Rev. Winser (1930 - 1942)

In the following two memories, his daughter, Mary, remembers her father and life in Brook Rectory in the 1930s and Jack Seely recounts a service that was interrupted by the lifeboat maroon.

Mary Johnston (Winser):

"There was no electricity, only oil lamps, some with mantles like gas lamps (which gave a brighter whiter light and sometimes flared), candles, kitchen ranges, oil stoves and coal and log fires.

Candlelight is lovely but no good for seeing. In Brook Rectory filling lamps with paraffin, trimming the wicks and polishing the glass chimney was the self-imposed task of my sister Ann when she was at home and took place in the lamp room, a little outer dark room at the foot of the back stairs on the way to the stone flagged kitchen passage.

Whilst she was “doing the lamps" Ann sometimes used to sing the current popular songs which we heard on our wind-up gramaphone, and she at local dances. For this reason if I hear tunes from the thirties now, like “These Foolish Things” or “Night and Day,” they still bring with them a faint flavour of paraffin.

Ann often went with my mother to ”do the Church flowers" on a Saturday afternoon. It was a 40 minute walk from the Rectory there and back, but there wasn’t much else to do except walk to the beach in the other direction. When we had a fox terrier, Judy, this gave us an added reason for a walk. Judy also accompanied my father on his parish visits.

“Doing the Church flowers” consisted at that stage of refilling various vases on the Altar, two large and two small. Constance Spry and “arrangements” were light years ahead. At Easter every window sill was decorated with greenery and primroses which fitted well into the little jars that had previously held Shiphams meat and fish paste; these jars were then concealed with moss. One year the jars even found their way on to the rim of the pulpit, which amused my father. I think my brother Andrew was responsible for that effort.

Mrs Joe Morris and Mrs Hayter were in charge of decorating the stalls and branches of candles in the Sanctuary. They  adorned them with young elm branches, and one year with larch fronds. When these were lit from behind by the east window they looked delicate and delightful. There were more flowers by the font, no doubt, but the east end decorations were more memorable. Easter always seemed sunny then.

I should think the most important things that happened during the Winser time in Brook were the founding of the Woman’s Institute, the opening of the Military Road along the coast from Chale to Freshwater and the opening of Hanover Stores as a shop and tea room by Madge and Bert Morris, who also had a taxi business. The WI was started by Emmy Seely, Jack, Lord Mottistone's eldest daughter, with help from my mother, Hester Winser. 

My father's time as parish priest in Brook seemed fairly quiet compared to his time at St Martin in the Fields, the busy church just off Trafalgar Square. He found St Martin's exhausting and I think was glad to get away from it. He made the move thanks to another member of the Seely family, Mrs Hollins, who was a sister of Jack Seely. She had a house near Yarmouth but worshipped at St Martin’s when she was in London. She gave the news that the parishes of Brook and Mottistone were vacant and we arrived at Brook Rectory in February 1930.

In contrast to the busy atmosphere of St Martin’s, the Island was almost too quiet! There were not many educated people for my father to talk to and as time went by he became depressed.

He put his quiet life to use by writing a play called, I think, “Come As You Are,” about events in a small village culminating with a wedding - and a moving but improbable speech between the service and reception by the bride. My brother Andrew was the bridegroom. A good many people in Brook took part in the play in the summer of 1938 and which took place in the gardens of Brook House. The whole work was a bit of an oddity - not a very dutiful comment from a daughter, but it brought people together and cheered them up.

Perhaps I should say here that my parents had three children, my brother Andrew was born in 1914. He was often away at school or at Cambridge and after a spell as a schoolmaster in Kent, he joined the Army at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. My sister Ann was born 1918 she went to school at Upper Chine in Shanklin. After school she trained as a secretary and joined the WRVS in which she served throughout the war. In September 1939 I met one of my brother's Cambridge friends, a young ex-Harrow boy called Gordon Johnston, who I married in 1957 (Mary photographed with her father and husband below). 

It will be noticed in the accounts of the work of Brook Lifeboat that there was only one wreck between 1930-1942. Only a pulling and sailing lifeboat was possible on that rocky coast and by 1930, if there was a wreck, the Bembridge or Yarmouth lifeboats with engines arrived faster on the scene. It was decided to de-commission the Brook lifeboat in 1937.

My father, as Lifeboat Secretary, took part in the Susan Ashley’s last trip from Brook to Southampton. He took beer and Dundee cake for the crew and my brother Andrew also went along. At some stage during their “cloth capped” progress up the Solent from the Needles, the lifeboat passed close to a smart-looking craft, possibly a naval pinnace. Andrew called out cheerfully “We’re  just going up for the Coronation,”  but no reply came from the naval craft.

There are few photographs of my father during his time at Brook because few people had cameras in those days. My sister acquired a Box Brownie so we had some record of family life in the 1930s, but father often seemed to be elsewhere. The photo of Joe Morris in his garden beaming in a straw hat may well have been taken by Ann Winser. 

Other small memories are that Phil Jacobs wore a bowler hat in winter and his straw boater in summer time and Mrs Larkin- Smith walked up to Church from the village in a long elegant dress and bonnet. When Henry Newbery was dying, he asked my father to call and see him, my father wondered what on earth he could talk about, but when he got there Henry only wanted to talk about cricket in Shorwell. I was rather saddened by the comment in the book that my father appeared to be more interested in cricket than religion. I am also surprised that he was said not to like children. He taught scripture at Hulverstone School every week for many years.

 

In his book Launch, Jack Seely describes an occasion when the maroon went off during the Sunday evening service being given by the Rev. Winser in Brook Church: 

…the Rector is in the middle of an eloquent sermon – and very good sermons they are; he has preached many at St Martin’s in the Fields. The windows suddenly shook with the reverberation of the maroon.

The rector then said: ‘I would suggest that we conclude the service.  I have been in telephonic communication with the coastguard, and I know that the vessel in distress is being assisted by the Yarmouth lifeboat. Moreover, in any case, should our services be required it will take half-an-hour for the crew and horses to assemble, and I think it would be best for me to conclude my address, and give you a benediction.’

Whereupon the faithful gardener who rows number three in the lifeboat (Joe Morris) started up from the choir in his surplice and said quite loudly: ‘Well chaps, that be right enough, but I ‘lows we five had better go now and see what is doing;’

And without another word, out filed the whole of the adult members of the choir. I have been told, though I was not present, as I should have been, that the rector’s closing words were of great eloquence,  and that the benediction was delivered in record time.

Launch, JEB Seely