Broad Street Wrington Website
Trevor Wedlake's Writings
Henry Thatcher 

First published in the Village Journal March, 1973

Choir Practice

If you had been at the bus stop in the main streetof our village any Friday
evening in the 1930s when the 8pm bus arrived from Bristol, you might have
noticed alighting with the other passengers, a stocky old man in a bowler hat
and dark suit. He walked, looking over the top of his spectacles, at a brisk pace
and with a slightly rolling gait. This was Mr Henry Thatcher, organist and
choirmaster arriving for choir practice.

I was among the gaggle of choir-boys waiting for him at the North door of the
church in those days. I always enjoyed practice sessions very much, our organist's conducting antics always produced a good deal of stifled laughter among us, for his was a benign authority and he was very long suffering.. I well remember the night he finally tracked down the wayward boy responsible for what he called - "that sham tenor - that fancy descant." He warned me that he knew my father and sometimes met him !

Our church was large and grand, and it was beautifully maintained. It was what is known as a "high" church, and we were taught by the rector to bow to the altar every time we passed across the church except when the sacrament was there with the lighted lamp and veil, when we had to genuflect.

This same rector who caused some consternation in one sermon by saying he
thought for the duration of the war the whole Anglican church should be placed under the authority of the Pope, also decided the chancel was too sacred
a place
for the choir practice, and moved us to the back of the church with the
harmonium. I was sorry about this because I preferred the playing of the organ. I was fascinated by it and strangely proud of it; it was by far the largest musical instrument I had ever seen.

It was while learning the liturgy and rhythm of the church that I first heard the
names Bach, Purcell, Byrd, Handel, the names of men whose music was to weave
itself into a to a texture of my life. Handel, whom even Bach admired and
Beethoven said was the greatest, the ablest of them all, is still my first musical

Chants, hymns and anthems went on till at 9.30 the bus took the old man back
to Bristol. With his heavy fingers and thick thumbs it was a source of wonder that he could play the organ at all, let alone do his work as a watch-maker.

On Sundays as well as at the main services, he played for the children's catechism when we sometimes had to rouse him from his afternoon nap to play the next hymn.

I heard of Mr Thatcher's death sometime early in the war and the news caused
me then a long sad pause. I remember him with affection now because it was
through him I had my first introduction to the world of music, from whence,
even now, some compelling adagio can still summon me from the deep shadows of doubt and agnosticism.

Trevor Wedlake