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loose canons
There's a thin line between saintliness and madness. Here are inspiring tales of holy folly that laugh in the face of human wisdom... and also breathtaking examples of religious stupidity that fly in the face of common sense.

As told by Stephen Tomkins

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28: The Scrooge's saintly daughter
capital THE CHURCH OF St Mary Overie (better known these days as Southwark Cathedral) has less connection than might appear to the virgin birth. "Overie" simply means over the river. But never mind, it's enough that it commemorates the most slapstick of medieval legends.

The Mary in question was the daughter of the most notorious miser in Southwark, John the ferryman. He did anything to pinch a penny – eating scraps, rarely lighting a fire and giving his servants as little as he could get away with.

One day, he came up with a cunning plan to save a bit more: faking death. This would mean a day of mourning when no one in the house could eat a thing, and 24 hours later he would unexpectedly recover.

In the event, the apparent demise of the miserable old Scrooge backfired. The servants staved his best wine, roasted his best pig, and partied like it was 999. John rose from his bed howling with rage, and mistaking him for the Ghost of No Christmas Presents they beat his brains out with an oar.

Inheriting his estate, Mary sent for her young gentleman friend to come and marry her. This lad clearly had an eye for the pennies too, because he was so excited he leapt onto his horse, rode off, fell off and copped it.

Learning from experience, Mary then used her money to court the favour of a more reliable loved one, the Lord. She built an abbey, became a nun, and lived happily ever after (and I mean "ever").

The moral of this story could go either way, so here are two, for the cynical and the spiritual. Take your pick.

1. The only one who got any happiness from this money was the one who gave it away.

2. Money doesn't buy you sainthood, but having enough for an abbey can help.

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