My own first encounter with the Reverend Dr James William Parkes took place 32 years ago, in December 1949.1 had just passed my 2 ist birthday and was down to read my first paper to this Society, on 4 Anglo-Je wish Notaries and Scriveners'. As its President, he invited me to dine with him at the Athenaeum, and selected a suitably fishy menu, which was accompanied - after he had ascertained that I did not take the view that French peasants made libations to strange gods - by a pleasant Alsace wine. I was awed by the surroundings and extremely nervous. I vividly remember the evening. He regaled me with the history of the 18th-century Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry and his continen? tal tours. He also told me that since Nathan Marcus Adler's day, every Chief Rabbi had been elected to the Athenaeum. As a loyal Sephardi, I asked if Dr Gaster had been similarly honoured. 'What, that old rascal? Never!' was the reply. After the meal, with a truly stentorian shout from the steps of the club, he succeeded in hailing a taxi passing Florence Night? ingale's statue, and we drove to the meeting at the Stern Hall, fully relaxed and ready to enjoy the proceedings.
This was only the first of many amiable meetings. He and his wife, Dorothy, became good friends of my parents, especially after his vehement opposi? tion to all attempts to convert Jews to Christianity had been made clear. My father and he soon found that, apart from their mutual concern for Jewish refugees and fascination with Jewish history, they also shared a love of the French language and its literature. We came to read his books, including the theological writings in the pen name of John Hadham, and to learn of his earlier life. He was a man of impressive personality and wide-ranging talents. It is still a mystery to me why the Church of England should have failed to make use of them and why such a good man and able leader and teacher should have been excluded from preferment and even, at one time, banned from preaching in his bishop's diocese.
James Parkes was born in 1896 on the Island of Jersey and grew up there. His father was a retired engineer from England, who had become a tomato grower. The first traceable Parkes ancestor was a yeoman who bought land at Dudley in 1652, during the great land redistribution of the Com? monwealth. The Parkes family were Unitarians and were related to the Wedgwoods, Chamberlains and other families of the Midland Unitarian elite. In the 19th century, Joseph Parkes became an important brassfounder, a precedent which caused James to build up a fine collection of single brass candle? sticks. However, James was no Unitarian. His mother, who died while he was a boy, taught him her Anglican faith and he was always a committed member of the Church of England. While at school he won an Open Scholarship to