Slipping into a silent Saint George’s Chapel for Matins just before 7.30 this morning, I walked up the steps to the seats reserved for clergy attending Saint George’s House. The seats are the stalls occupied by the Knights of the Garter on special occasions, a banner and a crest overhang each of the stalls. The back of each stall has brassplates bearing the crests of the various knights who have occupied it down through the centuries.
I knelt for my prayers and then stood as the priest began the service, the stall in which I was sitting had one brass plate looking fresher than its companions. It was the crest of John Major. On my 47th birthday I was occupying the seat of the former British Prime Minister, the nearest thing I will ever achieve to greatness!
A story came to mind as I sat there, a story I bore people with, but, it being my birthday, I will tell again.
It was the day of the 1992 General Election and I called with old Mary, who was still short of being 90 at the time.
“Who do you think will win the General Election, Mr Poulton?” she asked.
“I don’t know”, I said.
“I will tell you a story”, she said.
“On the night before the Battle of the Boyne, a boatman was rowing King William across the river.
‘Do you think you will win tomorrow?’ the boatman inquired of the king.
‘Win or lose,’ replied the king, ‘you will be the boatman still’,”
“Mr Poulton, we will be the boatman still”.
I walked out of chapel at the end of the service listing in my head the things I need to do next week, typing the parish magazine, preparing the order of service for Sunday, getting things for a service of remembrance of loved ones.
It might have been Mr Major’s seat, but I am the boatman still.