A convert clergyman, who had served as an Anglican at St Augustine's Kilburn (I think), his home being Mevagissey in Cornwall, on his conversion he had joined the diocese of Evreux in Normandy, and had been made, in the 1950s the Curé of the village of Le Chamblac and a couple of surrounding clochers.
Initially, he had been very enthused by the Liturgical Movement. Well before it was legal, he had turned his altar around and (like a few daring others) was celebrating Mass in French. He told me that his fellow priests in the deanery had accused him of being 'scarcely Catholic'. About 1967, he had found the general disintegration of things uncongenial, and, being told that nobody actually obliged him to celebrate in French, had returned to Latin, facing East on his forward-altar, and never again changed his mind.
He never entirely allied himself with Archbishop Lefevbre, though he was willing enough to have confirmations administered by the Archbishop (and also by his consecratees after the events of 1988). The famous heterodox bishop of Evreux, Jacques Gaillot, had been kind to Montgomery-Wright (no doubt thinking that if his own strange views ought to be tolerated, then so should those of others) and had not disturbed him in his parish, but a change in diocesan boundaries had landed him in another diocese where things were not so peaceable. Nonetheless he was left (more or less) alone until he tragically died in a car crash (he was a truly frightening driver, as I well remember).
His kindness has left an impression on my memory. Not only did he find room for me and my friend for a week in his ramshackle presbytery, but he also found more or less permanent room for a Downs-Syndrome man called Christian. He also sent me away with a bottle of glorious rough Calvados from some local farmer which has set up a taste for the stuff in me which has never since been satisfied by the stuff peddled in the UK, (usually laced with disgusting caramel…don't start me!)
(A ring at the door interrupted my flow: I have just had a most interesting conversation with a woman who lived in Holland during and after the Second World War).
Finally, while I was with Fr M-W, the thought struck me that here in Le Chamblac was a priest who had celebrated the traditional rites pretty continuously from the 1950s until the 1990s. Here, if anywhere, was the 'control' for the liturgical and pastoral experiment of those years. What might the Church have been like had the changes not happened? So I asked him about religious practice in his parish. Had as many ceased to come to Mass during the last thirty or forty years as had done so elsewhere? His answer was that two families had ceased to attend in Le Chamblac, but that they went instead to the French Mass in the next parish. Other than that, all families practised as they had before.
Maybe he was simply a loving and good pastor (I thought that, in any event). But I think that the figures speak for themselves.
[Rather shamefacedly] May I credit Fr Anthony Chadwick as being the source of this photo. I had assumed that, being on the internet, it was a generally available pic, and have found that this is not so from his charitable observation on the Anglo Catholic blog (ref. left). I thank him warmly for his permission to post.