On Parade at St Faith's
On the morning of Thursday, June 24th, 2015, a special service of commemoration and celebration to mark
the 150th anniversary of the foundation of what was to become the Combined Cadet Force of Merchant Taylors' School, Crosby, took place in St Faith's.
The guest of honour, who read a lesson during the course of the service, was Prince Andrew, H.R.H. The Duke of York, who flew in by helicopter to the school field.
Rick Walker's account of the day's activities follow the photo gallery.
St Faith’s has always been a ‘gathered’ congregation, attracting congregations from a large area rather than from just within the parish, to a style of liturgy that our founder set in the very stones of the building. Over the years St Faith’s has attracted laity, priests, archbishops, civic and religious leaders from far and wide, but never until now, a member of the Royal Family.
It was some months ago while I was sitting in a governors’ meeting at Merchant Taylors’, that the Headmaster casually mentioned that as the school’s Combined Cadet Force, the CCF, was nearing its centenary, he had enquired from the authorities whether the occasion could be marked by a visit from a member of the Royal Family. Although Prince Andrew’s name was mentioned, we were all sworn to secrecy until just two weeks before the event. (Prince Andrew had in fact visited Merchants in 1988 when he opened the Centenary Hall at the Girls’ School, when Margaret Davies was Headmistress)
Having seen action as a member of the armed forces, HRH Prince Andrew was an ideal visitor for the celebrations, but his schedule restricted his time with us to just over one hour in the morning, before his helicopter would fly him to another engagement elsewhere. That was our good fortune, as the school was planning a very large service or remembrance and dedication at St Faith’s.
So without giving much away publicly because of the two-week rule, the process of organising began for an invasion of over 600 pupils, staff, VIPs, and hangers on, to say nothing of security people, equerries and personal assistants. Plans were laid for all sorts of eventualities, including having to change the plans! At the two-week point we were delighted to be able to ‘go public’ and start the hard work.
At St Faith’s we sorted out the cleaning of the ever-present efflorescence, and with help from the school and a large team of volunteers from our congregation, floors were polished, pews dusted, carpets and windows cleaned, flowers arranged - the church really looked at its best!
At Merchants, members of the CCF were drilled, young boys from the Prep were schooled in flag waving, hundreds of chairs were taken to church and glossy service sheets were printed.
The final schedule was agreed with ‘The Palace’ - Prince Andrew would fly in by helicopter at 10.15, be greeted by the Headmaster and Headmistress, the Lord Lieutenant, Chairman of Governors, assorted civic leaders and other VIPs. His official car would then take him the 100 yards to St Faith’s where he would be welcomed by our vicar, and where he would take part in a service of remembrance of all the former pupils who gave their lives in two World Wars. New colours were to be dedicated for the CCF, and the Prince would be airborne again at 11.30.
The day before the visit, rehearsals were held and final arrangements sorted out. A last minute panic occurred when it was realized that the trees overhanging the Kingsway corner entrance were too low for the official car to drive through!
So at last the great day dawned! St Faith’s was given a final polish, chairs and pews were filled and all was ready when we heard the sound of a helicopter circling over the school and landing near (but not on!) the cricket square. HRH Prince Andrew talked to those in the reception party including several young pupils, and his car managed to navigate through the newly pruned gateway.
After signing our visitors book (go on have a look, it’s there) Prince Andrew followed a very proud Vicar down the aisle to his seat by the nave altar. The service was splendid and well up to St Faith’s standards. Prince Andrew read a lesson, a choir from the girls’ school sang their very best, the new Colours were dedicated, and finally music from some members of the boys school orchestra confirmed what had been a respectful and memorable joint school and church service.
With the clock approaching 11.30, cars arrived’ Prince Andrew said goodbye, and the helicopter whisked him off to his next engagement.
So there we have it - Thursday
25th of June 2015, the day
when Royalty finally found its way to St Faith’s!