Twist of the Collar - Clerical Memoirs by Rev. L. E. A. Ehrmann
III - AT COLLEGE
[p18] While I was in the City it was necessary for me to revive all the Greek I had learned with Mr. Ingpen, for I had not been taught one word at the City of London School. I had private lessons from the Rev. Arthur Chambers, who helped me considerably. He was then Vicar of Brockenhurst and eventually I attended Minor Canon Cheadle's Preparation Classes at the College, for which I had to slip off from the office unknown to anyone except my dear mother. My greatest difficulty was to attend the Central Entrance Examination, which had to take place in my summer holiday, for until I had passed it I did not want to risk endangering my City post. Fortunately, I satisfied the Examiners and this examination took the place of the London Matric.
I remember well hurrying off to Holborn Viaduct Station after the examination for the first train to Margate to have a rest after the heavy work, both at the office and sitting up late to prepare for the ordeal. At last I heard that I had passed, and much anxiety then seemed over, except that I had still to provide for my mother and sister. My mother suffered from an internal growth, which was wrongly diagnosed by a specialist, according to our own doctor.
My first day at King's College, London, was early in October, 1903, and after the first day there I went straight to St. Thomas' Hospital to see my mother, for she was to be operated upon the next day. How delighted she was to know that I had made a start at College, and to hear that I felt I should be happy there. Alas, the growth had become so large that she passed away under the anaesthetic. It was a sad beginning for me, but I had the one thought that she had been a magnificent mother to me. After that, I owed much to my sister for her care of me so far as home duties were concerned.
The two years at King's passed off well and quickly, and I made several friends there. Together with H. P. Berkeley, Charles Wykeham Major, and others, we formed a Devotional Guild of S. Peter for the whole College, and the Principal. Dr. A. C. Headham (late Bishop of Gloucester) approved of what we had done. We compiled a short office, nicely bound in The Manual, and met at intervals in the College Chapel.
Several amusing incidents occurred while I was there. For [p 18] instance, one Professor on starting a lesson remarked "Now, gentlemen, I think we are all here now; I will call the names."
In the College Magazine some really clever bits occurred—here is one instance of a verse in the name of Nicholas Stick, a Theological Student:-
When Mr. Nic is Mr. "Sic"
And Mr. St--k is both in one.
And Shikolas Tik is Sticolas Nic,
What can we do but enjoy the fun.
And again—"It is not true that Mr. E--n has been appointed to a seat on the committee to revise the Book of Common Prayer." I leave the reader to guess.
But, in my time, we had the advantage of such great men as Samuel Mumford Taylor, Alexander Nairne, William Edward Collins, to say nothing of the Principal, whose instructions I remember largely to this day. Dr. Headham once told us that to glance through a book, just turning over the pages and reading the headings, was often a help to knowledge, even if we had no time to read it; and, on another occasion he gave us a long quotation from a book he had read, remarking. "It is ten years ago since I read it, but what I have quoted is the substance." His memory was excellent.
At the end of my course, I was more than thankful to God that I had passed in all subjects, obtaining first and second class honours in several of them, but unfortunately I lost honours - the average was 2nd Class easily - by failing in the Viva Voce examination before the whole Council. I will not comment on this except to say that when a man is tired out after heavy work and study for years it is not surprising that his memory should fail him. That was the only setback I experienced. But I have never forgotten this lapse of memory.
I had been in touch with Bishop Talbot for several years, who was willing to ordain me after I had passed the A.K.C. examination. This done, I had only to sit for the Bishop's examination for the Diaconate. But Dr. Talbot, whose love for Leeds was great, desired me to go to the Clergy School, he assuring me it should make no difference to being priested the following year. He always kept his word.
It was my wish to visit the Holy Land with what still remained of my "capital," but in deference to the Bishop's wishes I went to Leeds instead of to Palestine. I had six months there, the Rev. J. G. Simpson being principal. I had no examinations to worry about. I had each Saturday off, as long as I was back for Compline, and on those days I visited Liverpool, Bolton Abbey, Scarborough, Ripon and Kirkstall Abbey, as well as several other places. I always cherished an affection for Leeds, like my revered Bishop, and paid several visits there when on holiday in the North. Amongst others whom I got to know very well at the Clergy School was [p 19] L. A. Mathew, who afterwards called me "a good old Protestant of the Church of England."
On one occasion I happened to say quite simply in the Common Room that I had had some experience in a certain subject (I forget now what it was) and this amused the fellow students immensely, although I was older than the majority of them. The result was that on a morning soon after I had a post of some twenty letters from students offering their services to me as "a man of experience." The Principal had been told of this and he chuckled loudly at this very polite "rag," when I was questioned about all the letters I had received. We students had some practical experience in teaching, which the Head Master kindly gave us in the schools of the Parish Church.
And now it was time to return to London and I was eventually ordained on the last Sunday in Advent, 1905, in Southwark Cathedral by Bishop Talbot.
I always regarded myself as Anglo-Catholic, not from any partisan point of view, but just because I was an English Churchman and believed the English Church was part of the Catholic Church. It is a great pity that this name should have become a party label.