Members of the IoW Catholic History Society were all saddened by the news of the death of Lydia Jackson in June 2009. Lydia bought a property in Ryde five years ago. Conveniently for her, it was almost equal distance from the St. Mary’s Church, St. Cecilia’s Abbey and the ferry across the Solent to Portsmouth. She grew to love the Island as there was ample opportunity for walking and sailing; activities which she enjoyed immensely. On several occasions she took part in the Paris/Chartres walk held annually in May. She remarked on various occasions how she considered life to be a pilgrimage, with heaven as the final destination. In fact there were not many Catholic shrines in she had not visited at some time. She was always keen to promote the story or the history of each place. Several of us went with Lydia on her final pilgrimage, or rather retreat, given by Father John Edwards, S.J., in Llantarnum Abbey, near Newport in Wales, last November.
Lydia made many friends among the Catholics of Ryde and she was a dedicated member of the Island Catholic History Society and the Faith Study Group. Both groups benefited from her vast knowledge of the Faith and church history. For almost a year she led a discussion group on the history and the development of the Mass. She gave several talks to the Catholic History Society and she helped to arrange a successful three-day visit to Ryde by the English Catholic History Association, during which she gave another talk on the “Signs and Symbols” in the Christian Church. On several occasions she assisted with guided tours of St. Mary’s; showing how quickly she could learn and recall details of St. Mary’s history.
Lydia was a member of the Latin Mass Society for many years and helped, not only the local branch, but also the Head Office in London, where she gave many hours of clerical assistance. She was also a member of C.I.E.L. and attended several of their conferences abroad. Lydia was most enthusiastic for a Solemn High Mass (Extraordinary Form) to take place in Ryde and promoted this idea regularly. She considered that it would give a sign that the Old Mass is accepted, not as something subversive (as it is still seen by some), but as a normal and respected part of Catholic liturgy. Sadly, she did not quite live to see this event, which did indeed take place on the Feast of St. John the Baptist, 2009.
Lydia had a strong affiliation to the Oratory in London where she was the librarian. Her meticulous attitude and attention to detail was evident for all to see, as was mentioned by Father Rupert McHardy in the sermon at her funeral. She also had a close association with the Tyburn nuns, and she often took part in their all-night vigils. She had a deep sense of Catholic history and would often talk of the sacrifices made by the English martyrs who met their death at Tyburn. At a local level she developed a devotion to, and keen interest in, the Isle of Wight martyrs, Blessed Robert Anderton and Blessed William Marsden, who were executed in Cowes in 1586.
Lydia also gave freely of her time to assist the Ryde Social Heritage Society. This involved her studying the lives of many members of the Victorian Catholic community (including one bishop and eight priests) who are buried in Ryde cemetery. Lydia was an efficient secretary of the Ryde Archaeological Society. She had a keen interest in local affairs and was enthusiastic in her support of any group striving to promote the Island’s rich archaeological and cultural history.
Her funeral took place at the Oratory in London on the Feast of Sts. John and Paul, martyrs (old calendar). The celebrant was Father Patrick Doyle (Oratorian). Father Rupert McHardy (Oratorian) was the Deacon and Father Patrick Hayward the Sub-Deacon.
Requiem aeterna dona ea, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ea