From the Archives: Fr Cyril Martindale SJ

POST BY MAllen

One of the Jesuits in Britain Archive’s most recently completed cataloguing projects is the collection of personal papers of one of the Society’s most prolific writers: Fr Cyril Martindale SJ (1879-1963). Among his personal papers are over 150 articles, sermons, items from his childhood, study notes and drawings, diary extracts, and almost 8 archival boxes full of personal correspondence. His published works include In God’s Nursery (1913); The Goddess of Ghosts (1915); Bernard Vaughan S.J. (1923); The Mind of the Missal (1929); The Castle and the Ring (1950).

Cyril Martindale was born 25th May 1879 in Bayswater, London, only a short distance from Farm Street Church. He was the son of Arthur Martindale and Marion McKenzie and had two half-sisters called Phyllis and Helen. He entered the Society of Jesus 7th September 1897, beginning the noviceship at Manresa House, Roehampton. A year later he transferred to Aix-en-Provence, France, due to poor health. His struggles with his health would become a theme that was to plague him throughout his celebrated life. Following the completion of his noviceship in 1899 Cyril studied Philosophy at St Mary’s Hall, Stonyhurst before moving onto Pope’s Hall (later Campion Hall) Oxford to achieve a distinguished academic career, attaining multiple academic awards including the Gaisford Prize for Greek verse and the Chancellor’s Prize for Latin verse.

80/7/2 The programme for the Oxford Encaenia June 22 1904, showing Martindale as winner of both the Gaisford Prize for Greek verse and the Chancellor’s Prize for Latin verse

In October 1908, after teaching for three years at Stonyhurst and Roehampton, Cyril began his theological course at St Beuno’s but was sent, at the end of his second year of theology, to the house of the exiled French Jesuits at Ore Place, Hastings, where he was ordained in 1911. Following his ordination he returned to Oxford University, this time as a member of staff in the sub-faculty of Litterae Humaniores. From his centre in Oxford Cyril would produce articles and books and travel extensively for work.

In 1926, to his delight, Cyril was appointed by the Provincial to organise the English Province’s celebrations for the bi-centenary of Saints Aloysius and Stanislaus’ canonisations. During this task he would face many un-realistic suggestions and requests of how exactly to perform his responsibility from Rome but like many moments in his life would stick to his own beliefs, adapting, with the help of his Provincial, the Roman directives to do what he believed would best suit the English Province. He commissioned a drawing of Saint Aloysius by war artist Eric Kennington and toured the Province. Many letters are found within this collection that display his thought processes during the course of this project. The research performed during the year resulted in The Vocation of Aloysius Gonzaga, published in 1927 and well received among his peers, despite being very different from previous published lives of Saint Aloysius.

Above: SJ/80/5/20 Image of two woodcuts drawn at the request of Martindale by Eric Kennington, to as part of his campaign to celebrate the bicentenaries of Saints Aloysius and Stanislaus (1927)

Blow: SJ/80/5/1 Extract of a letter from Martindale to his Provincial, setting out his strategy for the celebrations of the bicentenary of Saints Aloysius and Stanislaus (1926)

In 1927 he left Oxford to join the staff at Farm Street Church but continued travelling often and far for work. One fateful journey began on 8th June 1928, when he set sail for New Zealand and Australia to attend the International Eucharistic Congress in Sydney. Soon after landing in New Zealand Cyril was involved in a very serious car accident with Bishop Cleary of Auckland. He would spend a month in hospital recovering from significant damage to the skull, but refused to let this deter him from performing his duties at the Eucharistic Congress. Headaches caused by this accident would continue to affect him for the remaining years of his life. He detailed his experiences from his time in New Zealand and Australia in his 1929 book, The Risen Sun: Impressions in New Zealand and Australia, using diary entries found within his collection.  

SJ/80/1/2 ‘Extract of a letter from Martindale detailing his injuries and recovery following his accident in New Zealand [1928-1929]’

Among the diaries extracts found within the collection are also those that detail the time he spent as a German detainee in Copenhagen, Denmark, during the Second World War. These extracts, coupled with correspondence from this period help paint a picture of what life was like in Nazi-occupied Denmark. Though at times dark and miserable, Martindale also records opportunities to delve deeper into his spirituality and help others.

Above: SJ/80/2/8/3/2 Extract of a letter between Martindale and Provincial Fr Leonard Geddes SJ showing Martindale’s daily activities in Copenhagen (1941)

Blow: SJ/80/2/8/3/8 Extract from a letter between Martindale and Provincial Fr Leonard Geddes SJ showing the darker side of life in war-time Copenhagen (1944)

In the years following the end of the war Cyril would spend time, on two separate occasions, in Portugal. His second visit to Portugal in 1949 would end up being his final foreign excursion. He published his first visit’s experiences in 1948 in a book titled Portuguese Pilgrimage and following extensive research into the ‘Miracle of Fatima’ during his second visit published The Message of Fatima in 1950. His research and correspondence on this topic can be found in his collection.

Retiring in 1953 to Petworth and often bedridden due to various ailments Cyril continued finding time to write articles and letters to his friends, colleagues and those that looked to him for help and advice. Fr Cyril Martindale SJ died on 18th March 1963.

If you are interested in finding out more about Fr Martindale’s papers, the catalogue will soon be available to search online via the Catholic Heritage website. In the meantime, you can contact us to be sent an electronic copy of the catalogue, to find out more or to make an appointment to visit the Archives. 

Alex van Goethem, Cataloguing Archivist