Passed/Failed: Lionel Fanthorpe

Jonathan Sale
Wednesday 16 June 1999 23:02

Lionel Fanthorpe, 64, is a writer, tutor and

motorcycling Anglican priest, and has been

a comprehensive school head. He presented

the recent Fortean TV series. The World's

Most Mysterious Places is published this

week. On 3 July he presents a Channel 4

programme on Nostradamus (who

prophesied the end of the world on 4 July)

Sheer magic: Canon Bauman, the chairman of the governors in my junior school in Dereham, Norfolk, was a conjuror. He would take morning prayers and show us conjuring tricks. I have been interested in mystery ever since.

At death's door: Sitting in the drawing-room of the old house where I grew up, we would hear the front gate open and see a small, elderly figure pass the window - but no one would come to the door. This would be followed by the death of someone we knew; it was as if they had come to say goodbye.

My mother told me that in the night she saw a figure walking in her bedroom: "I'm quite sure I saw a visitor from another world in our bedroom last night."

My grandmother once frightened herself by looking into a crystal ball at a fair; she saw the face of the man she later married.

Woodworker-priest: At grammar school in Swaffham, Norfolk, I was taught woodwork by Harry Carter, the cousin of Howard Carter, the archaeologist who discovered Tutankhamun's tomb.

Harry carved the town sign of Swaffham, which showed a pedlar who dreamt that if he stood on London Bridge he would become rich.

On the bridge, a man told him that he had had a dream about a pedlar from Swaffham who dug under an apple tree in his garden and found a pot of gold.

So the pedlar went home...

On your motorbike: I left school at 15, without taking any exams. My aspiration was to qualify as an adult male. If you got a job and a girlfriend and a motorbike, you were a man. If you were at school taking exams, you weren't.

If I'd been a Hopi Indian, I would have wanted to take my initiation ceremony.

Cutting corner shop: I did my O-levels while helping my father with the family business - which was a corner shop - and I was married before taking my A-levels, when I worked as a journalist.

My A-levels, in English and religious instruction, got me into teachers' training college at Keswick Hall near Norwich. This was full-time for three years but I did it in two, as what was laughingly called a "mature" student.

My next qualification was an external BA at the Open University; I got an upper second.

Third degree: I started on my ordination for the ministry of the Church- in-Wales while I was still the head of the inner-city comprehensive school Glyn Derw - it translates as "Oak Valley" - in Cardiff.

This ordination was much like an external degree course. We would do a day's work, then drive 30 miles down the Rhondda for a three-hour tutorial on church history. (I'm not a "stipendiary" priest, that is, I don't have an income from the church.)

I took a fellowship of the College of Praeceptors, the equivalent of a PhD. The college is a wonderful organisation, founded in 1849 before government set up teaching qualifications. I was doing three things at the same time: preparing for ordination, studying for the college, and being a headteacher.

Fighting talk: God has given me a great deal of energy. Every morning I go down to the gym for weight-lifting - I am a weight-lifting instructor and third dan martial arts instructor. An 18-hour day is not uncommon.

I have an advertisement offering tuition in the Cardiff Yellow Pages, and Talking Pages.

It reads: "All ages, all levels, most subjects."

Interview by Jonathan Sale

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