Saying goodbye to Katie Boyle at a beautiful church in Hampstead

If ever you are in Hampstead, do visit the Catholic Church of St Mary’s in Holly Walk.  It’s a gem. It’s only two minutes from the tube, but not easy to find.  I went there today to a beautiful Requiem Mass for Katie Boyle. Glorious music - Schubert and Cesar Franck, and, appropriately, as they carried Katie’s coffin out, ABBA on the organ with a Eurovision hit: Waterloo.  Monsignor Phelim Rowland wore a biretta with a scarlet pompom (a Monsignor’s privilege) and delivered a fine and thoughtful homily. Rupert Rhymes remembered Katie with affection. And, as we emerged from the church, the sun shone. Katie was a sunshine person.

There were two young servers in attendance at the Mass, reminding me of how much I loved being a server at St Stephen’s, Gloucester Road, when I was a little boy of seven or eight. I remember, too, how much I looked forward to a funeral when I was in the choir at Holy Trinity, Brompton. We were paid half-a-crown for weddings, but five shillings for funerals. On Sundays we choir boys looked around the church carefully picking out the oldest members of the congregation and then, on our knees, prayed earnestly for them to die.

Gyles Brandreth