The Helmsley Chronicles: a Diary celebrating rural and church life… a remedy for the uncertainties of the modern world by David Wilbourne (2012).
I was immediately attracted to the cover of this book; a painting of the stone houses, church and bridge over the river which I recognised to be the attractive town of Helmsley in North Yorkshire.
Author David Wilbourne was vicar of Helmsley before becoming Assistant Bishop of Llandaff, and the book consists of diary entries from 1997 to 1998, his first year in the Parish. Some of you may recall his regular diary column in the Church Times on which the book is based.
The book is written in a gentle style, and deals with life in rural North Yorkshire, with the same kinds of characters to be found in the writings of James Herriot and Gervase Phinn. While Herriot drove around in an old car, Wilbourne seemed to spend a lot of time bicycling from Helmsley to his parishioners and to his other lonely churches, often in bad weather and at speed as he desperately tries to get to his appointment on time after phone calls and visitors at the vicarage inevitably mean a late start.
The diaries don’t only deal with everyday life; some of the big issues as also touched on briefly. 1997 was after all the year Princess Diana died. It was also the year a gay wedding in the US made the TV news.
But mainly the diaries show a compassionate vicar trying his best to be accepted and make a difference in his parish, just as many are doing a decade later. Even in an idyllic part of the country, there are problems of vandalism. He speaks of “the intercessions book, thrown on the floor by the thief, containing the heartfelt pleas of folk carrying so much tragedy”. It is the mixture of tragedy and humour which makes this book so enjoyable.
Reviewed by Jenny Monds, Director of Learning Resources, Sarum College.
Published by Darton, Longman and Todd, ‘The Helmsley Chronicles’ is normally priced at £12.99. Mention the Sarum College Website to order a copy at the special price of £11.99 and POST FREE from Sarum College Bookshop until April 30th 2013.