Carols at St Bride’s Church, just off Fleet Street, never fail to provide a much-loved festive curtain raiser for the Journalists’ Charity.
This year’s service was all the more memorable because it was the fourteenth – and the last – to be conducted by the Venerable David Meara who has been unstinting in his support for journalists in need.
From the Vicar of Fleet Street as he has become known, there were words of comfort for journalists and their families facing troubled times and encouragement for those under pressure from news deadlines and schedules or working away from home.
As in previous years St Bride’s was packed for one of the charity’s most popular events (16.12.2013) which was hosted once again by the communications consultancy Luther Pendragon.
Senior figures from print and broadcasting gave the readings. The first three were by Eleanor Mills, editorial director of The Sunday Times, Ian King, business and city editor of The Times, and Sue Peart, editor of the Mail on Sunday’s YOU magazine.
Beany McLean, a director of Luther Pendragon and former equestrian correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph, stood in for Benedict Brogan, deputy editor of the Daily Telegraph, and read The Cultivation of Christmas Trees by T.S.Eliot.
Then it was the turn of the BBC’s chief economics correspondent, Hugh Pym. As a change from the sombre tone he has to adopt when pronouncing on grim financial statistics, he enjoyed the chance to deliver with gusto ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore.
Laurie Upshon, chairman of the Journalists’ Charity, told the assembled journalists, friends and families there was no better place than the Cathedral of Fleet Street to celebrate their work.
He reminded the congregation that 2014 was a special year as it was the charity’s 150th anniversary and would be marked by a special service at St Bride’s on 20 February, which would again be conducted by David Meara.
Mr Upshon recalled having spent many hours sifting through the archives of what was the Newspaper Press Fund before it changed its name to the Journalists’ Charity a decade ago.
He had been struck by a quote from the author John Buchan in a report on an NPF charity dinner:
“I do not think I have ever known better company than pressmen. They escape the intellectual pride which is the Nemesis of the scholar, and the irritable vanity which is the curse of men of letters. They have had their corners rubbed off in many rough contacts with the world; they have humour, sagacity, and the best human loyalties.”
David Meara, who is to retire in July 2014, was appointed Rector of St Bride’s in 2000 and is currently Archdeacon of London.
In closing the service he reported on the work to restore and clean the fabric of St Bride’s. The church had been in need of some “tlc” for many years and the first phase of the restoration had just been completed.
The tower and spire of Portland stone, the tallest steeple designed by Sir Christopher Wren, was “gleaming white” again, as Wren would have known it. “But more needs to be done to ensure St Bride’s is fit for purpose for the next 100 years.”