On 26th August, St Bride’s commemorated one of our parishioners who was born on that day in 1845.
The name of Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols is not well known. As the first recorded victim of the killer known as Jack the Ripper, perhaps it should be. However, as crime writer Martina Cole said on Desert Island Discs, it’s the serial killers that we remember, not who they kill.
We were told in suitably sombre tones how pitiful life was for not just Polly, but so many in those times and why large numbers of women turned to selling sex to survive.
Amongst the poignant hymns and anthems the Reverend Andrew Richardson of St Botolf’s in Aldgate spoke of how the same problems exist today and of the charity, Beyond the Streets, which reaches out to help exploited women.
To the haunting background of Sacred Love by the Russian composer Sviridov, marking the fact that so many modern day sex slaves are trafficked from Eastern Europe, three candles were lit; for Polly, for other Victorian women who shared her fate, and for women affected by sexual exploitation in London today. One of those candles was lit by Janis Kelly, soprano at the ENO who will sing the role of Polly in a forthcoming opera, Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel.
Polly’s memorial service may have come a little late, but it was a moving and stark reminder of the plight of too many women.
Written by: Nick Baldock, Churchwarden
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