Quite some time ago, a regular researcher in the Wolfson Centre showed me a parish register with a curious name in it. It was a marriage register for St. John, Perry Barr, and the officiating minister in this particular entry was recorded as Harold J. Scott, St. Leonards Church, Barbados, B.W.I.I was intrigued by who this person was and I remember looking in the Diocesan Directory for any clues at the time, but nothing was forthcoming. Even a search of the parish magazines made no mention of a visiting clergyman from Barbados and as the trail went cold, I put it to one side with the intention of exploring further at some point.
Many months later, inspired by the Explore Your Archives campaign, and after a couple of gentle reminders from said researcher, I decided to try again. Remembering little of when the name appeared, I started at the beginning of the volume and worked through until I could establish the dates of when he was at St. John’s.
Over the space of 5 months from July 1939 to December 1939, the name appeared 7 times – sometimes officiating at ceremonies for just one day, sometimes for weeks on end.
The titular vicar of St. John’s was C. Harold Tye, who had been the vicar at Perry Barr since 1928. It didn’t take long to notice that he was not the only clergyman conducting services (other than Harold Scott) from as early as 1936, when this particular register started. Between 29 August 1936 and 26 December 1939 I counted a total of 17 different clergy conducting marriages, which even to me seemed like a large number! Even more interesting was where these visiting clergy came from. Many were local – curates from St. Luke’s Kingstanding featured frequently, but also from Aston, Handsworth, Great Barr, and St. Mary, Aston Brook. There were even two ministers from outside Birmingham – one coming from Lyonshall, and another from St. Mark’s Walthstow [sic].
The Diocesan Directories proved invaluable in identifying the local clergy who appeared in the register. It also recorded those given special licence to work in the City, along with ministers who were ordained at Birmingham Cathedral. In the end, only a handful of clergy still remained unidentified, other than their name as written. Sadly this included Harold J. Scott, but I can’t image that any of them were from further afield than Barbados!
This is, of course, from just one register and it would be fascinating to see if this was the normal state of affairs. The church minutes suggest there was a shortage of ministers across the whole Diocese, which could explain the presence of so many different visiting clergy if they travelled to neighbouring parishes as needed.
Returning to our vicar from Barbados, if anyone has come across this name and can shed any light on who he was, we would love to hear from you!
Nicola Crews, Archivist.