November 2016 Speaker
Canon John Howden's films
The speaker was Canon John Howden, who talked about his life, including how he got involved in broadcasting, and how in 2005 when he retired from the church he got involved with a Colchester film group, leading to his making over 100 films.
He then went on to show a selection of short films, many having a local flavour, including the first about the impact the life of George Stacey Gibson had in the 19th century on Saffron Walden. Among other things he had established a bank bearing his name (now Barclays) and a railway station for use of the local people.
John then showed a short humorous film about a lady who took her car to another garage because she got in such a fix trying to serve herself with petrol at a filling station. This was followed by a lovely film shot in Kent entitled “Cathedrals, Castles and Deserts” showing Canterbury Cathedral, Dover, Deal, Walmer and Sissinghurst castles, the Romney Hyde and Dymchurch Railway and Derek Jarman’s garden, Prospect Cottage, Dungeness, the “desert” of Kent.
The next film showed a middle-aged woman in bed reading “Fifty Shades of Grey” but whilst speaking to her husband it did not have the instant effect she wanted.
In a more serious mode followed a delightful film about a Writtle plantsman who hybridises fuchsias – showing the propagating, growing, showing, naming and prize winning of them.
In a lighter vein the next short film was in German but it was very visual so understanding the language was not necessary. The theme could be explained as - don’t wish for something without realising what the consequences might be –two men were flattened by a car that they wished for, when it was dropped on them!
John’s next film was entitled ”Carols ancient and modern” - John had the freedom to make a film about carols sung by different groups. You can see the film here - https://canterburypress.hymnsam.co.uk/features/carols-ancient-and-modern
In conclusion John’s longest film was entitled an “Edwardian Priest” which told the story of a priest from Ongar, Thomas Byles, who set out to journey to America in 1912 to attend the marriage of his brother. The journey included shots of the Epping and Ongar railway but alas this true story did not have a happy ending as the priest was drowned whilst on board the ill-fated Titanic. Thomas Byles was walking on the upper deck praying when the Titanic struck the iceberg. As the ship was sinking, he assisted many third-class passengers up to the boat deck to the lifeboats. He reputedly twice refused a place on a lifeboat. Toward the very end, he recited the rosary and other prayers, heard confessions and gave absolution to more than a hundred passengers who remained trapped on the stern of the ship after all of the lifeboats had been launched. His body, if recovered, was never identified. His brothers installed a door in his memory at St Helen's Catholic Church in Chipping Ongar. Pope Pius X later described Byles as a "martyr for the Church".
After the showing of each magnificent film there was spontaneous applause from the audience. After a well-earned round of applause at the end, a number of members approached John about his film-making skills.