The Very Rev. Father W. Stephen Dawes, O.S.B., Cockermouth.
Cockermouth has lost the man whose name, for the past 38 years, has been synonymous with that of the Roman Catholic Church and faith in the district. The Very Reverend Father W. Stephen Dawes died on Monday morning at the age of 86, in his home adjoining St. Joseph's Church, within a few days of the anniversary of his first arrival in the town (still in khaki immediately after his demobilisation) to take charge of the church.
Born of a North Staffordshire family, associated with the medical profession, Father -Dawes was educated at the Ampleforth College, York, and later joined the Ampleforth Benedictines, studying at Belmont, Hereford. He was ordained in 1899 and in the following year went as chaplain to the 88th Connaught Rangers, to serve with them throughout the Boer War.
Returning to England in 1902 he was appointed to Workington as assistant priest, and remained there until 1913, when he went, to St. Anne's Priory, Liverpool. He was appointed a chaplain to the 8th Liverpool Irish. Regiment (T A.) and in 1915 went with them to France. He was wounded by a shell in the battle of Festubert. In 1917 'he was appointed Roman Catholic Assistant Chaplain General with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and went to Calais to administer that duty until after the end of the war.
BUILT A CHURCH.
It was on demobilisation in February, 1920, that Father Dawes was appointed to St. Joseph's Cockermouth, in succession to Father Primavesi, 0 S.B. At that time he was also required to serve in the Keswick district and in 1927 he undertook the building of the Roman Catholic church there. In July of the following year it was opened by the Bishop of Lancaster. The Right Rev. T. W. Pearson, O.S.B, D.D, the site having been leased by, the Right Rev. Cardinal Bourne.
In February. 1945, Father Dawes' parishioners and his friends throughout West Cumberland united at Cockermouth to honour him on his silver jubilee as Parish priest, and he was presented s pith a cheque for 100 guineas, and t radio set.
Five years later, in- June,. 1949, there was another large gathering a the Public Hall to celebrate his Golden jubilee in the priesthood. end it was symbolic of the place Father Dawes occupied in the ` hearts of all his fellow-townsmen that people of other religious denominations joined in honouring the man who, as one of the speakers said on that occasion, would give the shirt off his back". In the presence of about 350, people he was presented with a magnificently illuminated address.' he work of a 70 years old non, ' end the means to provide himself with a car.
July, 1956, was another historic Sate in the lives of Father Dawes and his church, when Abbot Byrne, O.S.B., head of the Order of St. Benedict, came from Ampleforth to celebrate Pontifical High Mass in the church on the attainment of its centenary.
Father Dawes was responsible for many improvements to the fabric of the church, including the new altar, and the stained glass windows which were executed to his design in 1924. In 1934 electric lighting was installed in the church and the priest's house- and in 1947 an organ was presented to the church by the late Mr Clarence Rodham.
Father Dawes was made "the Very Reverend" on his appointment as Prior of Worcester (an honour which, to the relief of his parishioners, did not involve his leaving the town). To mark this appointment, his parishioners presented him with a gold cross which, was blessed by Bishop Pearson,' auxiliary Bishop of Lancaster. This enclosed a genuine relic (sent from Rome by His Holiness the Pope) of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, who was stoned !to death. Father Dawes' religious name was Father Stephen.
Father Dawes was an enthusiastic golfer and -fisherman; and for many years was a member of the Derwent Board of Conservators, which looked after fishery .interests until the authority was merged in the present Cumberland River Board.