Basil Lynch

The following recollections by Mr Arthur Hunt are taken from the Oratory Parish Magazine for Summer 1997.

I remember Father Basil Lynch as my friend and the friend of my friends. Although he had to change his first name on entering the Congregation in 1932 (there was already a Fr. Philip Lynch), he did not change his nature. Small in stature, quick in movement, Fr. Basil (or Bas as he was affectionately known) had all the elements of a priestly Puck. Some may have thought him eccentric, and not entirely without justification, but to those who knew him well – and they were many – he was a sharp-witted, learned, happy man who loved people.

Joe Hodgkinson, sole survivor of that great group of young men known as “The Hawaian Islanders” of B.B.C. fame, told me that “Basil believed in not being serious.” In fact he could have said, along with his patron St. Philip, “I’m like God’s fool.”

Indeed, one look at Fr. Basil’s chiselled features confirmed the impression that he was always alert to the possibility of the amusing, indeed comical, side of things. His nose was perhaps his most significant feature with its square butt-end and its frequent twitch – as good as a blind horse.

But it was as a follower of St. Philip and the good work he did in Rome amongst the young men there that Fr. Basil excelled. This is, obviously, a personal memoir, but I know it applies to a large number of young men in the Oratory Parish, who were befriended by the lively young priest who introduced them to music, lent them records, guided their faltering footsteps in the world of books, yet never once tried to hassle them in things spiritual. He led by example.

My own little group had access to his room even when he was not in it because, perhaps, he was conducting a service in the Church. He would come back to find us brewing coffee, smoking his cigarettes and making ourselves thoroughly at home. With a twitch of his nose he would start again to try to convert us – to reading Jane Austen, perhaps his favourite author.

Before I met Fr. Basil, my knowledge of music was virtually non-existent. Under his expert guidance I fell in love with Haydn and, hard to believe now, Wagner. Through him I had violin lessons and once had the pleasure of sitting in the little orchestra which provided a musical Oratory for the Brothers.

Yes – Bas was an unconventional priest – for instance, he hated sermons, and to be honest this was quite apparent to his audience. But there is no doubt about his holiness, and the fact that he followed so closely in the footsteps of St. Philip must surely earn him a high place in heaven. Purgatory cannot be his share – many years before his death in 1991 he became totally deaf, a dreadful hardship for such a great lover of music.

He was also a great lover of Shakespeare, and took a lively interest in the plays produced by the pupils of St. Philip’s and St Paul’s Schools. Perhaps it is appropriate to let Shakespeare have the last word:

But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.