While doing some research in Beverley Library for a blog article I stumbled on some further information relating to a post first published on the blog in November 2015. The post concerned a remarkable man called Harold Lythe who played the organ in All Hallows Church.
The new information refers to the stained glass window in the church dedicated to Harold and his wife Ada. The window located in the south transept of the church was designed by Septimus Waugh of York and was dedicated in 1981. Septimus Waugh was the youngest son of the famous author Evelyn Waugh; he died in 2015 aged 79. Evelyn Waugh was the author of Brideshead Revisited.
The design features the figure of St Cecilia, the patron saint of music, holding symbolically a simple form of early organ. She stands in front of a seated contemporary figure (presumably Harold) playing a church organ.
The interior of the church is shown in the ruby glass and grey shapes in the foreground and these colours relate to the colours in the East window as viewed from the main body of the church. The shades of blue in the window are intended to show day and night symbolising the time element in the many years of dedicated service by Harold Lythe.
The original post is re-printed below.
One afternoon I was in All Hallows Church to see the flower arrangements my wife had been working on. I then wandered around the church and stopped at a stained glass memorial window dedicated to Harold A. Lythe, who had been the organist at All Hallows.
An inscription, on a small blue pane of glass, set in the window, stated that Harold Lythe had been the church organist from 1903 until 1967. I read it, but didn’t fully appreciate the significance until a silent voice, from some corner of my brain, said ‘this guy played the church organ for 64 years.’ That can’t be right! Then after checking my ability to do simple arithmetic I finally understood what the inscription was saying. Harold Lythe – played the church organ at All Hallows for 64 years. That’s just an incredible achievement and a reminder of what dedicated service actually means. To this day it still makes me shake my head in disbelief.
On leaving the church I looked in the graveyard and found his headstone and that of his wife Ada with the simply inscription – ‘Peacefully Sleeping.’
Harold Lythe was born in 1888 and died in 1979 aged 92 years.
The following is taken from Harold Lythe’s obituary written by Dr Mike Scrowston and published in the Walkington Newsletter in 1979.
IN MEMORIAM – Harold died recently at the age of 92, prayers were said in Church in his memory. After the service, a member of the public asked who was he? Twelve years ago such a question would have been unthought of, because everybody knew him, in his capacity of church organist, in the post he had held for an incredible 64 years.
It is said that he returned early from his honeymoon so as not to miss playing at the Sunday service. Indeed, it took military service in a World War I – 21/2 years with the Royal Engineers – and the very extremes of ill-health to prevent him from attending a church service. His pay was fixed at something like £5 per annum, for almost as long as anyone can remember, and this was given back to the Church in one way or another. He was unusual in being willing to do “summat for nowt.” If young people getting married were a bit hard up, there was no question of an organists fee; if the Church gutters needed cleaning out, they were cleaned out, without a word to anyone.
He was a bricklayer by trade – brother of Sydney Lythe and father of Ernest and Lucy – but he was also a very talented handyman. I well remember the late Rector, the Rev Leslie Reynolds, asking Harold if you could make a model Easter Sepulchre. No, he was too old, and in any case such a job was quite beyond his capabilities. A week later, an incredibly realistic model just appeared on the vestry table and is still used each Easter.
His latter years have been spent in an old folks home. Here he played the piano to accompany the hymns every Sunday; here he continued his lifelong interest in clock repairing; here he has his sewing machine and made cushion covers and other household articles that any needlewoman would have been proud of; here he was busy till the very end. He left behind a half completed model on which he had just been working. True to form, it was perfect in every detail.
With Harold, there were no frills or fancies, either in his lifestyle or his music, he was just a down-to-earth, modest, reliable son of Walkington.
At his funeral, there were no flowers. Instead, donations were sent to the organ fund. The covering letter with one of these donations referred to Harold as “a kind and gentle man.” No words could have described him better.
It was reported that the donations from the funeral raised £109 for the church organ fund. Well, what more is there to say about this man, other than, whenever I go into All Hallows Church I give old Harold a nod and still don’t fully believe it.
Editor’s Note: Obituary published with the kind permission of Mrs S Scrowston.