I’ve always been fascinated by great arcs of time as represented by successive generations. When I was in my late teens, for example, I met an ANZAC veteran who told me proudly of being awarded a medal by Lord Birdwood at Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1919 (the year my mother, still living, was born). Assuming that this old man was, say, 20 years old then, that means he must have been born in 1899: two individuals, therefore, whose lives – so far – have spanned some 113 years.
This sort of trivia can only be produced if you have all the dates to hand, of course. So I was delighted recently to find online a complete list of lists of Anglican bishops going back to the time of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. This has helped me, in some idle hour, to find how I can ‘score’ five generational overlaps for myself totalling no fewer that 313 years. I have checked the figures again and again. Here is the calculation.
My grandfather the Rev J D W Armstrong, an elderly vicar in Essex in the 1920’s, died in 1929 when his eldest son, my father, was 13 years old. Given that the Reverend had been born in 1865, that’s already 147 years till now- so far – for one grandfather-father-son progression.
In 1865, Henry Philpotts, the famously combative Bishop of Exeter in the early years of Victoria’s reign, was still in the post at the age of 87 (he went on for another four years). That’s four in the chain.
Bishop Philpotts was born in 1778, the last year of the life of William Warburton, Bishop of Gloucester from 1759 until his death in 1779. Another combative prelate, Bishop Warburton, who once described his opponents as a “pestilent herd of libertine scribblers with which the island is overrun” (did he mean bloggers?), was born in 1698. Thus, five individuals including myself, span – so far – those 313 years.
As Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In would have put it, “Verrry interesting, but…boring!”