A story I wrote in 1985 and just rediscovered. I rather enjoyed reading it again (I hope that doesn’t sound big-headed) so thought I’d share the piece. I think there may be a bit of self-observation buried here somewhere. Anyway, here it is …
The Mud Lark.
Underneath his fresh brown coat of mud, the Mud Lark is a beautiful blue, grey and white. If you could catch a Mud Lark and scrub it clean, you would see these colours for yourself. This bird is, however, rarely seen in the clean state.
The first thing he does every morning is fall into the first muddy puddle or ditch he can find and roll around, pretending it is an accident. The Mud Lark spends the rest of the day in some thorny thicket or secluded tree top – he is not fussy – and makes an imitation of preening himself. He does not become significantly cleaner.
This is the way his whole life is spent, rolling in mud and pretend to preen. In the evenings he may find a couple of berries to eat, and then rests. With a little effort he could be as beautiful as any of the other birds, but nobody has managed to catch him yet, let alone tell him how fine things could be without all the mud.
Chatting with someone recently, I learned of a Father Francis ‘Frank’ Hughes, born 1915, died 1998, who not only took services in Glenridding and but also helped with mountain rescue. The person I spoke with described him as ‘a lovely man’ and ‘a bit of a character’. With only a few passing references on the web, I though it worth making some enquiries from people who may have known him, and received the following comments. Although only a few snippets, they sketch a picture of someone who seems to have been quite an individual and who is clearly remembered with affection. Thank you to all who provided information.
It was in the days when the late Father Frank Hughes was still alive so we headed round to his home where the door was always open (literally) and we were able to change into the dry things whilst he prepared hot drinks for us. He was a wonderful man who thought nothing of going out at stupid hours to rescue people whose car had had an argument with a wall on Hardknott Pass and bring them back to his home.
He worked for many years with the Patterdale Mountain Rescue team and was also the founder of The Kendal Bowmen. He only ever took one holiday – to visit the Leper Colony for which he raised funds. When asked why he never went away he would simply say “who needs to go away when I can just look out of my window and see all this?”
He would give out Yorkie bars out at the end of mass, the only reason I agreed to go.
Yep Yorkies after mass. I think he was a keen archer. He really helped his community. There was an article about him in a National newspaper. Great photo of him in the kitchen at Bishop’s Scale serving tea after the charity walk.
Father Hughes used to drive over from Glenridding to say Mass on Saturday evenings. He would come throughout the year, often in challenging weather conditions. There used to be a little church at Glenridding, St. Philip Howard, and Fr. Frank lived there.
[The] father who took Saturday mass at Langdale who was referred to as the late father Hughes because he was always running late.
He wasn’t young in those days, and not very big, but he was fit and active and, indeed, much liked. He had contacts in Liberia, and would preach about the corruption there, and ask us to pray for the people.
We were in Tyn Twr [a club hut in Snowdonia] and were having ‘words’ in the lounge. We didn’t think [he] could hear us, when we went into the kitchen he said he couldn’t concentrate on his prayers. He also told us of a time he was crossing private land when the landowner challenged him, he challenged the landowners right to refuse him access. The landowner explained his ancestors “… fought for this land”. The father replied, “As did mine, shall I fight you for it now?‘”
A long time ago now … in the hall at the Grisedale Horsehoe Fell Race. Father Hughes happily passed the race time by playing the piano beautifully. As I listened and watched him his love of playing the piano was obvious.
“[Father Hughes] suffered a stroke earlier in the year and is now home again and convalescing.” [ARCC Bulletin 89, June 1983.]
“The latest news I have is that Fr. Hughes is making good progress and should soon be back with us.” [ARCC Journal 1991.]
“… much appreciated [was] the hospitality at Father Hughes’ house at Glenridding. The only complaint was that the abundance of food and drink made the climb up Mires Beck and Catstycam heavy going.” [A walk report in the ARCC Journal, 1994.]
“It is with sadness I that I report on the death of Fr. Frank Hughes, our club chaplain or as he would have rather put it the Late Fr. Hughes, and for those of you who may not understand that phrase, he usually arrived late for Mass here in Langdale, having driven over the Struggle from Glenridding to get here, and would introduce himself as the ‘Late Fr. Hughes’. He was everyone’s idea of a priest, a lovable character, kind and generous but with a very stubborn streak. He had a number of minor accidents whilst travelling over the Struggle to Bishop’s Scale in the ice and snow, but refused to listen to any arguments about not coming at all in the winter months. He was a great friend to all of us and will be sadly missed.” [Derek Price (Chairman), Minutes of the AGM, ARCC Journal 1998.]
“Father Frank Hughes, a former Club Chaplain, I will always remember for his outlook on life and his hospitality. His piano playing will always remain with me.” [Mountaineering Reflections, by John Braybrook. ARCC Journal 2005.]
“A wonderful man who was to become a good friend of Pilgrim Adventureand who, until he was too old and ill, loved nothing more than to climb the great hills.” [19 Jan 2021.]
Comment from B… R… (the person who first told me about Fr. Hughes, inspiring this blog post):
Thank you so much for taking the time for this research and article. I remember Father Hughes so fondly from my childhood holidays. Yes! He was a keen archer! I’d forgotten that part. He gave me a lesson one day. He was all of these things that people describe him as. Mostly, he was kind. It was lovely to read all of these memories.
Fr. Frank Hughes was a full [Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team] member and is now deceased. He passed away some years ago in care of the nuns at [a Catholic retreat in the southern Lake District]. He had moved to Glenridding to a bungalow and chapel that was built on the lowest row of new houses behind the garage. The chapel had been built by some catholic charity possibly linked to the Achille Ratti catholic climbing club, and Father Frank used to celebrate the only mass between Penrith and Windermere.
He was a very generous man and regularly took gifts and presents out to leaper colonies for the affected children.
He was a team member in his sixties, but in a very ‘pedestrian’ way – never a climber, but he did turn out on call outs and searches. I remember one overnight missing peron search on the side of Kirkstone/Red Screes, in thick snow [we] lost contact with Father Frank. As we approached Caiston Glen, we had to get the team to turn around begin to search for Frank. He turned up about a hour later at Brotherswater Hotel from who knows where. When we tried to argue with him about wandering off in a whiteout, his only answer was ‘Never worry about me, I will be alright because God will look after me, have you found the misper yet!‘
On another call-out he frightened the casualty by leaning over him in his dog collar, telling the poor bloke that he was doing “last rights” today. I do remember him taking some very wet and ill equipped folk back to dry off and sleep at the cottage more than once. His other forte was to bring either soup and a bowl of chips, or coffee and cake across to us when we used go collecting with the Landrovers on the village green at Easter.
Sincere thanks to members of the Achille Ratti Climing Club and Patterdale Mountain Rescue for their help with this article..