George Jäger Senior's Prayer

My first encounter with my Great-Grandfather may have been in a letter that my father sent to me soon after my Ordination. The fact that my copy was typed by him suggests that he may have sent copies to my brothers and sisters. He headed it as follows:-

Great-Grandfather's Prayer. George Jager, born 5 Dec 1814. d.Aug 9 1901

Said by him daily in the family circle, morning and night. Some parts were used on Sundays only, some at night only and the following is what I remember from hearing this prayer through so many years of my childhood and early manhood.

My grandfather and I were constant companions and great friends. He had the spirit of a boy and was always cheerful and happy and universal in his sympathy. While for himself he held the strictest opinions on Religion and conduct, he was broadminded and had a fine greathearted tolerance where others were concerned, though he would never be tolerant of evil or untruth.

His ideal of a man was my father, whose character he literally worshipped. His prayer, which I should like my sons and daughters to adopt as their standard of what is right and true, is based entirely on the Bible. Every phrase comes direct from the Old or New Testament, and breathes of my grandfather's spirit. That it is still a wonderful power and influence I am certain: I hope it will always live in the minds of my children and of their children after them.

What follows is from recollection only:-

"We come unto Thee in His name, and pray that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. We thank thee for bringing us to see the light of another morning (Lord's Day) in health and peace and safety.

"Look in mercy on (our children) us all. Oh that we may be led into the way of truth and come unto the Knowledge of thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent; whom to know is life everlasting, whom to have is to have all things. Heal our souls and give us peace.

"Deliver us from indolence and presumption, from infidelity and atheism, from carnality, hypocrisy and false pride.

"We thank thee for giving us life and breath and all things. Thou givest seedtime and harvest: thou crownest the year with thy goodness: thou givest food in abundance for man and beast. How wonderful are thy works: how great is thy goodness toward us the sinful children of men.

"Deliver us from the power of evil, and from Satan who goeth about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Save us through him who died the death, the just for the unjust, to bring us unto life, who with his own Body on the Tree bore our sins and carried our sorrows.

"Bless us in our going out and our coming in. Watch over us on our beds: give us sweet and refreshing sleep and make us to rise betimes in the morning (ready and fit) to do thy will. Fit and prepare us to do thy will.

"Bless our King and his ministers, our judges and rulers and all that have authority in the land. Give them the spirit of their office that they may do what is right and just and equal: and fear thy great and holy name.

"Let thy mercy continually preserve us that, whether we live we may live unto thee, or whether we die we may die in Jesus. And unto thy great Name, thou eternal Jehovah, Father Son and Holy Spirit, be everlasting praises.


My father added in writing:-

"This prayer is most comforting and most comprehensive and most true. Every phrase is full of life and meaning and provides for every need and aspiration of Man. I am sure that I have remembered the sentences as he gave them with such sincerity and humility".

This prayer, however, with its set daily pattern, I could see was quite unsuitable to go with my anglican pattern of daily prayer based on Matins and Evensong. So I was unable to share my father's enthusiasm for it any more than his keenness on 'Protection', right-wing politics, golf or poker. I could not use the prayer, and so, with rather a guilty feeling, filed it away.

Now, in seeking to visualise the regular visits that my father made to his grandfather's in Leith from the age of seven, I could see how much he would have valued it, His father would bring him up from Liverpool and leave him to stay with his grandfather and aunts and the cousin who kept house for them. Every morning and evening young Harold would kneel with his elders in the dining room and join in these grown-up prayers, taken by his grandfather. As a seven year old, he would like them all the more for their sameness and predictability. Then he would proudly spend the day with grandfather, going to the Refinery to help him 'keep an eye on' the works and then, no doubt going down to the Quay side to look at the ships, for grandfather had kept his boyish love for ships, and would, incidentally, welcome any excuse for a sea trip.

There was, for example, the time that Harold and his grandfather had missed the Liverpool train at Waverley Station, and his father, having urgent business in Liverpool, had gone on the train and left them behind. "Never mind" said grandfather to the tearful boy, "We'll go by boat". And so they did!

Later, young Harold and old George would go together on long trips. There was the time when they went to see the field of Waterloo in Belgium; but it was raining so hard that they never got further than 'Quatre Bras' station. And, on a longer tour of Belgium, they went to Ghent twice. Harold knew that they had already been there, but grandfather insisted that 'Gand' (the Flemish name for the town) must be a different place. So they visited it again.

This time, they happened to see a notice advertising a direct sailing from Ghent to Leith, and decided that they would go home that way. This they duly did; but owing to a misunderstanding with their cab driver, they missed the boat at the quay, and had to chase it along the canal before it could be stopped to take them aboard.

There is a longer and livelier version of this tale, and there were others; but, while I was so busy being a Vicar and enjoying our growing family, my great-grandfather's life made little impact on me.

Then came the second encounter. My father died in 1955, And, among other papers at 'The Old Garden', I was given the three quarto notebooks which my great grandfather had written for the sake of his descendants, telling of the many adventures of his life, of which the greatest was his conversion. He was in his seventies when he wrote them, and there had evidently been earlier versions. The writing is quite legible (with a few puzzles); but the punctuaion and spelling needed some editing to make it readable.

I soon discovered that I had not only an ancestor but a character well worth knowing and a story that needed passing on not only to his descendants but to many others. After all, few workhouse boys have had such success.

I was, at this time, Industrial Chaplain at Leicester Cathedral, and had a typist for whom, as Chaplain, I had not yet sufficient work. So I arranged with the Provost that I might pay her for the time that she spent helping me to deal with these note books.

She proved to be excellent at reading great-grandfather's writing and following my instructions; but she allowed me to make a serious error of judgement that, after more than thirty years, is only now being rectified.

For we soon discovered that the note books contained not one memoir but two, covering the same ground. It was the same story, and sometimes the same words, but there were different descriptions of the same events, and some events were omitted altogether from one version, and others from the other. (Later I discovered that there was a briefer, and probably earlier, third account, written on sheets of notepaper).

My big mistake was to decide to conflate the two accounts into one continuous story, choosing whichever of the two versions seemed to me to be fuller or more lively. It was this conflated story that has been circulated to so many publishers over the years. Whether they would have been more interested in the two versions, each printed as a whole in one book, I cannot tell. But I am sure that it is right to do this now, and that it is also right and neccessary to print some account of my adventures in following up this story.

So the conflated account was duly typed out, and, before the days of Xerox, circulated first to older members of my family. I ought to have anticipated one difficulty. My father's sister, Frieda, saw her grandfather's tale in a quite different way from that which I experienced when writing of him as my great-grandfather. To me he was, and is, a hero with whom I am glad and proud to be connected. His early poverty, and his adventures as a teenage tramp, and the hardships of his middle years are a source to me not only of interest but of pride. To Aunty Frieda it was all quite different. She had known him as a frail old man, and, before that as a rather alarming grandfather, of whom, as a fashionable young lady, he was something of an embarrassment. The Jagers were in her day, rich people who did not (as far as she and her mother were concerned) at all wish to be reminded that 'George Jager & Son' had grown from very humble beginnings. If you were accustomed to staying at Cannes at the same hotel as the Prince of Wales, you did not even like it be be known that you had any connection with 'trade'. Moreover, her husband, my uncle Francis Scott, had two more generations of wealth and gentility behind him. She did not want to snub me; but she was not at all happy to be known as the granddaughter of one who had been a workhouse boy. So the notebooks were, for quite a time, tactfully not returned, and Uncle Francis gently made it plain that he could not be expected to help with the publication.

I have become, over the years, more confident, and perhaps more radical over my editing of great-grandfather's spelling and punctuation. Punctuation has never been my strong point; but, in order to make for easy reading I hope that we have achieved a sufficiency of strong, short, sentences. Spelling has been frequently corrected; but I hope to have left sufficient characteristic errors to retain the flavour. There are also plenty of nouns beginning with capital letters, in the German way, and also some German distortion of word order. I have retained the mistakes that were made in the repetition of German dialogue. I hope to have at least one page printed in facsimile so that the reader can judge for himself.

Having said all this, it is high time to begin the transcript. The page numbers on the left are those of this print. Those on the right are are the page numbers of the MS books. There are also occasional dates in brackets.