Confessions of An Altar Boy - or Two


“ I’ll never forget the  Sunday  when I was serving at 4 o’clock Benediction.   There was an impressive  line of altar boys standing just inside the altar rail with their backs to the congregation.  When we put our acolyte candles down on the floor the candle flames were  just over waist high. It wasn’t long before the dare went out along the line to see how close we could get the hems of our Cottas to the flame without burning them. One by one the servers managed to get their hems just close enough to  the flame to singe them brown. However, I was so busy  looking along the line at what the others were doing, I actually set my Cotta on fire and had to pat myself down to put the flames out!”




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"Altar Boys got to ride in some luxury cars when we were on funeral duty.  On one occasion, Tony Long,  Chris Baines and me travelled to the Crematorium in a lovely Bentley owned by McKenna Funerals.  It was 1968 - an Olympic year and we had been learning about the olympic rings at school.   One of us thought it would be a good idea to use the electric cigarette lighter to burn the olympic rings onto the powder blue leather seats in the back.  Of course it took practice to get them right - but we were more than satisfied after our 5th attempt.

After the funeral we were delivered back to school but by the time I got home, Fr Foulkes had called my mum to tell her what I had done and that McKenna's wanted £400 for a new seat:  A new Mini Cooper was only £900 brand new at the time!”






“We altar boys had a whole range of tasks to undertake.  We had to make sure the bell was in the correct place; ensure the water and wine and communion plate were on the table at the side of altar;   light the candles on the back altar and how many depended what sort of service it was.  For an ordinary morning or a Sunday service we lit  the 6 x 6ft candles on the back altar. However, for high mass at 11 on Sunday, Benediction or other important services we lit the 6 x 6ft candles plus the 6 x 9ft candles which took some doing!  


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Lots of servers liked to quaff the altar wine which you couldn’t do if the Priest was robing up, as the wine wall-safe was in the vestry!  There were other tasks for different services such as setting up the thurible with lighted charcoal and incense, and preparing the holy water pot and  brush for anointing and spraying water about the place!”







“I was drunk on the altar on  Xmas Eve ,1974 and was sacked.  I was 14 and had "sampled" what was on offer for the relatives over Christmas, but, alas, I sampled TOO much.  The Buckfast Abbey wine finished me and my career as an altar server off.”





The day of Canon McGann’s funeral was the pinnacle of my altar serving service. In addition to attending his body in repose, I was also given two special duties during the requiem mass at which the church was the fullest I ever saw it.   I had to carry the Bishop’s mitre to him as he sat on the throne centre of altar.  The method was to have its base resting on a large green velvet cushion I was carrying with the point sticking just under my chin to keep it secure.  Just as I got to him, I released the pressure under my chin too early and his mitre toppled off the cushion to the floor.”

As if that wasn't bad enough, when I took his crozier off him to put it to one side so he could say mass, I leaned it against the wall,  but unbeknown to me got the angle it was leaning at all wrong.  There was a brass knob on end of it …  and the parquet flooring was highly polished.   About 20 seconds after I placed the crozier against the wall,  gravity took hold and it slid and crashed to the floor.  The look that the Bishop gave me was of biblical proportions and I am amazed I didn't turn to a pillar of salt.   I was literally shaking with embarrassment, fear and humiliation.”