I saw a re-tweet from the head of the Latin Mass Society, Joseph Shaw, announcing yesterday as the anniversary of the death of the famous Msgr. Alfred Gilbey.
Today is the birthday of Monsignor Alfred Gilbey (1901-98), Cambridge University’s longest serving Catholic chaplain. After retirement, he lived in the Travellers’ Club entertaining his admirers and former students. “I oppose all change, of whatever nature, as a matter of policy” pic.twitter.com/vUJ5cbwnDV
— Doctor Christopher Syn (@SebHyatt) July 13, 2021
I met him once, at the Travellers’ in London. He died in 1998 and a great Traditional Requiem was celebrated for him at the Brompton Oratory.
Gilbey was of an interesting family, whose influence may reach into your home.
His grandfather, Alfred, was the founder of Gilbey’s London Gin. Another member of the family, Guy Hugh, invented the apparatus that carbonates water, which has evolved into the SodaStream company.
When I was recently with some clerical friends in Detroit, before a great Supper For The Promotion Of Clericalism, our pre-prandials included Martinis made with that “most Catholic of gins”, Gilbey’s. They were properly made, with the technique of scenting the chilled glass with a rinse of vermouth, then poured out, and the addition of your pre-chilled gin and, for me, a twist.
There has been a ridiculous explosion of new gins. Some of them are eccentric. Some are wonderful in themselves, but perhaps not always the very best choice.
One might be tempted to turn one’s nose up at the notion of Gilbey’s humble, straight-forward dry London gin. That would be a mistake. On that evening, with that company, I enjoyed one of the best Martinis I’ve had in a long time.
Circling back to Msgr. Gilbey, he was chaplain at Cambridge for decades. When there was a threat that the house might be sold, he responded, “Over my dead body.”
They backed down.
This is something of the spirit we need right now.
Over my dead body.