OBITUARY:John Snagge

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The Independent Online
I met John Snagge in 1975, at the Star and Garter pub at Putney, writes Sidney Vines [further to the obituary by Leonard Miall, 28 March].

In the first half hour we each consumed four double whiskies. After this, I was walking on air, but retained enough wit to keep my tape recorder running for the profile interview (for The Field) which was the purpose of the meeting. He was then 71, in good trim, and his eyes twinkled with humour. He was full of good stories.

After a broadcast by Winston Churchill during the war, the Prime Minister turned to Snagge and poured him a glass of champagne in an enormous balloon. When Snagge demurred, Churchill turned on him. "You will drink this and you will enjoy it. If you do not it will go down the drain - without of course going through the usual channels."

During the Coronation in 1953, Snagge described the service from a box above the high altar in Westminster Abbey. He told me: "All went smoothly until I said 'the Archbishop now moves to the high altar for the introit "O God our defender".' The Archbishop was out of my sight, when to my horror, I heard him say 'Let us pray'."

I thought 'Oh my God, I've done it. They've altered the service and not told me.' There was a deathly hush which seemed to go on for ever, but in fact was only about 30 seconds, then to my intense relief I heard the words of the introit "O God our defender"."

A few days later he met the Archbishop at Lambeth Palace. The Archbishop explained that he had turned over two pages of the service, but that his chaplain had corrected him. How had Snagge filled the gap? "I did what you told me - and no one in the Abbey prayed harder than I did."

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