It is reliably reported that thee people found themselves locked in St Mary’s Church on Tuesday evening, July 23. They had overstayed the closing of the church at 5.30pm.
What was to be done? Being of a certain age, none of them carried a mobile phone. There might have been a spare key in the vestry but the door to that was firmly shut. No one knew the code that would lead them through the passage under the belfry stairs.
There was a bell-rope with its sally hanging near the pulpit, but a vigorous pull failed to elicit a bell note to sound the alarm. Prospects of a long overnight vigil stretched before them. They kept their cool and their heads. The only solution was to call for help from any passer-by whose attention could be attracted. This was easier said than done, because the big oak door would muffle the sound of their voices. One or two footsteps faltered and continued on their way.
Finally, a kindly German lady bent her ear to the keyhole and appeared to comprehend instructions to call at a certain house in Market Street, and to relay the message: SOS or Mayday (m’aidez). Anxious were the moments till her joyous return; help signals were being dispatched in all directions.
First to arrive was the Rector, never more welcomed; and then a good lady who had also answered the call. Embarrassment and thankfulness were the dominant emotions, followed by resolve that greater vigilance should be had in future. So all came happily home, your reporter among them, only half an hour later than they had promised.
The story gained additional piquancy when I returned next day to take a photo of the useless bell rope. There was the food bank basket with stocks of tinned beans, soup and spaghetti, so we wouldn’t have starved. I met Christine Chivers at the book stall who told me that there was a tin opener in the kitchen. She also drew my attention to the landline phone which was all ready for use on a shelf behind the counter. Well, what do you know!
Image Credits: Kenneth Bird , Rye News library .