As dim as a Toc H lamp’


Anyone who served in the Armed Forces up until the late 1960s is likely to have heard someone lambasted for being ‘as dim as a Toc H lamp.’  Toc H is an international charity dedicated to serving others whose roots are in the First World War.  In 1915 an army padre, the Rev’d Philip Clayton, set up a rest home for the troops in the town of Poperinge.  It was named Talbot House after Lieutenant Gilbert Talbot, who had been killed earlier that year. Whatever the formal name it soon became abbreviated to Toc Aitch, which were the predecessors of today’s phonetic letters T – Tango and H- Hotel.


Tubby Clayton created what he referred to as an ‘oasis in a world gone crazy’, which could be a place of rest for all.  Famously everyone was treated exactly the same once they were inside: ‘All rank abandon ye who enter here’ was the motto.


There was a popular reading room, a pleasant garden, tea on the constant go, singalongs around the piano, concert parties and treats for the local children.  Right up in the loft was a chapel known as the Upper Room.  The attendance was always voluntary, but the services were packed and there were usually men standing all the way down the stairs and on the landing too.


After the war had ended Tubby Clayton wanted to do something to keep alive the keen sense of fellowship that they had felt at Talbot House and to promote service to others.  Toc H was born.  At the start of a Toc H meeting an ancient world lamp (think Aladdin’s lamp) is always lit to symbolize the light of service to others, which can break down all barriers.


The Toc H lamp isn’t actually very bright so it is not difficult to see how the expression likening someone’s intelligence to its dimness developed.  But a little light can still achieve a great deal and make all the difference.


On Remembrance Sunday we will remember the dark tragedy of war along with showing our gratitude to those who fought for freedom.  We also commit ourselves to working for that better world where the light is never extinguished and the darkness might be totally driven away.


At the opposite end to the actual flame a Toc H lamp has a cross.  The design is based on the Cross of Ypres, which is an historical reminder that Talbot House served those who fought on the Ypres Salient.  But the cross is also a reminder that the cross is the ultimate sign of God’s service to us and that out of that dark tragedy came the resurrection of Jesus Christ.


We are committed to making this world the best we possibly can, but we also have the hope that our ultimate home is with the risen Lord.


Fr Michael

Posted By: valerie

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