A message from the Chairman of
The Friends of Coventry Cathedral
Chairman's E-News
                              March 2023

The Eagle has landed!

A CASTING OF the eagle sculpture of Coventry Cathedral’s great lectern stands outside Dallas Trade Mart as a memorial to President Kennedy.
     In Dallas USA, on the platform below the column on which the eagle is perched is written a phrase from a poem by William Blake: ‘When thou seest an eagle, thou seest a portion of genius. Lift up thy head.’
     There is also a dedication plaque on which is written: ‘Placed in memorial by the friends of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy who awaited his arrival at the Dallas Trade Mart, November 22, 1963’.
     The assassination of President Kennedy took place in Dealey Plaza, Dallas as he was on his way to give a speech to 2,600 people at a sold-out luncheon in the Grand Courtyard of Dallas Trade Mart.   The Coventry Cathedral eagle was proposed as a suitable memorial for the President by Mr John Stemmons, the Chairman of Dallas Trade Mart, because it had so impressed him when he visited Coventry the previous year.
     Bishop Cuthbert Bardsley blessed and dedicated the eagle during a service held at the memorial in October 1964.   He paid tribute to President Kennedy as “a great leader”.

     The Eagle was created by Elisabeth Frink (1930-93), pictured above left, and was her first major commission.   Even while she was a student at Chelsea College of Art, Frink had an interest in the possibilities of sculpting animals. One of her earliest works, Bird, 1951, was purchased by the Tate Gallery.
     The design for the Coventry Cathedral lectern evolved out of her previous bird works and studies she made of the birds at London Zoo. If you look carefully at it you see how in order to create the feathers, she set kindling sticks into the plaster with which she was working.
     The Cathedral architect, Basil Spence, wrote that Elisabeth Frink… “has designed and carried out a magnificent bird which looks as if it has just settled there after a long flight”.   
     As far as I have been able to discover there were five castings made of the Eagle, though I have been unable to find out where they all are today.   One Eagle (“Architect’s copy”) was made for Basil Spence.   An Eagle sculpture came on the market in 2018 and was sold at auction for £440,750.    On another occasion in an exhibition of Frink’s work there was an acknowledgment to “The Ingram Collection”.   
Does any one know where the other eagles have landed?


JAN CLARK (Jan CULLEN as she then was) was head of the team running the Cathedral’s Kennedy House Youth Hostel for some three years during the late 1960s.   New Zealand is her home country and she now lives in the central region of South Island dividing her time between Alexandra and Dunedin.
Jane and I visited her in Alexandra and Jan sends her best wishes to all those members of the Cathedral community who remember her.  
     Kennedy House was a youth hostel in a building designed by Basil Spence and sited approximately where the current Cathedral offices and garden now stand.   It was demolished in 2000 as part of the City Council’s Millennium Phoenix Project, and the Council built the Cathedral Offices in exchange.
     Alexandra is the place that holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded in New Zealand, and, strangely, while the North Island is still in a State of Emergency struggling to deal with the widespread devastation caused by the Cyclone Gabrielle floods, as you move into central South Island the landscape turns brown and there are restrictions because of the water shortage.
     In a few days I fly the 11,759 miles home from holiday.   Quite apart from the people I have met in New Zealand there have been a number of other reminders of Coventry Cathedral during my time away.   St Michael’s Singers (now named Coventry Cathedral Chorus) has recorded a number of CDs of hymns over the years.   I have heard four of these hymns featured on the RNZ radio programme Hymns On Sunday while on holiday.
     For light holiday reading I turned to “Small Inventions That Made A Big Difference” by the scientist author, Helen Pilcher – jammed with the sort of random facts I enjoy.   Who wouldn’t want to learn of the history of the Zip, the Teabag, Ink and so on?  
     In the book I learned something new about the Cathedral’s Patronal Festival - Michaelmas.   Laszlo Biro, the inventor of the first commercial ballpoint pen, was born on 29th September 1899.   Today on the Cathedral’s Patronal Festival the people of Argentina celebrate Inventors’ Day, a day dedicated to those who dare to think outside the box.
     The chapter telling the history of the Nail was a surprise.   It starts with the story of the destruction of Coventry Cathedral on 14th November 1940 and moves on to tell how the Cross of Nails was formed.   After running through the history of the Nail through the centuries the writer concludes: “Nails are many things, but perhaps their most enduring legacy is as a symbol of peace.”

THE FRIENDS HAVE helped to arrange this expert panel discussion of the history and art of Graham Sutherland's Tapestry - STYLED BY DESIGN.
     The panel is open to members of the public and is available either in person or online.  Details how to register for attendance are given above.
     Images of Graham Sutherland's Tapestry are identified with Coventry Cathedral all around the world.   STYLED BY DESIGN is an opportunity to learn more about the art and story of this iconic work of art.




ON THE 29th April 1929 the Midland Daily Telegraph carried this headline followed by the complete story of “a remarkable incident “ at Coventry Cathedral.
     “…. When the civic procession arrived it was seen that the men of the Cathedral choir were absent, and that in their places were a few church workers in cassocks and surplices, in addition to the choir boys.   Nevertheless, the singing of the service proceeded with marked heartiness.   It appears that the choirmen objected to a simple chant being substituted for a more elaborate setting of the Te Deum.”   
     The story of the Coventry Cathedral choir strike was syndicated in newspapers across the world.
     In Coventry the Hospital Day Service was a major occasion.   In order to help each member of the congregation to take part Sub-Dean Herbert Holland had created a specially printed order of service to be handed out.   To have a special printed order of service on such an occasion was an innovation in itself.   The Sub-Dean went even further to encourage participation by the congregation with the introduction of a congregational setting for the Te Deum.   In addition, the printed words of the Psalms were pointed as a guide.
      Canon Holland was taken aback by the response of the Cathedral choirmen.  
“A different conception arose between the choirmen and myself as to what form of service would be to the Glory of God and to the benefit of those who worship on an occasion when a large number of citizens who are not necessarily members of the Church of England are attending the Cathedral.   I have definitely adopted the policy of departing from the usual form of Cathedral service to a more “popular” form on such occasions.”
      This approach was endorsed by Dr Rhodes, the Cathedral organist : “…my ideas on the importance of congregational singing are well known.   The response from the congregation fully justified the departure from the usual.”
      It must have been an editorial decision to play down the effects of the choir strike, because the Coventry Herald report of the Cathedral Hospital Day Service made little mention of the strike but emphasised just how much members of the congregation appreciated being able to take a full part in singing.
     “It was stirring to listen to the great volume of singing… Without going into the matter of the absence on Sunday morning of the men members of the Cathedral Choir, it can be said that the large congregation thoroughly appreciated the opportunity of joining in the singing of the Te Deum, set to a simple chant, and also the choice of well-known hymns.   There was no doubt as to the heartiness with which the assembly sang.     Congregational singing is a matter that is frequently discussed.   Sunday morning’s service at the Cathedral showed how people welcome it.”


    The Midland DailyTelegraph carried responses from individual members of the congregation along the same lines and quoted from a letter written by a member of the congregation to Sub-dean Holland:
     “When I returned from the Cathedral this morning I remarked how very much I had enjoyed the service, and especially the singing of the Te Deum, being blissfully unconscious of the absence of a large number of the choirmen.   I sat in the body of the church, and it was a real joy to see the way the firemen and St John Ambulance men joined in the hymns as well as the Te Deum, as it was no doubt a chant they had known all their lives.”  
      The strike did not last long, and the choirmen returned to sing at Evensong that evening.
      To clear the air a meeting was held the next day and was attended by the choirmen, Dr Rhodes and the Succentor, Rev L E Bosley.   It produced a reconciliatory statement:
      “…there was never any intention on the part of the choir of usurping the authority of the clergy, nor to show discourtesy to anybody attending the service.   If the choir had been approached beforehand and an explanation had been given we feel sure the incident would never have occurred.”


Helping out

ONE WAY IN which you can help Coventry Cathedral and enjoy yourself at the same time is by stewarding an event in the Cathedral.   Stewarding usually involves checking tickets, selling programmes or something similar, and you also get the chance to enjoy the event!
      During March help would be welcomed at any of the following events.   The time that is given is when help is required.  
     *Thursday 2nd March - Bird In The Belly (folk gig) 6.45pm
    *Friday 3rd March - Chopin Piano Concert with Warwick Piano Society                  6.15pm
    *Friday 17th March - Women, Life, Freedom  (Iranian symposium) TBC
    *Saturday 18th March – Lyra (film) 6.15pm
    *Friday 24th March - Heavens Chimes Are Slow – B’ham Contemporary                Music Group 6.15pm
    *Saturday 25th March - The Spectacular Music of Harry Potter (film +                  orchestra) 6.15pm 
If you would like to assist with stewarding at any of these events or at any future events please get in touch with Asha Eade-Green (Head of Arts and Events) at [email protected].
Michael’s Last Chance

    THIS MONTH IS the last chance to view the sculpture of Archangel Michael that is on display on the Chapel of Unity lawn.
    Imagining Michael as an Angel of Peace, the Dresden sculptor, Reinhard Pontius, has created an unarmed figure expressing willingness to open out to people.   The sculpture is touring Europe as a sign of peace and reconciliation.  The tour began two years ago as Michael visited towns and cities across Germany.   Coventry Cathedral is the first exhibition venue outside that country. The Angel of Peace leaves Coventry on the 9th April to continue its journey across Europe. Kiev is the final destination in 2025.  

RISING GLOBAL PEACE Forum is following up the November 2022 conference held in Coventry Cathedral with the showing of a new film – “LYRA”.
     It will be shown in the Cathedral on 18th March 2023 to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.   The film tells the story of the life of Lyra McKee, a journalist, poet and human rights campaigner.   There is no admission charge.
You can register for the film online at –
     If you missed the 2022 Rising Global Peace Conference and would like to catch up with this peace initiative, it is possible to access some of the presentations on Youtube.   The online link is –
     This year the Rising Global Peace Forum will take place on 9th and 10th November 2023. 



 IT MAY SOON be possible for rail passengers to travel from Coventry Station to Coventry University in a driverless taxi.   Last month it was announced that Coventry City Council has secured funding from Government and private industry sources to fund this route.   Driverless taxis were already tested around Coventry city centre a year ago.
     The funding was also secured for a driverless vehicle route between Birmingham International Station and Birmingham Business Park via the NEC.
      The exact route through Coventry was not published, but the photo used by the Council with its press release showed a driverless vehicle standing at the foot of the Cathedral steps in University Square, which suggests that the Square will be the terminus.   In that case will future visitors to the Cathedral travelling by train arrive here by courtesy of AI?

6:00pm-8:30pm              Tickets £22/£15

To take advantage of FRIENDS SPECIAL PRICES for Coventry Cathedral Chorus concerts please order them from Jill Pacey who is the singer responsible for direct ticket sales.    Her email address is  [email protected]

  Martin R Williams  

  [email protected]  
  63 Daventry Rd, Coventry CV3 5DH  








Copyright © 2023 The Friends of Coventry Cathedral, All rights reserved.
The Friends of Coventry Cathedral was founded in 1934. It is an independent Charity No. 1061176 registered in England and Wales, with an annually elected Council.
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