Fr John Gerard’s dramatic escape from the Tower of London was the story told by Bishop Nicholas Hudson to celebrate the English Martyrs School’s 50 years at Tower Hill.
The children were captivated to hear how Fr John Gerard, imprisoned in the Salt Tower, used orange juice to pen an invisible message to a fellow-prisoner: invisible till the paper was held over a fire! The two prisoners sent a similar invisible message to friends whom they persuaded to come alongside the Tower in a boat, throw up an iron ball attached to a rope which they caught and tethered to the battlements to enable them to slide down from the Tower onto the boat and to their freedom.
The guard who had borne their messages Fr Gerard did not wish to suffer. So Fr Gerard left the guard a letter telling him of a safe house to which he should flee and where he would receive an annual salary. The guard lived to tell the tale, enjoying a ripe old age.
‘Next time you pass the Tower,’ Bishop Nicholas told the children, ‘look up at the Salt Tower, it’s the one nearest to the Bridge, and say a prayer of thanks to God for the courage of Fr John Gerard and so many priests who risked their lives in order that Catholics might continue to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We would not be here without them.’