Evensong in the cathedral, one of the great buildings of Western Europe. Rooks swirl around the honey-coloured stone; white-robed priests pace in procession down the aisle; the organ music plays with resonant solemnity ó then bursts without warning into s
Evensong in the cathedral, one of the great buildings of Western Europe. White-robed priests pace in procession down the aisle; the organ plays with resonant solemnity ó then bursts without warning into stirring modernist dissonance. The procession wavers in shock then rallies and continues while the organ keeps its furious wild ranting.
The Dean who leads the clergy has a name half as old and nearly as strange as the cathedral he serves: in Whoís Who, he appears as the Very Reverend the Honourable Oliver William Twistleton Wykeham Fiennes. But in the world of Lincoln cathedral he is a reckless innovator.
As the strange, jarring music filled the ancient building, he felt a stab of joy and of excitement, rather as on the historic occasion, in the early 1970ís, when had persuaded the chapter, after hours of patient argument, to purchase a typewriter. The Precentor, the canon in charge of the Cathedralís music, had seen the machine as an unnecessary concession to the twentieth century: modern music he regarded as the clattering of a million typewriters. So the Dean determined to praise the organistís initiative. He found him, and asked what the new music had been.
"I was playing the responses" the organist replied. "I am surprised you didnít recognise them. With one hand I was playing in the key that the Precentor was singing; and with the other, I played the key in which the composer had set them."
This is the quality of chilled loathing that makes stories about Lincoln Cathedral unique. Its problems may stem from a common legal framework which makes ancient cathedrals almost impossible to run; but the conflicts which the system produces are in Lincoln instantiated in a uniquely personal style. Canon David Rutter, the Precentor whose singing had driven the organist to his act of maniacal sabotage was not tone deaf. In fact he was a former organ scholar. But after twenty years of running the cathedralís music he simply could not be bothered to sing in tune. From time to time his colleagues would upbraid him, and for a few days he would sing properly. Then, having proved he didnít have to pain them, he would revert to doing so.
Prickly, sagging, and impossible to uproot, Rutter twined like a bramble around the life of the cathedral chapter for nearly thirty years. Like a bramble, he bore occasional sweet fruit. He had forty or fifty god-children, and you could come to him for wise advice on almost any subject ó except the running of cathedrals. But that was the job to which he had been appointed for life. Even after he developed diabetes, then went blind, he could not be forced to resign. Cathedral clergy canít - unless a criminal act is proved against them: and this one fact dominates the story of Lincoln cathedral.
Oliver Fiennes left the cathedral in 1989, after 20 years in office: he had been promised he could leave after five, but the bishop who promised him had left, and it was in any case not in his gift. Dean Fiennes had introduced the typewriter, the tourist guide, the fabric committee and even modern liturgies. On the day the Series Two service was first introduced, the canon preaching concluded his sermon, in front of the Dean, with the words "Dean Dunlop, the man of taste, rejected this service. Dean Peck, the man of prayer, rejected this service. It remained for the present Dean to introduce it. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen."
That is plain enough in its meaning. So, too, were the lectures Dean Fiennes gave in the autumn of his last year in office. "I plead for escape from the confines of irresponsible and unplanned appointments to senior positions and from lifelong freehold of tenure for those who have achieved such positions." he told the chapter. "For a canon there is no real escape route, no promotion pattern. Perhaps the Canon doesnít want one. After all he has a freehold, into which he may sink, and it is this that finally destroys both the system and the man.
"Cathedral chapters meet with a good deal of criticism these days, but the real miracle is that they can cope at all, given the forms of government enshrined in the statutes of the old foundations.
"Each [canon] at his installation publicly promises obedience to the Dean and to the statutes, and thus starts a life of divided loyalties and bitter frustrations which, however agreeable the dean, puts an intolerable burden on them and him."
The point that Fiennes had grasped is that these divided loyalties cannot be joined. The statutes demand loyalty to the cathedral. Nowhere do they claim that this involves loyalty to the dean, and the obedience (not loyalty) that Canons promise the Dean is strictly constitutional. What makes these arrangements even more subtle and complicated is that the Dean and Canons are appointed by different people for different reasons. The Dean is a crown appointment, which means in practice that he is chose by the Prime Ministerís appointments secretary. The Canons who must work with him are chosen by the Bishop.
These arrangements are mediaeval, and in mediaeval times their severities, like those of marriage, were mitigated by frequent death. In modern times they are not: retirement at seventy is no longer a distant promise but a vivid threat. This contrasts in particular with the power that provosts wield in new cathedrals, such as Bradford. More generally, it conflicts with the modern image of power, which is contractual, not constitutional. Deans, we suppose, ought to run their cathedrals. But that is not what the statutes say.
Dean Fiennes believed in the statutes; at least, he believed they might be workable, if only the chapterís composition could be changed: "The method of appointments and the freehold that goes with it, diminish the bigger men and destroy the lesser." he wrote of the general principles of Cathedral appointments, in an article for the Church Times which was never published, after scandal overtook it.
"[The new Canon] arrives to find a group which may be united only in its determination that no new canon is going to introduce any new idea, and since even the most minor attempt at action may be blocked by a vote of the chapter, no one is likely to achieve anything without the most prolonged and frustrating negotiation.
"But worse is to follow. Let us suppose that after five years or so of struggling to bring his hopes to life; or relaxing into the freedom the statutes allow to do nothing much for eight months of the year, he decides the time has come to move ... what then? He can hardly ask for promotion, and if he did, he wouldnít get it. So perhaps he looks to return to a parish. It will mean a reduced income and a difficult change of pattern in his working life; it will need courage. But even if he makes the decision, who will want him? He is a cathedral man. So, with the freehold to protect him, he has come to a dead end; and it is a slow and not very living death. "
Bios of the chapter
Who were the colleagues for whom Dean Fiennes had so eloquently prescribed euthanasia? Apart from David Rutter, the other canons were John Nurser, the Chancellor, Christopher Laurence, the archdeacon, and Rex Davis, the sub-Dean.
John Nurser was a historian who had been Dean of Trinity Hall in Cambridge. He had been canon and Chancellor since 1976; he was the sort of don for whom chapter posts were invented. Christopher Laurence had worked in Lincoln in the late Seventies, as the diocesan Missioner, and then spent five years as director of continuing ministerial education in London, under Bishop Gerald Ellison, before the civil war over women took over under Graham Leonard. In 1985 he returned to Lincoln, a man with a kind word for everyone but Brandon Jackson.
But the dominant figure in the chapter, or so it seemed to the Bishop, was Rex Davis. John Nurser disputes this. "It amused Rex to allow people to believe that he ran the whole show. But he never did."
He was a clever, ambitious Australian, who had come to England in the late Fifties to train at Mirfield; then undertaken further study at the general Seminary in new York before moving to a parish in New South Wales. In 1966 he joined the staff of the Australian Council of Churches, and from there went to the World Council of Churches in Geneva. In 1974 he became Pacific secretary for the WCC; in 1977 Simon Phipps, then bishop of Lincoln, moved him half around the word by inviting him to run Edward King house, the diocesan retreat centre, and turn it into an national ecumenical asset. Along with this post went a Cathedral canonry and the position of Subdean. This was not, it seems, taken very seriously at the time. Rex expected to leave in five years, and was only half-time at the cathedral. Even that was not welcome at first, since the Chapter had committed the money for his salary to paying for a group of nuns instead after the previous Subdean retired in 1975. Rex spent the first period in Lincoln living in what Oliver Fiennes described as "a bungalow on the edge of some playing fields."
After the first five years were up, in 1981, Oliver Fiennes wrote to Bishop Phipps urging that Rexís time in office was up. This letter was still on file in the deanery when Brandon Jackson moved in; he was able to quote it by heart to the greater chapter in November 1996. "But the Bishop just grinned and said Ďhere he isí."
In 1984 the cathedral treasurer, Archdeacon Rudman, died, and the office reverted to the Subdean. "There was a dramatic, and to some, alarming change of approach. Rex believed in deficit budgeting, managing investment folios, and spending money on infrastructures to support activities." according to Christopher Laurence., who succeeded Rudman as Canon archdeacon. "For example, he persuaded the chapter to set up an internal telephone system based in a communications office. Today the chapter could not function without this facility, but at the time many deplored it as extravagance."
Laurence regards Rex Davis as a difficult asset to the cathedral: "The projection of a tiresome, feuding man is absurd. He is urbane, civilised, a bon viveur, widely read, a good cook, knowledgeable about cinema, opera and visual arts. He seems not to need people to like him, which annoys those of us who do, and he has never made any effort to be popular. But he is neither rancorous nor isolate: like many Mirfield-trained priests he loves daily mass, parties, and good liturgy."
Everyone agrees that Rex, like Oliver Fiennes, was a Roman candle of ideas. Some worked, others didnít. But there was always something going on. In 1988, for example, he chaired conferences in Korea and the USA, organised a consultation in Lincoln for Anglican bishops from around the world, started and annual conference there for the British Australian Association ó and organised a trip to Brisbane for the cathedralís copy of the Magna Carta.
The cathedral owns one of the four extant original copies of this document. The old chapter regarded it as a treasure which they guarded for the benefit of English speaking civilisations everywhere. Dean Fiennes had taken it round the States in 1976 and thought this resounded greatly to the benefit of the city, and Dean Fiennes did not distinguish greatly between tourists and pilgrims. The cathedral, he believed, must cater for both.
The 1976 celebrations had been tied to the bicentennial of the American Declaration of Independence; in 1987 was celebrated the bicentennial of the signing of the Constitution, something of which Magna Carta could fairly claim to be a direct ancestor. The Document was exhibited in Portland, Oregon, for eighteen months as part of these celebrations. Members of the chapter took in turns to fly out and oversee the exhibition. To them it seemed a fairly unselfish contribution to the welfare of their city and cathedral. To outsiders, later, it looked like a freebie. Of course, this depends on what you believe the job of the cathedral clergy ought to be. The statutes, it can plausibly be argued, are meant to provide niches for distinguished priests: they are not meant to provide a management team for the Cathedral.
The Brisbane trip was organised at short notice. Almost all the work for this was done by Rex Davis. It seems to have been characteristic of the way the old chapter worked, being both efficient and formally disorganised. Rex assembled a party for the journey consisting of his daughter Sarah and a couple of friends of hers; his wife Caroline, who took time off from her normal job running the Movement for the Ordination of Women in London, a woman named Catriona Matheson, who was sent out as Pavilion director; and Mrs Jo Brogden, a friend of the Davis family. Both Mrs Matheson and Mrs Brogden were separated from their husbands. Mrs Matheson quarrelled with the rest of the party and was sacked after a few weeks, when her place as pavilion director was taken by Mrs Brogden.
The expedition was a partial failure. The Expo authority, as agreed, bore the costs for constructing a large and splendid pavilion ó £600,000; but the merchandising revenue the cathedral had hoped for never materialised. Rex Davis now blames the position of the pavilion: it was the first thing that visitors came to in the Expo complex, and they were no inclined to load themselves down with a heavy souvenir book. Sales of this book had been meant to cover the remaining costs of the exhibition and failed to do so. In the end, the cathedral was left with a loss of about £40,000, to set against the profits of about £200,000 made by the expedition to Portland, Oregon the previous year. The two journeys were treated together in the cathedral accounts, a practice later criticised by the auditors. The general air of slapdash competence was epitomised by the affair of the "American chest". This was a large oak chest, placed to take donations to the upkeep of the cathedral. In America it had been very profitable but the inhabitants of Queensland shunned it. Less than a thousand pounds was collected in six months there, and the proceeds were shipped back to England in Sarah Davisís private account.
It is impossible to be sure at this distance in time whether it was intended as a fund-raising expedition or not. Brandon Jackson was sure that it was; and all the earliest press reports speak of it as fund-raising. But the chapter members maintain that it was never seriously intended that the exhibition would do more than break even. They saw themselves as custodians of a treasure on behalf of the wider world, both in their roles as cathedral clergy and as guardians of the Magna Carta. To exhibit the treasure, and so to draw visitors to Lincoln, seemed to them a proper use of their time and resources. The sheer self-assurance of the Lincoln chapter is one of the things hardest for an outsider to comprehend. It dates from a pre-contractual age, when a job was something between a possession and a trust. When added to the natural reserves of obduracy possessed by several of the main characters in the drama, it produced a chapter which must have seemed a completely immovable object. Perhaps, some people thought, the only answer was an irresistible force.
One of the people who thought that the chapter needed sorting out was the newly elected bishop, Bob Hardy. He had been a protégé of Robert Runcieís, as suffragan bishop of Maidstone. He was bishop to the prisons, a generally liked and admired man with a tendency to worry and overwork. On his study mantelpiece is a sign that says: "The kindly word spoken today may bear its fruit tomorrow." As Bishop, he sat in on the chapter meetings when the Magna Cartaís expedition to Australia was discussed and decided on. "I found him kind, supportive, and considerate" wrote Rex Davis, long afterwards. But he had clearly formed his own view about the workings of the chapter and its lack of accountability. At the diocesan synod meeting in 1988 he was heard to say "I want a bastard for a dean." Characteristically for Lincoln, the man who heard this swore an affidavit to it before he died.
If you had been searching for a man opposed to everything that Oliver Fiennes stood for ó in all other words to all the tolerant, freeholding priests with their manner of civilised amateurism, self-assured enough to be self-deprecating ó if, in other words, you had been Robin Catford, Mrs Thatcherís evangelical appointments secretary ó Brandon Jackson would have seemed a gift from God. Clear and simple in his evangelical message, he was a man of forthright charm and energy. He had been one of the first "TV vicars", presenting Stars on Sunday. Then he had run a prosperous and successful suburban church in Shipley, outside Bradford, and from there moved to become Provost of Bradford cathedral. Bradford, unlike Lincoln, is a modern foundation, run by a provost, rather than a Dean and chapter.
There are several subtle differences between provosts and deans and one, large, crude one: provosts, unlike deans, can sack people. Brandon did. He sacked Brown Owl for reading a book while he was preaching. He sacked the organist for being too highbrow. He sacked half the choir, and he told friends it was because they were gay. Many who were not sacked left anyway. The turnover among his secretaries was considerable: eight went in his last two years.
He told John Whale that he had been unwelcome when he arrived: the cathedral had been jealous because he had drawn larger congregations to his parish church, but, by the time he left ten years later, they were "eating out of his hand." One admirer even gave him a brand new car to take to Lincoln, he said at the lunch where he first denounced Rex Davis to a journalist for freeloading.
Mrs Thatcher met him in the aftermath of the Bradford City football ground fire, when ???? people died. She was tremendously impressed. "Why isnít that man a bishop?" she asked. It had to be explained to her that the Crown Appointments Commission, the committee which picks diocesan bishops, would not have him. The only appointment in her gift was a cathedral deanery; and Lincoln was about to become vacant.
His appointment was announced in April 1989. Almost at once, Rex Davis came to visit him in Bradford. He told him that deans do not run their cathedrals; that as treasurer, he, Rex, was in charge of the finances. If he had had any doubts that Rex was an enemy, this visit removed it. But there is little evidence he had had doubts. From the moment of his appointment he believed his job was to rid the cathedral of Rex Davis and David Rutter at a minimum: he saw his behaviour when he arrived as "simple and straightforward attempts to grasp the reins of Lincoln cathedral from the tight hold of the Subdean (aided and abetted by his three colleagues) and place them where they properly belong, namely in the hands of he dean and chapter, the dean presiding and taking the proper lead required and expected of his office."
At the time his appointment was announced, the Bishop, Bob Hardy, wrote urging him to act quickly: "Clearly folk are pretty agitated . . . and you will have to move fairly smartly when you come to look into Rex's activities. He is inclined to be a fixer and to ride over folk."
Brandon launches campaign
On Saturday 22 October 1989, Brandon Jacksonís campaign to purge the cathedral was properly launched at a lunch in the Deanery with John Whale, then the editor of the Church Times. Both men had their wives with them: the atmosphere was friendly and confidential. The story Brandon Jackson told then was one which, in essentials, he would never deviate from throughout his time in the cathedral.
He had been chosen, by Mrs Thatcher and by God, to purge the cathedral of corruption. He did not stress Godís role in this procedure, though there is no doubt he believes in it: later he was to write to Whale "The struggle is made daily more difficult by the Bishopís unwillingness to exercise his Episcopal authority or his visitational jurisdiction. The canons know it and run rampant, and I am helpless to do anything about it - but I still believe in God!"
The story of a direct charge from Mrs Thatcher, though, was very clear. She, he told Whale, had told him in person, to the horror of her staff, that his job was to get those canons out. "There will be blood on the carpet before heís finished", he told people she had said. He took this as a commission. He was clearest of all about the corruption he claimed he had found. For a start, he told Whale that Rex Davis was having an extra-marital affair. This story, denied by all involved, was and remains an essential part of Brandonís self-justification: in the spring of 1997, long after his own trial for adultery, and long after Mrs Brogdenthe woman in question had remarried and was living in London, he wrote to the new diocesan secretary repeating these allegations, and copying the letter to Rex Davis and the Bishop.
In the early days, he had told it to several journalists who came to him for a briefing on the story; I remember the peculiarly slimy phrase he used to me: "I donít know if itís true what theyíre saying about Rex, but if it is, then itís very shocking." To Peter Victor, then of the Observer, he suggested that David Rutter had a fondness for little boys. "He made no bones about what his allegations were, but he couched them in the form of ĎWell, of course you couldnít print it, but Öí He was a sort of pre-Mandelson Mandelson." said Victor. Of course this was all very enjoyable for the journalists involved.
"Jackson did not have a scintilla of reticence about him. You would expect a tad of moderation from a man in his position, but he was saying things like Ďperhaps we could get the Daily Mirror iní. I said to him that if you let the tabs in, they will start crawling all over the place. They will have their own agenda entirely." said Stephen Aris, the journalist who first investigated the Magna Carta story.
The second corruption, Brandon Jackson told John Whale, was financial. Rex not only had one hand up an extramarital skirt; he had the other in the till. The Magna Carta expedition, he said, had been a jolly for the Davis family and their friends. There had been bad accounting and no accountability. The Chapter were spending on themselves money subscribed by the general public for the upkeep of the cathedral, and the best example of this was the Magna Carta trip to Brisbane.
John Whale set an old friend of his onto the story: Stephen Aris, like Whale a former Sunday Times journalist, who was then freelancing. Aris had experience of financial stories and of investigative journalism, which is what the situation seemed to demand. Whale made only one stipulation: the story must nowhere mention Trollope.
Aris travelled to Lincoln, in October. He stayed the night in the deanery, and was impressed by Brandon Jacksonís story. "He was forthright, enthusiastic, and reasonably concerned. Davis had promised to raise money and hadnít." [this has always been denied by Rex Davis and the rest of the original chapter] "There was no proper account given of what had happened." The two men studied minutes of the chapter meetings where the Magna Carta decisions had been taken. It seemed to Aris, as to subsequent investigators, that the right questions had not been clearly asked, and certainly not satisfactorily answered. Aris talked to accountants, and to Catriona Matheson, the disaffected member of the party who had complained to Brandon Jackson.
"I thought the whole Expo project was incompetent, based on false premises, and probably doomed from the start. It was just a gigantic freebie: just a jolly. Davis was determined to give himself a good time, and he did." Aris says now.
This was the opinion of an experienced journalist, wise in the world. It was influenced by Catriona Matheson, who had been part of the Expo group until sacked by Rex Davis and replaced, as finance director, by Jo Brogden. She claimed she was sacked for attempting to rein in his extravagance: he says she was sacked for incompetence. She had approached Brandon Jackson on his appointment in search of restitution: she believed that both the Dean and Subdean had mistreated her.
She complained to him that the Davis party had been sloppy and greedy. She particularly struck, it seems from the evidence that he Brandon passed on to journalists, by Caroline Davisís preference for flip-flops over shoes, and by the general scruffiness of the younger members of the party. She saw the whole party as free-loaders, and told me this when I contacted her in the winter of 1989/90. She also suggested that the Davis marriage was in trouble.
Her accusations were never formally brought, still less substantiated. But, with Brandonís enthusiastic encouragement, they formed the hidden underwater bulk of all the early press coverage. They added a comprehensible tale of personal wrongdoing to what was otherwise an arcane matter of cathedral finances and misjudgements of the Australian tourist industry.
The Church Times article appeared on 19th January 1990. It was a scrupulous unpicking of the tangled financial affairs of the Magna Carta exhibition, and concentrated on questions of decision-making and financial transparency. John Whale felt that the lessons of the Magna Carta affair had more to do with structures than personalities.
Brandon had expected Rex Davis to resign immediately. Anyone would, who believed him guilty of even half he was accused of. But most of those accusations were made privately: the chapter had only been publicly accused of bad judgement, which is not an offence under the statutes; and this accusation had been prepared in secret and with the help of accounts to which the Dean should not constitutionally have had access. I do not know what the chapter then knew of the unofficial accusations against them. Its immediate reaction to the public accusation was outraged and furious. Instead of resigning, the chapter reported to the paper to the press council, and denounced Brandon to the bishop. It seemed, from the outside, a completely incomprehensible reaction. Among the many effects it had was to fix in the public mind the image of "feuding canons" at Lincoln Cathedral. The journalists who wrote the story believed, in those days, Brandonís version implicitly. I certainly did. But one couldnít, for obvious legal reasons, write it as true. So the matter had to be presented as one of conflicting explanations, and so "feuding canons". This bewildered the chapter, some of whom felt that it was not they who were feuding, only their new dean. So they reported him to the Bishop, and asked for a formal visitation of the cathedral, to clear up relations between them.
It seems from the Bishopís subsequent report that he was reluctant to go through all the machinery of a visitation. At first, he tried an informal approach ó though the canons had asked for a formal visitation. He dropped off at the Subdeanery a letter asking for all the papers relating to the Magna Carta exhibition. Rex Davis lost his temper. That evening he marched across the close to the palace: "I spoke fiercely about collusion. The Bishop was also angry. I believed the dean was in the house that evening, which increased the sense of acute embarrassment."
Rex Davis told the Bishop he would be consulting his solicitor. "I found the exchange to be unpleasant and distressing", the Bishop recorded. He determined on a full-scale visitation. He did not believe that the row had compromised his independence.
Immediately, the four canons wrote to him setting out the questions they believed the visitation should deal with: "How can a basis of trust be established which will enable the Dean and Chapter and staff to carry on their business without further acrimony and delay? How can the deanís animosity towards the Subdean, both personally and professionally, also to his family and others, be acknowledged and either justified or redressed?
"The dean delivered privileged information belonging to the Chapter, without the treasurerís or the Chapterís knowledge or consent, to a journalist, which resulted in a newspaper article injurious to the reputation of the previous Dean and Chapter, and in particular of the Subdean.
"Magna Carta Australia and other affairs of the chapter are said to have aroused public concern. How can the Chapter furnish explanation and information, positive as well as negative, in an accountable way, to clear suspicion?"
It seems clear enough from this that the chapter considered themselves innocent and had no idea how outlandish such a viewpoint looked to anyone who had brought Brandon Jacksonís version of the story ó which is to say almost everyone outside the Chapter.
Brandon Jackson wrote to complain that the chapterís complaint had been submitted without him. He asked the Bishop to investigate the cathedralís finances, and "the activity and behaviour of the Residentiary canons towards him since he arrived in Lincoln."
The split between Dean and Chapter had become absolute and formal.
Despite this, the bishop set himself to task of reconciling both the parties and their aims in the visitation. He was to discover what had happened with the Magna Carta, and what had gone wrong within the chapter. The final aim of the visitation was an ambitious one, given that one of the things that had gone wrong within the chapter was that the Dean was accusing the Subdean of embezzlement and the rest of the chapter of complicity in this: "to discuss if possible a way in which the Dean and chapter could together take forward the mission and ministry of the church in this place."
The penultimate aim he listed was: "To reassure those who love this cathedral that all was well and wholesome in its life."
To this end he attempted, and failed, to prevent the chapter from contacting the media. He grew distressed when a television crew was allowed into the cloister.
Twenty witnesses were heard by the Bishop, in front of the Dean and Chapter, in July 1990. They came from two lists, submitted separately by the contending parties. He also had a firm of independent accountants go over the Magna Carta accounts. The whole exercise cost at least £20,000, supplied by the Church Commissioners. If the time and money of the clergy involved is taken into account, it was all a great deal more expensive.
When the results of his visitation were published on September 29th, they contained one of the fullest accounts of the Magna Carta affair ever to emerge. This is not to say it was complete. Much of it is still disputed by the Chapter, especially the crucial claim that the Magna Carta expedition was meant to raise funds. At the time, what seemed essential was the criticism of the canons, of Rex Davis in particular, and of Magna Carta Australia.
"A considerable sum of money was lost in the venture, and even more of the cathedralís money put at risk, For this the Subdean seems largely responsible, and it is unacceptable of him to seek refuge behind the failure of his Chapter colleagues properly to exercise their responsibilities."
The canons in general came in for a lot of criticism, most of it backing up the accusations that Brandon had been making: "Perhaps the saddest thing of al is the attitude of the residentiary canons. I can understand their apprehension at the appointment of Dean Jackson, but I find it hard to understand their behaviour even in the light of his abusive attitude."
"One has the impression that certain members of the chapter have been using the cathedral for their own purposes, that the proper conduct of its life and worship has no longer been their prime concern, and they could go off and pursue their own interests with little regard for their commitments here.
"I consider that the attitude of the Residentiary canons to me has been on occasion reprehensible, and that they and the Dean have conducted themselves shamefully in the media." Then, to be fair to the media himself, he added a usable soundbite to the end of the paragraph; "As far as I am concerned, the past eight months have been the saddest period of my ministry. ... It all seems a very long way from Jesus of Nazareth."
This was extremely damning stuff, especially if it was taken as coming from a neutral observer. But there was also a great deal of criticism of Brandon Jackson in the conclusions:
"It is clear that the Dean has exceeded his authority insofar as he has acted unilaterally in maters concerning the chapter and in cases where he has interfered with the day to day work of the other canons, He has, if I may say so, jumped in with both feet where tact and discretion would have more become him. I think he has also misunderstood the extent of his supervisory role which, the Archdeacon says, has turned into an attempt to control things, though there were of course exceptional circumstances here.
"I have also been concerned at his use of what I can only describe as intemperate and extravagant language in his written submissions, and in his answers during interview. I should perhaps add, now, that he has apologised for this.
"The Dean believes his efforts have been Ďsimple and straightforward attempts to grasp the reins of Lincoln Cathedral from the tight hold of the Subdean (aided and abetted by his three colleagues)í. I have to say that I consider there have been serious faults on all sides: the residentiary canons in the discharge of their duties in administering the cathedral, and the dean in the way in which he responded to the situation."
But in the crucial paragraph of his report, he made it clear that Brandonís sins were less heinous than those of the chapter.
"Integrity and a willingness to face facts, whether self-critical or otherwise are crucial in a situation like this. I believe that the Dean has the necessary willingness, but he must exercise far more self-control that he has shown in the past. However, as far as the residentiary Canons are concerned, I have doubts about their ability or willingness, either separately or together to put aside their personal feelings and attitudes. Therefore I must ask each one of them very seriously to consider his position as a residentiary canon of this cathedral."
The canons considered. They did not resign. Partly, I think, this was shock. A weightier reason was that they had legal advice to suggest that they could not be forced to go. It also seems clear that they all felt, by then, that frustrating Brandon Jackson was part of their Christian duty.
Brandon reaches Moscow
In the autumn and winter of 1990, after the visitation was over, Brandon Jacksonís campaign reached the zenith of its success. The greater Chapter, the governing body of the cathedral, passed a vote of no confidence in the canons on 17 November. They took no notice. On 22 November, the bishop wrote formally to each canon demanding his resignation. All refused formally, after some monthsí thought. But Brandonís triumph seemed only a matter of time. David Rutter was dying, and so, more terribly, was Rex Davisís 26-year-old daughter Sarah, who had been on the Australian trip. She had skin cancer, which spread to her liver.
On November 23, Brandon returned to the attack in a memorandum to "the gentlemen of the chapter" proposing that they resign and leave the cathedral as a necessary preliminary to being reconciled with him.
"We know that everywhere we turn, the cathedral is a bad witness to Christ and His Gospel, something that brings shame on all of us." He wrote. "To share the peace at the Eucharist is an embarrassment to us and to our congregation who observe, Our implacable positions are also not acceptable to the General Chapter. We must resolve this one way or another, and that right soon."
He then moved on to detailed recommendations: Rutter, he suggested, should go into residential care; John Nurser should become vicar of the country parish where Oliver Fiennes had retired; and Christopher Laurence should resign to concentrate on his archdeaconry. Then he continued:
"Rex, I have left you until last because I donít know what the answer is! There is no doubt that in any commercial operation you would have been forced to resign, but the Cathedral is not a commercial operation in that sense. It is no secret that my appointment was not well received by you and that you came to Bradford to make that plain to me. It is also no secret that I have found it virtually impossible to work with you and feel that you have tied me down by the manipulation of the statutes, the Chapter and personnel. It is also true that I have found this so exasperating and frustrating that you have more than once had the sharp end of my tongue, and for that I apologise. Letís face it, we have found a match for one another: you are not going to give way to me and I am no pushover for you."
At this point, something odd happened to the memorandum. It was as if, having conceded that "you are not going to give way to me", Brandon felt impelled to demonstrate the statement was false.
"You are now in a very difficult position.", he continued. "The City Fathers tell me that they expect you to resign and think you ought; so also many Church folk. The Bishop feels that his authority has been so flouted that there is no room any more in his Diocese for you and him to co-exist and that for the sake of his integrity you must go, and that is what he is determined to achieve, no matter how gently he may say it.
"Your wife lives in London, your daughter is gravely ill in London. The Police are investigating and you may feel holed in. You may think that if you keep your head down for long enough it may all pass over. It will not. The matter has got to be resolved. It could destroy you and, believe me, I do not want that."
This letter, remember, was written by a Christian priest to someone whose daughter was dying of cancer, as both men knew. It also displays Brandonís complete incapacity to understand that Deans cannot sack Canons, even after eighteen months in the job.
"My concern is that you should all be able to go with dignity and without recrimination." He wrote at the end of this memo. "You have done a lot for this Cathedral ó judging by what Oliver and Cecil and other old-timers tell me about the dim and distant past. It now needs a new direction and a new thrust and a new impetus. And I think we have got to say that my sights are on different priorities from yours."
The memorandum was leaked to Private Eye. It was the first glimpse the wider world had had of Brandonís style of persuasion. At around the same time, he asked the Fraud squad to investigate the Magna Carta affair. He has since claimed that the police investigation came at the request of Bishop Hardy; the bishop denies this, and I have seen a letter from the Attorney Generalís office which states unambiguously that Brandon was responsible. Either way, the fraud squad arrived at the worst possible moment.
On December 30th Sarah Davis died. She was 26. She was buried on January 5th; on the 18th a Police Superintendent appeared at the Subdeanery and asked her mother to see her bank accounts. This may have been the bravest single act in the whole story.
With her death, the Bishop appears to have given up the campaign against Rex. Legal advice had suggested the canons would cost £100,000 each to remove, or £250,000 in the case of David Rutter. The police investigation found nothing for the CPS to proceed with.
The only way out seemed reconciliation and mutual Christian forgiveness. Everything else had been tried.
[The attempt and failure at conciliation through counselling]
The five members of the Chapter saw Brian Thorne, a professional counsellor from the University of East Anglia, once a month for nine months to discover if they could come to a common view of their situation; at the end of this time, Brandon broke off discussions and the others saw no point in continuing without him.
Christopher Laurence and John Nurser resign: Rex fights alone
It was unfortunate for both men, as well as for the cathedral and the Church of England that Brandon Jackson should have found in Rex Davis a man who was his equal in determination and his superior in tactical skill. When David Rutter died, Rex preached a sermon which celebrated every quality which had maddened successive Deans: "David was not of the school who saw giving in as a mark of Christian virtue.
"He was a man who knew his guns and stuck to them . . . His skill in obduracy had no match in my experience. And he carried 'the tradition' in a conscious way, aware of the nuances of what had gone before; the significance of what should be done and when. He had a prodigious memory.
"No one would say that David was hyperactive; he was not a workaholic, in these days when such adrenalin-driven vices are seen as virtues."
It was unnecessary to add to these praises the fact that he had died only two months out of office, despite the best efforts of his Dean and Bishop to be rid of him.
David Rutter was replaced as Precentor by Andrew Stokes, who had been the Bishopís chaplain. Given that the Bishop and Brandon had been allies in the original campaign against Rex Davis, this should have strengthened Brandonís position. Yet it did not. Stokes was to prove instrumental in Brandonís downfall; and relations between the Bishop and Brandon were already plunging into a state of chilled mutual loathing.
Brandon Jackson felt betrayed by the Bishopís failure to rid him of the canons. He believed, and still believes, that this could have been done, and that it was the Bishopís clear duty to do it. Instead of this, the bishop had rebuked him publicly for intemperate language, and then believed the lawyers who said the chapter could not be removed. To Brandon, this constituted an unforgivable treachery. The Bishop, too, was losing enthusiasm. One of his interests throughout the affair had been to avoid scandal; Brandon is not a good ally in such a quest.
On New Year's Day 1992, the surviving three residentiary canons issued a statement headed: 'Why we have not resigned.' It showed they had learnt many of David Rutter's techniques. 'We do not believe that we have failed to fulfil our canonical obligations in any way by our disagreement with the Bishop. Divergent personal views, as distinct from criminal, immoral, or improper actions, seem to us to call more for mutual discussion and conciliation than for radical removal of 'other voices'.'
In a touch that would have made David Rutter proud, they pointed out that the bishop had decided the previous year that 'we were at an impasse'. However, 14 months later, they replied that 'This seems to us to be a matter requiring further discussion'. Further discussion, as they must have known, could only further enrage the Dean, and so lead to the gradual weakening of his position. A pattern seemed to them to be emerging in Brandonís view of the world, whereby he was never to blame for anything; and so the more his plans went wrong, the larger and the more fiercely denounced grew the circle of those to blame for it. It was around this time that one of the chapter members took me to supper, and explained with every appearance of sincerity that the key to the whole Lincoln imbroglio was that the dean was a paranoid schizophrenic.
However they diagnosed him they found him a dreadful strain to live with., John Nurser resigned his residentiary Canonry in the spring of 1992. He was replaced by Vernon White, an evangelical who seemed in sympathy with Brandonís ambitions for the cathedral. Nurser served out his last two years in a windy hamlet in North Essex, working with an academic project on Christianity and the future of Europe.
Christopher Laurence retired in 1994; he was not replaced, and the archdeaconry of Lindsey, which had carried a canonry with it was absorbed into the Archdeaconry of Stow. Rex Davis preached, and had printed up, a sermon on his predicament called "Living with the beast." In the autumn of 1994 he asked me to lunch when I was revisiting the story: the end of what I then wrote still seems illuminating:
"I asked him what has always puzzled me: why did he not go in any case, just to avoid a scandal which has damaged the whole church?
'I think there is a real principle at stake,' he replied. 'If you look at Brandon's history, he was very proud of having ousted people, And, quite frankly, to have capitulated to Brandon would have been to capitulate to the weaker part of one's self. If I were to come through this with any integrity, any sense of salvation, it was a duty to resist.'
But, I said, Brandon sincerely believed you a wicked man. 'Had it been true, it would have been so . . .' He left the sentence unfinished, and tried again. 'It would have been so . . . It would have been right to have resigned.'
Then he asked what I made of the story. I said I thought it was just like the English Civil War, as described in 1066 And All That: his side were the Royalists, wrong but wromantic; Brandon was the Roundhead, right but repulsive. He interrupted at once: 'No, no: Brandon is not right! He's repulsive and wrong!'
We emerged from the Subdeanery into the Close, where the afternoon sun struck the west front of the cathedral almost horizontally. In that shadowless light the whole building glowed like a vast honeycomb, from which rolled mercy and abundant love. Rex gathered his black cloak around him and hurried away to pray beside the dean. He looked like a little black bee, still buzzing, still stinging, still laughing at his own joke: 'No, no, he's repulsive and wrong!'
What Rex Davis knew then, and the rest of the world would learn in six monthsí time, was that Brandon Jackson himself was facing accusations that could end his career.
The prosecution of Brandon
The Precentory at Lincoln has gargoyles around the door. Within, there is a spacious Georgian calm: to the South the ground falls steeply away, hiding the city so you can see only the sky above an enclosed garden. But the gargoyles provide the touch of Lincoln. To this house, Verity Freestone came on the evening of February 6 1994., She was a large, plain woman, then aged 28. She had been a verger at the cathedral for three months the previous spring, until sacked.
Andrew Stokes told the consistory court, nearly eighteen months later, what she had told him then: that after her sacking, she had gone to the Dean for comfort, and been offered something more. They had had a brief, unsatisfactory sexual relationship, she said. But since December, when they had last been to bed, he had spurned her; she wanted him to apologise.
Stokes has been much criticised since then that February meeting for what he did next, and more for what he did not.
What he did not do was to tell the Dean of the allegations against him. "I knew that if I told Brandon he would simply deny it, so we would be no further down the road." Stokes told me. What he did at once was to believe her story. Verity came to him with her story on the evening of February 6 1994. After a fortnight, or ten days, of soul-searching, he told it to the bishop. The bishop believed her. He summoned Brandon, and confronted him. It is not clear whether he asked him straight out to resign; it seems plain that he expected him to do so, as did Andrew Stokes: "From my experience as Bishop's PA, I knew that from time to time these things came up Ė and all the time when I was at Bishopís House there was never an instance when the chap didn't fold completely, once confronted. He would say that it had been eating away at him for a long time, and he was so happy to have it out in the open, and ask how the bishop could help him."
But Brandon denied everything. He saw at once that he had been victim of a conspiracy. In one sense, he had: Andrew Stokesís behaviour only makes sense on the assumption that he believed Verity from the first. When I asked him about this, three years later, he paused two beats, turned to look at me squarely, and said; "Of course I did."
The bishop became part of the "conspiracy": he, too, believed Verity Freestone. He made that plain enough after the trial. But his beliefs were less relevant here than they had been during the Magna Carta visitation, since he was not the judge in this case. He did not have to determine whether Verity Freestone was telling the truth, just whether she might be. Once the complaint had been officially brought to his notice, he was bound, along with everyone else involved, to the slow-grinding wheels of the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure of 1963. This may well be the worst piece of law in England; and one of the worst things about it is that ensures that public, expensive and scandalous prosecutions will be brought when there is little chance of success. Sexual cases almost always come down to one womanís word against one manís. Those who know both parties involved will make their own judgement of credibility. They may believe either party, but the most they can attain to, in contested cases with no witnesses, is a moral certainty. It is not the "proof beyond reasonable doubt" which is required for conviction in a criminal case, and adultery, under the EJM, is a criminal offence.
Brandon Jackson, who has a law degree, must have seen this at once; and some of his legally trained supporters claimed during the trial that the prosecution should never have been brought since its failure was for this reason foreseeable from the start. But the EJM does not allow for such calculations. The Bishop, and the officers he later appoints, are required to bring a prosecution if they believe there is a case to answer, and not only if they think the case is unanswerable. In fact they cannot even examine expert witnesses until the decision to prosecute has been made. Verity Freestoneís story undoubtedly presented a case to answer. That made a public trial unavoidable from the moment the Bishop was formally told and Brandon formally denied the story. Yet no one was prepared for it. "When you're a priest confronted with a young woman in distress, you don't actually ask whether this can be proven in court before you decide to help her, or to believe her," said Andrew Stokes, much later. Then he added: "I didnít actually realise that Brandon had the gall."
Such, then, was the atmosphere among the canons during the sixteen months between Verity Freestoneís first complaint and the opening of the trial, held a quarter of a mile forrm the cathedral in a building that had once been the first purpose-built lunatic asylum in Britain. Later it was redeveloped as a visitorís centre. Both uses were to be echoed in the trial.
The first thing you noticed was the frightful intimacy. In smaller courtrooms, such as those at the Old Bailey, the place is designed so that the witnesses, the defendants and the prosecution do not get mixed up. Here, everyone sat on red and white stackable chairs. The press were arrayed behind tables on each side of the room; and the judges and jury at tables across the top. The prosecution and defence teams sat in the first row of chairs in front of the public, so close that Verity, coming up to give evidence on the first day, walked between Brandon and his family. The effect of all this informality was to make one realise believe that the real sanction behind the EJM was: the detailed public humiliation of every party in a case that comes to court.
Here, for example, is a part of Verity Freestone being led through her story by the prosecuting counsel, David Stokes QC.
"I led him upstairs."
"Did he show reluctance?"
"After I had taken him upstairs to my bedroom, and I left him actually in the bedroom, he sat on the floor leaning on the bed. I had sort of left to go and visit the bathroom and when I came back he obviously wasn't sure what it was the right thing to do and Ö
"I said by the fact that he had chosen to come over to the house and he had followed me upstairs it was obvious what we both wanted.
"To begin with it was more or less sort of kissing or cuddling. He then attempted to have sexual intercourse, and -- he couldn't. He just explained that he was tired...he was obviously disappointed by it. I guess at the time I was slightly disappointed as well. But it didn't actually bother me a great deal at the time."
Verity delivered this with a kind of plodding determination: a loss of dignity so great that it became a sort of dignity itself. Brandon and Mary Jackson sat together in the front row of the court, perhaps twenty feet from her as she talked. Verityís evidence gave a picture of a complicated man, by turns reckless and wracked with guilt: one who genuinely wanted to help her, but who could only intermittently resist the opportunity for sexual predation. Everything about her suggested a woman of startlingly limited imagination; yet the description she gave of the conduct of a hag-ridden adulterer would have taxed the resources of any novelist writing today.
The detail of her story does not amount to proof beyond reasonable doubt. Brandon was innocent. But the workings of Verityís imagination remain a mystery for many of the people who heard her give evidence. One of Brandon Jacksonís supporters, a priest and former lawyer who maintained the case should never have been brought because it could not have been won, was talking to me in the street outside on the third day of the trial. He agreed that Verity ó a woman sacked as a cathedral verger for intellectual inadequacy ó simply could not have made up the detail of her story. His explanation was that she had indeed had an affair with a guilty, married man, but that Andrew Stokes and the Bishop had coached her into pretending, and perhaps believing, that the man in question was Brandon Jackson. Why they should have done this was never explained.
The defence and its triumph
Anne Rafferty QC, appearing for Brandon Jackson, had little difficulty in demonstrating that Verity had not proved her case, and that Brandon was innocent. First, she produced eight witnesses to Brandonís character, among them the Bishop of Ripon, who had known him at theological college, and who described him as the epitome of a Christian gentleman. Lay witnesses testified that while he might be extravagant in his affections, he had never been improper.
The Rev Juliet Montague, a former cathedral chaplain, described Brandon as "a man of intense conviction. His Christian faith is his principal motive in life. He has a passion for other people and for bringing them into the faith; he is a warm and generous man but he does have very strong and divisive opinions
"He is very from being a typical clergyman. he hasn't developed the weariness and cynicism which so often afflicts clergy in middle age. He has retained a lot of his youthful ardour."
Indeed, Brandon on the stand had the manner of a schoolboy up before the beak. He signalled that he recognised some of the press, and his evidence was full of a boyish eagerness to please, as in this exchange with the judge, who said to him:
"Here you have got a young lady who you describe as insecure and unstable, talking to you in private and saying that she was desperate to have sex. Under those circumstances, might it have been prudent, by way of an extra precaution, to tell your wife or your secretary, I mustn't be left alone with her.?"
Brandon: "Yes, I have done that on many occasions - not many occasions -- a few occasions."
Judge: "But not with Verity?"
"I would need to check, sir, with my wife."
The effect of this reply was heightened by his habit of looking slightly upwards has he spoke, as if addressing a grown-up, or God.
Anne Rafferty established swiftly enough that Verity had been treated with anti-depressants; had had experience of counselling; had found the Bible study intellectually beyond her; and had had a succession of unsatisfactory sexual relationships. She never managed to shake her story, but this hardly mattered, since she was establishing that this was not a witness whose word could be taken in preference to that of the Dean of Lincoln. When she had finished, her case seemed unarguable; and the three assessors took hardly any time to find Brandon innocent.
The announcement of the verdict brought a burst of cheers and applause from his supporters, and one shout, also curiously old-fashioned, of "resign, Dean!"
Immediately, Brandon went over to counter-attack. In a television documentary largely recorded in the run-up to the trial, he talked about a battle between Good and Evil being waged in the cathedral. There was no doubt which side his accusers represented. The morning after the trial, with Lincoln still full of journalists, he held an impromptu press conference on the Deanery lawn and repeated his theory that the whole thing had been the result of a conspiracy involving the Bishop.
So we all trooped next door to the Bishopís house to hear what he had to say. The Deanery and the Bishopís house are actually the same substantial building, about a hundred yards North of the Cathedral; the internal wall that divides them is continued to cut the gardens in two. Itís not very like the Berlin Wall, but not wholly unlike it either. "Sometimes we see Mary Jackson at the windows, watching our back door to see who goes in and out", the Bishopís chaplain told me once.
But that glimpse of domestic life in Lincoln came much later. The morning after the trial ended, the Bishop retaliated with a resounding vote of no confidence in the verdict: "I was neither pleased nor displeased by it." He said. "I was relieved in a way that the wretched thing was over because it has been a very miserable time and a dark cloud over my life for eighteen months. It's nice that it has been lifted. So I think in a way my thing was one of relief.
He could not even bring himself to use the word innocent of his dean: "I have never known who was guilty and who was innocent ó Guilty or not guilty, I should say. I have known that one of them was lying, as the judge said in his summing up. The assessors now have made their judgement and I must accept that. I don't think my personal feelings really enter into it."
A clearer declaration of his personal feelings could hardly be made.
After the trial, the enmity between the Dean and the Bishop took over from the Davis/Jackson rivalry as the axis around which events in Lincoln revolved; and in this battle the Bishop seemed clearly to be the injured party. In the autumn, the greater chapter urged both Dean and Subdean to resign. In the spring of 1996, the diocesan Synod repeated this exhortation. Forty members of the cathedral staff wrote to Lambeth Palace asking for help in ridding themselves of the dean. In the winter of 1995/96, George Carey became involved. He had already been giving moral support to the Bishop; now he decided to give him practical help. His appointments secretary, Hector MacClean, travelled to Lincoln to meet both Brandon and Rex Davis and to try to persuade them both to resign. They were told that money would be available, but the discussion never got as far as figures. These overtures failed.
In June, the Archbishop summoned both men to Lambeth Palace on successive days and ordered them to go. Rex Davis, who was seen first, told him that Brandon would ignore his efforts: to this, Carey replied "He doesnít understand the authority of the Archbishop." Rex told him that Brandon understood it all too well. Carey replied that if Brandon defied him, "he would be shooting himself in the foot." "Oh no, Archbishop," said Rex: "Brandon is a centipede." The joke was not appreciated. Rex refused to resign, anyway, on the grounds that he had nothing wrong. Brandon Jackson asked for time to think.
On July 4th, Dr Carey held a press conference to announce failure of his efforts ó also, presumably, to increase the pressure on the two men to resign, though he denied that this was in fact his purpose: "Wherever I have gone in the world, people have spoken about the scandal at Lincoln." He said. "We cannot allow this to carry on being a cancer in the body of Christ."
Brandon, on his return from holiday, announced that he would have been prepared to obey the Archbishop and go; but that he had changed his mind on learning that Rex wouldnít. "As the Subdean has declined to leave," he told the Daily Telegraph "I have advised the Archbishop that I do not propose to leave at this time. The pressure on myself and my wife to stay in Lincoln and resist the Archbishop's call to go is considerable and growing by the day."
This pressure doubtless existed. It was not coming from the people who worked with him.
BJ promises to resign
At the meeting of the Greater Chapter, on November 6th,Brandon was asked in front of everyone whether he would resign. He replied that he would; but when the minutes of the meeting were drawn up he struck out the exchange. Emerging from the meeting, he found journalists, to whom he announced that the Cathedral should be shut down for six months to be exorcised, before its work could continue.
Just before Christmas, his solicitor said he would probably be gone by Easter, and Brandon himself repeated this to a journalist who rang; but by early January he was claiming that he had said only that he could be gone by Easter, not that he would. People kept asking; for most of the spring he would tell them that Lambeth Palace was being dilatory. People in London would tell me that they were only waiting for Brandon to sign, and that his lawyers were holding things up. It is possible that they balked at his terms. Rumour had him asking for seven yearsí stipend ó about £150,000 ó and housing equivalent to his Deanery. This could have been justified by the phrase used in briefings around the time of Dr Careyís intervention: "no financial loss." But Dr Carey had also said that the arrangements would be comparable with those made for early retirement. Some of the people who would have had to approve the payout felt very strongly that they were not going to reward failure on the scale that Brandon was apparently demanding. The exact terms might be kept secret, but their broad outline would become apparent to the General Synod; and the Synod might feel this was money which could be better spent.
Brandon also wanted employment somewhere else. After all, he had not done anything wrong, as he explained at every opportunity: he sent a long, detailed, and extraordinarily libellous letter to the incoming diocesan secretary in March 1997, repeating his side of the story all the way from the original accusations against Rex Davis. It had gained certain embellishments ó he now claimed, for example, that the Bishop had asked him to hire a private detective to look into the affairs of the Subdean ó and the tone was slightly more aggressive; but most of it was a simple rehearsal of all his old grievances and complaints
When he finally went, it was still a surprise. Towards the end of last week, his son briefed journalists that an announcement was imminent. Lambeth Palace denied this on the grounds that no letter had been yet received in Downing Street ó which is not the same as saying that no letter was expected. On Sunday morning, the Sunday Times broke the story, to the complete surprise of the rest of the chapter and of the Bishop, to whom Brandon said nothing about his departure during the course of the day. The final, formal announcement came at 2 pm on Monday afternoon.
"Rex is of course a recognisable member of the human race" said Andrew Stokes when I asked him whether the chapter really now believes that both contestants must go. The official line remains that they must. Unofficially, it seems that Rex Davis can stay if he wants to. You can run a cathedral happily with him on the chapter.
He remains a man of dangerous, subtle intelligence. When I asked him what he would have done in Andrew Stokesís position, had Verity Freestone come to him with her story, he replied that he would have sent her to an industrial tribunal. "All the things that he admitted to were damaging enough; and the rest of the story would have come out anyway." Brandonís defence did admit to a lot of eccentric behaviour. He agreed that he had blown on the vergerís neck in procession; paid pastoral visits at ten in the evening, dressed in running gear, to a woman who had told him she was "desperate for sex"; and discussed his own vasectomy in bible classes. This provided one of the more memorable moments of the trial for me: Verity had claimed that he had told her about his vasectomy in her sitting room; when she did so, the woman next to me on the press benches whispered "Thatís amazing. He said exactly the same thing to me in 1974."
This and much else I was unable to check with Brandon Jackson: when approached by the editor of the Church Times, he replied "I find it hard to believe that you have always covered the Lincoln story Ďobjectivelyí. To be fair to John Whale, I believe he did, though he later became timid once the Subdean and his colleagues threatened him with complaints to the press council. I have detected a very different slant since you became Editor. I do not for a moment think you have been fair, and also , several people have told me how aggravated they have been when you have failed to print their letters on this subject in your columns. How many more unknown to me, I know not .. but I can hardly remember a letter published in my support.
"Only this morning, Andrew Brownís piece in the Independent after Christmas has been sent to me. It is consistent with all he has written about Lincoln: full of inaccuracies and invective directed at me. I do not believe he would be objective."
Yet neither Dean nor Bishop are the real missing factors in this story. Their roles seem clear enough, at least in outline. The character I am conscious of failing is the one which cannot answer questions; the cathedral itself. Nothing in this story makes very much sense without that huge counterweight of beauty, dwarfing the close and the city below, and lifting these bitter little wars into the light.
This stuff written and copyright Andrew Brown. If the page looks bad, that's my fault, unless you're using Netscape 4.x. Then it's yours. Upgrade, and do yourself a favour.