4.5 Endings and Endings

A week after his arrival Frank Burt rolled shirts for his suitcase. There was a knock on the door. He welcomed John McCarter in and poured him orange juice. John sat himself and his leather satchel on the bed.

“I want to say how glad I am the Anglican Church is taking over the Mission. “

“There would be no Mission without you, Reverend McCarter,” said Frank.

“As Timothy said, the organisation gave us little support. Thank you. I had only seventeen dollars a week at best. Seven went to Timothy. At times it felt like the loss of my own child.”

His face was wet with tears of joy. Frank was taken aback.

“There was the cost of furniture and equipment,” said John. “I would be grateful for any remuneration.”

“Understandably. Of course, of course. I shall recommend the Board issues a grant to compensate you.”

John McCarter brightened up at this. “Thank you. We are in some need. “ He took his satchel, opened it and handed Frank a bundle of documents. “I want you to have this: my subscription list.”

It was quite a list.

Later that day Frank took the train back to New Jersey. He spent the weekend on a large report. London responded: Burt could employ Trebitsch for six months (to begin) at £150 yearly, and authorised the rental of a Mission house.  Before the reply came, Frank learned Timotheus and Margarethe had brought Robert Johann Trebitsch into the world. He was delighted the family would be looked after. He read on. McCarter was to be paid £12 for the furniture, but a goodwill grant. They regretted, was out of the question.


Griffintown was a dangerous place to convert Jews. Margarethe and her husband had talked about what would happen if he didn’t come home. He swatted the notion away. Their neighbours were reliable. Next door, Benjamin and Deanna, had been specifically targeted for the missionary’s pitches. Finally, Benjamin relented and invited Ignacz Timotheus in. The three of them knelt on the living room floor and approached the Lord in Prayer.

A moment’s silence: alone with God.

Margarethe’s screams.


Featured image attribution: The Irish Ghetto of Montreal: Griffintown, by Krikor Tersakian.

Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to patreon.com/andyluke and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.


4.4 The Takeover

The next day Frank Burt sent an urgent cable to London. Timotheus and Margarethe Trebitsch had decided he should resign from the Presbytery into a future, uncertain, but in God’s hands. Frank made the rounds again. George Troop said he would attend the meeting a few days later. “A convert speaking seven languages is a prize asset,” he’d said.

Trebitsch, Frank and Troop met at the Presbyterian Church on Ballantyne, West Montreal.

“This could explode,” said Frank solemnly.

Reverend Scrimger greeted them warmly. The feeling of eggshells beneath their feet turned to marble as he led them to the meeting room. The big missionary from Campbelltown, Donald McVicar, chaired, but any anxiety was transcended when Ignacz and John McCarter met one another. John’s ill health was nowhere seen. He and his protégé got straight talking of mission progress and eccentrics and one rabid rabbi.

“John McCarter, when you’re quite ready,” said McVicar.

The men laughed and took their seats. After prayer, Frank was given the floor. He thanked his hosts and related Archbishop Bond’s apologies: it was a busy time for him. The London Jews’ Society wanted to reach new men, make new men, an ethos which resounded with McVicar. Frank Burt praised McCarter and Trebitsch and in respect of their efforts, he said, the mission needed to move forward. The London Jews’ Society would ensure the legacy was a living one befitting God and Christ only.

Ignacz Timotheus spoke next, as careful and considered. His intention to retire was built on searching his heart and meditating with Christ. He spoke of the difficulties funding speaking tours, the limits of his employers and local Hebrew opposition. He spoke slowly, without malice, with practical considerations.

“The London society has discussed the matter,” said George Troop.  “We want only goodwill and are keen to employ Mr. Trebitsch.”

“Reverend Burt has briefed me,” said McCarter. “We all agree Mr. Trebitsch is a great hope for winning families to Christ. Perhaps though, the proposal should be discussed among Mr. Scrimger and McVicar?”

McVicar nodded. “Gentlemen, say…an hour for deliberation?”

John McCarter was asked to go with them, a good sign. Frank Burt’s party shared their sandwiches in the park. They talked about the stories in the paper: Thomas Lincoln Tally’s “Electric Theatre” in Los Angeles; the French automobile that made 74mph. Trebitsch seemed nervous.


“Well,” blustered McVicar, on returning. He rapped the hard-wood table as he sat. “We have discussed the options and think it best The London Jews’ Society be left to pursue our mutual aims.”

“We are happy to release Mr. Trebitsch from contract, and thank him for his time in service,” said Scrimger.

“Good speed to his future and the future of the mission!” said McVicar.


Featured image attribution: Ignacz Trebitsch, from Bernard Wasserstein’s The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln, Penguin Books.

Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to patreon.com/andyluke and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.

4.3 New Pitch

“We saw the intervention of the London Society at this juncture was God’s handiwork and the more we saw revealed I, after all, I am a fruit of their labours.”

“Oh?” said Frank. “The Society provided me with shelter in England. That was the beginning of my birth in Christ. It meant so much, in every part of me.”

He held his hand in front of him, fingers spread, shaking with vitality.

“My body, my soul, it was God’s love, most pure.”

They passed the YMCA building and looked to the wretches on the steps, whispering for change.

“I became identified with the Presbytery in Hamburg after being directed there, instead of to the Society’s agent. You understand, Mr. Burt, I have no interest in converting Jews for sectarianism , Presbyterianism, Anglicanism, any -ism. When we prayed our prayers led to one conclusion. If the London Society were to allow me employment I would resign from the Presbytery.”

They walked Rue Peel in silence for a minute.

“I have shocked you.”

“A little,” said Burt.

Ignacz Timotheus glanced towards one of the cafes and Frank put his hand on his arm. He proposed they sit a while. The booth caught little of the daylight but the air was full of eggs and bacon. Their coffees arrived, black, and quickly.

“I am taken aback, yes, but it is an idea that has occurred to me,” said Frank. “There would be problems going ahead: misunderstandings; ill-feelings. They might very well think I influenced you in this, swayed you.”

Ignacz’s black pupils sparked light.

“That would not be so. Several weeks ago I told the Board certain matters were to be agreed, or I would withdraw from them.”

“The mission house and expenditure?”

“Among others. The Board has not agreed. You see they would not hold you responsible.” He twice touched Frank’s hand.  “I am not in their debt and may leave before the end of the month.”

The Hungarian drank slowly.

“I do not know if the Society will go for this,” said Frank, and he took a sup also. “As I said, we are keen to avoid the friction this could cause. Pray on it some more, and think. If it is God’s will I would fully recommend you for the role. ”


Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to patreon.com/andyluke and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.

4.2 Bad Mission

Trebitsch met him at The Windsor Station and they walked by the Methodist Church and St. George’s Episcopal. Re-tracing his steps Burt assessed it a remarkable job of modern urban landscaping. His guide confirmed it was a recent development and pointed out how the green borders and walk-ways were arranged in the shape of a Union Jack. The public space had become a central meeting point for all of Montreal. They left the Queen of the World Cathedral’s inspiring spires and behind too, the red brick offices of the Sun Life building. Just off the green was Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue and then their destination.

“Less a walk than a stroll,” said the Englishman.

“It is a central location,” Trebitsch admitted

The building was badly damaged: a broken window and a missing one; inside, a fallen beam, diagonal from ceiling to ground.

“That’s what you’d call a non-supporting beam?” said Trebitsch.

They examined it for a few minutes before leaving.

Burt broke the silence. “It concerns me a synagogue is directly opposite and another over the way.”

“Thank you!”

“Have you informed the Presbytery?” asked Burt.

” I am unsure if they were listening. I hope you understand this has the potential for riotous behaviour?”

Burt assured him. “I have seen it happen. This square could become a boxing ring.”

“They appear not to have considered that at all.” He sighed. “Sadly,  it has not been easy to make the board understand? When we needed new equipment, four or five hundred pounds from my wife’s dower filled the short fall.”

Frank Burt detected Trebitsch’s difficulty in admitting this.  “I understand your wife is with child?”

“Due in weeks,” he said.

Frank steeled himself. “I pray the Lord bless you both. Go on.”

“Like Mr. McCarter before us we’ve sacrificed so much.”

Timotheus Trebitsch put his hand in his pocket and took out his savings book. Frank studied the dwindling balance, the loans.

“After speaking with you yesterday, Margarethe and I were much in prayer. As before we prayed to God to clear the difficulties from our road and open up the way. “


Image Attribution: Dominion Square, Montreal, TaylorNoakes.com

Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to patreon.com/andyluke and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.

4.1 Frank Burt

10 April, 1902.

At a distance, Ignacz Timotheus Trebitsch might have been mistaken for Frank Burt. They wore the same spectacles and cloak. The same short length black hair, though Burt’s was straighter. The same drooped face, Frank Burt’s accentuated by floppy moustache.

Burt looked closer to thirty than his fifty. He’d gone from the New Jersey train to his Montreal lodgings, leaving bags, then straight to Reverend George Troop. The diocese secretary listened as Frank repeated his pitch. The London Jews Society was expanding globally so that a Montreal mission could support their Presbyterian counterparts; tap their experience; steer them from failure. McCarter’s resignation had set an unpredictable future in motion. Frank Burt was passionate, urgent, committed. The latest recommendations, he thought, may have altered his plans.

Next he called on the Anglican Archbishop, William Bond. Bond had the aura of a giant, a celestial grandfather. He listened to Burt’s pitch, and then renewed his support, as long as it stoked no rivalry with the Presbyterians.

Burt was to call on support from a member of the Synod, but his first stop was with the Presbyterian missionary at McGill. He was reading the lead, on the Belgian General Strike, when Burt found him.

“Mr. Burt, delighted to meet you.” Ignacz Timotheus took his shoulders firmly. “It’s been a long time coming. I only wish the circumstances were better.”

Burt solemnly nodded. “Yes, I received your letter just before I set out. I’m glad the Presbytery has full faith in you. Although Montreal will have two groups bringing Christianity among the Jews and that is worth re-thinking.”

He watched as Frank Burt’s passion drained into sobriety. Timotheus didn’t react to this immediately. “You are giving a sermon while here?” he asked.

“Several. The first is tomorrow night,” said Burt.

“I will do my best to attend,” said Ignacz Timotheus and made a note in his diary. “I concede your organisation is firmer suited than the Presbytery to draw on capital for this operation. However, I must honestly discourage you. Establishing a second, similar mission will foster division among our churches as well as the Hebrews.”

“Mister Trebitsch. The calling –“

“Timotheus, please.”

“Timotheus…the mission would proceed only on kindness and co-operation; an understanding that though our practices differ we are of the same family.”

He contemplated this a moment, boiling up a smile.

“Well then, I withdraw my objections. Your approach is a strength I am all for being a part of. Now, how can I help?”


Featured image attribution: Frank Burt, from Bernard Wasserstein’s The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln, Penguin Books.

Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to patreon.com/andyluke and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.