status of st margaret

I went to see St Margaret yesterday – but the poor soul wasn’t looking her best. A hundred years of nights out on the tiles has left our local Saint looking pitted and windblown… but that’s what happens when you’re a stone statue!

Margaret once stood on the top of an archway at All Souls Church in Northcote Road, looking out over the parish and the community that bears her name. She was taken down fairly recently when it looked like she might plunge to the ground and dispatch the next passing parishioner. Now she lies fallen but not forgotten in a corner of All Souls Church garden - a young woman wearing a hooded dress and holding a large sword shaped like a cross.

But what St Margaret is she? We have at least 5 to choose from! There’s Margaret of Antioch who was swallowed by Satan in the form of a dragon and coughed up alive when her crucifix turned into a sword and we mustn’t overlook Margaret of Hungary whose spiritual zeal was such that a contemporary wrote, “one gets the impression that Margaret’s love of God was associated with a certain element of wilfulness”. Then there’s the fairly normal St Margaret of Scotland. She was born about 1045 at the Castle Réka, Mecseknadasd in Hungary and married Malcolm 3rd, King of the Scots. It was a happy marriage and Margaret lived happily to bear him 6 sons and 2 daughters. She died in 1093, just 3 days after the death of her husband and her eldest son. In 1251 Margaret was canonised by Pope Innocent 4th on account of her personal holiness and fidelity to the Church. This took the form of feeding the poor every day and getting up at midnight to attend church services. St. Margaret of Scotland is now remembered in the name of our local Roman Catholic Church in beautiful downtown St. Margarets.

Of course, as far as the Anglican Church authorities are concerned we do not live in St. Margarets at all! Because there are other parishes in the country called St. Margarets and church rules do not allow two parishes to carry the same name, about 100 years ago they renamed our parish “St Margarets on Thames”. Now that is a very stylish name indeed and guaranteed to add at least £25,000 to property values. At this time of credit crunch and falling house prices perhaps we should all change our addresses, swapping ‘St Margarets’ for the oh-so-classy ‘St Margarets on Thames’. It is certainly easier than being swallowed by a dragon!

– from Martyn Day