Former Fleetwood student could become a saint

editorial image
  • Former Rossall student Fr Thomas Byles twice refused a place on Titanic lifeboat
  • Prayed with passengers and heard confessions
  • Must have two miracles attributed to him to be canonised
  • Rossall is former school of Saint novels author Leslie Charteris

A Fleetwood school could soon lay claim to being the home of not just a fictional saint, but a real one.

Rossall School is well-known for being the former school of Leslie Charteris, author of the popular ‘Saint’ novels, but now a campaign has been launched to make a past pupil a saint for real.

He performed mass for the ship’s second and third class passengers and was on deck when the Titanic struck the iceberg

Rev Etienne Van Blerk on Fr Thomas Byles

Fr Thomas Byles, a priest educated at Rossall School in the 1880s was a passenger on the Titanic when it sank in 1912. Byles twice refused a place in a lifeboat, choosing to remain on board the sinking ship to pray with passengers.

The current priest at Father Byles’ church in Essex has called for the former Rossall pupil to be canonised, and the school has added its voice to the campaign.

Rev Etienne Van Blerk, chaplain at Rossall School said: “Father Byles has very little in common with Leslie Charteris’ Simon Templar character! His story is one of extraordinary sacrifice, courage and duty to his calling.

“He performed mass for the ship’s second and third class passengers and was on deck when the Titanic struck the iceberg.

“Rather than take the place offered to him on the lifeboats he made his way to the third class decks to comfort passengers and hear their confessions before leading them to safety. His actions are truly inspirational and I can certainly see why he could be considered an excellent candidate.”

Father Byles, who is honoured in a memorial plaque at Rossall, must have at least two miracles attributed to him in order to become a saint.

Revd. van Blerk said: “The process of canonisation can be a lengthy one.”