Origins and Sermons

The Barnsley Pals memorial at Sheffield Memorial Park

My former Parish Priest, Father Bergin was a man of charisma, charm and self confidence, he had a passion for Military History and the British Army, he was to serve in Basra as a chaplain in the Second Gulf War in 2003. He was the 5th Parish Priest of the Church of the Holy Rood, built in 1905 by Father John Hill. Father Hill remained Parish Priest for the duration of the Great War, and oversaw the Concecration of the Church in May 1919, ironically it was the same week that the Colours of the 13th and 14th York and Lancaster Regiments were placed in the Anglican Church of St Marys and remain to this day.

Remembrance Sunday was a big day for Father Bergin, we observed a two minute silence and the Last Post was played on a cassette tape, luckily a few years later we managed to have a bugler. His sermons on this day were inspiring and reflective. He told us about the Barnsley Pals, two regiments from my town, a collective of men from different social classes who responded to Lord Kitchener’s call for men.

In 1919 when the War was over, Father Hill commissioned a local artist to paint the Stations of the Cross around the Church, dedicated to the Pals, many of whom were killed and maimed on July 1st 1916 on the First day of the Battle of The Somme, sadly no roll of honour to those men was created for them. It was just a plain piece of marble with a simple commemoration to all of those who had died.

When i go into Church on a Sunday, especially during Lent it never fails to move me, even to this day when i look at the Stations, Christ knew his way to Calvary, the Pals at 7.29 on July 1st 1916 never thought that they would see their own fate unravel so quickly and so cruelly. The hopes and dreams of a breakthrough dashed at the hands of German machine gunners. Many of the Pals were never found, inscribed with honour at Thiepval.

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