It all began with Covid, or at least with the limitations put upon us in order to limit the virus’ spread. Our local group of pilgrim enthusiasts, called Ultreia Mancunia, had been developing nicely, with regular get togethers and walks. Then came Covid. We’d already moved our gatherings on to Zoom but we were still managing the walks, although adjusting the group size. Then came tier 2, tier 3 and worse! We could only walk alone or with one more!

exterior of st james church daisy hill

We had to change things. From having walks to get to know each other, to discuss all things Camino, and to visit interesting places, often connected with historic buildings and/or St James, we’ve gone for the latter… full-time!

With Tony and Parveen, two other pilgrim-enthusiast friends, I did a walk last week, in the pouring rain, to visit one of our closest St James’ churches, the one at Daisy Hill (don’t you love that name!), near Westhoughton. It’s a very distinctive church, being totally in brick and having a triple bell tower which is a prominent local landmark.

bulletin board for st james daisy hill

It was closed, of course, but the information & posters on its noticeboard suggested a well-loved church. Booklets have been produced on its history and its stained glass, it has a website, has regular food bank collections, plus it had an up-to-date request for knitted hats to go into Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

I went onto the website, found this pilgrim prayer – a very attractive stained-glass window, plus this St James icon!

icon of st james

From the Office of the Pilgrim, Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Pilgrim’s Payer adapted for St James the Great church Daisy Hill

St James, Apostle

chosen among the first,

you were the first to drink the cup of the Master,

and you are the great protector of pilgrims;

make us strong in the faith and happy in hope

on our pilgrims’ journey

following the path of Christian life.

Feed us, so that through your intersession

we may find the strength to restore

and grow this church in Daisy Hill, dedicated to your name.


From the website I also got the pattern for the beanie hats for the shoe boxes. I thought about the knitted teddies I’d also made; would they be acceptable? When and how were the items to be delivered? I phoned up the vicar, Carol, and she gave me the telephone number for the shoebox contact, Judith.

We had an amazing phone conversation! Yes, the teddies would be more than acceptable, the things could be delivered on Saturday, 7th November – that was today! – as the church would be open for its foodbank donations. I could see inside!! Not only that but Judith and a couple of friends had been planning doing the Camino this year and were overjoyed when I could tell them about Ultreia Mancunia, etc.

wide view of stained glass window st james daisy hill

Zoomed view of St James in Stained Glass

My visit was such a success! The sun was shining, it showed off the stained-glass window to perfection, a window created by Morris and Co!
St James - S. JACOBUS - is on the left.

I was given a guided tour, but where was the icon? As I was leaving, its maker, its creator, Glenys Latham, arrived! It was all meant to be!

Standing in the aisle, well socially distanced and masked-up, I began to get the full story of the St James icon.

She’d discovered an icon-painting retreat/course in Ryland Hall, Cumbria, led by Rev. Christopher Perrins

“Chris Perrins originally trained as an accountant. He was ordained deacon in 2003 and priest in 2004. He served in a number of parishes in the Diocese of Liverpool. Chris has a Diploma in Icon and Wall Painting from the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts. Having always enjoyed art in one form or another, he first painted an icon in 2005 at a course given by Christi Paslaru.”

The course is aimed at beginners, but those with more experience are very welcome. Each person will paint an icon using traditional techniques of egg tempera on a gessoed board, using the proplasmos technique, with gold leaf for the background.

The course was one week, and took place about five years ago. She was so taken with it that she signed up for a second week, immediately following, and, four courses later, was satisfied with her St James icon, which is normally displayed in the church on heritage weekend.

icons of saints laid out on table

What an amazing discovery I’ve had – with the church, its contents and its enthusiasts! 
Barbara Jones