This is the day that … St Dunstan is remembered by some churches. He is one of the 68 saints mentioned in the Anglican Prayer Book.
He is “the most famous of all Anglo-Saxon saints”, according to Alban Butler’s Lives of the Saints (1756-1759).
Dunstan was born in Somerset, England, in the early part of the 10th century. During his education at Glastonbury he alarmed the monks by sleep-walking on the roof of the church! (Stars Appearing, by S. Harton, page 208).
He eventually became an abbot at Glastonbury and set about reforming the morals of a scandalous clergy. This zeal for purity continued when he later became Archbishop of Canterbury (Butler, page 149).
But as was to be expected, there was plenty of opposition. Especially when he rebuked King Edwy for his unseemly behaviour. As a result Dunstan’s property was confiscated and he was sent into exile. After Edwy’s death, King Edgar assumed the throne and Dunstan was re-instated.
And it was Dunstan who instituted bellringing on festival days, and who re-introduced organ playing into the church – “even taking a personal hand in their actual construction” (Harton, page 207).
The story is told (believe it or not!!) that on one occasion, whilst working at his forge, he saw the Devil peering through the window. “So he pulled the red-hot tongs from the coals and pulled the Devil’s nose with them” (Maypoles, Martyrs and Mayhem, page 147; Days and Customs of All Faiths, page 127). Satan ran and dipped his nose in Tunbridge Wells to cool off – and “that is why the water in Tunbridge Wells, to this day, is sulphur water!” (page 127).
In the Convent of the Holy Child Jesus at Mayfield they even have St Dunstan’s tongs! (Maypoles, Martyrs and Mayhem, page 147).
And the dear old Archbishop is still regarded as the Patron Saint of blacksmiths.