Broken Batons


Image result for Arturo Toscanini

Arturo Toscanini was the Beyonce of the operatic world for the first half of the twentieth century. For over fifty years Toscanini was the world’s leading conductor of orchestras, and was the headline performer at Milan’s famous “La Scala” and New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

Apart from his musical genius, Toscanini was legendary for his fits of rage. If rehearsals weren’t going perfectly, the Italian maestro would scream and swear and throw whatever item was closest to him.

The librarian who looked after all the sheet music in one of Toscanini’s orchestras became quite distressed by Toscanini’s habit of hurling expensive musical scores at the musicians when he became angry. After a few episodes of expletive-laden rage, the librarian observed that one of the first things Toscanini did when he lost his temper was to take his conductor baton in both hands and attempt to break it. If the baton snapped, Toscanini would calm down and the rehearsal could continue. If the baton didn’t break, Toscanini would become even more enraged and rush around grabbing the expensive sheet music tearing it to pieces and hurling it at his musical colleagues.

Related image

So the orchestra librarian developed a cunning plan to minimise both the emotional damage to the orchestra and also the expensive waste of musical scores. The sneaky librarian made sure all of Toscanini’s batons had a slight crack in them so Toscanini could break them easily whenever he started one of his childish rants. Once Toscanini broke the baton he’d calm down and the music (and musicians!) would be saved from further abuse.

Our world today is filled with anger. We see it online in our dialogue, we see it on our roads in our driving, it’s in our political diatribes, and unfortunately anger is also occasionally invited to our our own dinner tables. Yet unchecked anger is an emotion that has no place in the words and actions of a follower of Christ.

There’s an ancient Jewish saying found in the Bible: “A fool vents all his feelings, but the wise  bring calm to all circumstances” (Proverbs 29:11). And someone close to Jesus of Nazareth wrote to first century Christians saying, “All of us must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and even slower to get angry. Anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” (James 1:19-20).

Image result for A fool vents all his feelings, but the wise  bring calm to all circumstances

Anger may break batons and even bones, and it often damages our bond with our loving Creator.

The Apostle Paul wrote something to the Philippians I remind myself of whenever I feel the red mist of anger descending:

“Let your gentleness be known to all men because the Lord is at hand.

Be anxious about nothing, but through prayer and with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God – and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5-7)

As Alexander Pope once said, “To be angry is to revenge the faults of others on ourselves.”


David speaking 2

About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a Christian minister residing on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

A Royal Story


When Queen Victoria was a young girl she understandably didn’t quite understand the full responsibilities of being the next in line for the throne of Great Britain.


The story is told that the young Victoria’s private tutors would become frustrated as they tried to prepare her for the role of being Queen one day. They were unable to motive the young princess to concentrate on her lessons and take her studies seriously.


Finally, one of her teachers became exasperated with the young girl and sternly reprimanded her: “This is not the way the future Queen should behave!” the vexed tutor exclaimed.


Upon hearing this, it’s reported that the young Victoria went quiet for a few moments and then said quietly “Yes. From now on I will be good.”


And she was.


Young Victoria.jpg
A young Victoria – painted by Franz Xaver Winterhalter of Germany

The realisation of a young girl that she had inherited this high calling immediately gave Victoria a sense of responsibility that profoundly affected her conduct for the rest of her life.


This royal story from two hundred years ago reminds me of the Apostle Paul writing: “Don’t you know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? It is because Christ died for you that you are holy.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)


And the Apostle John had a similar realisation when he wrote: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)


When we realise we are a son or daughter of the King of the universe that should compel us to take our earthly duties more seriously.


Perhaps we should respond to our calling from Christ with the same words as a young Queen Victoria: “Yes. From now on I will be good.”


David speaking 2

About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a Christian minister residing on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.



One Man, One Word

One word written by one man over 500,000 times on the streets of Sydney (Australia) for thirty-five years would inspire millions.


When Arthur Stace awoke hungover in a gutter on that Wednesday morning – he wouldn’t have contemplated that thirty years after his death his writing would be read by over two billion people.


The date was August 6, 1930 and Arthur Stace had been sleeping rough in the streets of Sydney for ten years. His addiction to methylated spirits had been his decade-long closest friend robbing him of home and health. As the fog slowly cleared in his head that Wednesday he contemplated attending a nearby church. His motivation wasn’t spiritual but more rudimentary – the church offered homeless men a small meal if they would sit through a sermon from the minister.



Yet something unexpected would happen that night to Arthur. The minister spoke to the homeless men gathered at the church about a Creator who wished for an eternity with each of them – and something supernatural quickened the heart of an alcoholic. Arthur Stace later joked that he came to St. Barnabas Church for a rock cake but left with the “Rock of Ages” – Jesus Christ.

eternity on street.jpg

Through his commitment to his Saviour, Arthur’s life began a renovation. He “cleaned himself up”, earned himself a job, and began to help out in ministries at the church aiding other homeless men. Arthur Stace became an example of the direction given in Galatians 6:2 – “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.”


Like many men in the 1930’s of Australia, Arthur Stace only had a primary school education – so reading and writing was a difficulty for him. So it would seem incredulous at the time that decades later millions of people would be inspired by his one-word-sermon.


Two years into his Christian faith in 1932 Arthur was attending a Monday night church service. The preacher (himself a veteran of the Great War – just like Arthur) quoted Isaiah 57:15 and exclaimed “Eternity! I wish that I could sound or shout that word to everyone in the streets of Sydney…..where will you spend “Eternity”?”


Arthur Stace felt compelled. He walked out of the building onto the street outside the church and felt in his pocket where he found a piece of chalk. Arthur would later say: “(The word) “Eternity” (was) ringing through my brain and suddenly I began crying and felt a powerful call from the Lord to write.”


On the pavement he knelt down and wrote out that word – “Eternity” – in white chalk with a beautiful swirl.

stace-arthur - bending down to write in street.jpg


The next morning Arthur woke at 4am and prayed. He again felt compelled to go out in the streets while it was still dark and write again the word “Eternity”. And he did so – only this time the wrote it every 100 metres or so for the next few hours – about 50 times in total. As people made their way to work later that morning they saw the word “Eternity” in bold, beautiful script throughout their suburb – and they wondered what it meant.


Arthur would later say: “I had no schooling and couldn’t have spelt ‘eternity’ for a hundred quid. But suddenly I began crying and felt a powerful call from the Lord to write the word. It came out smoothly, in a beautiful copperplate script.”

Arthur Stace cartoon.jpg

Arthur Stace would continue writing this word “Eternity” each day before dawn for the next 35 years – until his death in 1967.


During this time this one word sermon became famous on the streets of Sydney. It caused an entire city to contemplate life’s shortness and also the possibility of what happens after we die. They also wondered who was writing the word, with children exhilarated to see “Eternity” written in their suburb in the famous copperplate script, and newspapers offering front-page possibilities as to who the author was and also the word’s meaning.

Stace_eternity - caught in the act.jpg


On the few occasions the police would catch Arthur pre-dawn with chalk in hand, Arthur would tell them he “had permission from a higher source” to graffiti the streets – and because the word was only in chalk the police would let him go.


One word – washed away in the next rain.
One word – written with passion and dedication for decades.
One word – that captured the city’s heart.


Arthur Stace died in 1967 knowing he’d faithfully followed his Saviour. And yet, thirty-three years after Arthur’s death there would be a resurrection.


At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve in 1999 with Sydney’s world-famous fire works in full swing – and an estimated billion people watching on television with Sydney as the first major world-city to welcome in the new millennium  – the culmination of the celebration was the lighting up of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. And there was Arthur’s famous swirl of a word “Eternity” emblazoned across the famous coathanger as the crescendo.

Eternity - Sydney Harbour Bridge.jpg

The word once again inspired so many people that Arthur’s “Eternity” was used again a few months later at the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.


One word – “Eternity” – where will you spend yours?


As the biblical prophet Isaiah wrote 2,700 years ago: ‘For this is what the high and exalted One says— He who lives for eternity: “While I live in a high and holy place – I also live with anyone who has a contrite and lowly spirit. For I revive the spirit of the lowly and also the hearts of those contrite.” ‘ (Isaiah 57:15)

arthur-stace-writes-eternity - posed.jpg
Arthur Stace – “Mr. Eternity”     (1885 – 1967)




About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a Christian minister residing on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series  – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

David speaking 2



Death by Dictator

Idi Amin.jpg
General Idi Amin was the dictator of Uganda from 1971 to 1979



The African country of Uganda was a violent place during the 1970’s under the dictator army general Idi Amin.

Colin Chapman, in his book “The Case for Christianity” quotes Ugandan bishop Festo Kivengere’s account of the 1973 execution by firing squad of three men from his diocese: “February 10th began as a sad day for us in Kabale. People were commanded to come to the stadium and witness the execution. Death permeated the atmosphere. A silent crowd of about three thousand was there to watch. I had permission from the authorities to speak to the men before they died, and two of my fellow ministers were with me. They brought the men in a truck and unloaded them. They were handcuffed and their feet were chained. The firing squad stood at attention.

As we walked into the center of the stadium, I was wondering what to say. How do you give the gospel to doomed men who are probably seething with rage? We approached them from behind, and as they turned to look at us, what a sight! Their faces were all alight with an unmistakable glow and radiance.


Festo 2.jpg
Bishop Festo Kivengere fled Uganda in 1973 under death threats from General Idi Amin. He returned a few years later to help his country rebuild after the destruction caused during the 1970’s. Bishop Kivengere later wrote a book titled “I Love Idi Amin” to draw attention to the qualities of forgiveness for those who wronged you and love of those who persecute you.


Before we could say anything, one of them burst out: “Bishop, thank you for coming! I wanted to tell you. The day I was arrested, in my prison cell, I asked the Lord Jesus to come into my heart. He came in and forgave me all my sins! Heaven is now open, and there is nothing between me and my God! Please tell my wife and children to accept Him into their lives as I did.”

The other two men told similar stories, excitedly raising their hands, which rattled their handcuffs. I felt that what I needed to do was to talk to the soldiers, not to the condemned. So I translated what the men had said into a language the soldiers understood. The military men were standing there with guns cocked and bewilderment on their faces. They were so dumbfounded that they forgot to put the hoods over the men’s faces!

The three faced the firing squad standing close together. They looked toward the people and began to wave, handcuffs and all. The people waved back. Then shots were fired, and the three were (dead). We stood in front of them, our own hearts throbbing with joy, mingled with tears. It was a day never to be forgotten. Though dead, the men spoke loudly to all of Kigezi District and beyond, so that there was an upsurge of life in Christ, which challenges death and defeats it. The next (weekend), I was preaching to a huge crowd in the home town of one of the executed men. Again, the feel of death was over the congregation. But when I gave them the testimony of their man, and how he died, there erupted a great song of praise to Jesus! Many turned to the Lord there.”

Bishop Kivengere’s experience in witnessing the death of three men – who had unexpectedly committed their lives to Christ – not only changed his life but also the lives of many others.

But those three executed prisoners were simply mirroring the death of the Messiah. Jesus’ submission to death by execution on a cross by Roman dictators two millennia ago has impacted the lives of billions since.

Jesus “died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.” (1 Thessalonians 5:10) 



About this blog: David Riley is a Christian minister residing on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series.

“Don’t Move!” – The story of the Duke of Wellington

The Duke of Wellington (1769 – 1852): British soldier and statesmen


Arthur Wellesley – the 1st “Duke of Wellington” – is one of the most famous men of the nineteenth century. The Duke was a decorated soldier and statesman – even becoming the British Prime Minister.
But what the Duke of Wellington is most famous for is being the commanding army officer of the British forces when they defeated Napoleon Bonaparte and the French army at the Battle of Waterloo in the year of 1815.
The Battle of Waterloo (in modern-day Belgium) was fought on Sunday, 18th of June, 1815
As a man of faith, the Duke of Wellington would regularly take Communion at his local church where the tradition was that parishioners would come down to the front and be served by the minister while the kneeled at the church’s alter.
And when the Duke of Wellington was at the table nobody else dared come forward until he had finished. 
One day, at the height of the Duke’s fame and power, he was taking Communion when a poorly-dressed elderly man walked up one of the church’s aisles, and when reaching the Communion table, knelt down close by the side of the Duke of Wellington.
Immediately there was tension in the church, and a small commotion from the other parishioners present interrupted the reverent silence.
Someone came down and touched the poor man on the shoulder, and whispered to him to move further away from the Duke, or even better – to rise and walk away, and wait until the Duke had finished receiving the bread and the wine.
But the great army commander had seen the meaning of that touch on the shoulder and perhaps partly heard the whisper in the old man’s ear.
The Duke of Wellington quickly clasped the old man’s hand and held him to prevent the old man from standing up. In a respectful but firm whisper, the Duke of Wellington said to the elderly gentleman: “Don’t move…. We are all equal here.”
This story from two centuries ago illustrates one of the key messages of the Gospel – that “we are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28).
In a world of significant and increasing disparities – we regularly need reminding that in the eyes of our creator we are all loved and valued the same. There is no differences between black and white, rich and poor, male or female.
God loves each one of us equally – and the ultimate demonstration of that love is Christ’s submission to the cross for the salvation ofeveryone.
At the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ – we are all equal there.
1 Corinthians 12-27.jpg
About this blog: David Riley is a Christian minister residing on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series.

The Difference Between Acting and Living…

Charles Laughton (1899 – 1962)
Charles Laughton was a famous English actor. Classically trained, Laughton performed in many of Shakespeare’s plays in London and went on to star in a number of major Hollywood films.
There’s a story from Charles Laughton’s life that illustrates the difference between acting and living.
Laughton was attending a Christmas party with family friends in London one year. During the evening the host of the party asked everyone to recite a favourite poem or passage from literature that best represented the spirit of Christmas. When it was the famous actor Charles Laughton’s turn he skilfully recited Psalm 23 from the Bible. Everyone, of course, applauded his performance and then it moved onto the next person’s turn and then onto the next.
The last to participate was an adored elderly aunt who had dozed off in a corner. Someone gently woke her and explained what going on. She thought for a moment and in a shaky voice this dear old lady began to recite Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want…”
Psalm 23.jpg
There was a slight disquiet in the room for a a very brief moment as everyone realised the aunt wasn’t aware Laughton had shared the exact same passage a few minutes earlier, but they allowed her continue. But within a couple of lines of Psalm 23 something happened – the emotion with which this old lady spoke these famous words of Scripture took the gathering by surprise. When she finished there were audible sobs from some of those gathered, so unexpectedly moved were they by the re-telling of these ancient words.
When the party was over and Charles Laughton was leaving the host thanked him for coming, and then awkwardly commented on the difference in responses from Laughton’s reciting of Psalm 23 to that of his old aunt.
Charles Laughton’s response is said to have been: “Yes, well, I guess I simply know the Psalm – but she clearly knows the Shepherd.”
Being a follower of Jesus is not acting a part but living a real relationship with your Creator. 
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, and behold – the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
About the author: David Riley is a christian minister on the Australian Gold Coast. This article is from a series on his blog “Reverential Ramblings”.

“Who Goes There?” – The 1916 funeral of Emperor Franz Joseph of the Hapsburg Empire

There is an interesting story from a famous funeral a century ago that illustrates well how we are all equal in the eyes of God.

When Emperor Franz Jospeh of Austria died in 1916 his funeral was the last of the extravagant imperial funerals of the famous Hapsburg dynasty. This royal family had been incredibly powerful in Europe for over 600 years.

Franz Joseph I (1830 – 1916) became the head of Austro-Hungarian kingdom in 1867 and ruled for 68 years.


For the state funeral of Emperor Franz there was a huge procession of elegantly dressed dignitaries as they escorted the casket through the streets of Vienna. The casket itself was draped in the black and gold imperial colours and was accompanied by a large military band.

When the procession arrived at the Capuchin Church the procession preceded down the four hundred year old stairs to the Imperial Crypt. At the bottom of the stairs lit by torch-light was a great iron door that barred the way to the final resting place for the descendants of the Hapsburg family. And on the other side of the locked iron door was the Cardinal of Vienna waiting for the casket to arrive


The military officer leading the royal casket of the Emperor stopped at the door and cried out “Open!” – as he was obligated to do as part of the prescribed ceremony established centuries ago.

“Who goes there?”responded the Cardinal from behind the iron doors.

“We bear the remains of his Imperial and Apostolic Majesty, Franz Joseph the First, by the grace of God Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, Defender of the faith…” with the leading officer continuing to list all of the Emperor’s thirty-seven titles.

At the conclusion of the long list of titles the Cardinal’s response was swift – “We know him not!” 

The iron doors that lead into the Imperial Crypt of the Capuchin Church in Vienna, Austria.


The leading officer knocked again on the great iron door. Once again the Cardinal responded from behind the closed door – “Who goes there?”

The officer spoke again – this time using a much abbreviated and less ostentatious title for the deceased Emperor.

“We know him not!” the Cardinal replied again.

The officer gave a third knock. Once again the Cardinal asks: “Who goes there?”

This time the officer’s third and final reply stripped the Emperor of all but the humblest of titles – “We bear the body of Franz Joseph, our brother, a sinner – like us all”

With the final response of the officer the huge iron doors swung open – and the body of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria was allowed to enter.

This story from a bygone time illustrates well that no matter who we are, what our successes have been or our possessions gained – none of it matters in the end. Before our Creator we are all equal – we are sinners, undeserving of God’s grace and forgiveness but through Christ given it anyway.

As the Apostle Paul says in the Bible: “For there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female – for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)



About the author: David Riley is a minister on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from a series on his blog “Reverential Ramblings”.

Greyfriars Bobby: A Story of Faithfulness

GREYFRIARS BOBBY: A Story of Faithfulness

There’s a wonderful story of faithfulness from nineteenth century Scotland
150 years ago John Gray was a policeman in the city of Edinburgh. Constable Gray walked the nightime streets to ensure they were safe. And because of theses lonely nights John Gray acquired a dog – a small skye terrier – and he named it Bobby.
For three years Constable John Gray and little Bobby trekked the nighttime streets of Edinburgh – until one day the policeman became unwell and soon passed away from tuberculosis.
Skye Terrier and Edinburgh Castle.jpg
Constable John Gray’s skye terrier dog became famous in the Scottish city of Edinburgh in the mid-nineteenth century.
Bobby, the sky terrier dog, refused to leave his owner’s body. Even when he was buried in nearby Greyfriars Church, Bobby stood guard – sitting on his owner’s grave.
Within a short period of time Bobby became famous for his faithfulness to his master. People would come to visit the Greyfriars graveyard and see skye terrier standing guard – and he became known as Greyfriars Bobby.
Statue with pub.jpg
A statue of Bobby was erected in Edinburgh soon after he died and still stands today
The only time Greyfriars Bobby left the grave would be at the sound of the 1pm cannon fired daily from Edinburgh Castle. This was the signal for Bobby to have a meal put out for him by one of the local pubs.
Bobby sat by his master’s grave for the next fourteen years until his own death. Greyfriars Bobby was buried in the church graveyard not too far from Constable John Grey. A year later a statue of Bobby was erected as a monument to his faithfulness.
Bobby's grave.jpg
Greyfriars Bobby was buried in Greyfriars Church near his master’s grave
The Bible says “I have chosen the way of faithfulness” (Psalm 119:30).
May the story of Greyfriars Bobby be an example to us of choosing to stay faithful to our heavenly Master – Jesus Christ.
Walt Disney visiting the statue in 1960.jpg
Walt Disney visiting the statue of Greyfriars Bobby in 1960

David speaking 2

About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a Christian minister residing on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Burning the hand that betrays you…

burning hand.jpg


Thomas Cranmer felt guilty.

Incredibly guilty.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury had just watched from his prison cell two of his colleagues (Latimer and Ridley) burned at the stake. Queen Mary of England had decided to make examples of these three clergymen as she endeavoured to return England to Roman Catholicism. These three men (after whom the nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice” was written) were key Protestant protagonists in the sweeping sixteenth century church reforms of Mary’s father King Henry VIII.

Thomas_Cranmer_by_Gerlach_Flicke - 1545.jpg
A portrait of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury (1553 – 1555) and trusted advisor to King Henry VIII of England

And the new Queen – who would become known as “Bloody Mary” – had vowed to eradicate the influence of the German Martin Luther with the death of all those who followed the biblical teachings of the Reformation.

Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were executed in 1555 by being set on fire in the public square outside of Balliol College in Oxford – but Thomas Cranmer was allowed to live. The reason for Cranmer’s stay-of-execution was he’d renounced all the Protestant beliefs of his two colleagues, fully re-accepted Catholic theology including papal supremacy, and stated there was no possibility of eternal life outside the Catholic Church.

King Henry VIII of England took advantage of the Reformation sweeping through continental Europe in the sixteenth century. Thomas Cranmer helped build the case for Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn

Five months after the death of his two colleagues Thomas Cranmer stood in the University Church of Oxford to publicly declare once again his allegiance to Rome. Cranmer had been asked to submit a transcript of his speech to Queen Mary for approval before he spoke – but as he stood on the stage specially constructed for the event something changed.

Cranmer's pillar.jpg
A visitor today to University Church in Oxford can still see “Cranmer’s Column” – where part of the column was modified to make way the stage where Thomas Cranmer was to deliver a speech supporting the pope and Roman Catholicism.

As Thomas Cranmer delivered his speech in Oxford he unexpectedly deviated from the authorised script. He shocked everyone by once again declaring his support for the Reformation, and said that since his own hand had signed documents supporting the pope then that hand would be burnt first. Before the authorities could stop Cranmer’s speech he yelled out “And as for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ’s enemy, and Antichrist with all his false doctrine.”

Cranmer was pulled down from the stage and taken to the exact same spot where he’d watched Latimer and Ridley burned. Eyewitnesses have described how, as the fire burned around the former Archbishop, Thomas Cranmer placed his right hand into the flames and declared “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit… I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”

As a symbol of his repentance Thomas Cranmer placed the hand that signed his support of the pope into the fire

Today, this place of execution of the “Oxford Martyrs” is marked with an ‘X’ in the middle of a road. Pedestrians and cyclists pass by without giving it a glance. But those of a more reflective nature pause for a moment and ask themselves whether they have the same courageous faith required to stand for their Saviour even in the face of death.

“Be faithful, even unto death” Jesus says to us in Revelation 2:10, “and I will give you the crown of life.”

OxfordMartyr spot.jpg
“X” marks the spot in the city of Oxford. This is the site of the executions of Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer – known as the “Oxford Martyrs”
Oxford Martyrs memorial.jpg
The “Martyrs Memorial” erected in Oxford nearly three hundred years after the execution of the three Anglican bishops. The inscription at the base reads: “To the Glory of God, and in grateful commemoration of His servants, Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Prelates of the Church of England, who near this spot yielded their bodies to be burned, bearing witness to the sacred truths which they had affirmed and maintained against the errors of the Church of Rome, and rejoicing that to them it was given not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for His sake; this monument was erected by public subscription in the year of our Lord God 1841”



David speaking 2

About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a Christian minister residing on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Three Blind Mice and the English Reformation

Three Blind Mice - main pic.jpg

When Queen Mary ascended the throne of England in 1553 – few people would have known that within five years hundreds of Protestant sympathisers would be burnt at the stake, the queen would become known as “Bloody Mary”, and the nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice” would be written.

Queen Mary’s father – the famous Henry VIII – had England join the Protestant Reformation in the 1530s. The country would then swing between Catholicism and the nascent Protestantism for over a hundred and fifty years – depending on the loyalties of the regent at the time.

Queen Mary.jpg
Queen Mary I of England (reigned 1553 – 1558)


Queen Mary’s devotion lay with the church of Rome and her five years in charge would be spent reversing not only the church reforms of her father, but also her half-brother Edward VI who had become king at the age of nine and was dead six years later.

The highest profile executions that Mary ordered were those she organised in the university town of Oxford. Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer were Anglican bishops who were burnt to death outside of Balliol College for their support of England’s Reformation. By the time of her death in 1558 “Bloody Mary” had ordered the executions of almost three hundred men and women for their religious beliefs.

oxford-martyrs spot.jpg
Board Street in Oxford, England – in front of Balliol College. The “X” marks the spot where the three Protestant bishops Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer were burnt at the stake


So, where does the famous children’s nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice” fit into this story of the Reformation? Well, Queen Mary had not only earned the nickname “Bloody Mary” for her executions but also “The Famer’s Wife” for her marriage to King Phillip of Spain who owned huge tracts of fertile farmland. The three Anglican bishops who were executed in Oxford were said to be spiritually blind for their support of church reform and their criticisms of the Pope. And their deaths were a result of their actions to stop Mary becoming queen when her Protestant half-brother Edward VI died at the age of fifteen.

Who knew they were describing church history when as kids they sang:

“Three blind mice. Three blind mice.

See how they run. See how they run.

They all ran after the farmer’s wife,

Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,

Did you ever see such a sight in your life,

As three blind mice?”

Three blind mice - drawing.jpg
It is said the popular children’s nursery rhyme from centuries ago -“Three Blind Mice” – was written about the execution of the “Oxford Martyrs” (Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer)
A medieval woodcarving of the execution of Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer in 1555. Their colleague Thomas Cranmer (the Archbishop of Canterbury) was executed on the same spot in the same manner the following year.



(To read more about Thomas Cranmer – one of the “Three Blind Mice” – click here)


David speaking 2

About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a Christian minister residing on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.