Thanks to everyone that came to Alex’s naming ceremony yesterday – we had an enjoyable, if hectic, time, and we hope that you did likewise.
[italicised text was spoken by me; normal text was spoken by
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Welcome all to Southampton, and to the occasion of Alex’s Naming
A traditional christening fulfils three goals: the bestowing of a
name to a child (the Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1953,
as amended, notwithstanding), the welcoming of the child into the
church, and the welcoming of the child into the community of their
friends and family. We’re not practicing Christians, so one of those
goals has little meaning for us, but we feel that the other goals are
relevant, and so we wish to mark Alex’s birth and attainment of the
age of eight months, one week and two days with a short ceremony.
During this ceremony we will affirm that the gift of life is a
wonderful gift indeed, and we will ask you to join us in expressing
our desire that Alex grows to achieve all of life’s greatest
- Alex, may you have joy in listening and joy in speaking;
- May you have joy in seeing and joy in doing;
- May you have joy in thinking and joy in wondering;
- May your hours be forever bright in play and in work;
- May your days be forever warm with happiness and fulfillment;
- And may your life always be touched by true friends and
As T.S. Eliot didn’t write: “The Naming of Babes is a difficult
matter / It isn’t just one of your holiday games”. I’m sure that there
are many Buttercup Moonchilds out there who’d agree with us.
Before we even arrived at Alex’s first names, we had the matter
of his surname. When we married, we decided that Isobel would keep her
surname, partly as a poke in the eye for the oppressive patriarchy,
but mostly because I’d probably still keep calling her Stark
This presented us with a bit of a problem with regards to Alex:
Gibbins, or Stark.
On the Stark side, Isobel’s from a comparatively small family,
and the only bearers of the Stark name in her generation are women;
follow the norm, and this branch of the Stark name stops here. On the
Gibbins side, it’s much the same; purposefully avoid the norm, and
this branch of the Gibbins name stops here.
Our options were twofold: give him a made-up name (Stibbins?
Gark?), or double barrel (Gibbins-Stark?
Stark-Gibbins?). As the least-worst option, we decided to go with
the last of these, so he’ll now have to bear the twin indignities of
being double-barrelled, and of being called a naked ape (stark
The surname issue was fairly straightforward compared to his
first names. We didn’t know what gender he would be before he was born
(well, apart from Nick, who caught a telling glimpse on an
ultrasound a few days before), so we’d been preparing lists of
names. On the female side, we’d drawn a complete blank. We had long
conversations on car journeys along the following lines:
- Not really
- That’s a tree
- Too Guys and Dolls
- We’re not Welsh
- Too old-fashioned
- Is that even a name?
On the male side, we fortunately had a much better idea of what we liked and didn’t like.
Alexander is a family name on my side, coming from my great-uncle
(and so Alex’s great-great-uncle). It also fits with the Greek names
that Nick’s parents gave him and Penny. For those that follow such
things, Alexander was 24th in the Office of National Statistics list
of Top 100 most popular baby names for 2006 (down four places from the
year before), and it means “Defender of Men”.
Iain is a compromise between my dad (Shaun) and Isobel’s granddad (John). It doesn’t appear in the ONS Top 100 (go us!) and means “God is Gracious”. We’ll move swiftly on…
A key part of a traditional christening are the godparents, who set
an example of Christian living and help the child grow in their
faith. Equivalent roles appear in secular namings such as this
one. Call them secular godparents (surely an oxymoron), call
them sponsors (50p a mile), call them mentors, call them
guideparents (we’d rather not), the goal is much the same: to
provide guidance to enable a child to become a more well-rounded and
We have chosen John, Jill and Mark to be Alex’s
John was at school with Nick, and is one of his oldest friends;
they’ve known each other for the best part of twenty-five years.
Jill was a fellow member of the Manchester University Film
Society with Isobel, who is secular godmother to her younger daughter
Nooka, and who officiated at the naming of her elder daughter
Finally, Mark was at the University of Warwick, though not at the
same time as Nick. He’s an engineer, so we thought that we should
attempt to correct the arts/sciences balance.
We love and respect John, Jill and Mark, and feel confident
that they will be of great value and help to Alex in his life. We are
always confident that they will always be there for Alex. We now ask
John, Jill and Mark to publicly recognise their commitments to
- Do you accept the responsibility of being Alex’s mentors?
- Will you stay close to Alex, and guide him through life, so
that he may know the best way you know?
- Will you try and be a good influence by your own way of
- Will you encourage Alex to observe worthy principles of
living, and treat other people and indeed all creatures, great and
small, with respect and dignity?
Thank you. May you gain as much from your special relationship with
Alex as he will.
We would also like to acknowledge the special relationship
between Alex and his grandparents.
Alex’s grandparents will play an extremely important and active
role in his life. Grandparents, because of their life experience and
the knowledge gained throughout their lives, have a wealth of exciting
tales to tell and adventures to recounts. They have stories of people,
places and events. Through close relationships with their
grandparents, children learn their heritage, social and family
history, skills, and many values.
- Will you always offer Alex a safe and loving refuge?
- Will you trust in his potential and lovingly support him in his
- Will you guide Alex with your wisdom, and offer him counsel whenever he seeks it?
Thank you. May your days with Alex be long and may you learn from him as you share with him your wisdom.
Alex, be the best person you can.
- Always aim to help others and avoid harming anyone.
- Be kind and fair to everyone, including people different from yourself.
- Be kind and careful with animals
- Recognise that the arts are important for sharing feelings and
- Recognise that science is important for learning about
ourselves and our world, and for helping make this world a better
It is our wish that these forthright principles will guide Alex on
his journey through life.
Today we celebrate Alex’s life, and our absolute happiness that
he has been born.
All gathered here today are to undertake a special and lifelong
interest in Alex.
We welcome you Alex and we wish you a healthy long life full of
love and happiness. May life’s richest joys be yours. May gentle
thoughts and loving deeds be with you always. May it be your good
fortune to play some worthy part in making life more joyful for those
whose paths you cross.
Please raise your glasses and join us in a toast: Alexander Iain
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The only downside to the day was that we’d forgotten to put the freshly-charged battery back in the camera, so we have no photographs of our own – if people could stick full-sized images online and send us a pointer, we’d be much obliged.