Notes on a Crockford's Entry

This was written probably in December 1976 for the Leicester Cathedral Quarterly. His entry in Crockford's Clerical Directory was presumably

Jager, George. b. 10 SS. Coll. Cam. B.A. 32, M.A. 36, Westcott Ho. Cam. 37-8; d.38 p.39 Man.; C Swinton 38-41; I Billesley Common 41-8; C.F. 48-9; V St Leon. Leic 49-54; Chap. of Leic. Cathl. and Chap. of Christian Industrial Council, Leic. 54-56; I Earl Shilton w Elmesthorpe Leic 56-68; I Sutton Courtenay w Appleford Ox 68-75;

The article included the entries above as subheadings, but I have decoded them.


JAGER, George - Sidney Sussex College Cambridge, B.A. 1932, M.A. 1936.

I went to Sidney Sussex because it had a connection with Blundells, my old School. I read Mechanical Sciences because, as a stammerer, I had switched from Classics, after getting 'Higher Cert.', in order to pursue a profession in which, as I thought, you did not have to deal with people. Cambridge was congenial. To my surprise, I joined the O.T.C., rowed in the Third Boat with other non-athletes, and got a "Second". Mather & Platt of Manchester accepted me as a Graduate Apprentice at 2 a week.

The day before I was due to start, I had a motor cycle accident and heard the doctor attending me at the road-side wonder whether I would live to get to hospital. While recovering I joined the 'Oxford Group' (precursor of 'Moral Rearmament ') and went to Quaker Meetings; but it was Toc H that pushed me into becoming a priest. I had already discovered that even the most technical of engineers cannot escape involvement with people, and then a Cambridge friend at Mathers persuaded me to come to the Toc H 'Mark' in Salford. There the padré, Michael Coleman, challenged me to "live-in" with twenty others. (Not my scene, surely, with my Acoustic gramophone and Bach records!) But I went in 'head first', and was soon so much involved in Toc H and Boys Club work, etc., that Holy Communion in our cellar Chapel became a necessity instead of a duty. Even so, I found my stamina was not sufficient to enable me to continue to combine a full-time job (now at £4 p.w.) with such engrossing work with people. Should I become a probation officer, or what? An overnight Toc H visitor, Tom Savage, later dean of Cape Town, persuaded me that I ought to become a priest.

Westcott House Theological College Cambridge 1937-38

B.K. Cunningham was so deaf that you had to speak directly into his lapel microphone. This was too much for my stammer [at my interview]. In 45 minutes I could not complete one sentence; but he accepted me, and my father paid my fees. Would any Committee have had the courage to do either?

After three months in digs at Hatfield, reading through the Bible and Kenneth Kirk's The Vision of God, and starting a voice production course with Lionel Logue (who also taught George VI), I went up to Westcott in January 1937. C.H. Dodd lit up the New Testament for me and W.H.Elmslie the Old, and talk with my fellow students aroused a love for theology. "B.K." and Westcott Chapel taught me to be a solid Anglican. Westcott was right for me! In spite of the efforts of Logue, Jos Reed (our singing master), and "Father" Hulbert (father of Jack and Claude), my stammer was still paralytic. However, two visits to a cranky Norfolk parson (friend of another stammering student) got me "over the Hump". (B.K. was right! As God had called me, God would make it possible!) Since then, my stammer has sometimes worried others, but has never silenced me!

Ordained deacon 1938, priest 1939 in Manchester diocese, Curate of Swinton 1938-41

I was made a deacon at the time of the Munich crisis. I had chosen to go back to Manchester because I knew the language and loved the people. Swinton had a dear shy vicar, Denis Fletcher, four Church schools, a coal-black parish church and two mission churches, three curates and seven Sunday School superintendents. As it was easier to rent a small house than to find me lodgings, the Vicar suggested that my sister (who taught in nearby Pendleton) and I should set up house. Together we "sponsored" a Czech refugee, who was our housekeeper. I learned to teach (on the strength of a ten-day course at Blackheath) and to preach, and to visit, and to brief an architect. My business experience pointed to my becoming correspondant of one of our day schools: no other architect has approached the excellence of my first!

When war came, our improvements were complete and the Vicar was on holiday. As a pacifist he did not believe that war could come! (Brother Douglas, S.S.F., whom I chauffered for a day at Hatfield, had converted me from pacifism.) Of course, I wrote to the Bishop, saying that I would go as a chaplain if he so directed; but when the letter at last came, bombs had just fallen on the parish, and I decided to stay. Once the school shelters had been dug we carried on as usual. The Christmas blitz on Manchester introduced me to my future wife. Margaret, with other Salford teachers, had been recalled by a B.B.C. message, and came to stay with us. In the New Year I attended the Malvern Conference, convened by the I.C.F. (with William Temple in the chair, and, to me, a dazzling list of speakers) to consider a social policy for "the Church in the Post-War world". It was, as my Vicar said, an "Invitation Do"; but I got an invitation by sending in my record as an engineer. It was an education for me, and was probably the cause of a letter out of the blue from the Bishop of Birmingham, E.W.Barnes, inviting me to come to see him about becoming -

Vicar of Billesley Common, Birmingham 1941-8

I wrote back to say that I would be too orthodox for him, and then wrote again to say that, as I was hoping soon to get married, I should, after all, be glad to come to see him. He appointed me to Billesley Common, with its three housing estates, a wooden hall, a Church that had been completed just before the war - and no vicarage. Margaret and I were married in August, and our children were born in Brum - Dorothy in a smart little rented house, and the other two in the vicarage that we bought for £750. "I am afraid it is very small, my Lord - it used to be a Council house!" "You will at least be warm", said the Bishop, whose central heating had expired with the beginning of hostilities. After two years he sent me a curate, telling him that he could have a title only if he came to me! Poor John, he left me as soon as he could! Who could work happily, solo under an inexperienced vicar, after such a start? I was rather political, actively supporting Sir Richard Acland's "Common Wealth" party, and proposing a motion on common ownership at a diocesan conference, by way of a follow-up to "Malvern". Then, when the war was over, and prompted by a concern for our National Service men, and also for my ancestral Germany (Remember "Save Europe Now!"?), I shocked my bishop by resigning Billesley and accepting a "special offer" to serve as an army chaplain for eighteen months in Germany -

Chaplain in the armed forces 1948-49

I had six months in Berlin, serving the Worcestershire Regiment and a tank section and a squadron of the 11th Hussars. Someone must have liked my padré's hours, as I was then sent to be Warden of Verden Church House (the first man to be posted out of Berlin during the Air-Lift!). I led Christian leaderships courses for junior officers or senior N.C.O.s, and then Christian Information courses for squads of National Servicemen, and, between courses, was host to visiting dignitaries and various conferences. Although we had staff of an admin. officer and six National Servicemen (one became principal of Cuddesdon), and sixty German civilians, I was the only lecturer. The Army in Germany was a wonderful education for me; but it meant that my wife had to take our three very small children off to live with my father and younger brother and two sisters. Eighteen months were quite long enough!

Vicar of St Leonards, Leicester 1949-54

I had intended to go back to Manchester; but the new Bishop had nothing suitable. So I went to take charge of Burnley Parish Church - the rector (and Bishop) of Burnley having died suddenly without even a Curate - and then, on the introduction of my Westcott friend Robin Woods (whose greatcoat I had worn during my army service), was invited by Bishop Vernon Smith to come to St Leonards. The parish was at a low ebb and in financial difficulty; but the few Church people were splendid. We had to have a "one day sale" within three months to put 60 in the bank: and then, after calling in steeplejacks to stop the rain cascading through our lofty roof, the P.C.C. and I had to sign a "joint and several" guarantee for a loan of 300. I have never been so proud of my friends.

But money troubles went as soon as they were faced, and more people came to Church. We had accepted the charge of the new estate being built at Stocking Farm, with services in the farm house, and sometimes in the open, and a Sunday School, led by Douglas Mouat, first in Laing's unheated huts and then in the school. On Mothering Sunday two double-decker buses would come down from Stocking Farm and one from our Sunday School, led by Frank Baxter, on the Stadium Estate. My industrial background and army experience of the value of adult courses made me a keen member of the Leicester Christian Industrial Council. When the Chaplain was put out of action by a motor cycle accident, I was urgently invited to become -

Chaplain of Leicester Cathedral and Chaplain of Christian Industrial Council, Leicester 1954-56

Foolishly, I agreed to begin at once. With better preparation, I might have made this pioneer ecumenical chaplaincy workable, and persuaded my council to let me do things my way; but, as it was, I was a failure and could have done better work by staying at St Leonard's. But I learned a lot - on the shop floor and in various offices, meetings and conferences - and made many friends. The cathedral side of the work was fine, with Mervyn Armstrong as provost and Francis Pratt as fellow Chaplain, and our Christopher in the choir; but I would have been more useful if my singing had been up to standard! I left a visible mark there - by demonstrating that the windows could be cleaned, and then cheering on the whitening of the interior walls. The Bishop enabled me to resign by appointing me to be -

Vicar of Earl Shilton with Elmesthorpe, Leicester Diocese 1956-68

though first I served a summer as Chaplain of Butlin's Filey Camp. There again, my concept of chaplaincy did not prove acceptable to my "boss". We had a very cordial welcome at Earl Shilton and Elmesthorpe, as my predecessor had not lasted two years, and we had a brand-new vicarage. Village life (albeit with a population of over 5000, in a ward of Hinckley U.D.C.) was a welcome novelty; and the close co-operation with Earl Shilton's four Chapels (and, later, the Roman Catholics) with yearly United Sunday School Walks (the "Treats") and separate Sunday School festivals (the "Sermons") was a happy fulfillment of my Toc H and Lancashire beginnings.

Before the first year was out, I had been challenged, by a promise of £1000 and generous gifts, to build the Parish Church Hall - a project that had been "hanging fire" since King George's Jubilee. (How, in spite of my protests, it was built without "benefit of Architect" is another story!) Gifts and Covenants, and mysterious reserves disgorged by our treasurer, covered the entire cost without any further appeal.

While at Earl Shilton I was a Samaritan Counsellor, looked after the Clergy Widows, and did various other diocesan jobs. We were very happy there; but after ten years I felt I was beginning to repeat myself and did not want to grow old in a tough parish that needed a young vicar (& rector); so I asked the Bishop for a move. After another year I asked more widely and the dean (Robin Woods) and chapter of Windsor appointed me as -

Vicar of Sutton Courtenay with Appleford, Oxford Diocese, 1968-75

Sutton Courtenay is a Thames-side village with a picture-postcard green at one end and an Estate "with the highest social work caseload in North Berkshire" at the other, and Appleford as a good foil. The Church is a delight, illustrating the history of English church architecture. The vicarage (now sold) was the very best A & M, and, though the garden was too large, particularly after dear Mr Benford had to retire, it was fun. The people, in and out of the congregation, are splendidly varied, ranging from Ph.Ds (3 on the P.C.C.) to MD, and of every social (and other) class. When, after great debate, it was decided to rebuild and improve our worm-infested organ instead of discarding it, I put the softest of soft sales spiels in our magazine, and, with a printed appeal in the same vein and some letters written by our organist, the required 2000 came within six weeks. Small wonder that when our new Bishop urged those clergy who could afford to buy houses (particularly those in desirable parishes!) to retire at 65, I could not but do as he suggested. So here I am, fit and retired, at South Kilworth!

Our great loss on leaving Leicester for Oxford was to go from a compact diocese, where we seemed to know, and be known by, everyone, to a much larger diocese where we knew only our immediate neighbours and a few old friends. For me this was modified by my being appointed as secretary (and the only ordinary vicar) of the Bishop of Oxford's Working Party on Industrial Mission. My main function was to make minutes of our discussions and to tell our brainier members when I could not understand what they were saying (or had written). It was a very good report; but our recommendations were killed by inflation. Margaret gained much from an excellent clergy wives' group, and from membership of the Music and Arts Committee of Berks W.I. We have never had more appreciative congregations than the W.I. members who packed Sutton Courtenay Church on four successive nights for the very professional "Son et Lumière" presentation of our local history.

But we are very glad to be back in Leicestershire!