Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy
Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy MC (1883–1929) was an English Anglican priest and poet. He was nicknamed Woodbine Willie during World War I for giving Woodbine cigarettes along with spiritual aid to injured and dying soldiers.
Born in Leeds on 27 June 1883, Studdert Kennedy was the seventh of nine children born to Jeanette Anketell and William Studdert Kennedy, vicar of St Mary's, Quarry Hill in Leeds. His father William Studdert Kennedy was born in Blackrock, County Dublin, Ireland in 1826. Geoffrey's paternal grandfather was Dean of Clonfert in County Galway Ireland from 1850 until his death in 1864. One of his brothers was Hugh A. Studdert Kennedy, a biographer of American religious leader Mary Baker Eddy. Because of his Irish forefathers, Geoffrey always maintained he was an Irishman. He was educated at Leeds Grammar School and Trinity College, Dublin, where he gained a degree in classics and divinity in 1904. After a year's training at Ripon Clergy College, he became a curate at St Andrew's Church, Rugby and then, in 1914, the vicar of St. Paul's, Worcester.
On the outbreak of World War I, Studdert Kennedy volunteered as a chaplain to the army on the Western Front, where he gained the nickname Woodbine Willie. In 1917, he was awarded the Military Cross at Messines Ridge after running into no man's land to help the wounded during an attack on the German frontline.
During the war he supported the British military effort with enthusiasm. Attached to a bayonet-training service, chaplain Kennedy toured with boxers and wrestlers to give morale-boosting speeches about the usefulness of the bayonet. One of his inspirational speeches is vividly described by A S Bullock as 'the most extraordinary talk I ever heard'. Bullock notes that the listeners 'were a very rough, tough lot, but they sat spellbound', and quotes a section of the speech, at the end of which 'everybody sprang to their feet and cheered him to the echo'.
He wrote a number of poems about his experiences, and these appeared in the books Rough Rhymes of a Padre (1918), and More Rough Rhymes (1919).
His collected works were published under the title The Unutterable Beauty.
After the war, Studdert Kennedy was given charge of St Edmund, King and Martyr in Lombard Street, London. Having been converted to Christian socialism and pacifism during the war, he wrote Lies (1919), Democracy and the Dog-Collar (1921) (featuring such chapters as "The Church Is Not a Movement but a Mob", "Capitalism is Nothing But Greed, Grab, and Profit-Mongering" and "So-Called Religious Education Worse than Useless"), Food for the Fed Up (1921), The Wicket Gate (1923), and The Word and the Work (1925). He moved to work for the Industrial Christian Fellowship, for whom he went on speaking tours of Britain.
His appointment as missioner for ICF released him from routine clerical duties to become an outspoken advocate for the working classes. One of his celebrated quotes was: "If finding God in our churches leads to us losing Him in our factories, then better we tear down those churches for God must hate the sight of them."
It was on one of these tours that he was taken ill. He died in Liverpool on 8 March 1929, exhausted at the age of 45. His funeral took place in Worcester, to which poor working people flocked to pay their respects. The Dean of Westminster refused burial at Westminster Abbey, because he said Studdert Kennedy was a "socialist", even though he had distrusted most politicians and had refused to join any political party.
Honours and legacy
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He showed the greatest courage and disregard for his own safety in attending to the wounded under heavy fire. He searched shell holes for our own and enemy wounded, assisting them to the dressing station, and his cheerfulness and endurance had a splendid effect upon all ranks in the front line trenches, which he constantly visited.
The Museum of Army Chaplaincy at Amport House, Hampshire, also honours Kennedy with a large display about his life. In February 2013, John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds unveiled a commemorative plaque in Ripon, North Yorkshire, to honour the Ripon Clergy College and Studdert Kennedy.
War! Lies! And a Packet of Fags! is a play by David Gooderson about the Great War and its aftermath—the story of “Woodbine Willie”. The play is based on extensive research into the life of Kennedy, including meetings with members of his family, and a detailed study of the background of the period.
He is mentioned in the Divine Comedy song "Absent Friends": "Woodbine Willie couldn't rest until he'd/given every bloke a final smoke/before the killing," and in Finnegans Wake by Irish author James Joyce: "tsingirillies' zyngarettes, while Woodbine Willie, so popiular with the poppyrossies" (351).
- After War, Is Faith Possible? An Anthology by G.A. Studdert Kennedy, edited and introduced by Kerry Walters, Lutterworth Press, 2008.
- The Unutterable Beauty: The Collected Poetry of G. A. Studdert Kennedy, 1927. Diggory Press, ISBN 978-1-84685-110-0
- I Believe: Sermons on the Apostle's Creed by G. A. Studdert Kennedy, 1928. First published as Food for the Fed-up (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1921).
- Bunbury, Turtle, The Glorious Madness, Tales of The Irish and The Great War, Woodbine Wilie -- The Soldiers' Poet, p.85, Gill & Macmillan, Dublin 12 (2014) ISBN 978 0717 16234 5
- "Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy". Spartacus Educational. Archived from the original on 4 April 2013. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- "Remembering the vicar they called Woodbine Willie". Yorkshire Post. 16 February 2013. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- "The Rev. Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy or Woodbine Willie". BBC News. 29 March 2010. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- "No. 30234". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 August 1917. p. 8384.
- Holman, Bob (19 February 2013). "Church is central to tackling poverty - first world war hero's message is still relevant today". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- Alan Wilkinson, The Church of England and the First World War, SCM Press, London, 1996, p. 136.
- Bullock, A S, Gloucestershire Between the Wars: A Memoir, The History Press, 2009, pages 92-93
- "ICF history". www.icf-online.org. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
- Holman, Bob (19 February 2013). "Church is central to tackling poverty - first world war hero's message is still relevant today". theguardian.com. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
- "War hero Woodbine Willie is honoured". Darlington and Stockton Times. 15 February 2013. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- Catton, Richard (16 February 2013). "Paying tribute to Rev Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, known as 'Woodbine Willie'". The Press. Archived from the original on 8 March 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- "Holy Days". Church of England. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- Barrie J.M. Courage (Hodder & Stoughton) 1922
- "Play: Studdert Kennedy (Woodbine Willie), war priest turned pacifist". david-gooderson.co.uk. Retrieved 28 January 2017.
- Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy: The Pastor and the Suffering God An OCMS lecture about Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, given by Robert Ellis, 2005 February 15.
- "Kennedy, Geoffrey Anketell Studdert". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/38028.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Turtle Bunbury, The Glorious Madness, Tales of The Irish and The Great War,
Woodbine Willie - The Soldiers' Poet, pp. 82–91, Gill & Macmillan, Dublin 12 (2014) ISBN 978 0717 16234 5