[From Manx Quarterly, #25]
(By William Radcliffe.)
The announcement of the death of the Rev. F. LaMothe, M.A., late Vicar of Heaton, Bolton, and formerly curate of Andreas, brings back .the memory of many phases of his career as to some of which I had personal knowledge, while others I learnt directly from himself.
A brief record of my recollections may prove of interest to the remnant of those who knew him in the Island and serve to show the present generation what manner of man he was.
One evening about forty-five years ago, I had seen on the Andreas Village Green, as I afterwards told my mother, " A mighty big man with curly lack hair talking very gennal to some boys, and then to a man who saluted him in Manx." It turned out that I had seen the Archdeacon's new curate and had noted one of his leading characteristics, the happy gift of getting into genial conversation with young and old. In those days all my associations were with the Lhen. I attended the Lhen School on week-days and the Lhen Chapel on Sundays. A visit to the village was something of an adventure.
One day there came to the little school at the Lhen, not " the terble man-the Inspector," but the man I had seen on the Village Green, Mr LaMothe-sent by the Archdeacon to see how we were getting on with our three R's.
(I must protest here that our school was certainly not the school portrayed in T. E. Brown's poem, for our Master, Mr William Silas Christian, was a man of good intelligence and an excellent teacher.)
Many years afterwards, Mr LaMothe told me that on that occasion he noticed one red-haired little fellow clutching himself by the knees in a grim endeavour to keep still and pay attention to the questions put by the visitor. The little fellow was myself alas, the red hair has gone and the result of some questions on the dots that puzzled Lord Randolph Churchill before now was that I was deemed to have the best knowledge of decimal fractions, and was there and then presented with a new eighteen penny Arithmetic to take the place of the fourpenny one I had worked through several times.
Soon afterwards I transferred to the Parochial School, and came under the religious instruction given by . Mr LaMothe for forty minutes every morning. A few of those whose parents did not approve of distinctive Church teaching went into the Master's class. Morning after morning for many years, on the stroke of nine o'clock, Mr LaMothe entered the old schoolroom with his Reference Bible under his arm; morning after morning, his lesson given, he went to the Rectory to take his orders for the day. Archdeacon Moore was now an old man, relying more and more on his citrate's care of the parish, and very faithfully did the curate obey his instructions. Loyalty to lawful authority was always one of his cardinal doctrines, but in this case (as I learnt in later life) there was more than loyalty, there was self-sacrifice. Bishop Hill had wished the Archdeacon to resign on the ground of advancing years. The Archdeacon's reply was, "I'll resign if LaMothe leaves me." When LaMothe heard this he said, "I'll stick to the Arch deacon to the end." And not only did he carry out the ordinary duty of preaching twice on Sunday in the Parish Church and once a week in the Lhen School; of superintending the Sunday-school and conducting monthly children's services; of teaching Scripture in the day-school every morning; of conducting various classes in the Reading Room-he was also a most faithful visitor of the poor and sick, and the confidant of all who were in trouble.
For a good many years he acted as unpaid Clerk to the Andreas School Committee, and for a period was Diocesan Schools Inspector. During this arduous period of his life, I began to appreciate more clearly the qualities of the man. I had become a pupilteacher, and along with another youth went to his apartments for free instruction in Latin. Gradually I realised the brilliance of his past career. He had been the favourite pupil of T. E. Brown at King William's College, where he had won the Poem Prize thus following in the footsteps of Farrar and T. E. Brown himself.
From King William's he had won a Scholarship to Corpus Christi, and taken his degree with Honours in Classics. In a glass case he kept a highly-valued silver cup. This was his College trophy for sculling, won by himself. He admitted that had he wished he might have rowed in the university boat race, following his brother Claude, who rowed for Cambridge in 1865.
A beautiful picture of Wells Cathedral aroused my curiosity, and I then learnt that it was there Mr LaMothe had been ordained, and that previous to coming to Andreas he had been four years a curate in Somersetshire and three years tutor and private chaplain to Sir John Crewe.
It often occurred to me that it was a mistake for a man of his fine academic qualifications to return to the Isle of Man. He seemed to me the ideal man for a college post. I never understood it till in my maturer years, he told me he knew he was sacrificing his career by coming to the
Island, but he felt the call of duty. The Scholarship he had won at King William's College had originally been intended to help candidates for the ministry of the Manx Church, and he felt that by returning to the Island for a period-altogether eleven years-he had discharged a moral obligation. -
The friendship that arose between Thomas Edward Brown and Frederick LaMothe as master and pupil only ceased with Brown's death, and the pupil's most highly valued treasure was his collection of letters from the master. Some of these wonderful letters certainly equal to anything in the published letters of T. E. Brown.
On the death of Archdeacon Moore, the Vacant post was offered by Mr Asquith to T. E. Brown. At first the great man was inclined to accept, and wrote to ask his old pupil to remain as curate. "You will do the parish work Fred, and I will sit at the desk." This happy arrangement would have come to pass were it not that Brown was told of the injured feelings of certain self-righteous people who objected to the unconventional language of the " Fo'c's'le Yarns." That settled it. The offer was declined, and when, some years later, it was offered him again, he wouldn't listen to the proposal.
On leaving the Island in 1887, after marrying Miss Mabel C. Joughin, of Andreas, Mr LaMothe became curate of Sti James's, Higher Broughton, Manchester, under the Rev. C. E. Stewart, who many years afterwards died while on a visit to Ramsey and was buried in the churchyard of Mr LaMothe's native parish of Lezayre.
During this same year I became associated with Mr LaMothe again this time as assistant master of the schools connected with his church. He had now put aside his manuscript sermons and preached extempore. For a few years I took down his sermon on Sunday and read it to him from my shorthand notes on Monday evening. The arrangement was mutually helpful. He could thus ascertain how he had said what he intended to say, and for me it was valuable practice in keeping up my shorthand speed. This task accomplished we resolved ourselves into a sort of Manx Society and discussed everybody and every thing connected with the Island. I greatly admired his gift for telling good stories, and am extremely sorry I failed to make notes of them.
Thirty years ago, both of us left Manchester, he to take charge of a temporary church at Heaton, Bolton, I to become Master of my old school at Kirk Andreas. Though now separated, I followed with the greatest interest his magnificent effort to build a new church and Vicarage. as well as to provide the nucleus of an endowment fund. In fifteen years he collected the sum of £30,000 for church and Vicarage, and the beautiful church at Heaton is a memorial for all time of his arduous work. He preached his farewell sermon at Heaton last August, and on leaving the parish was- presented by his parishioners with a cheque for £500 in token of their great esteem.
Becoming seriously ill in a Norfolk village at the end of September, he was taken to London-first to a Nursing Home, and afterwards to the residence of his married daughter. Thus it came to pass that I had the opportunity of seeing my old friend here in London on several occasions within a few weeks of his death.
The burden of his preaching ever had been that a life of duty faithfully done would bring peace at the last, and I was privileged to see in his own person the triumphal vindication of his own doctrine.
Rallying a little, he was removed to the South of Devon to be the near neighbour of Lady Wallace, the mother of his eldest son's wife, whose untimely death had grieved him much. Gradually and peacefully, like a tired child, he sank to rest, and his body now lies beside that of his daughter-in-law in a little rural churchyard within sound of the sea; his spirit has heard the welcome of " Well done, good and faithful servant."