now going to receive an award off the Queen of England.

How incredible.

Humbled and delighted, Cecil Hodgson naturally chose his loving wife Helen to be his close companion. So not only would the day belong to Cecil, but it would also apply to his wife Helen who would quite rightly be a part of the whole celebration too.

Cecil & Helen outside their West Bromwich home. (Cecil Hodgson Collection)

The letters didn’t stop there. A flurry of documents and information details about the Maundy Service now began to arrive through the letterbox of Cecil & Helen’s West Bromwich home.

Maundy Service DetailsNow that he’d been officially chosen and his Companion Helen officially registered to attend too, Cecil began to receive Maundy Recipient letters and correspondence about the upcoming service. This included details such as the running order of the Service, meeting places, times, security details etc.

A special information sheet was also enclosed, advising each Maundy Recipient and their Companions on notes and queries about the Service. What to wear, directions, what to do once they arrived at Lichfield, how to enter into the Cathedral, how the Queen would distribute the Maundy gifts, etiquette on how to greet the Queen and when to bow or curtsy etc. It was all very regimental and precise.

Details about the distribution of the Maundy Gifts…

Information about the Maundy Money presentation.

The Official Royal Maundy Service Booklet…

Cecil would have been given this Royal Maundy Service Booklet to bring on the day.

The Royal Maundy Service Booklet – Each Recipient was given this official Lichfield Cathedral Maundy Service booklet, listing the running order, names of the dignitaries, information about the order of Service, hymns etc.

I had been trying to obtain the front cover of the Lichfield Royal Maundy Service Booklet for about 20 years. Here’s a brief piece about how I managed to eventually find a copy of it;

It all happened one Sunday morning in Jan 2019, when I visited Lichfield Cathedral to see if I could ask anyone about the Maundy event that had happened there 30 years ago. Maybe someone would know something about it?

I spoke to an official in the Cathedral who guided me to ask another member. I approached him, introduced myself and began asking him about Maundy Thursday 1988. I couldn’t believe what he told me when he said he was actually present at the Ceremony in 1988 and revealed that he had archived some documents, saved from that memorable day.

Was this really happening to me while I was actually standing inside Lichfield Cathedral? I had to pinch myself!

We exchanged contact details, then a few days later on the 25th January 2019, he sent me a photographed copy of his Lichfield Maundy Service booklet, which he had kept safely preserved in a file. This for me, really was the icing on the cake of my Maundy Thursday research journey.

I’d managed to find the final missing piece.

THE ROYAL MAUNDY LECTURE

The long process and preparations for Maundy Thursday had now been underway for about five months, and there were now only a few weeks left before the big day. However, there was now just one more pre-Maundy event to be undertaken before Cecil would attend the actual day of Maundy Thursday.

All 124 Recipient’s were invited and ‘advised’ to attend Lichfield Cathedral for a ‘Pre-Maundy Lecture’ at 3.30 p.m on Saturday 12th March 1988. This Special Lecture was to be performed by the outgoing Bishop of Rochester, who was retiring after many years of Service. Members of the Public could also attend, free of charge.

I’m quite sure Cecil and his wife Helen would have both attended this informative event.

Along with all the other Recipients’s, Cecil and Helen were invited to attend a pre-Maundy Lecture about the Royal Maundy Service.
Radio and T.V would be at Lichfield to record the historic day.

I would imagine that Cecil and his wife Helen had a marvellous time at Lichfield Cathedral that afternoon. With the Maundy Lecture now over, it was less than 3 weeks before they would return again to Lichfield Cathedral.

But this time it would be for main event, Maundy Thursday 1988!

PRESERVING OUR HERITAGE

COMING NEXT IN THE FINAL PART: Cecil & Helen’s memorable day had finally arrived…

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