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a distinguished custodian of history, always willing to share

Michael Farthing

Michael Farthing (14 Sep 2012)

REV MICHAEL FARTHING (1928-2019) moved to Eynsham with his family in 1995 after retiring as vicar of Wheatley, Forest Hill and Stanton St John. This photo shows him at the Village Hall at the launch of a ‘green’ initiative. Eynsham History Group was very fortunate to have him on their committee for many years - read more. He gave a moving account of the rosebud which had been on a wreath in 1920 that was on the coffin of the Unknown Soldier. On 20 December 2000, as duty chaplain at Westminster Abbey, he was summoned to receive the rose at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior before the rose was taken to the Imperial War Museum.

He shared the following story with readers of Eynsham News.

Each year on Maundy Thursday - the day before Good Friday - the Queen makes a personal gift to elderly people, in recognition of their work for the community and the church. She has visited a different diocese on 45 occasions. In 2013 the Royal Maundy Service came to Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, for the first time since 1643.

Michael Farthing was “surprised and honoured” to be invited to join a select total of 87 men and 87 women. The only other West Eynsham representative was Glyn Wallace-Lyon, who has worked at the cathedral for 25 years.

The Maundy ceremony, rich in tradition and symbolism, is based on the “new commandment” - Latin mandatum - of Jesus as he washed his disciples’ feet. In England the practice of washing feet and giving alms on Holy Thursday goes back to the 13th century. The number of men and women invited, and of silver Maundy coins they each receive, matches the sovereign’s age in years. The Queen’s own Yeoman Guard, who carry the famous red and white purses, was created in 1485 by Henry VII; and her Chapel Royal Choir which sings at the service was also on the battlefield of Agincourt.

Times change, of course. Women were selected as well as men in the 18th century; and the washing of feet was replaced by a monetary gift (the red purse), though the Lord High Almoner and his assistants are still girded with linen towels and carry nosegays of herbs to sweeten the air. The music has been updated too - all the way to Handel and Bach. And in the august surroundings of Christchurch dining hall the Maundy Menu offered a vegetarian alternative to salmon, in the form of leek & Stilton filo tart.

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