NEW ALBUM - out now!
"The Thought Expressed"
A collection of hymn and song settings of the poetry of John Bradburne.
composed by Philip John Berthoud
and sung by Mahrey Berthoud
100% of the profits from the sale of this CD will go to Mutemwa Leprosy Settlement,
where John spent the last 10 years of his life caring for the lepers – visit:
for more details about John’s life, the cause for his beatification and the work of the
John Bradburne Memorial Society - the CD is available to buy here, too.
I’ve always been inspired by my Godfather, John Bradburne. My father, Patrick Berthoud, was editor of a Catholic magazine in Zimbabwe called The Shield, for which John contributed poetry, an interview and helped with proof-reading. He would come to stay at our house in Harare and he and my parents were great friends. The picture on this page is of John in 1966 at my Christening. Although I have no recollection of John in person (my family leaving Africa when I was 3), I have long felt his influence in my life.
During the Coronavirus lockdown of 2020, I decided the time was right to set some of John’s beautiful religious poetry to music - a project I’d had in the back of my mind for some time.
I started work in April 2020 on composing, and recording was finished three months later. The whole whole CD was conceived and recorded at our home in Devon.
It has been a privilege to work with John’s poetry.
My hope is that my music will do it justice and bring people closer to John and, ultimately to God.
John Bradburne (1921-1979)
After many years wandering between England, Italy and the Middle East, John Bradburne joined his friend Father John Dove in Zimbabwe in 1962.
John confided to a Franciscan priest that he had three wishes:
to serve leprosy patients, to die a martyr, and to be buried in the habit of St Francis.
From 1964 he was first caretaker and then, in 1969, warden at Mutemwa Leprosy Settlement, in Zimbabwe. The single-minded loving care he gave the residents eventually brought him into conflict with the management committee. Refusing to put number tags around the patients necks and reduce their already small diet, he was sacked.
He then lived in a prefab tin hut (pictured right), lacking water and sanitation, just outside the leprosy compound.
From there he continued to help the lepers as much as he could.
During the Zimbabwean civil war, his efforts to prevent exploitation of the leprosy patients brought local hostility and suspicion. He refused to abandon the lepers and leave the Settlement for safety and, on Wednesday 5 September 1979, he was abducted and shot.
At his Requiem Mass, eye-witnesses saw a small pool of blood which had formed beneath the coffin
during the service. This was quickly covered up by one of the priests.
Afterwards, the coffin was reopened, but no sign of blood was found inside it.
It was however noticed that John had not been clothed in his Franciscan habit, which, as a Secular Third Order Franciscan, he had wanted.
His third wish was then fulfilled and he was clothed in it.
The mystery of the blood has never been explained other than by being a miraculous event.
Since his death many other unusual events have been reported in relation to his name.
His lasting legacy is that Mutemwa is now a place of pilgrimage, and there is a growing movement
in support of his cause for sainthood.