An amazing man who was married to his books!

Books on shelves in a library.Photo:: PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos.Books on shelves in a library.Photo:: PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos.
Books on shelves in a library.Photo:: PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos.
May I pay tribute and acknowledgement to Anthony Cornwell, lately passed from us, of Kirkmoor Road, Clitheroe.

I recall him as a youth. We ordinary mortals – I still could recall some of our names – used to play football on the then empty spaces of the streets between Castle View and Kirkmoor Road. Long gone are those days.

But then this lanky ungainly youth in his late teens, who disdained our teenage playful pursuits, used to cycle past on his equally ungainly bicycle – a “sit up and beg” they used to call them in those days – and we “morons” used to laugh and mock as he cycled by.

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But this ungainly youth went on to study classics – he became fluent in Latin and Greek – and conversant in all major European languages.

Anthony went on to teach at the Cardinal Newman Oratory in Reading, and locally prepared and marked the Northern examination papers of this area.

Our paths crossed again in the early 1980s. My mother lived on Kirkmoor Road. After church, I would drive Anthony and his own mum home. We would park in Cardigan Avenue.

Anthony would bore me talking about railway connections to South Wales: “You could normally go via Crewe but, because of railway repairs, it was more suitable to go via Bangor.”

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“Come on, Anthony,” said his mother. “Robin’s got to get home.”

We invited him to our home. I envisaged a boring evening discussing railway connections, but it was another Anthony, regaling us with stories of Cistercians; an order of silence, always hooded, but if their hoods were down you could address them, and so on...

Because Antony had no transport, I used to take him on Sunday mornings to his beloved Old Rite Latin Mass in Preston; “Mumbo-jumbo” as it was termed by someone who was not partial to the idea of Latin as too papist.

In any case, I used to sit on the back pew, bored out of my mind, sustained by by readings from a volume of Oscar Wilde.

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But further down the church I glimpsed Anthony immersed in his beloved Old Rite Latin Mass. This was Anthony; Latin, Rubrics, Saints, Edicts, Councils, anything ecclesiastical.

Anthony’s other obsessive interest was the Talbot Library in Preston. He used to catalogue books there; 60,000 books! He lamented: “I only have one tenth of those.” Easy mathematics; only six thousand books.

Entry to Anthony’s home was selective, so I was privileged! Rows and rows of shelves of books. And, in his “inner sanctum” the fireplace had been ripped out, to make way... for more books.

I sat there, and as a recompense for my ordeal of enduring his O.R.L.M. I was offered a delectable exclusive port. The room would have been claustrophobic; layers upon layers of books, piled all around me, reaching to the ceiling. They were Anthony’s love – the volumes of Cardinal Newman – and a reassuring picture. All was well in Anthony’s world.

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There were women – ladies – who alarmingly tried to intrude into Anthony’s mysterious, ephemeral world. But as one of these ladies reassured him: “No woman will ever marry you. You are married to your books.” Amen.

Requiescat in Pace

Robin Parker

St Chad’s Avenue, Chatburn

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