history

EXTRAORDINARY SCENE IN RUYTON PARISH CHURCH

Researched by Irena White

In 1894 the people of Shropshire had a rather longer attention span that we have today so I have edited the verbatim account which was published in the Shrewsbury News on the 29th September that year.

“Great excitement has prevailed at Ruyton XI Towns in consequence of an occurrence in the Parish Church last Sunday, which can be best described by some of those who took part in it.  Mr Whale, who has been School Master for 11 years, has also filled the office of organist, but difficulties have arisen. Mr Whale received notice from the Managers to give up his post as School Master, and he has also received a similar intimation with regard to the Church Organ. On Sunday Mr Whale took his place at the organ as usual, but was ejected in the circumstances described below”.

Mr. John William Whale, Schoolmaster, church organist and, hitherto, choirmaster said he had not been working smoothly with the new Vicar, Rev. William Backhouse Gowan together for some time, although the schoolmaster worked well with the late Vicar, Rev, Wilkinson, doing many things which were not strictly within his duties.

At the Easter Vestry meeting Mr. Whale applied for a rise in his 7 salary as organist which was refused.  Mr.  Brown, the Church Warden, made some remarks about the performance of the choir and the Vicar grumbled about his playing, at which many of the committee walked out.  The September Choir Treat was held without him being consulted and he has been ignored in other ways.

He took the organ for the Friday night service but did not stay for the practice. and on Saturday night he received a note from the Vicar asking for some reasonable excuse for his absence, as he had been away six times during the past month without leave, and intimating that unless he gave that excuse his services as choirmaster would no longer be required.

On 15th May Mr Whale did turn up as usual for the Sunday service and went into the Vestry and the Vicar asked him for the key for the music box which he refused to do. The Vicar then blocked the door and refused to let him out for about 10 minutes. An exchange of uncomplimentary names, Mr Whales alleges took place.

Mr. Whale said, when he went to the organ, he found the Vicar`s son sitting there. He dismissed the boy and sat on the stool. Mr Brown, (Church Warden) came up and pulled him and the stool away and a scuffle followed. He again went to the organ and Mr Brown attempted to put him out of the Church.  Then Mr Brown returned with a Police Sergeant, who came up to him at the organ and said he had been requested by the Vicar and Mr Brown to ask him to leave his place, and he accordingly did so, and went out of the Church. There were not more than 50 people present, and a considerable amount of disapproval of the conduct used towards the organist was shown and on leaving the Church he was cheered by those outside. Before the service was over he left the Church, and outside there was some demonstration of feeling in his favour. He had received notice to leave the school, on account, he supposed, of his not working agreeably with the Vicar, but on that matter, it was his intention to call a meeting of the Parishioners. Mr Whale stated that he had no desire to cause any disturbances, but he was not going to be put under the feet of the Vicar.                                                                                                                                                      

 Much of Rev. Gowan`s complaint about his organist was largely in connection with Mr. Whale`s performance as village schoolmaster – he had applied for an increase in salary but owing to the unsatisfactory performance at the school, this was refused.

At a meeting of the school Trustees Mr. Whale was asked to, but refused to attend, he was formally dismissed with three month`s notice, to expire August 31st .  Mr Whale then called in the aid of the National Union of Teachers and one of their officers paid a visit to Ruyton.  It was discovered that Mr R.Hunt, one of the Trustees was not present so the dismissal was invalid.   Another meeting of the Trustees, including Mr. Hunt, was held and Mr. Whale`s contact was to expire on October 31st 1894.  From this time onward, said the Vicar, Mr Whale has done everything in his power to make the management of the school as difficult as possible.

When Mr. Whale asked for a salary increase he was refused on the grounds that the church music was very bad and had been complained about by the congregation and the funds did not allow for an increase in salary.  Then followed the resignation of some members of the choir and Mr. Whale declared he was not the choirmaster, although he would play the organ for practice and services.

 Mr Whale informed the Vicar that he should want to be away from the organ on the following Sunday and was informed that he must provide a substitute. This was not done, on at least six occasions in August and September, his duties of organist had to be performed by the Vicar`s 10 year old son. At the Friday evening service Mr Whale played as usual; but as soon as the service was over and Mr Whale closed the organ and left the choristers to practice as they could.  And as the Vicars son was at this time happy in his bed, no practice could then be held.   On Saturday the Vicar , after conferring with the only Church Warden who was at home, sent the following notice to Mr Whale :- ‘Mr Whale , Sir , - Unless you can give me this evening , some reasonable excuse for leaving the organ right at the time the choir practice ought to have begun , your services as organist in the Ruyton XI Towns Parish Church ,will no longer be required .this is at least the sixth time within the last month that you have been absent from the organist their services or practice times without permission and without providing a substitute .

Mr. Brown, the Church Warden said, on Sunday September 23rd, after the 11 0’clock service, the Vicar` son was at the organ seat when Mr Whale came and prevented him from playing he was requested by the Church Warden to retire, but refused to do so, and The Church Warden carried him, by the waist, from the organ amid considerable noise and confusion. Mr Whale again returned to the organ bringing the seat which he had clung to, back with him.  A Police Officer was then brought, and Mr Whale at his command withdrew, and the service was then held as usual.  Just before the time for evening service a number of people who are seldom seen within the walls of the Church took up their positions there, and when Mr Whale was refused permission to play the organ, even more unseemly and disgraceful disturbances than that of the morning took place.

The incident naturally caused much excitement, and involved a delay of more than half an hour in the commencement of the service.  Meanwhile news of the contretemps had spread and at night there was a much larger congregation, many of the members which, especially those sitting near to the door, were obvious sympathisers with Mr Whale, the authorities were, however better prepared, and the Police Officer was present.  When it became necessary to eject Mr Whale from the organ, a scene of great excitement took place, many of the congregation, especially at the West end mounting the seats and doing considerable injury to the books which were in the pews. Some disturbances were also caused by the stamping of feet and later there was some hooting outside.  A crowd of some 50 or so also waited until the close of service, and hooted the Vicar and his family as they crossed the road to the Vicarage. Mr Brown, who had always been on good terms with Mr Whale, declared himself much pained as the unenviable situation in which he is officially placed.   




 Church colour  Inside church
 
  Inside the church with the organ on the right   

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