The Rev Harold in the lions' den

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The Independent Travel
IT'S NOT your common or garden actress-and-bishop tale, this. Stiffkey's most famous (or rather, infamous) son, the Rev Harold Davidson, rose to national prominence in a blaze of publicity in the early Thirties. Here, he is pictured with his sister outside Church House, Westminster, where in 1932 a church court delivered a verdict of 'immorality' against him. He was subsequently defrocked.

The 'prostitutes' padre', as he became known, had tested the patience of his ecclesiastical superiors with his Soho ministry: at the start of each week he would set off for London on a mission to save the souls of his all-female flock, returning to his wife and congregation in Stiffkey in time to administer matins on Sunday mornings.

Witnesses called to the court offered a different slant: the rector was more interested in bodies than souls. Many, particularly in Stiffkey, protested the rector's innocence, but none in so extreme a manner as he himself. Going off to Blackpool, he installed himself in a barrel on the Golden Mile where, amid bearded ladies and other sideshow freaks, he berated the church and its authorities to anyone who would listen. Yet even this paled in comparison with his final act. In 1937 he moved to a Skegness amusement park where he sat among the caged lions. Like his ecclesiastical superiors, however, the big cats were not amused. In July that year the Rev Harold Davidson was fatally eaten.

(Photograph omitted)

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