• A bit from me...
  • Thank you Holy Island 
  • Repairing the Chancel of St Mary's Church
  • Lindisfarne Archaeology
  • Thank you for supporting the petition
  • Crossman Hall
  • Lindisfarne Castle
  • Early migrants add to the island's Spring scene
  • HM Coastguard Holy Island
  • AONB Partnership
  • From the Open Gate
  • From our United Reformed Church minister
  • From the Vicarage
  • Holy Island Festival - programme
  • Pause for thought

Lindisfarne Castle - June 2017
(renovations under way)

A BIT FROM ME Geoff Porter

Dear *|MMERGE3|* ,

Welcome to 'blazing' June and our latest issue of 'SitEzine'.

With a new puppy on our hands, the month seems to have sped by. Yet there have been significant council events on the island. Firstly, on 4th May, the County Council elections following which we welcome a new, Conservative, County Councillor Roderick Lawrie who replaces Liberal Democrat, Dougie Watkin. We trust that he will follow in Dougie's footsteps - particularly in persuading the council to resume work on the causeway to keep our 'only access road' safe for traffic and road markings clear of sand obscuration. Secondly a community referendum, proposed by the retiring Parish Council, was held and the motion overwhelmingly upheld requesting new planning caveats in the event of future land sales/development. And then on 8th May, the Parish Council AGM was held and the election of a new chairman and officers. We thank our retiring chairman, Simon Bevan, for his many years of dedicated service and welcome Robert Coombes as the new chairman of our Parish Council.

Readers might have wondered why we were without our monthly update from 'Natural England' last month. Well, wonder no longer folks. Andrew Craggs, manager of the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve, explained that Mhairi Maclauchlan has left the NNR for pastures new. He hopes to have a new warden in place soon to continue their contribution towards the Ezine. Mhairi, we're sorry to see you go and send out best wishes for the future.

Meanwhile, we're delighted to have Rachel (URC) back amongst our writers this month and together with articles from Catherine G, David O, Ian K, Kate M, Kate T, Kevin, Lesley, Nick, Paul A, Paul C, Ryan, David P (checkout their brilliant Youtube video!) and lots of goodwill messages from yourselves, we offer you our June newsletter.

We do hope you enjoy the fruit of our works and look forward to getting in touch again in July.

Geoff Porter
Editor (SitEzine)



I would you thank everyone for all their kindness and help over the years.

From the first improvement works on the pier in 1985; the lobster enhancement project, your fantastic housing scheme, (all of these being firsts and pilots in their time for the whole country) through to the new proactive signs and better co-operation with Natural England on the causeway, right up to the work on the disabled car park.

The people of Holy Island have always kept me focused - but more than that have always made me welcome.

It has been my privilege to serve you.

Thank you so much.


ED: The above is but small tribute to the huge developments carried out during your 'watch', Doug. So many have benefitted from the innovation and hard work of the late Ian McGregor (Alderman/OBE), Alan Beith (Lord) and yourself. Thank you on behalf of our small community. 


For the next 8 to 10 weeks the chancel of St Mary's will be being repaired. The cement mortar will be removed and replaced with lime mortar which allows the walls to breathe and conserves the stonework much better.

During the repairs the interior of chancel will not be accessible to the public and will not be used by congregations in worship. We are required by our insurers to do this, to avoid any risks.

Donations to support the conservation of the ancient stonework of St Mary's are very welcome and can be made in the donation boxes in the church or by contacting the Vicar or PCC Treasurer.



Last summer when the team from Durham University/DigVentures was excavating on the island we made a documentary of our work.

The film, snappily titled, 'The Monk, the Midden, and the Missing Monastery' will premiere on May 23rd at 8:00pm on the DigVentures YouTube channel -

Please share with anyone on the island or elsewhere who might be interested: click-here!.


"A BIG THANK YOU" to all for signing the petition.

We are a small village with just over 100 residents - but The Holy Island of Lindisfarne has very many friends.

Over 3,500 have signed our petition to Protect Holy Island from inappropriate development.

You may already know that Northumberland County Council (NCC) have announced that they are "proposing to withdraw the site from sale".


Following the election, and the changes in the Council, we are now waiting to learn what the new Council will propose next.

As soon as the Holy Island Parish Council hears more from NCC, and the situation becomes clear, I will contact you to let you know what is happening.

Meanwhile, on behalf of my neighbours on Holy Island, thank you again for your support.

Best wishes Lesley Andrews

 ED: To the left of the red line (roughly): the area proposed for sale.
To the right of the line and expanding into the field behind the public toilets and dormitories: 
the area
proposed for developing disabled parking, the public bus terminus and the coach park
Photo: Paul Armstrong (The Ship Inn - Holy Island)

Dear Lesley,
Thank you for your email, although Adelaide seems a long way away to you, whenever I see the Holy Island Newsletter in my inbox, I am instantly transported to Lindisfarne!

I've been there 3 times, and cherish the unspoilt landscape, photos of Gertrude Jekyll's garden in the summer,  the unique ruined Abbey, the memory of dawn walks, and being invited to join in matins.

I'll back any appeal that I see in the Newsletter from the Islanders!

I was so happy to hear that Northumberland Council seem to have shelved their proposal.

You are welcome to send this email to the editor if it is of interest to him.

Reading the Island news is a lovely interlude.

Although I do come back to the UK for family visits, it isnt often practicable to visit Lindisfarne.  But I always hope there will be a chance to return.
With best regards,
Veronica Boast

Hi Lesley,

That's really good news!

Holy Island is a very special place for me - probably my MOST special place!

I have been visiting for a week or so once or twice a year for the past 15 years, sometimes alone but often with a group of friends, usually staying at Marygate House. There is nowhere I feel more at peace and 'at home'.

There are not many places like it left and it would be a tragedy to see it changed in a detrimental way - we would lose something that could never be replaced.

Surely, such a unique place should be a special case for protection from development! I really feel for the Islanders: their heritage, history, culture and way of life should not be threatened by the greed of outsiders and they should be able to say what happens to their home!

Please pass on my best wishes to all concerned!

Yours sincerely,

Julie Singlehurst

Hi Lesley,

You're very welcome!

I have just last week paid a visit to your lovely island, and the wish to keep inappropriate development far away has only been intensified.



Hi Lesley,

Thank you for doing the work. Lindisfarne is important to all of us.


Hi Lesley,

So happy to hear this news.

Good luck

Esther P
California - USA

Dear Editor

Always a joy to receive Sitezine.  This month particularly so with the news that Northumberland County Council have abandoned their plans to sell some land on the Island.  The very thought of it was sacrilege!

Blessings to all the Islanders - and all who visit.

Margaret B
Tyne & Wear

Dear Editor,

I enjoy these newsletters.

They remind me of how fortunate we were to have been able to spend one day there in August 2015.

It was a lovely day. 

We live in Kansas, USA and were visiting my old college friends who now live south of London.  We had used a B&B SE of Glasgow, so had driven around Edinburgh to get to the Holy Island.

It was one of those special life experiences.

Sarah Sanneman

Dear Geoff.

Good to hear that the land of Lindisfarne is not for sale.

Let us hope that will not change in the future.

Best regards from Vilvoorde (Belgium)

Karel & Lieve

Hello Geoff,

Hope you and Maureen are well, it was so lovely to come and stay with you again ........

I just wanted to say that we were both very pleased to hear that the plans for the hotel had been scrapped!

At last someone using some common sense, take care both of you don't work too hard!

Love Marian x


Many of you will remember that we are experiencing delays in acquiring a legal easement to cross neighbouring land to connect the rainwater drain to the main sewer. We have moved a step or two forward with the paperwork and our Legal Advisor anticipates soon we will have successful conclusion to negotiations.
The fault in the hinge mechanism on the main door has been sorted and the door is back in use. During the month we have been recording items for the snagging list to pass on to our Project Manager and he will soon produce the definitive listings for the Contractor(s) action.
Since Billy Shell took over grounds maintenance, the hall has looked much cleaner and tidy on the outside and we're lucky also have and excellent cleaner Jane, who works well with 'Henry'. They make a great Team and help keep the hall spick & span.

During the month we have hosted the Parish Council, several artistic performances, school visits and groups of Pilgrims and of course the hard core 'keep fitters' battles on with the exercise machines.
Currently we have several outstanding bids for funds to bring more sporting equipment to the Hall for use by locals.

Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Competition; You will recall that the Crossman Hall was short listed for a Community Building (North) 2016/2017 award. Unfortunately prize went to a building in South Shields. Congratulations to them. 

The winter months are sometime away, but if anyone has suggestions of subjects for talks, lectures
short courses, be it safety at sea, using IT, first aid etcetera, please let a Trustee and we'll try and make arrangements. 
This is an early announcement that we plan to reintroduce OAP Christmas Lunch or Supper. Any suggestions will be welcome and please don't forget the Church Coffee Morning on Bank Holiday Monday.

David -


I don't need to tell anyone who has been on the island recently (or indeed on the north Northumberland Coast) that the scaffolders have successfully finished the roof and sheeting work I mentioned last month. The majority of the work was carried out on Easter Monday to take advantage of the break in the weather - any winds over 15mph would have halted things - so that has bought back a bit of the time lost to Storm Doris earlier this year.

The scaffolders had a lot to consider when installing the sheeting which covers the roof frame, as well as the vertical cladding which encloses the working platforms on the elevations. Everything had to be tightly secured in order to meet wind loading requirements, but also any noise emanating from the canvas rattling in the wind could be a disturbance to the birds using the Castle crag. What results though is a bizarre environment up on the roof, under the canopy. When you first go under the cover you do get that hit of humidity more associated with a marquee at a wedding; although the illusion is soon lost with the sights and sounds of the work going on.

Stone masons are continuing with their packing and pinning work on the elevations, but are also working on the coping stones along the top of the parapet walls. These stones are vital in protecting the wall below from water ingress and many are either damaged by erosion (usually due to cement pointing used in the joins) or have failings in their design. We have had to remove the solar panels you may have seen on some photographs in order to lift and replace/relay some of the roof lead. In some parts of the roof thought the work is more extensive with many falls in the roof being modified to alter the way water is moved away and into the drainage system. For the last century or so there have been difficulties getting rain water off the roof and away from the building. Lutyens' original solution was a series of 'spitters' or spouts sticking out from the walls. These are meant to allow water to drip to the ground away from the walls, however when the wind blows this water simply blows back to the walls of inhabited rooms. The new layout will instead see water directed into three new downpipes on the Upper Battery, and then into underground drains below the old gun emplacements before leaving the castle and onto the crag.

I should clarify that what is visible now is the temporary roof for the phase 1 works centred on the east side. Later this summer once this phase is complete, the temporary cover will be taken down and sent away for alterations before being returned to the north roof - the one with the pantiles facing the garden. This will then allow phase 2 repairs to be carried out to the Long Gallery roof as well as to the pan-tiled area. Phase 3 will see the covers removed again, taken away again to be further modified, and then returned to the western end of the building for phase 3, the Upper Gallery roof (next to the flagpole). Getting the roof right is pretty critical in any building but given the sort of works we are carrying out to the walls which support the Castle's roof, any failure in the drainage or structure high up would undermine the good works being done below.

I am still hoping to pull together a presentation evening at the Crossman Hall this summer to update everyone on how things are progressing; I just need to make sure the right people are available.

Best wishes
Lindisfarne Castle @NTLindisfarne
01289 389244 (press 1, then 1903)


Most of our spring migrants have come and gone and we're now well settled into the breeding season for our resident species and summer visitors.

Early breeders including Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Starlings, House Sparrows and Collared Doves have already fledged their first broods around the village. The fields along the lonnens have been seething with the calls of hungry young Starlings hunting for insects in the grass. Some of our Blackbirds, thrushes and doves will now go on to raise second families and, if conditions are right, even third broods.

Most of our summer visitors are now nesting although progress hasn't all been smooth. The Swallows and House Martins whose arrival around the village we all welcomed during April and well into May, found things a struggle.

Those long spells of persistent northerly and easterly winds kept temperatures down for much of the period. It resulted in flying insects being generally scarce. The poor birds were more intent on just staying alive through into mid-May rather than getting down to the serious business of nest-building mating and producing eggs and young.

Until that period the island was also very dry. That further inhibited the hatch of these insects, so important to species to regain their strength after long migrations. The Rocket Field pools disappeared, a very unusual occurrence in spring. There were also none of the usual wet patches in the fields left over from winter flooding. Even the usual muddy stretches of the Straight Lonnen were hard underfoot, something very welcome to anyone out walking. Another effect of that long run of northerly winds was noticeable on bushes in the dunes. The soft new leaves on their exposed northern sides were burned brown.

Not all birds were affected by the dry and cool conditions. Barn Owls prefer those conditions because their main prey species, voles, do well when the ground and vegetation is dry. Also, hunting is much more successful than during periods when the hiss of rain can mask the tiny sounds on which owls are heavily reliant to detect voles during darkness.

Two pairs of owls have hatched young this spring and I'll be reporting on the outcome later in the summer. Hopefully, it will be much better news than last year when a couple of broods of chicks perished, probably because of food shortages.

The various species of terns which nest locally are all now breeding. Common, Arctic and the rarest of the family, the Little Terns, all arrived during May and have quickly settled down to raise their chicks.

The passage of small migrants through the island this spring has been rather low key. Although conditions were generally cool, they came with long fine spells which enabled many species to make good progress. There were none of the usual conditions of heavy rain and fog which normally force them down to seek shelter and food on the island.

There have been reasonable numbers of Wheatears, including birds of the Greenland race, and the common passage warblers, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats, have all been well represented. The island's only breeding members of the family, Sedge Warblers, have settled down at the Lough and other damper areas. Reed Warblers, still to be proven to breed, have also been heard singing at the Lough.

A male Ring Ouzel pauses to feed on the island. They were formerly referred to as the Mountain Blackbird because of their appearance and preferred breeding habitats. Photograph: Andy Mould.

One uncommon but regular migrant I always enjoy seeing in the Ring Ouzel, a close relative of our everyday Blackbirds. A few breed in our uplands but those we see on the island are merely passing through en route for breeding grounds in the mountains of Scandinavia. They look very like Blackbirds except for a striking half-moon white crescent across their breasts.

Last spring was very good for rarities, including eagerly sought-after species from elsewhere in Europe, including Sub-alpine Warbler, Bluethroats, Red-backed Shrike and Dotterel. This year has been much quieter but, nevertheless, a few rare species have occurred.

A Wryneck was seen briefly in the dunes at the top of the Straight Lonnen, and there was an island first for spring, a Yellow-browed Warbler. These bright little warblers which breed in Siberia are a regular autumn visitor to the island. Until now they have never been recorded locally in spring. This made a bird singing in the Captain's Garden at Chare Ends a very unusual record.

Red-rumped Swallows breed around the Mediterranean and are also very rare visitors to Northumberland. One which passed across the Snook in May was only the fourth recorded so far on the island. The other sightings involved one feeding around the Straight Lonnen fields in October 1977 which was the first ever seen in Northumberland. Another was on the island in April 2000 and a juvenile fed over the Market Square in November 2009.

As I've said before in this slot, every year is different. That's what makes birdwatching so fascinating on the island.


'Great Northumberland Air Ambulance'
with Holy Island Coastguard attending in the school field

ENGLISH HERITAGE - North-East Kate McMullen

Our site at Berwick-upon-Tweed has an event taking place during the half term week particularly aimed at families:

Dates 27 May- 4 June
Venue Berwick Barracks

"Attention! It's training time! Stand guard and become a first class soldier this May half term as Northumberland's mini soldiers are put through their paces at Berwick Barracks. March and train like a redcoat and see what life was like for the King's Own Scottish Borderers."

There are no events running at other local sites in June although we will have more for July with events taking place at Lindisfarne Priory as well as, just down the road, at Warkworth Castle.


Capture the front cover image for the 2018 Visitor Guide

The Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are once again holding a competition this summer to find an image for the cover of their 2018 Visitor Guide.

Photos submitted can be of virtually anything, but to be eligible, the photo must have been taken within the Northumberland Coast AONB in 2017. The closing date for entries is Friday 6th October 2017.

The winner will not only see their image on the front cover of 50,000 copies of the guide, but also receive a voucher for 150 to spend at Stait Photo of Morpeth and Hexham, who are once again sponsoring the competition. The runners-up will receive a canvas print of their image. Ken Stait will be acting as one of the judges.
Paul Larkin, editor of the Johnston Press Northumberland titles, Northumberland Gazette, Berwick Advertiser, Morpeth Herald and News Post Leader, which are all backing the competition, and helping with the judging, said: "Stunning images of the Northumberland coastline taken and submitted to us by our readers continue to generate enormous interest on social media. On the back of that, we have launched the Northumberland Camera Club and we are sure its members will be keen to take part in this competition. We encourage all photographers to get out, explore the coast and keep an eye open for that perfect picture. We are proud to continue our association with this competition and are looking forward to seeing this year's entries".

Jane Coltman, Image Manager for Johnston Press Northumberland titles is also a judge. She said: "It is always a delight to be involved in the process of selecting the cover picture for the Visitor Guide. I love seeing the many and varied ways people express their passion of the Northumberland coast through their photography".

Last year's winner was Chris Orange from Surrey. His image - puffin with its eye closed - is on the front cover of this years Visitor Guide.  Chris said "This photo was taken whilst on Staple Island, during the summer of 2016. After several hours in different locations watching the puffins as they continually flew on and off the Island to catch fish, I began to get into the rhythm of photographing their activity, which was a pleasure to witness. As I photographed this particular puffin I took a couple of frames, and noticed that on the second shot his eyes had closed in the same split second that I closed the shutter on my camera. I did wonder if he was winking at me! A really wonderful moment to capture".

Images need to be submitted in an electronic format and be of a high enough resolution to be used on the cover of the guide. More advice, previous visitor guide covers and the full set of rules are the latest blog on the AONB website:

Catherine Gray
Funding and Communications Officer
Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership
County Hall, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE61 2EF
Telephone: 01670 622 644


One of the Desert Fathers Elders had finished his baskets and had already put handles on them, when he heard his neighbour saying: 'What shall I do? The market is about to begin and I have nothing with which to make handles for my baskets.'

At once the Elder went in and took off his own handles, giving them to the brother with the words: 'Here I don't need these, take them and put them on your own baskets.'

Thus, in his great charity he saw to it that his brother's work was finished whilst his own remained incomplete.

This simple act of charity to support a brother in a time of need illustrates that the simple ways of the Desert Fathers in fourth century Egypt have a real relevance to our materialistic world today. With so much choice available today could ask ourselves, 'Are we still meant to live a simple life?

The Monks were in tune with nature and we can gain some answers to our question from the natural world. Some of the simplest of joys can be found in our natural world; the song of a bird, the incoming tide a sunrise.

Simple however doesn't have to mean poor or substandard. Lindisfarne's St Cuthbert made hospitality a part of the rich English tradition.  Whilst he was guestmaster at a new monastery in Ripon he found a young visitor sitting in the guesthouse. Seeing that he had travelled, Cuthbert arranged for water to wash his hands and feet. After prayers Cuthbert returned to his visitor to bring him to join the evening meal with the brothers.* When he got there Cuthbert found that his guest had gone yet there were no footprints in the snow. Bede tells us that in Cuthbert's eyes, God had sent him an angel to encourage his ministry of hospitality.

** The Open Gate offers hospitality to all who cross its threshold although we don't go out looking for footprints in the snow. One of the ways we have introduced simplicity has been by reducing our carbon footprint and trying where possible to shop local. We now buy all our cheese, yoghurt and ice cream from our local manufacturer, our meat comes from locally reared livestock and we are hoping to get many of our vegetables grown on the island. We are using ethically produced cleaning materials that don't damage the environment.

Living simply is about doing our bit, about taking only what we need, enjoying the simple beauty that surrounds us and providing hospitality. As the words of ancient Celtic rune*** tells us;

We saw a stranger yesterday;
we put food in the eating place,
drink in the drinking place
music in the listening place,
and with the sacred name of the triune God
he blessed us and our house, 
our cattle and our dear ones. 
As the lark says in her song:
often, often, often goes the Christ
in the stranger's guise.

Kevin Downham
The Open Gate
Community of Aidan and Hilda

* Perhaps not a factual translation from Bede or 'the Anonymous'

** Most Holy Island accommodation businesses would hope to maintain these standards
*** Medieval runes are normally taken to be individual characters comprising a Scandinavian 27 letter runic alphabet


A frequent topic of conversation these days is how busy things are getting, it's time to adjust to the busyness on the causeway, and in the village.  However, long our visitors stay, and, whatever their reason for coming to the Island, many people work very hard throughout the season to accommodate them.

In a season of busyness we can feel that we are carried along by an unstoppable tide; the days go by almost unnoticed, and before we realise it we are turning the page of the calendar onto a new month.  Busyness can be enjoyable and stimulating; it is also part of the day to day reality of earning a living - there is nothing wrong with hard work ! 

Busyness can become a problem though when it squeezes out our ability to enjoy life or to take pleasure in the simple good gifts that are around us.  It is important to find times - however fleeting they may be some weeks - to tend to our souls and to our relationships with family, friends and neighbours.  This prayer echoes that thought and prompts us to seek the sustenance we need to receive if we are to be effective in giving to others.

Gracious God,
in you we find sanctuary
and balm for the soul.

Amidst the clamour of life,
help us to listen
for your Spirit
prompting us to be still.

Lead us to a place
where we can drink deeply
from streams of living water,
and know anew the peace
that passes all understanding.

Rev Rachel Poolman
St Cuthbert's Centre

FROM THE VICARAGE Revd Dr Paul Collins

'I heard the church bells hollowing out the sky,
Deep beyond deep, like never-ending stars'
(John Betjeman Summoned by Bells, 1960)

This year is the five hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which is understood to have begun when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. The Reformers wanted to change the Church and the way in which people worshipped God - by worshipping in the language which people spoke in everyday life. Luther also wrote hymns for everyone to sing. The Reformers wanted to include everyone ... to make worship accessible and enable everyone to join in equally. This was a move away from hierarchy to something more like democracy. The use of the local language and providing music everyone could sing was a democratisation of worship compared with the ways in which worship happened in in the Middle Ages. The norms of worship had often been set by highly skilled monks and nuns in their monasteries and convents.

On Holy Island we have a very vivid reminder of the Reformation in England in the ruins of the medieval Priory. The leading English Reformer of worship was Thomas Cranmer the Archbishop of Cranmer (1533-1556). He was responsible for the first two English Prayer Books published in the reign of Edward VI - in 1549 and 1552. Cranmer brought worship into English and also wanted to encourage everyone to pray every day. No longer was prayer to be something which priests and monks and nuns did - it was something to which everyone was to be invited: and he set out his vision in the preface he wrote to Prayer Book published in 1552:

And all Priests and Deacons are to say daily the Morning and Evening Prayer either privately or openly, not being let by sickness, or some other urgent cause.
And the Curate that ministereth in every Parish-Church or Chapel, being at home, and not being otherwise reasonably hindered, shall say the same in the Parish-Church or Chapel where he ministereth, and shall cause a Bell to be tolled thereunto a convenient time before he begin, that the people may come to hear God's Word, and to pray with him.

Concerning the Service of the Church, Book of Common Prayer of 1552

This vision we still live out day by day in St Mary's - tolling the bell for Morning and Evening Prayer - and inviting all to pray, if not in church itself - but wherever you may be. Just as we learn from the time of the Parish Priest and Poet George Herbert (1593-1633)

Some of his parish did so love and reverence Mr. Herbert that they would let their plough rest when Mr. Herbert's Saint's bell rung to prayers; that they might also offer their devotions to God with him; and would then return back to their plough. (Life of George Herbert by Izaak Walton).

Paul Collins
The Vicarage, Holy Island
Berwick-upon-Tweed, TD15 2RX
Tel. 01289 389 216


[ticketed performances]
4pm Friday 30th June
Garth Newel Piano Quartet
4pm Saturday 1st July
November Club - followed by a Ceilidh
7.30pm Saturday 8th July
Ryton Choral Society
7.30pm Sunday 9th July
Tom Mitchell - the Borrowed Band
4pm Saturday 15th July
Christian Forshaw and Sanctuary
4pm Sunday 16th July
Katherine Tickell: Superfolkus and Friends

PAUSE FOR THOUGHT Revd Canon Kate Tristram


"Famous last words".  I don't know who invented that little phrase, but I have always had interest, which I hope is not morbid, in famous last words.  They are such a combination of the expected and the unexpected.  In the final moments of life perhaps a joke is not appropriate, though I have always appreciated the dry humour of the man whose parting comment was, "Die, my dear doctor?  That's the last thing I shall do."  Some at the end have been able to spare a thought for others.  King Charles II is said to have pleaded for his mistress, Nell Gwyn, "Do not let poor Nelly starve."  The important Prime Minister William Pitt's last patriotic words are said to have been, "My country!  How I leave my country."  But another tradition has him say, "I could eat one of Bellamy's pork pies."  In Tudor and Stuart times (when it seems that every notable family had at least one member who ended at the block) a good death, in public of course, was positively expected.  Perhaps no one died better than the aged Sir Walter Raleigh in the reign of James I.  On the scaffold, after feeling the edge of the axe, he said the dramatic thing, "It is a sharp remedy, but a sure one for all ills."  Then, when asked by the executioner which way he preferred to lay his head on the block, he said the religious thing, "So the heart be right it is no matter which way the head lies."  And finally he said the final thing, "I have a long journey to take, and must bid the company farewell."

The people just mentioned were all Christians, but when we look at the Gospels were realise that Jesus, although he clearly foresaw his death, never said any last words. He did not say, "Good-bye, I am now going."  Rather he said, "There is no good-bye; I am always here", and promised that his presence with the disciples will be different, but unrestricted.

I recently met a little book by the neurologist Oliver Sacks, called simply 'Gratitude'.  When he was told that his illness was terminal, he wrote, "My predominant feeling is one of gratitude.  I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and have given something in return... Above all I have been a thinking animal on this beautiful planet, and that has been an enormous privilege and adventure".

I would like my last words to be "Thank you".  What would you like?

Kate Tristram

meet our hospice team