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An Evening with Anne Widdecombe

An Evening with Anne Widdecombe

Ann Widdecombe: one year on (and other things)

On a pleasant Wednesday evening in September of 2011 a number of us from St Bernadette’s travelled to Bath to see and listen to Ann Widdecombe one time Tory politician, dancer, novelist  and TV celebrity having appeared  on a documentary by Louis Theroux,  she  was also in ITV’S ‘ Celebrity Fit Club.

She was in Bath at St John’s to talk about the effect of Pope Benedict’s visit in 2010 one year on. As well as talking about this she was happy and brave to invite members of the audience to ask questions on anything.

Ann has become something of a national treasure these days and of course well known as a celebrity catholic convert well before Tony Blair took a similar path. She is a Privy Councillor and was the Member of Parliament for Maidstone from 1987 to 1997 and for Maidstone and Weald from 1997 to 2010. She was a social conservative and a member of the Conservative Christian Fellowship. She retired from politics at the 2010 general election.

Some of us from the St Bernadette contingent ‘bumped into’ our former Parish Priest,  Father Anthony Harding, before we entered St John’s Church, he was returning to his flat with what looked like a fish supper tucked under his arm. It was nice to see him and say hello.

Also greeting us at the entrance to the Church was none other than our  current parish Priest Father Christopher, who as well as watching out ready to greet Ann Widdecombe, acted as compère,  sound engineer and I also believe organised the event. There were people from all around the diocese who made the trip to see Ann speak that evening. However, one special mention should be made of one audience member.

Beryl Newport a distinguished member of our parish was there that night. Beryl had actually taught Ann when she was a schoolgirl in Bath. So prior to Ann getting on the stage to begin her talk she spent a little time no doubt reminiscing with Beryl on those school days. I understand that they have kept in touch over the years and exchange Christmas cards. I also believe there was something of a mini school reunion after the meeting had finished with other ex – staff and pupils to talk over times past and present. The first thing that we noticed   was that she no longer
dyed her hair blond. She is now as you may know proudly silver grey. The reason for giving up being a blonde she said was that people would speak very slowly to her and in simple syllables! In other words she was not taken seriously, perish the thought, can you believe that! Now she gets treated normally once more!

Ann covered a wide number of topics , here experience of seeing Pope Benedict , the difficulties in religious broadcasting, ways of reaching out, her brother and his work as a Vicar at the ‘Pip ‘n’ Jay’ church and on being in ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.

The floor was open for people to then ask questions from the floor most people were positive in their questions but of course others had some more challenging views and Ann dealt with all comers in her usual forthright manner. It was a very enjoyable evening and I was glad to be part of the audience, it left us all with much food for thought.

Bernard Price Editor



More on Ann Widdecombe


It was of course, a great pleasure to hear Ann Widdecombe’s very thoughtful talk recently at St John’s, Bath, on the year since Pope Benedict’s visit to the UK. I wonder if Ann felt a twinge of nostalgia, for she was educated in her early years at La Sainte Union Convent School in Bath.

Listening to her, I could not help remember another occasion when she was still an MP and organised a reunion dinner for former pupils and staff of Bath Convent Schools.

We felt very grand being driven up to the House of Commons and dining in one of the Members dining rooms. In happy mood we socialised with many of our former pupils who had grown up into such well-rounded personalities, friendly, elegant, self confident, each in her own particular way making a contribution to society and clearly imbued with the ethos of the school “Each for All from God”. Sister Bernard Xavier (the former Head of the School) and I stayed overnight at the Convent in London, and , the next day being Sunday, one of the sisters, who was a prison
visitor, took us to Mass at Holloway Women’s Prison. This proved, for me, an unforgettable experience. I felt a strange pang in my heart, for there we were amongst a group of young women to all intents and purposes, so like those with whom we had been socialising the evening before, similar in age, in looks, in manner even, in deportment, and yet who had, by some quirk of fate arrived at such unfortunate circumstances. Life had dealt them such a different hand. This was an experience the memory of which has stayed with me through all these years.

I had better stop reminiscing, and get back to concentrating on Ann’s excellent talk.


It may be worth adding that those of you who were at the Saturday evening Mass on November the 26th may have had the opportunity of seeing Miss Widdecombe bein interviewed by Fern Britton on BBC1 on Sunday Morning (November 27 2011) at 10 a.m. She was brilliant, especially on the subject of abortion, stressing that there were two persons involved, not only just the Mother but the unborn child as well, both equally entitled to human civil rights.

Beryl Newport

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