|St Milburga, Abbess of Wenlock|
Uncle Dan Cool and Mother Cool are meeting us at our destination, so I utter a brief prayer (I am, after all, a Vicar’s daughter and old habits are tricky to shake off!): ‘Dear Lord Jesus, Please make sure that the Dacia Sandero does the job for which it is intended, and that it gets us all to Much Wenlock in one piece (four pieces to be more accurate about it). Please, also, make sure that there are no hiccups on route; a smooth ride is required by all concerned. And, while you are at it (just so I don’t come across as self-centred), please bless my uncles, aunts, parents, siblings (there’s only one), cousins and every single one of my ancestors (46, 501 at the last count on Ancestry.com). Amen!’
And Jesus really does listen to me because, after a smooth ride (the Dacia only stalled once!), four moving objects vaguely resembling human beings step out into a muddy car park. And through the hazy lines of my steamed-up bifocals, I can just about make out two vignettes wading through some splash pools and heading in our direction. Uncle Dan and Mother Cool have beaten me to it – again!
With hugs all dished out and done with, Uncle Dan strides purposefully ahead along the squelchy lane, and Mother Cool is pulled along by the rest of us.
And then …?
And then a magnificent and holy sight rises up out of the ground (sorry, descends from the skies). I spot the entrance to these wondrous abbey walls, but there’s no way I can get there ahead of Uncle Dan. For a man with very short legs, he has an incredibly long stride. Reality dawns! Uncle Dan Cool is ahead of the game – he’s wants to be first in, to claim his (my) inheritance.
But, the unfathomable happens!
Uncle Dan speeds right on past Wenlock Priory’s entrance board, without even a sideways glance, and continues on up the lane. I see an opportunity, release my grip on Mother Cool, and sidle over to check out the price of a family ticket. It’s not too expensive, so I turn back to give the Sprogs the good news. But ..
the Sprogs are eons ahead of me, now stuck fast to the heels of Uncle Dan, and Mother Cool seems to have had her batteries charged too.
‘Hmm, it’s a bit costly!’ he says, and runs to catch up with the others.
Fine. Just fine. I’ll buy myself a ticket, and I’ll get stuck in on my own.
‘Be with you in a mo! You lot carry on ahead, and I’ll catch you up!’ I shout.
But, no-one’s listening – all having their selective hearing aides turned on.
So I proceed to enter. I’m about to dip into my own pockets for my loose change, when I have a quick change of heart. Out comes the joint account’s debit card. The ideal method for ‘sharing’ the loneliest of experiences. Ha!
‘Guided tour, or are you going to show yourself around?’
No need to ask. I always appreciate a bit of company.
‘Guided tour, please!’
And, therein lies my mistake. A brick-like device, with a close resemblance to my first mobile phone (blame Orange) in the early nineties is wedged into my reluctant hand. All you need to do is press a button here, and then that one there, and Bob’s your Uncle!’
But Dan is my Uncle, I don’t know Bob, and I’m a techno-phobe visitor from the middle ages. Still, all I have to do is press a couple of buttons …
Wow! A wall of some significance (1) greets me. Seems I was expected!
Expected or not, I realise that I am but a mere mortal. This wall knows everything, has seen everything and has been everything. And I, I Jay Cool? I know nothing! Time to listen to my guide. I press one of the buttons (which one was it to start?). My guide starts to mumble and fuzz, mumble and fuzz, mumble and … I press the other button. The fuzz gets louder, but it’s still a mumble. Wrong button. How do I switch this thing off? I press every button in sight, (i.e. pummel my fists at each of the two, and all is silent again). The peacefulness brings out the spiritual and saintly elements of my finer being …
Copyright of text and photographs owned by Jay Cool, the Silly-Savvy Salopian, April 2018
Milburga (died 1715) was daughter of the King of Mercia and the first Abbess of Wenlock, back in the days when the site was home to a Benedictine abbey. She resided, with her nuns, in the very same location that Roger de Montgomery later built a Cluniac Monastery upon. Like Jay Cool, the Cluniacs devoted themselves to rigorous academic study. But later inhabitants (also like Jay Cool) fell victim to the attractions of alcohol; hence, the Priory fell victim to dissolution orders in 1540.
By all accounts, it seems that English Heritage are now in possession of the leftovers. I really must have a word with the Manager, and fill in the relevant paperwork. St Milburga, you see, is a dead cert to be one of my ancestors:
The following information relates to Sprog 2 (who is an expert on every species of Aves), and it presents sufficient evidence for me to make an adoptive link with St Milburga on my family tree: ‘She is said to have had a mysterious power over birds; they would avoid damaging the local crops when she asked them to.’ And I know this is true, because I extracted the quote from Wikipedia.org!
And, needless to say, Roger de Montgomery (1022-1094) was none other than my 3rd cousin, 30 X removed, and cousin of my 28th Great Grandfather, William the Conqueror.