Knights of St. Columba – 70th Anniversary on the IoW

Contributed by David Cooper

The Knights were founded in Glasgow in 1919, a time of new hope in the wake of the Great War but also a time of great poverty and religious bigotry. The founders saw a need for Catholic men to become organised in order to face up to the many challenges facing society and the Catholic Church.

The main aims of the Order were (and still are):

  1. To be an organised body of practising Catholic men who give entire loyalty to the Pope, the Hierarchy and the Clergy in everything that concerns the faith.
  2. To co-operate in all works concerning the Lay Apostolate.
  3. To promote the Spiritual and Material wellbeing of members, especially the sick and unemployed, and to make provision for the widows and families of deceased brothers.
  4. To foster the interest of Catholic Youth and to help young people develop in the likeness of Christ.

The Order has constant regard for the Fundamental Virtues of CHARITY, UNITY and FRATERNITY.

They are organised into local groups known as KSC Councils, with each Council holding monthly meetings and is headed by an elected Grand Knight.

The Knights are at the service of their local clergy and will help out in practical ways when requested, e,g, Fundraising, church duties, stewarding processions and other church events, gardening, decorating, providing transport. Since its foundation the Order has made provision for brothers who are sick, unemployed and for widows and orphans of deceased members. (The Knights were founded long before the days of Social Security)

The Isle of Wight Council was founded in March 1949 in Newport. So this year it celebrates its diamond jubilee. The first Grand Knight was Captain Herbert Ward J.P. a member of the well-known Catholic Ward family of Cowes and Totland. Fr. Michael O’Riordan (Sacred Heart, Shanklin) became the first chaplain and remained chaplain until his death in 1965. He had been a KSC member and chaplain in Glasgow and having suffered with TB, had moved to the deep south for health reasons. Father was very enthusiastic in promoting membership and encouraged other Island clergy to do the same. The current chaplain is Fr Brian Coogan, a Mill Hill Father, formally at St. David’s, East Cowes and now in retirement in Sandown.

Membership increased during the 1950s with Knights in every island parish. At that time Catholic education was a priority and the KSC provided a network for a fundraising scheme, “St. Wilfrid’s Development Society” which operated a weekly football draw with cash prizes and was able to support existing primary schools with grants and raised £75,000 towards a Catholic senior school.

The Knights put themselves at the service of our clergy and were always ready to give support where needed for instance as stewards for Corpus Christi and May processions in parishes and all-island events.

The oldest member, Ray Brooks of St. Patrick’s Sandown is now 98 and still an enthusiastic Knight. He recently celebrated 70 years as a member. Ray joined the Squires, the junior Branch of the KSC, as a teenager in 1936 prior to five years’ service in the Royal Artillery.

In recent years there has been a ‘Knights Saunter’ which is a sponsored walk from Sacred Heart church, Shanklin to Sandown, to raise funds for local charities. Participants finish the walk at Hotel Maria in Sandown with refreshments. Funds are then donated to worthy causes, e.g. £500 to the Mountbatten Hospice, £300 to the Mountbatten Hospice plus support for parish needs.

The Peace Club, founded in recent years by Fr. Emmanuel (Newport) to educate young people in Justice and Peace is another project which the KSC are supporting.

On this 70th anniversary it is appropriate to give thanks to the Knights of St. Columba for their witness to the Faith and their work here on the Island in support of the parishes and local charities.