by Doctor George Giri

In Mancor del Valle after days of downpours that filled buckets to the brim, the sun appeared on Wednesday and thank goodness normality seemed restored. In the countryside, it is quite normal to read that the rainfall was a few centimeters, it was incredible to see that in some areas it measured up to ten litres. Everyone is happier when the reservoirs up at Lluc are full (it also clears a lot of flood channels, torrents, of nasty rubbish.).

Frank Leavers wrote a very happy article about the farewell lunch last Sunday for the retirement of Robert Ellis, the Anglican Balearic Chaplain and Vicar of St. Philip and St. James in Son Armadams in Palma. Over 150 attended, and it had to be accommodated in the Pueblo Español.

How do we come to have our own Church? The history is truly rural. Everybody has heard of the nature reserve the Albufera. In the 1860s it was the sea end of marshes covering the middle of Majorca. A company with John Bateman in charge was selected to drain them. He came to Sa Pobla with a team of experts from the Fenland, and lived in a large farmhouse. He was a devout Anglican. He sent his foreman to England to become a lay reader, and turned one of his rooms into a chapel. His English workers and their families had to attend services twice every Sunday ..... they might have been corrupted by Catholicism.

However, as he employed many local workers, he built a very small Catholic church in the region where the birdwatching centre is now, so that they were not late for work on Mondays. The drainage went on for about three years. Now we see acres of crops of every description over a wide area.

There follows a big gap historically. It was not until 1925 that Mr. and Mrs. F.G. Short opened a tearoom in the Mayfair of Palma, at the time, Terreno. It was in the outhouse of a large estate thought to have been a summer palace of Queen Isabella of Spain. Before long it became a British meeting place and ended up as the British club in another outbuilding. Some readers will remember that this closed about 20 years ago.

The original tea house became a situation for occasional services, with visiting priests from the mainland. Then a lease was taken out on an adjoining building, which had housed donkeys and mules till it was turned into a soda water factory. The outside certainly did not look like a church in any way. However, inside it had plenty of room and became quite elegant and homely. It was well attended until the Civil War started, a British ship was sent to evacuate British residents and all their furniture was stacked in enormous piles inside the church.

It is here that we have to praise the British Vice Consul's wife the Hon. Mary Hillgarth, who was a devoted churchgoer. She supervised the stacking and paid the rent through the Civil War, and until the end of World War II. The payment was made to ensure that there was no vandalism of the possessions. She was evidently here during all that time.

The Hon. Mary Hillgarth had bought the fine mansion of So'n Torella in 1930. It is the only rural building in Majorca which has her British coat of arms on the entrance (legal at the time). The lengthy history is known to the writer and Palma gold medallist, their son, who lives there now. It is situated north of Santa Maria del Cami on the Coa Negra (the water stream that supplies the village).

After the war, the possessions stored in the church were reclaimed. A retired Anglican Churchman, the Reverend Philip Coleman restarted the services. Later with a resurgence of British population, and the end of the Franco regime, it was decided to build a church, now called St. Philip and St. James. It required the eager help of residents all over the island.

It was helped enormously by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Majorca, decreeing that any Christian sect could use any Catholic church in the Balearics provided the local priest was in agreement and it did not interfere with his services. The priest a the new church in Palma travelled to officiate to begin with.

In the meanwhile in Mancor del Valle, we are having difficulty because letting people know when services are to take place and when locals have died, was normally sounded by the Church bells. But age got at them, and we are busy raising money to do the necessary overhaul. (Our St. Philip and St. James in Palma is too far away from the faithful and we have no bell!) Our large congregation is sad to lose, by retirement, an innovative and much loved Robert Ellis and his wife.


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