ONGAR PRIEST ON SUNKEN TITANIC
Among the passengers who were on the ill-fated giant liner Titanic, which foundered off Newfoundland after collision with an iceberg, was the Rev. Father Thomas R. D. Byles, who for many years has been the Roman Catholic priest resident at Ongar and having charge of a very wide area of the country, including the towns of Epping and Ongar and many villages.
Father Byles was born in Yorkshire, and has had a remarkable career. He was the son of a Congregational minister, and he was educated at Rossal School, Lancashire, where he gained many prizes and honours, particularly in mathematics, in which he won the chief honours for three years in succession. He went on to Oxford University, with the purpose of studying for the Anglican ministry, and took his degree of B.A. He, however, became a convert to Catholicism, and for some year or two studied in Rome. On coming back from the Papal City he became a professor at St. Edmund's College for the Catholic Mission at Kelvedon, near Colchester. About eight years ago he came to Ongar. Entirely through his efforts the Ongar Church has flourished, and the attendance at Mass, the chief and most important service of the Catholic Church, is now very much larger than it used to be. Father Byles was anything but a robust man, but he never spared himself in his labours, and he is regarded with love and reverence by all his people. Aided by his cycle, he took the greatest trouble in going round and finding where Catholics lived and urging upon them the duties of their religion. This entailed regular visiting, which he carried out with great zeal; no light task when it is remembered that the next churches were at Woodford, Harlow, Chelmaford, and Brentwood, all many miles away. Many improvements have been made in his time at the little church, including the building of the sacristy. Personally, Father Byles was described to a CHRONICLE representative by a member of his flock as an interesting conversationalist and a bright and witty speaker. It was said of him that he had many friends and not an enemy, while his great intellectual attainments made him conspicuous in any society. He was a fine mathematical scholar, at home in chemistry and other sciences, a clever linguist, and greatly interested in labour questions and politics, in which he was well versed. He belonged to an eminent family, his uncle, Sir P. W. Byles, being M.P. for Manchester. He has a sister who is in China as a missionary. Father Byles was on his way to America in order to officiate at the wedding of one of his brothers. The news of the disaster to the Titanic created a feeling of terrible foreboding in the minds of the Catholic people of the district, all of whom knew that their beloved priest was on board.
On Thursday all hope was abandoned and it was generally accepted that the Rev. Father Byles was one of those who had perished with the sinking ship.
ESSEX HERALD - Friday, April 19, 1912
This is the first publication of this
article since April 19, 1912.