Paul Eaglesim

This reminiscence by Fr Denis Sheil is taken from the Oratory Parish Magazine for April 1961.

Fr Thomas Paul Eaglesim was a Scotsman and received his early education north of the Tweed. He then entered Worcester College, Oxford, where he took his degree and gained a high reputation as a classical scholar. For some time he was connected with one of the Reviews so popular in the mid-nineteenth century – either the Cornhill or the Quarterly.

Meanwhile during these years his religious views were being strongly affected and he formally became affiliated to the Church of England – whether in his youth he was a Presbyterian or an Episcopalian, I do not know. While at Worcester College he became still more ‘Catholic’ and frequented the highly ritualistic churches of Oxford. He was ordained and became curate of St Paul’s, Oxford, a ‘high’ Church.

Still his mind was not at rest and at last he wrote to Dr Newman at the Birmingham Oratory asking to be allowed to pay a visit. The rest came quickly, he was received into the Catholic Church in 1877 and became Classics Master on the staff of the Oratory School for a time before being admitted into the Oratory in October 1878 and he was ordained priest in June 1882. He was launched out on parochial work and although in perpetual poor health he never let it interfere with his apostolate, for many years he was parish priest. To a casual acquaintance he did not appear to be gifted with a strong personality but those with whom he came into regular contact were devoted to him. His sermons were a mild and gentle style, hardly speaking above a whisper, yet he gained an influence among all classes that was quite remarkable. An untiring worker and parish visitor he had a heavy confessional and many callers in a quieter age than today when the Oratory door and telephone bells work overtime!

It was Fr Paul who organised the Oratory District Visitors Society and drew up their simple rules which are followed to this day.

The Cardinal had a great regard for his views, and it was largely through his influence that, in 1888, the Fathers undertook the heavy charge of providing Birmingham Catholic boys with a Grammar School education in spite of several previous attempts in other parts of the city which had proved abortive owing to financial difficulties.

Fr Paul was one of those Fathers who went to Rome with Dr Newman for the Consistory at which Pope Leo XIII created him a Cardinal – the other two being Fr William Neville and Fr Thomas Pope. He made Fr William very cross when he remarked that Rome reminded him of Oxford!

He died at the age of 54 in 1894 after fifteen years in the Oratory.