July 29, 2013 4 Comments
Yesterday, Wikipedia featured their article on Harold Davidson, a Church of England priest from the early 20th century. Sounds like a very boring topic. But read on. Here’s the summary from the front page:
Harold Davidson (1875–1937), rector of the Norfolk parish of Stiffkey (church pictured), was a Church of England priest who was convicted in 1932 on charges of immorality and defrocked by the Church. Ordained in 1903, he worked among London’s poor and homeless. Styling himself the "Prostitutes’ Padre", his declared mission was to rescue young girls he considered in danger of falling into prostitution. In this role he approached and befriended hundreds of women, and although there was little evidence of improper behaviour, he was often found in compromising situations and his neglect of his parish and family caused difficulties. A formal complaint led to church disciplinary proceedings, in which his defence was damaged beyond repair by a photograph of him with a near-naked teenage girl. Davidson then pursued a career as a showman to raise funds for his reinstatement campaign, performing novelty acts such as exhibiting himself in a barrel on the Blackpool seafront. He died after being attacked by a lion in whose cage he was appearing. Later commentators have accepted that however inappropriate his behaviour, his motives were genuine and he did not deserve the humiliations he endured. (Full article …)
I had to read more.
Here’s the photograph that damaged his defense "beyond repair":
My favorite subgenre for the past five or ten years has been historical narrative. A lot of that shows up on this blog and in my Freeman articles.
I read Wikipedia’s summary, looked at the infamous photo, and thought, Someone should write a book about this guy, call it The Prostitute’s Padre, and use this photo as the cover image. I bet it would be a bestseller.
Well, someone did exactly that:
But it was back in 1975, and I have no idea how well it did or didn’t do. It’s out of print. A used copy costs $30. I have no idea if it’s any good. No one has reviewed it at Amazon. So I’ve made an interlibrary-loan request. I’ll let you know. Meanwhile, we have to make do with the Wikipedia article — which is fascinating.