Ten Questions – Catherine Gibson

What brought you to St. Margaret’s? I started working at Ilkley College in 1976, and rented a flat in St. John’s, Queen’s Road. On my first Sunday there, I thought I would attend early Communion before spending the rest of the day with my parents in Bradford. When I entered the church, in good time for the service, all I could see was the priest kneeling in front of the Lady Chapel altar. It looked very private and I crept away. Thereafter my weekends were spent in Bradford, and I worshipped there. By 1986, I had encouraged my parents and sister to move to Ilkley. We looked at the hymn books and other indicators in All Saints’ and St. Margaret’s, and decided to try St. Margaret’s first. On our first visit to the High Mass, the Warden who greeted us (Barbara France) happened to be our family solicitor; while I discovered an old friend from Ilkley Playhouse in Garth Kellett. We were immediately made to feel very welcome; and we were overwhelmed with the beauty of the liturgy and the building. I could hardly believe our good fortune in being able to worship every Sunday in such a manner in a parish church.

How do you spend your time during the week? I fully retired from librarianship a year ago; and the church occupies quite a lot of my time. As a Reader, I preach and lead worship several times a month, take communion to the sick and housebound, and lead communion services in care homes. I’m also Verger and Sacristan; and several hours of weekday time are spent setting up the church for services and keeping the supplies of candles, incense, wine and wafers stocked up, and the vestments in good order. I also prepare rotas for servers and communion visits. I act as Treasurer to the residents’ Management Company for the building in which I live.

What do you do for recreation? When I retired, I immediately joined the U3A. The classes and groups I attend include Art Appreciation and Plays & Theatre. I also go to painting classes twice a week, and walk on one day a week with one of the “Evergreens” walking groups. I am a long-standing active member of Ilkley Playhouse; and although my church commitments don’t leave me time to take as many acting roles as I used to do, I still make an occasional appearance onstage. Since retiring, I have joined the Playhouse working parties to do scene-painting for one morning or evening most weeks; and I prompt for some of the productions. Although my skill as a gardener isn’t great, my little garden gives me much pleasure. I sing alto in the church choir, and I’ve been a member of Cantores Olicanae for almost as long, but I’m taking a break from the latter at present.

What do you like most about Ilkley and its surroundings? Having grown up in Bradford, I felt as if I were on holiday for the first three years after my move to Ilkley! I love the beauty of the place and its surrounding country. I love the friendliness of the people: you can hardly walk a few yards without exchanging greetings with friends and acquaintances. The artistic life of the place is so vibrant, and of such high quality that one could be out every night of the week; and there’s easy access to Leeds, Bradford and other towns for further entertainment.

Where did you spend your childhood and earlier years? I grew up in Bradford, in the Shipley/Frizinghall/Heaton area. University took me to Birmingham, Hull and Aberystwyth; and I began my librarianship career in York, Huddersfield and Meltham.

What or who has been the most significant influence on you in life? There are several answers I could give to this; but within the last twenty years, the wise counsel of my first spiritual director, Florence Begley, has shown me how to attain inner peace: she introduced me to Ignatian Spirituality and to St. Beuno’s Jesuit Spirituality Centre in North Wales. The Briery Retreat Centre here in Victoria Avenue has also been an invaluable resource and inspiration.

Have you a favourite book or author? Reading George Herbert’s poem, “Love bade me welcome” when I was sixteen had a profound and lifelong effect. I then began to read the rest of his poetry, and to use it in my private prayer. Herbert showed me that you could have a relationship with God that was just as real as any human relationship.

What piece of music, DVD  or work of graphic art would you like to take to a “Desert Island”? The choral anthem, Blessed City, Heavenly Salem by Edward Bairstow is one of the most sublime pieces of music I know. It’s based around the plainsong hymn-setting of those words, describing the heavenly Jerusalem as depicted in Revelation. It reaches a climax of beauty, which is yet filled with longing for what is suggested beyond sight; and then it fades, leaving an afterglow and a memory of the vision, which warms the heart and fills it with love, joy and peace. We’ve just sung it at Evensong; and whenever we do so, I hear it in my mind for weeks afterwards.

Tell us a little about your family. My father was a lecturer in agricultural zoology at Leeds University, and my mother came from Bradford mill-working stock and finished her working life as secretary to the headmaster of Bradford Grammar School. They died in the 1990s. I inherited from them both my love of acting. I was the eldest of four children. The elder of my brothers became professor of marine and environmental law at the University of Cape Town, but died of a heart attack three years ago. My younger brother is married and works on the portering staff of Leeds University. My sister has also inherited the theatrical genes, and is general manager of the Acorn Theatre in Penzance. A few years ago she married the theatre-manager of the Minack Theatre on the cliffs near Lands End, and her move to Cornwall gives me an excuse for regular holidays there!

Do you have any (as yet) unfulfilled ambitions? I am really very content. However, I haven’t travelled very widely hitherto, and there are many places I should like to visit, including much of Europe, as well as India and South America.