Creator and journalist Robert Nurden’s rollercoaster journey following his grandfather Stanley’s footsteps led from Wales to Canada to Walthamstow…
Three months after publishing Between Heaven and Earth – my biography of my grandfather Stanley James, the unorthodox minister of Trinity Church, Walthamstow – I felt it was time to replicate.
So, with a mixture of pleasure and trepidation, I retraced my steps to the place the place my mom’s father had rocked the boat along with his passionate pulpit sermons within the early years of the twentieth century.
I discovered his home – 118 Grove Highway – the place he lived with my grandmother, Jess, and their seven kids between 1906 and 1917. I situated Trinity Church on Orford Highway, then the home they later moved to in Poppleton Highway, Leytonstone. I stood and let my thoughts wander again to these Edwardian streets, redolent with hearsay and recrimination. If solely stones may communicate.
For me personally, following within the footsteps of grandfather – whose turbulent life overlapped mine by simply seven months – had been a rollercoaster in itself. It had taken me to Wales to dig out the roots of the James household of farmers and ministers; to his lodgings in Richmond the place he’d ran into Friedrich Engels; to the Canadian Rockies, the place he labored as a cowboy, bridge-builder, shepherd, newspaper reporter and playwright – earlier than turning hobo to trip the trains the two,000 miles to Toronto.
On the market, I met ranchers whose grandfathers had labored alongside mine. I discovered the ranch the place he’d herded cattle, hunted coyotes and written romantic poems to the Prairie women. I stood with tears in my eyes as I gazed on the railway monitor the place – by now a penniless vagrant after being sacked from the paper – he’d walked continuous for a day and an evening too afraid to lie down due to the rattlesnakes. Lastly, he enlisted in the US Military and fought within the 1898 struggle towards the Spanish in Puerto Rico.
Again in England and now married, he discovered his solution to Walthamstow, the place he relished the problem of being in command of a vibrant church in a buzzing London suburb from 1906 to 1916. In a collection of uncompromising addresses, he alienated older worshippers along with his communism, suffragism and pacifism, delivered even because the Battle of the Somme raged. Youthful progressives occupied these vacant pews, however that solely turned out to be a set off for extra scandal.
Enter three lovely native ladies: Eva, Ruth and Minna. Every of them beloved Stanley in their very own means, and he them. Minna grew to become his mistress. Within the Ladies’s Library of the London College of Economics, I unearthed their intimate letters and diaries that confirmed my grandfather in a unique mild. It was clear that the person I’d grown as much as consider was a paragon of advantage was an adulterer who abused the belief positioned in him as a minister.
Stanley resigned and located work with numerous pacifist organisations the place he shared an workplace with the thinker Bertrand Russell. In 1923, he transformed to Catholicism and turned himself into one of many world’s main Catholic commentators with 9 books to his identify, counting G.Okay. Chesterton amongst his closest pals. He died in 1951.
Between Heaven and Earth: A Journey With My Grandfather is available for purchase on Amazon now