A tribute to Canon Peter Bourne

 The sun is shining in High Street Kensington. It's a beautiful day, a good day to be buried. As I write, a few miles away in Westminster Cathedral, the funeral of Canon Peter Bourne is underway. I first met Canon Peter in 1990 when he was visiting St Edmunds parish in Edmonton. I wasn't working at the time and so was able to attend mid-day Mass. Fr Dermot O'Neil was the celebrant that day and afterwards he invited me in for lunch. Canon Peter was also at lunch and he asked what I was up to in life. I explained I was a musician and songwriter and he wondered would I consider writing music for religious programmes. I said I would, and he gave me the telephone number of Sr Denise Coen who was living at the National Catholic TV and Radio Centre in Hatch End. Canon Peter was that last director of the centre prior to its closure that year. So I rang Sr Denise and we met later that day. We subsequently produced a video together for schools and continued to work together for the next nine years at the Catholic Truth Society. Canon Peter was part of the team. During the production of the video he provided transport, cash, advice and sarcasm, he even had a walk-on and talk-over part in the video. Peter was blessed with a World War II movie-hero voice which he used to great effect. In his room at Hatch End he had a clock. This was without a minute hand and where the numerals 1 to 12 would normally appear, it had written - 'oneish, twoish threeish' and so on. It was typical of the 'disrespectful' undertone to Peter's character that was never far below the surface. Canon Peter was also a qualified glider pilot and I understand he held several British records in this. In 1991 or 92, he joined YAP for a week and accompanied the group on their annual retreat to Lourdes. The journey was always by coach. I remember one stop on the way at some deserted roadside cafe. It was a crisp October morning, around 6am, we were somewhere in the south of France. Tired and uncomfortable we sat about drinking tea and rubbing our dry eyes. Canon Peter was bright as a button and while we slumped on the plastic cafe furniture, he stood slicing an apple for himself with a Swiss Army knife. He proceeded to tell us an excellent 'Swiss Army knife' joke which could not be repeated here, as well as several others. Thus he endeared himself to all who met him that week. During the pilgrimage, the group visited an Alpine village church, the name escapes me, and there Canon Peter said Mass and delivered a complete hoot of a sermon which had everyone in stitches and his clerical colleagues, including Cardinal Hume, reaching for the Code of Canon Law! I leave any mention of Peter's spirituality to those who knew him in that way better than I. I simply felt the passing of a great character should be marked with more than the official obituary. Canon Peter, like Canon Swan, Bishop O'Brien and Fr Reginald Fuller (not deceased, I must add) and other notable elders of the Church, had that rare gift of showing us youngsters a side of the official Church not often seen. More than anything this I'm sure provided a greater appreciation of the legacy of the Church and the current validity of its teaching, past and present, than any homily or talk. Goodbye Peter.

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