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Saturday 15th December 2018

Publications » The Parish Notes


...from the pulpit, the pub and the Parish Notes 1948-1953
Rev. Oliver Willmott

Between 1948 and 1982 the Reverend Oliver Willmott wrote three quarters of a million words chronicling the life of his three parishes in West Dorset - Loders, Dottery, and Askerswell. Here are the nuggets from just the first five years of his pastoral observations. Eccentric vicars are two a penny. This Vicar was unique. There was nothing eccentric about his heartfelt Christian belief. His first-class academic training at Kelham Theological College made him steel-strong in Logic, Language, Philosophy and Psychology.

His Parish Notes noted everything, from the fall of a jackdaw's nest to the enthronement of an Archbishop. He noted matters to do with the pub, the parish, the farm and the kitchen sink (although he admitted he wasn't an expert on the latter). He had a wider vision. He was not parochial - he was a universalist. He had a comprehensive soul. He was also very funny.


...from the Parish Notes 1953-1968
Rev. Oliver Willmott

Here is part two of an epic 'poem' - a trilogy. The Parish Notes trilogy develops from 'Yours Reverently 1948-1953' through 'The Parson Knows 1953-1968' to 'The Vicar Calls 1968-1982'.

The books are extracted from the copious writings in prose of Rev. Oliver Willmott. The Dorset Vicar was seldom irreverent, except perhaps in a wedding speech. He knew everything or almost everything on his patch or from his training. He 'noted' on behalf of the parish, and himself. He integrated all the elements of the parish in his Parish Notes: they are a startling display of how integrated he was himself.

The quirks of style and expression seem to fit in with his reluctance to buy new shirts, when good second-hand ones were to be had at the Fête. Or, his singing of 'Who is this in garments gory?' to encourage Primula his cow to let down her milk. Or, his capacity to notice that the furrows on Boarsbarrow seemed to be running right up to heaven. He had singular vision.

Andy James, the illustrator, was the 1998 winner of the Carroll Foundation Award for the 'most promising portrait painter' presented by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters.


...from the Parish Notes 1968-1982
Rev. Oliver Willmott

This is the third part of a 'poem' - a making - based upon the unique writings about English parish life, The Parish Notes 1948-198 by Rev. Oliver Willmott. Since he was a journalist at heart, The Parish Notes are full of juicy comments about village people and life - 'a portrait of village life and its parish church that has almost entirely disappeared.'(Jeff Hopewell - News and Views, Leicester Diocesan Magazine).

He was fundamentally a simple Christian, and a countryman.

The Notes are buttressed by staunch beliefs. He loved the English language as well as the landscape. He walked the countryside, and practised the language at its most vital, from the pulpit, at the pub, and with his pen. The Parish Notes are shrewd, deep and funny.

"He was an outstanding character. He knew how to call a spade a spade."
(Jack Stephens - Churchwarden of Askerswell)

"Rev. Willmott creates a world of church fêtes, carol singing, outings and shared joy and sadness you can almost touch and smell."
(Celia Andrews - The Grapevine - Diocesan Magazine for Bath and Wells)


"What is amazing about them [the Parish Notes] is not their quantity (750, 000 words) but their amazingly consistent quality. They are seasoned with a wry and occasionally sly wit worthy of the great parson-diarists, James Woodforde and Francis Kilvert."
Damian Thompson - The Daily Telegraph - September 19th 1998

"They offer a unique and intimate picture of a way of life that has all but vanished and they are an important contribution to England's social history."
England - Journal of the Royal Society of St. George - Spring 1999

"Extended quotation is impossible, for the whole book is quotable. Criticism is also impossible, for this work is sui generis."
Brian Brindley - The Catholic Herald - 25-12-1999

"This book is a portrait of village life and its parish church that has almost entirely disappeared, written by an observant priest with an individual voice.
Jeff Hopewell - News and Views - Leicester Diocese - January 2000

"Some of you are very kind and compliment me on the parish magazine... If our magazine is good, Rev. Willmott's is a classic."
Rev. Brown - Welshpool Magazine - Powys - December 1999

"He was an outstanding character. He knew how to call a spade a spade."
Jack Stephens - Churchwarden of Askerswell

"He had an infinite capacity with words, and his words quite regularly touched upon the infinite."

Paul Hebden - Western Gazette - 25-11-1999

"Rev. Willmott creates a world of church fêtes, carol singing, outings and shared joy and sadness you can almost touch and smell." Celia Andrews - The Grapevine - Bath and Wells Diocese - July 1998

"His writings recorded news of the parish and its locality in meticulous and often quirky detail, aware of life's absurdities and pretensions."
Neville Osborne - Three Crowns - December 1999

"Oliver's Twists... Oliver's writings are an acquired taste. To start with you wonder what on earth he is twittering on about as he ponders on, for example, the choice of colour of the paintwork on PC and Mrs Eliot's home... By the end you are chuckling quietly with him."
Ed Perkins - Bournemouth Daily Echo - December 1999

"It is a fascinating insight into a country parson's life that has largely passed, through the eyes of a highly intelligent man whose forceful opinions are tempered with wit and humanity."
Fanny Charles - The Fosse Way Magazine - August 28th 1998

"Willmott wrote about all matters whether they were to do with the church or not. So matters such as mains drainage, badgers, foxes, chrysanthemums, ageratum, Ringers' outings, Sunday School outings, the Mothers' Union and the Women's Institute all got equal treatment in a very witty style."
The Sarum Link - November 1999

"In a world where catholic meant what it does in the creed, and was not a sectarian term to denote a denominational demarcation, one might describe Rev. Oliver Willmott as a catholic priest - a near-papist encouraging the Wesleyan Chapel, married, seven children, in the same parish from the forties to the eighties, at home in his parish in both the good and uncomfortable times, holding fast to fundamental Christian belief... you can't pigeon-hole someone like this."
Prebendary Brooke Lunn - The Catholic Messenger - February 1998

"In a strange kind of way as a reader I am getting to know your father - it's as if he's still talking to us."
James Harrison - Interviewed on Radio Wiltshire - October 1999

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