A stonemason in County Cork, Ken Thompson, has just completed the memorial stone for Cardinal Hume, which is being unveiled on 17 June, the first anniversary of his death. Thompson's long association with the Benedictines at Downside, and the influence of the work of Eric Gill, made him the ideal choice for the commission, said Cathedral administrator Mgr George Stack. Born in Cork in 1946, Thompson was educated at Worth and Downside and originally trained in London to work in his father's confectionery business. He later studied in Germany and France. He started stone carving in Liverpool in 1969. In the following year he returned to Ireland and married Rachel and the couple set up home in an old cottage. After a spell in Italy on a study scholarship, Thompson became a full-time stone carver. His work can now be seen all over Ireland. One of his most significant pieces is the memorial to the victims of 1985 Air India tragedy at Ahakista in West Cork. He is best known in this country for the plaque outside Westminster Abbey commemorating the Innocent Victims of War and Oppression in the 20th century. This was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth on 10 October 1996. The Thompsons now have six children, one of whom works with Ken. They live in an old farmhouse on the side of a sloping cliff in Ballytrasna, Ballycotton. Only the roof is visible from the road. The windows can only been seen from the ocean. "I am largely self-taught," Thompson said. "When I started I was much influenced by the work of Eric Gill (who did the Stations of the Cross at Westminster Cathedral). I was a friend of his daughter who lived nearby. Seamus Murphy was also a friend. When he died he left me his tools, equipment and unfinished work." Cardinal Hume's memorial stone is being placed in St Gregory's Chapel. Its arrival will mean a major reordering of the marbles and stones on the ground on the chapel surrounding the grave. Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor will celebrate Evening Prayer for the Dead in the Chapel at 2pm on Friday 16 June. This is being followed by a Memorial Mass at 5.30pm at which the Archbishop will preside. On Saturday 17 June, Mgr George Stack will celebrate Mass in the chapel at Archbishop's House with members of the late Cardinal's family.
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