A brief guide to the figures in the hall of St Joseph's Catholic Church
 Stanley Walk, Bracknell, Berkshire RG12 United Kingdom
 in the parish of St Joseph & St Margaret Clitherow


Welcome to a tour of a local alternative to the National Portrait Gallery!  Be prepared for surprises and smiles.

This unique piece was painted in March-June 2014 at the request of the parish priest Fr Danny McEvoy - as a companion to the 2013 one for St Margaret Clitherow Primary School. 

Like the school's, the Gallery is meant to educate, inspire, intrigue and amuse - in this case all parishioners and visitors to the parish hall over the next 50-100 years. It's also a working reminder of the spirit of Romero - and of CAFOD - at work for social justice in so many places.

I suggested that the big figures might be specified by the couple of dozen candidates for Confirmation. This was on the grounds that they would provide an adventurous mix - that they might want to show their grandchildren in, say, 2064. In the event, they came up with a fine and engaging list. My job then was to make some suitable arrangements of the figures, add in a few of my own (of the big figures, the two parish saints and Romero) and commit acrylic.

As before, the Gallery was painted in the garage, and the style was Salvadoran but with a lot more lumps and bumps. The Sistine Chapel it ain't.

Three developments were incorporated.  First, was to have several of the figures carrying banners or placards with messages on.  Second, to include small items in three dimensions.  Third, to have attachments for notices.

One of these asks questions, which you might like to think on as you browse this page.
1. Take two or more of the figures. What do you think they have in common, and why?
2.If you could meet one of the people, which one would it be - and why?
3.What would you like to ask them - and why?


Hugh Gibbons
August 2016


St Joseph the Worker


ST JOSEPH is shown appropriately wearing a worker’s safety helmet. Above him is a spokeshave, an ancient carpenter’s tool for shaping wood. This is is probably 60+ years old.

He’s supported by CATHERINE MARY ROBINSON AND JOHN MURDEN. These two former teachers helped found Ray of Light Children's Centre, a small charity which provides education and hope for girls in Harare, Zimbabwe.  The premises currently consist of two rooms in an unfinished house which has no mains water or electricity and one very primitive toilet. Despite this, the children are fed and clothed as far as funds will allow and until they are enrolled in school they are taught by a qualified teacher. Patricia Vutete (left) founder of Ray of Light, met Catherine Robinson at Musami Mission in 2010, and asked her for help. As a consequence, the UK arm of Ray of Light was set up with Jackie Robinson and John Murden. Father Nigel Johnson S.J. in Harare supervises the disbursement of funds and accounts.  For more information, see the Ray of Light website here

The small wooden figure of the Holy Family was painted by an artistic community in El Salvador, and is one of several bought specially to give a 3D extra for the Gallery.


The white figures show all the 30+ Confirmation candidates - though who is which is - deliberately - anyone's guess! In fifty years'time they may be able to point themselves out.

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St Margaret Clitherow

ST MARGARET CLITHEROW was originally shown holding a very special key-ring which featured a small set of ballbearings.  Alas, this went walkabout from the hall in early 2015.  But here's the wording that accompanied it.

The key is a symbol of hiding and protecting all those who are persecuted for their beliefs. 

The ring itself came from Michael Pfrang, Pastoral Worker at St Josef’s Catholic Parish in Schweinfurt in Germany – which was destroyed in the second of over 20 air raids on the city’s ballbearing factories on 14 October 1943, but rebuilt in the 1960s.  He also brought soil from the church to plant trees as part of the spirit of reconciliation at Thanksgiving Field at Winkfield – where one of the aircraft crashlanded.

Michael is seen here at St Martins in the Fields Church in London in April 2014, when he handed to Hugh the ballbearings and soil - and took back to Germany a handful from our garden! Full details of the Field and its own surprising gallery of characters are at www.thanksgivingfield.org.  A visiting parishioner is seen testing the comfort of the Giving Thanks Seat in the new orchard in the Field.

Thanksgiving Angel made from fragments of the plane will be going to St Josef's and other places in Schweinfurt in late 2016. The oak comes from Lily Hill Park in Bracknell.

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Nelson Mandela & Brian O'Driscoll


NELSON MANDELA is shown holding up a CAFOD postcard that says "Sometimes it falls to a generation to be great. You can be that generation. Let your greatness blossom."  He wears a shirt carrying the flag of South African: the rainbow nation - and winner of the Rugby World Cup.

BRIAN O'DRISCOLL is the rugby player – for both Ireland and The British Lions – famous in defence and attack and commitment.  But always with a heart of gold - and green. 

He holds the world in the shape of a rugby ball – or vice-versa!  The bee is to remind us that BOD was always busying himself about the field.

Notice in the background the first of five volcanoes in the Gallery - and allusion to the coat of arms of El Salvador.

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Martin Luther King & Demi Lavato


Dr MARTIN LUTHER KING Jnr was the famous civil rights leader in the USA – and for the world. He is holding a placard which encourages us to preserve our values.

DEMI LAVATO is a young American singer and actor.  She is well known for her support for her charitable activity, including campaigning about bullying, mental health problems including bulimia, and environmental awareness.  She has also been encouraging young people to take action in their own communities, and to get out and vote.  It has been said that she “is an amazing role model for today's youth, for her activism in the area of equality, positive messaging on body image, and level of openness with her struggles.”

Her clothing and hair were a major problem - until she changed both around May 2014, just in time to have the original versions overpainted - though the red trousers and blue socks are up for debate.

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Father Adrian Walker & Father Danny McEvoy


FATHER ADRIAN WALKER is a familiar friend of parishes around the East Berkshire area. He is shown wearing a question mark, to symbolise the way in which he gets us to question ourselves.  He’s holding a silver dove, and sports his silver beard and hairstyle.  

FATHER DANNY McAVOY is shown holding up a figure based on a simple match - as symbolic of bringing fire. He is wearing a stole decorated with the initials of the first name of the Candidates for Confirmation 2014. And he’s portrayed sitting down to symbolise his understanding of the practical needs and knees of parishioners.

His cats and two candidates support him, and his sock is the Scottish saltire cross.

The photo shows Fr Danny with some of the Confirmation candidates at the ceremony in Portsmouth Cathedral in June 2014.

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Rosa Parks & St Josephine Bahkita


ROSA PARKS was called "the first lady of civil rights" and "the mother of the freedom movement" by the United States Congress. She was the young civil rights campaigner who famously got on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and sat in the seats reserved for Whites Only. She is shown holding a banner urging people to Get.On.That.Bus. – as a reminder that freedom and justice needs people with courage and determination to take the right action - not just talk about it.  The actual Cleveland Avenue bus is still around, in the Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan. Incidentally, the photo shows Rosa with Martin Luther King Jnr.

SAINT JOSEPHINE BAHKITA was born in Darfur and taken into slavery as a child, but was rescued and eventually became a Cannosian sister in Italy.  Asked what she would do if she met her captors, she replied:” I would kneel and kiss their hands. If these things had not happened, I would not have been a Christian and a religious today". She is seen today as a symbol of anti-slavery. The Cannosians continue their great work in Africa and elsewhere today.

The wooden rosary was made by family artists in El Salvador. Alas, it went missing in August 2016.

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Mary Berry & Gordon Ramsay


MARY BERRY is a much-celebrated cookery writer. She is shown with her recipe for chocolate cake in the FairTrade magazine.

Mary is one of the Patrons of Child Bereavement UK, a charity with which she has a personal affinity as her son William died at the age of 19.

GORDON RAMSEY is famous as a chef with a !!$$£++??!! temperament! But he’s shown in another exemplary role – a runner in the London and many marathons and other demanding events to raise funds for charity. He‘s wearing half a cruet as a vest. To suggest his peppery character, or to pay tribute to him as salt of the earth?

Below him, King Canute asks us to check facts for myths before we judge. He was actually a good king, trying to make the point that kings aren’t all-powerful – but history turned his seaside example into a misleading myth.  He's actually a very good example of everyday psychology of illusions in life.

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Archbishop Oscar Romero, an Aficionado, and Hugh Gibbons

ARCHBISHOP OSCAR ROMERO was the much-loved “voice of the voiceless” in speaking up for human rights in El Salvador and the world.  He carries a postcard one of the sayings that underlie his high standing in CAFOD. 


He also has part of an old wooden ruler – an allusion to his original vocation as a carpenter.  Living modestly, he had only three pairs of socks – one in the draw, one in the wash, and (today) Pair 2 on his feet.  Note the trademark glasses and eyebrows!


He’d have liked this Gallery created "in the spirit of Romero."


Holding up Oscar are the hands of ROMERO SUPPORTER - and aficionado - to thank all those around the world who take action to show their appreciation.


HUGH GIBBONS, the Gallery artist, holds up a banner at the end of one of his paintbrushes - some aspirational words from his school song at King Edwards in Birmingham: die of service, not of rust.

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Catechists & the Tau Cross
  Many people took part in the Confirmation programme 2015: candidates, parents, sponsors, prayer partners, general helpers - and catechists, the team who ran the week-by-week programme.  They're all shown at the bottom left, and goodness knows which is who.

The Tau Cross was hand-painted in classic (and neat!) El Salvador style. Deliberately, it hangs beyond the frame, to help catch the eye.

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The Holy Family, The Ark, a Bird of Peace, and the Holding Cross

Other examples of fine Salvadoran art appear in the wooden items across the Gallery.

The wooden cross hanging down from the middle of the Gallery is a Holding Cross - but went missing in 2015. It was made of olive wood from the Holy Land, and was made more to be felt than seen. The Cross came was brought back from the shop at Portsmouth Cathedral on the Confirmation Day for candidates in 2014.

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