Tapestry of Toil

Object:  Revd. Desmond Morse-Boycott, A Tapestry of Toil

Date: 1970

Found: In an antiquarian booksellers

This book was published by Faith Press  towards the end of Morse-Boycott’s life. It is an autobiography and one of the last of a series of volumes. His earlier works – Ten Years in a London Slum, We Do See Life, and Golden Legend of the Slums, amongst them – recounted chirpy and heartbreaking anecdotes from his days as a Magdalen Missioner and curate at St Mary’s in Somers Town from 1919 to 1935. In 1932 Morse-Boycott co-founded the St Mary-of-the-Angels song school – which, Morse-Boycott tells us here, ‘someone has described as the most beautiful thing  that has ever come out of a slum’. One success of this venture was in taking the boys to sing, in crimson cassocks, donated by Westminster Abbey, to St John Terriet in Montreux.

It was claimed by another Magdalen Missioner, Cecil Gault, that Morse-Boycott was rather distanced from his Somers Town flock, arriving in the parish in a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce.  A rather different anecdote involves the marble Calvary inside St Mary’s, made by Mary Grant, an eminent sculptor in the nineteenth century. It was moved from St Mary the Virgin on Charing Cross Road in the 1910s and Morse-Boycott was, it is said, so transfixed by it, he would spend whole nights bowed in prayer in front of it. Much like Father Jellicoe, various of the clergy at St Mary’s seem to have lived out their faith extremely passionately. 

By Esther Leslie

Calvary sculpture