St Henry of Coquet Island
Celebrated on January 16th
Coquet Island off the north-east coast of England
Henry was a 12th century Dane who decided to become a hermit abroad rather than go in to an arranged marriage that made him unhappy. The prior of Tynemouth allowed him to settle on Coquet Island, which had once had a community of monks during the time of Bede. It was also the place where Cuthbert used to meet Elfleda, abbess of Whitby.
Henry lived a very simple life, earning his keep by looking after a garden. A party of Danes came to visit him one day to persuade him to return home. They said there were many places for hermits to live in Denmark. But after a night of prayer, Henry decided to stay where he was.
As the years passed he developed a reputation for great holiness. Many people came to him for advice. He had special gifts of prophesy, telekinesis, and could read the secrets of people’s hearts. He once reproved a man who denied his wife sex during Lent.
Henry was known for his cheerfulness. When he became ill, he carried on alone, until one day he rang his bell for help. When the monks arrived, he was already dead, holding the bellrope in one hand and a candle in the other. In spite of great resistance from the islanders, the monks of Tynemouth took his body back to their monastery and buried him in the sanctuary, near their patron, Oswin.