The Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Sellasse, as the effort began to wrest control of his country back from the Italian invaders during World War II, called on the servicemen of Ethiopia and Britain to follow the selfless example of their shared patron, Saint George.
My friend George was one of those servicemen, not in any glamorous role, but as a merchant seaman, bringing home food and supplies, always in danger from U-boats. George was a miner and could have stayed at home, but he believed that Britain’s part in the war was right and put his life on the line.
He returned to the mines after the war, but did not leave his sense of what is right behind. It was not right, he said, that landowners received more per ton of coal dug from beneath their estates than the men did who cut and carried it, and were often injured in the process. So he overcame a stammer to be able to speak for his colleagues.
Like many another, he developed an industrial disease which affected his breathing. In his forced retirement he turned to the Catholic church and to working almost full-time with L:Arche Kent. He greatly encouraged the middle aged men who joined from the big hospitals around Kent; his working class background and his long experience of male comradeship was a great gift to Bill, John and David and to the whole community. He still valued an honest day’s work, and so did the men.
Another Saint George, one who’ll never make it to the altars, but he is there beside us in L’Arche Kent, along with Bill, John, David and all our old friends.
Saint George has been transferred this year as his usual feast day fell in Easter week.
Our late friend David Powell wrote here about his experience of mining.