The Oratorian baronet; priest, soldier, and confessor

The Oratorian baronet; priest, soldier, and confessor

Nobody writes obituaries like the British press. Then again nobody gives fodder for those obits like the Brits.

Fr Sir Hugh Barrett-Lennard, Bt, an Oratorian and baronet, died this week at the age of 89 and was a highly regarded, if eccentric, priest.

Pursuing a busy and eclectic apostolate in Knightsbridge, he was a dedicated parish visitor, so unconcerned about his appearance that he sometimes wore odd shoes; thus attired he would knock firmly on the doors of rich and poor alike.

He visited the Household Cavalry, and served as a chaplain to both the local St Thomas More school and the St Christopher cycling club, though his cassock occasionally became tangled in a bicycle wheel and had to be cut free. For a time (until his absentmindedness with keys led to concerns about security) he acted as an unofficial chaplain at Wormwood Scrubs prison, where his masses were said to be served by two prisoners known as Hammer and Sickle. He enjoyed recalling how he had once been served at Benediction by a thurifer who was a murderer and by two acolytes who had been convicted of causing grievous bodily harm.

It goes on to describe other notable tales of his priesthood, his experiences fighting in the Second World War, and the eccentricities of his forebears, which apparently explains it all as a genetic quirk.

I’ve often noted that great saints have very strange social behaviors, perhaps owing to their unconcern for the minutiae of this world and concentration on the next. Perhaps Father Sir Hugh might be counted among them.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • Hugh Barrett-Lennard died on June 21, and is succeeded in the baronetcy by Peter John Barrett-Lennard, a tobacco company executive born in 1942.

    And not half as much fun I bet!

    I love the Telegraph obituaries and they won’t be half as much either once the last World War II veteran has died.

  • On the scale of British eccentricity, he only hits “playfully quirky”. But it’s a remarkably fun set of quirks.

  • I knew him and he was the most remarkable men I have ever met. Kind, courteous (and rather bonkers, as the obits admit) he had a rock solid faith.

  • As a pupil at the London Oratory in the 1950s I remember him wit affection, he wasn’t your usual school chaplain. Some years later I also knew his successor as baronet Peter who was a great character as well.