You know what you could be. Tell me my friend, Why you worry all the time
What you should be?
The strange behaviour of the Reverend Robert Hawker of Morwenstow is supposed to have included dressing up as a mermaid and excommunicating his cat for mousing on Sundays. It is also said that he: talked to birds, invited his nine cats into church and kept a pig as a pet. His biography, by fellow cleric Sabine Baring-Gould, says that he dressed in a claret-coloured coat, blue fisherman's jersey, long sea-boots, a pink brimless hat and a poncho made from a yellow horse blanket. Wikipedia’s description of the biography as ‘unreliable’ did rather make me wonder whether the tales of his eccentricities were partly inspired by his unusual dress sense.
Meeting one rector of my recent experience, you would certainly have been taken by surprise were you expecting a sobre, clerical greyness. The late Reverend David Streeter, the Rector of Stradbroke, had a fondness for bright colours and extravagant behaviour - despite being an essentially shy man. In listing a few of his eccentricities: Versace shirt with a dog collar, abseiling down the church tower, preaching whilst wearing inline skates, one could easily build up a profile as simplistic as Robert Hawker’s suggested above.
And there certainly seems to be something in us all that causes us to caricature ‘authority’ figures, most especially those who do not fit the moulds we make for them. Nuance does not make for good gossip. Being an accomplished poet, or simply a hardworking vicar doing their best for the community, makes a less gripping tale to tell whilst leaning on the bar or the school gate.
Yet, along with everyone else, I’m sure I shall enjoy some delicious nuggets of bizarre behaviour in Roy Tricker’s talk on Eccentric Clerics on March 31st. But I will also be listening out for some of the more subtle motives that shaped them...