Scarlet Ribbons

Scarlet Ribbons

A Priest With AIDS

By Rosemary Bailey



In 1995 BBC Everyman screened Simon’s Cross, the story of the Rev. Simon Bailey, a priest with AIDS, and the remarkable support he received from his Yorkshire mining village parish. The response to the programme was phenomenal. In his struggle to make sense of his suffering and approaching death, he articulated the suffering of many; the sick, the bereaved, those trying to reconcile their homosexuality; other AIDS sufferers and their carers.

Simon Bailey found out he was HIV Positive just as he took up his first post as a Church of England rector in Dinnington in South Yorkshire. He found inspiration in the love he received from his parishioners, who cared for him and looked after him until he died. He remained rector of Dinnington until the end; the only priest to stay in his parish with AIDS, celebrating the eucharist in his beloved church for the last time only weeks before he died.

There is a compelling story in Simon Bailey’s struggle to accept his homosexuality as a young priest; his discovery of his HIV status; the response of his parishioners and the Church of England when they discovered he had AIDS; their decision to support and to care for him; the constant fear of media exposure and scandal.

Rosemary Bailey felt the roles of journalist and elder sister combine inexorably as she was drawn into a new world of love and pain, coffee mornings and church roof repairs. With Simon’s encouragement she began writing, interviewing and talking to Simon himself, trying as he did to make some sense of his death. Her unsentimental and poignant account is a story of our time; of the integrity of one small community faced with the transforming power of illness and death.