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Biography

Fr John Luck was born 9 January 1867 in Aldershot to Richard and Ellen Luck. He had one older sister, Eliza, and four younger sisters: Lucy, Margaret, Emma and Mary, known as May. His youngest sister, Alice, died shortly before her second birthday.

Luck entered the Society at Manresa, 7 September 1888. His large build made him well qualified to take on the job of Master of Outdoor Works as a novice, and he continued in this role unofficially at St Mary’s Hall, Stonyhurst. He had a keen interest in art and archaeology and at Stonyhurst excavated two mounds in the Winkley Hall estate, believing them to be sepulchral barrows. He had two articles published in the Stonyhurst Magazine for 1894-95 and wrote a paper for the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society on his findings.

Passing from the Seminary to the College, he spent four years (1895-99) as assistant prefect of the secular philosophers. There he took an interest in the study of the numerous stone crosses in the surrounding countryside and published a summary of observations in 1910 in the Stonyhurst Magazine.

He made his most important contribution to Christian Archaeology while attached to staff of St Mary’s-on-the-Quay, Bristol, where he identified the shrines of Bristol Cathedral and many of the old churches in and around the city as being either Altars of Repose or Easter Sepulchres, and described his researches in the Tablet, 7 April 1934. At his last assignment at Farm Street he undertook the task of cleaning and polishing the pictures on the walls in the refectory.

Luck was ordained 31 July 1901 at St Beuno’s College and completed his Tertianship at Tronchiennes, Belgium. His final vows were taken 2 February 1903. During his life as a priest he was attached to the mission staff of several churches, usually as a curate and mostly in Lancashire. In 1911 Luck left Stonyhurst to open a House of Retreat for men in Lewisham, diocese of Southwark, but the project was abandoned. However in August of that year, Thornbury (later Campion) House, Isleworth was opened for the same purpose with Luck as Superior. He remained there until 1915 when he was gazetted as a Chaplain to the Forces, in which capacity he served until 1919.

During the War Luck was first barracked with the 11th Battalion Scottish Rifles at Sutton Veny, where troops were trained prior to deployment to Northern France. He was then charged to the Royal Army Medical Corps with the 79th Brigade and proceeded to France in September 1915. In November 1915 the Division moved to Salonika via Marseilles. In his letters Luck describes his work as a chaplain, which includes saying mass, censoring the troops’ letters and visiting patients. He also provides in depth descriptions of the camps and his accommodation. Towards the end of 1916 Luck is treated for dysentery in Malta, but travels back to Salonika to take up his work.

Between 1923 and 1924 Luck lived in a cottage in the recently purchased Heythrop estate in Oxford which was to house a tertiary education college, acting as a sort of caretaker while alterations and additions were made.

Between 1928 and 1930 he was parish priest at St Winefride’s, Holywell. The last 9 years of his life were spent at Farm Street, London. To within the last 3 weeks of his life he said 11 o’ clock mass on weekdays and generally had about six converts under his instruction, and as Spiritual Father he was Confessor to most of the community.

He died on Christmas Day in the Hospital of Our Lady of Consolation, Lambeth, after three weeks’ illness. His requiem took place at Farm Street.

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