Vicar crosses Tyne to help raise funds for church
Aug 11 2010 by Linda Richards, The Journal
A MAN of the cloth has defrocked to re-enact an ancient ritual. The Rev Tom Jamieson swapped his vicar's robes for trunks to swim the River Tyne to raise money for the next phase of development at Holy Cross Church in Ryton, Gateshead.
Churchgoers took part in the historic custom of “beating the bounds” by walking five miles around the parish boundary of Ryton.
Unfortunately, in the 790 years since the church was built, the course of the River Tyne has changed, which means part of the boundary is on the north side of the river at Newburn.
But Mr Jamieson, who is rector of Hedgefield and Ryton, was undeterred.
“We set off from Ryton Rugby Club and followed the boundary and when we got to Ryton Willows, I stripped into some swimming trunks and just before high tide I swam across,” he said.
“A rescue canoe containing my son Peter and two others followed just in case I got into difficulties.
“I am confident in the water, but it was both a physical and psychological challenge to be in moving water where there is always a tidal current.
“It was reassuring to have the canoe along. It was much more of a challenge than I thought it would be and it is something I wouldn’t recommend.
“It is not a venue for swimming because the tidal current is so strong and the water is immediately deep. There is no shallow.”
The boundary walk also hit another hurdle because a large area where the former Stella South Power Station stood is under redevelopment and access is denied. So Mr Jamieson paddled half a mile downstream to Stella.
And after coming ashore, he jumped in the saddle to cycle to catch up with the walking party, then walked the rest of the circuit back to the rugby club.
In former times, when maps were rare, it was the custom to make a formal check of the parish boundaries.
Knowledge of the limits of each parish needed to be handed down so that such matters as liability to contribute to the repair of the church and the right to be buried within the churchyard were not disputed.
As those taking part passed certain trees, walls and hedges that denoted the extent of the boundary, they would pray and ritually ‘beat’ particular landmarks.
At certain points on the boundary, young boys were held upside down and had their heads bumped on a marker stone or they were ‘switched’ with a willow stick, thrown over hedges, into brambles or ponds or required to climb up chimneys or over roofs to imprint the exact location of a boundary for successive generations.
But there was no beating on this year’s event, which also helped raise funds for redevelopment in the West End to provide a servery, communal space and a lavatory. If you would like to help raise the £40,000-plus needed or make a donation, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org