Beware all donations!

The Rectory

St. James the Least


My dear Nephew Darren

This has been an unusual month: we have moved from hysterical excitement to deep disappointment within the space of days.

For many years, our vestry has displayed an oil painting generously donated by the dowager duchess of Stansby – given to us, I suspect, because her son, the tenth Duke, would not allow it in his house. It was supposed to depict Daniel in the lions’ den, although I always thought it looked more like a prospective adopter visiting a dog rescue centre. The dowager was less than pleased when it wasn’t made the centrepiece in the sanctuary, but we managed to persuade her that her exceptional work of art would be safer from theft if locked away.

Our cleaner happened to knock it off the wall. If it had landed in her bucket of disinfectant and been totally destroyed, it would have been a sadness I suspect I could have learned to bear. But something more interesting happened. Some of the dowager’s oil was chipped off – to reveal a painting underneath of what looked like a cherub.

The cleaner told the churchwarden, who instructed her not to tell anyone about the find. This inevitably meant that, within the hour, the entire parish knew of the discovery of what had already been transformed into a priceless pre-Raphaelite treasure. Our churchwarden has yet to learn the fact that if you tell someone something in complete confidence, they assume it means they can only tell one other person at a time.

By evening, mutually opposed camps had already formed. Miss Timmins wanted the treasure to be placed in a side chapel, as a shrine, preferably with candles permanently burning beside it. She envisaged St. James the Less becoming a place of pilgrimage and that this yet-to-be revealed cherub may work miracles of healing. She was already asking for opinions about where the car park should be built to cater for the thousands of tourists who would soon be flocking here. Another group wanted to sell it as soon as possible and use the money to repair our church tower. A third group insisted the fortune it would raise be given to African missionaries. Meanwhile, the tenth Duke was consulting his solicitors to see how he might get the canvas back to his castle.

We compromised by getting the thing X-rayed, to see what work of art lay underneath. It turned out to be by a local artist who had painted an advert for the village pharmacist to sell his own brand of gripe water.

Shrines, towers and good deeds were quietly forgotten and the last we heard of the tenth Duke was that he was consulting a second set of solicitors to see if he can get out of paying the first set for the work they had done to retrieve the painting.

Your loving uncle,


This blog was sent to us by a reader without providing a source. A Google search revealed it had appeared on the website of The Benefice of St. Anne, St. Paul & St. Augustine, Leicester. Assuming this is the original publication we thank the author for this amusing take on donations.

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