George Back

A choirboy remembers the first pilgrimage
My first recollection of Fr. Patten was the way he prepared the people of Walsingham for the revival of the Shrine and the pilgrimages to be made to it. We had no sermon at Sunday Evensong but in its place he answered questions which had been placed in a box on the font before Evensong. As one can imagine these were varied— the first being "why do you wear a hat in church"? Early in 1922 we were told that a pilgrimage from London would take place in July. As the day approached we wondered what the pilgrims would be like — especially as many of us were asked to accommodate one or more for a couple of nights. My own mother agreed to put up one person and was astonished to learn that the person was to be a Mrs. Back. There was great excitement when the train drew in from London, and many people were at the station to greet the "poor pilgrims". (Many were there out of curiosity I suspect !) Sunday was the day of the first Procession which was from St. Mary's to the Abbey Grounds, and the numbers were swelled by many sightseers from around the County to witness the unusual happening. I was a choirboy at the time and we felt very important as we had our vestry to robe in, and did not have to find a place in the church which was full and overcrowded. I think we all felt sad at the departure of our friends but many did return more than once. [this account does not tally with what we know as the ‘first pilgrimage’]