22 June 2023
‘Singing our Song’:
three photographs from
Spanish Point in a new book
by a much-loved teacher
The late Hellgard Leckebusch (1944-2023) is the author of a charming memoir with a strong Church of Ireland resonance. Hellgard was a teacher in Wesley College, Dublin, for five years, and she regarded Christ Church in Spanish Point, Co Clare, as her spiritual home. The people who strongly influenced her include a former Rector of Spanish Point, Canon David Elliott, and a former Rector of Taney in Dublin, Canon Walter Burrows.
Many people in Dublin remember Hellgard Leckebusch as a young teacher in Wesley College in Dublin at a time when the school moved from Saint Stephen’s Green to a ‘greenfield’ site in Ballinteer.
Three of my photographs – including a full-page photograph of the Elliott Memorial Window in Spanish Point – are included in this new book by Hellgard Leckebusch: Singing our Song, the Memoirs of Hellgard Leckebusch (1944-2023). The book is edited by Silke Püttmann and Kenneth Ferguson, and was published by Silke Püttmann in Mettmann, Germany, last month (May 2023) as an e-book.
Hellgard died on 18 February 2023, having never managed to finish her planned book. But her friends Kenneth Ferguson and Silke Püttmann completed that task. Silke was soon on hand, and in a position to assist the executors.
Ken, who was a pupil in Wesley College for all of Hellgard’s five years as a teacher there, and witnessed the opening of the new Wesley College in 1969. He provided the final structure and layout of the book, found Hellgard’s Preface, wrote the introduction and expanded it to cover Hellgard’s life to the end. Ken and shares many of her memories of people and places.
Ken also provided detailed information on a Wesley College staff picture from 1969-1970, new photographs of the places where Hellgard lived in Dublin, and information on and photographs of the Lutheran Church in Ireland in the 1960s. Ken’s wife Traudi proofread the book and provided valuable comments and suggestions.
The book cover is illustrated with a portrait by her son the Belfast artist, Sam Barry, and inside the book is Illustrated with materials of family provenance, and photographs supplied by her friends, including my three photographs, and there are references to my blog too.
Hellgard imbibed much from the spirit of the Church of Ireland of the 1950s and 1960s. One of the intriguing photographs in this book shows her among the white-gowned and veiled Rosleven girls who were confirmed by Bishop Pike in Athlone in 1959.
Her mentor in Miltown Malbay, Co Clare, Canon David Elliott (1885-1972), is perhaps the hero of the work, and she saw his church, Christ Church, Spanish Point, as her spiritual home. My blog posting on Spanish Point two years ago is used to confirm Canon Elliott’s biographical details.
Another Church of Ireland priest who features strongly in the book is Canon Walter Burrows (1908-1990), Rector of Taney, the parish in which the new campus of Wesley College was built. She held Canon Burrows in high regard as ‘a very spiritual man, very academic, very humble.’
Canon Burrows had an only son, Michael, whom Hellgard knew as a boy, and they kept in touch ever after.
When he grew up he followed in his father’s footsteps and we have served together on many church committees, including the Archbishop’s Committee for the decade of Evangelism, various boards and councils of the Anglican mission agency USPG, and the Church of Ireland Council for Christian Unity and Dialogue and the Interfaith Working Group.
He was Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory when he was elected Bishop of Tuam, Limerick and Killaloe, just as I was retiring from parish ministry in the Diocese of Limerick.
Christ Church, Spanish Point, is within his diocese, and Ken Ferguson recalls: ‘In the weeks before her death, Hellgard was eagerly anticipating a visit from the Bishop. This visit, alas, was not to be. Having fallen repeatedly in her flat, Hellgard was brought to hospital on 17 February, and died there early on 18 February 2023.
That same day the Bishop and his wife were at the airport when Ida telephoned the news. They went ahead with their journey, walked on the following day to the church in Wuppertal that Hellgard had recommended they should attend, and afterwards made their way to the entrance door of Nützenberger Str. 3, there to linger and reflect.’
Ken explains that the ‘story of Hellgard’s interaction with one elderly clergyman of the Church of Ireland is an important part of her tale. The poignant vignette of the Bishop’s visit, just after her death, is a fitting addendum to her life, reflective of the enduring bond between Hellgard and clergy of the Church of Ireland whom she held in esteem.’
In his kind message to me with details of this new book, Ken Ferguson says: ‘I was very sorry to hear about your stroke, and I hope that things are getting better. You are an ornament to the Church of Ireland, and God must arrange for you to recover your health.’
This book also records some of Hellgard Leckebusch’s affectionate memories of members of the Comerford family in Spanish Point.
The hairdresser in the village was a Mrs Comerford, remembered as ‘a lovely and talented, a very intelligent lady … such a wonderful woman with a sharp, clear mind.’
Her mother used Mrs Comerford’s original Christmas Cake recipe for years, ‘and later on, so did I.’
In her recollection of summer swimming and life-saving competitions in resorts in Co Clare, recalls Billy Comerford and the life-saving competition group who won first prize in life-saving for the province and second place in Ireland.