Gerard Tickle, Bishop

Gerard Tickle was born in Birkenhead, Merseyside in 1909 and was ordained to the priesthood on 228 October 1934. He enjoyed a dual success in his life: as Rector of a centuries-old college for the training of priests in Rome, and as Roman Catholic Bishop to the Forces.

He served as Vice-Rector of the English College, Rome 1946-52 and Rector 1952-63. Those who chose him knew what they were doing. The Venerable English College, in 1946, had only just returned from Stonyhurst in Lancashire where it had made its home during the Second World War. The ancient building, dating from the 15th century, was in need of repair and refurbishment. 

Tickle, as the new young Vice-Rector, came into his own. The very qualities needed were those which he possessed. House management, including electric wiring, plumbing and artistic decoration, was among his many skills – he even created Classical ceilings with the skilful use of jelly moulds. The students learnt their trades from him, and were loaned out to various embassies in Rome faced with similar problems. Tickle welcomed guests warmly, and not with just a handshake. He understood all about food and wine, and was himself an expert chef. Never had the Venerabile witnessed such a superb display of personal relations. He enlarged the reputation for hospitality which the English College had long enjoyed.

He was appointed the Bishop of the Forces and Titular Bishop of Bela by the Holy See on 12 October 1963.  His first tour of the Far East, made shortly after his appointment as Forces’ Bishop, set the tone for all subsequent tours and visits. He was equally at home with the three Services, as also with those of Australia and New Zealand. He kept to a full schedule despite tropical heat and humidity and the normal fatigue of long-distance travel.

In the 1970s Bishop Tickle was the target of an assassination attempt by an Irish republican bomber, Shane Paul O’Doherty, who carried out a letter bomb campaign against several targets. He claimed he had read a newspaper story quoting  Bishop Tickle as saying British soldiers did nothing wrong on Bloody Sunday. The bomb, stuffed into a hollowed-out Bible, failed to detonate.

Gerard Tickle resigned as Bishop of the Forces on 24 April 1978, at age 68, but continued as Titular Bishop of Bela until his death on 14 September 1994, aged 84.

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