1971-10 The Beacon






This Was My Life … … and Theirs

I HAVE been invited to write a few lines about the wonderful “happening” that took place on Saturday, October 2 [1971], when you did an “Eammon Andrews” for me.  I was taken completely by surprise and had no suspicions whatever that the “social” was to be anything than the usual get-together.  The secret was kept most carefully.

I take this opportunity of thanking you all sincerely for such undeserved kindness and for all your trouble and hard work.  It was an unforgettable and humbling experience for me and I appreciate it so much.  Many of you, I know, were involved but perhaps I may be allowed specially to thank Ken Lockwood for his masterly and skilful handling of the whole affair.

He must have spent hours in planning, organising, corresponding and assembling the information he had obtained.  I had already some experience of his dedicated efficiency, and this was the supreme and crowning example of it.  It added to my grateful memories of him and his friendship which I shall carry with me into the years ahead.

So many friends worked hard in various way to make the evening such a moving experience that I dare not start mentioning names, but I do appreciate every one of you and your warm friendship.




Surprise! Surprise!

AN UNPLANNED detour on my way to the Church Hall and sight of a Coventry coach, then a glimmer of suspicion, another coach, far more cars than usual in and around the car park and I was half prepared for the couple of hundred people in the hall – but not yet fully prepared for the marvellous feeling of warmth, love and unity.

When Ken Lockwood explained the charade which was taking place before 7.30 it was most interesting to see the reactions of people still arriving.  Then ‘Our Ken’ was greeted with “This Is Your Life”, took his seat on the platform with his usual humility, looked outwards and, recognising friends he had certainly not expected to see, waved … and 250 or so people fused into a warm, sensitive fellowship.

The silences as that wonderful programme unfolded were the silences of love, and the laughter the joyous comradeship of friends.  It was indeed a privilege to participate, and we did just that.  It was only after I reached home that I realised what an immense debt of gratitude we owe to so many people.  First, to Violet, not only for keeping the secret so successfully (and what a struggle that must have been!) but just for being Violet, the support of Our Ken, without whom, I suspect he would not always have the loose change, notes, handkerchiefs and other mundane needs of his ministry.

It is a wonderful compliment to the organisers that few of us thought of the work involved until later – much later.  There are too many concerned for individual thanks, but shall we say in our hearts a great big THANK-YOU - remembering all the letters written, special lighting, tape recordings, sandwiches prepared, teas poured, out and served, and all that washing up …




KEN PARKHURST – “This is Your Life”

From Coventry and Camden they came.  From Brighton and from Bow, from Yorkshire moor and Sussex down, by car and coach, train and plane, they flocked to the Cordell Hall, Kinfauns Road, on Saturday evening October 2, 1971.


It had been a “hush hush” affair for months, noted in the diary as a “social gathering” yet emphasised as “something special” when invitations were extended to the members of the church at Goodmayes.  Others, of course, knew what it was about, and some had their suspicions that “the Guv’nor” had his suspicions and there had been a leak, but as it turned out it was anybody’s guess who was the more surprised – Ken Parkhurst when he was met with the words: “This is Your Life” or the organisers who discovered he really was taken completely by surprise!

Boyhood Friends

Beginning with his brother Geoff, a stream of old friends took the stage to tell us many anecdotes of their beloved Ken and those who were prevented from coming, sent messages on tape.  Boyhood friend Denis Lant, now in Canada, and Maurice Brown, a world authority on Schubert, both talked on tape of youthful dreams and happy days in Sussex – including “By the Castle Wall” at Bolney – and Jack Habens, preparing to go to Australia, was able to be present to add his own personal memories of a teenage friendship.


College Days

Stanley Turl (West Ham Central Mission) spoke of college days, including a hilarious account of how to dispose of unwanted cocoa; his student pastorate at Park Strset [sic], St. Albans was recalled by Mr. Attfield, who was church secretary at the time; another fellow-student Leslie Moon (Saffrom [sic] Walden, late Ashurst Drive) also reminisced; and further greetings were received from Lynn Ashley and Tim Ryder.


East London

K.W.P’s first ministry began at Custom House in 1932, and to tell of those days came “Occy” Walker, Tom and Edie (“What Again?”) Payne, and Joe Robinson.  More happy accounts of Bolney were highlighted by the strains of “The great big saw came nearer and nearer to poor little Vera” – a Bolney concert song – recorded by the singer, one Violet Barrett, who was to become Mrs Violet Parkhurst.

With great acclaim she ascended the stage to join her husband for the rest of the programme.  Gordon Giller (Shoreditch) then chipped in with an account of a famous supper of those Custom House days, then on to 1938 to Bow, and a message from Sister Ada, unable to be present, and further glowing accounts from Ann and Hubert Arnold and Les Law who were.


War Years

So to the war years when Kenneth Parkhurst became chaplain to the 1st Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and to tell of the Padre much loved by all who “gave the impression of frailty, but had all the courage in the world” had come the companion who saved his life – the M.O. - Dr Ron Johnson and his wife, from Yorkshire.

Two more Royal Welshmen, W.D. Rees and Harold Watkins, sent messages and another, Martyn Lloyd Davies, read the citation published in the London Gazette when the Padre was awarded the M.B.E.  Further wartime memories of leave periods in Calcutta were provided by “Dickie” Sparrow and “Ginger” Gurnett and, on tape, by B.M.S. missionary Will Eadie.


North London

After the war came a move from East to North London when Ken Parkhurst accepted a call to Camden Road, one of the first ministers he met in this area was Arthur Davies of Salters Hall (now secretary of the Temperance Council of the Christian Churches) who came to meet him once again, and here in his own inimitable way commended the worthy character of his old friend.

During this time at Camden Road, three young men were encouraged to train and enter the ministry, and Stanley Sharp (Willesden Green) came forward to speak of their minister’s influence on himself and his two colleagues Peter Pearmain (Kirby Muxloe) and Geoffrey Taylor (Dewsbury).

Then, to pay tribute to K.W.P’s flair for writing and producing comic opera, came Henry Ward, Winnie (“Lady Cooloff”) Mulford and Audrey Ward, followed by David Keep, who spoke of others who had known their minister so well.


Another City

In 1958 came a move from one industrial city to another, when Kenneth Parkhurst became the first minister of a new Baptist Church at Quinton Park, Coventry.  Mrs Hughes, church secretary at the time was able to take part in the evening’s programme and gave a moving account of his work, followed by Ray Chapman, who recalled some of the things their minister had got up to!

John Hough and Cynthia Allegro sent messages of appreciation, and the Bishop of Coventry sent his Personal Assistant who turned out to be another old war-time comrade, Major Cheshire Hilditch of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers!  The minister then at Queen’s Rd, Coventry, Gordon Hastings (Sutton) summed up the Coventry era with his own tribute of appreciation of a sympathetic and encouraging brother ministry.


London Calling

In 1961 it was back to London again with a call from Goodmayes, and to tell of the beginning of this present chapter came Gordon Giller, who had known him personally for so long and was now to work closely with him as church secretary.  Fellow-minister and Vicar of All Saints, Goodmayes, Peter Harlow, then spoke light-heartedly yet deeply of his own affection for Ken Parkhurst.

Then compere, and the man responsible for the evening’s programme, Ken Lockwood, church secretary at Goodmayes after Gordon Giller the ministry, told how “Mr P”, dewpite [sic] the pressure of all kinds of people telling him how to do his job, carried on serving not only this church but the whole neighbourhood, and of the sleepless nights of the minister who took upon himself the worries of so many who came to him in need.  Then Ken Lockwood, in introducing the present church secretary, Will Walsby, he asked: “Well, Will, what do you think of the Guv’nor?” and Will, like all the other on the programme, spoke of the deep and lasting impression this wonderful minister had made on him.

So to the immediate present and a final tribute from a young man, David Smith, one of the more recent members of the fellowship to respond to the influence of Kenneth Parkhurst, and helping to re-start & organise a youth club at Goodmayes.  With Alwyn Knight (St Andrew’s) pronouncing the benediction, the programme came to a hushed conclusion.

How many must echo and re-echo their gratitude down the years and say with us all: “Thank you for showing us Jesus – and thanks for the privilege of knowing you, Ken Parkhurst – one of God’s great little men.”






Page last updated: 5th February 2018 3:51 PM