"I said to God: 'if you're there you've got to help me now because I've had it'"
The widow of entertainment legend Roy Castle once thought good deeds could earn her a place in heaven. Then she met Jesus ...
The widow of entertainment legend Roy Castle once thought good deeds could earn her a place in heaven. Then she met Jesus. IAN WHITE reports
Fiona Castle OBE said she’d always been a churchgoer and did all the ‘right’ things like getting the children christened. But as time went on, she was never really sure if God would accept her.
“I never knew if I’d done enough,” she recalled.
But it all suddenly changed on reaching “crisis point” at the peak of her husband’s career in the mid-1970s. The former dance and theatre performer turned full-time mother of four became very depressed.
“They were dark days indeed and at times I certainly thought it might be better to end it all.
“So one day in utter desperation I cried on my knees to God, ‘If you’re there, you’ve got to help me and you’ve got to help me now because I’ve had it.’”
Remarkably, Fiona wasn’t even off her knees when the phone rang. On the other end was a woman she barely knew.
“I knew she was a Christian as she was a friend of my sister who’d already gone that way. She told me she didn’t know why she was phoning me, but that I’d recently been on her mind and that she just had to ring.”
No sooner had the woman suggested talking than Fiona dumped baby Ben into Roy’s arms and headed for the next village.
The woman asked Fiona whether she’d ever invited Jesus to take over her life.
“When I said ‘no’, she asked, ‘don’t you think it’s time you did?’”
Frightened to say anything but ‘yes’, Fiona was led through a prayer inviting Jesus Christ to take control of her life.
“I just felt peace that I’d never known before and that peace has never left me.”
A month passed before Roy actually asked where she’d been that night, but he’d already sensed something was different. Fiona became acutely aware that God more often changes attitudes than circumstances.
“I’d always insisted on Roy going to church and believe he’d already got to know [God] over time. I’d always been a ‘do-gooder’, trying to live a good life but never being able to match up, so God would never let me into heaven.
“But now that burden was lifted, our marriage just healed up immediately. My dark thoughts had gone. We laughed a lot and didn’t take things so seriously.
“When he was around it was brilliant, and when he wasn’t I could cope, as God was now the anchor.”
The couple lived through some scary times. They were advised to check their cars carefully following the IRA murder of Roy’s Record Breakers colleague Ross McWhirter in 1975.
Then their eldest child, Daniel, miraculously survived a 30ft cliff fall in the Isle of Man in 1980.
“We sent out an SOS back to our church in South Bucks to pray as he wasn’t given much hope.
“A couple of days later two people from the church flew over unannounced and anointed Daniel with oil. As they said ‘amen’ at the end of their prayer, they heard Daniel repeat ‘amen’ and knew a miracle had occurred.”
About two weeks later Daniel was back in their home church testifying to God’s goodness. He’s now a 48-year-old junior school teacher.
Now firmly rooted in their Christian faith, the Castles were able to cope with the devastating revelation in 1992 that lifelong non-smoker Roy only had months to live. He had lung cancer caused by passive smoking whilst playing his trumpet in jazz clubs.
“I went into shock and asked God what he was doing as Roy had always lived a healthy life. But I heard an audible voice telling me to stand back and see what he was going to do through this,” Fiona recalls.
Roy died just two days after his 62nd birthday in September 1994, by which time their second eldest child, Julia, was working as a missionary in Peru. Julia, now 46 (pictured above with Fiona), manages a charity in England selling products made by women in the shanty towns of Peru. Meanwhile, other daughter Antonia, 44, has followed Roy into television working as a BBC floor manager, while Ben, 40, has kept up the music tradition, playing the sax, clarinet and flute in the jazz world.
Fiona, 73 and a grandmother of three, now travels to share her story in churches and has written 10 inspirational books.
As a tribute to Roy, who introduced her to running when she was 40, Fiona ran the London Marathon in 2001 and 2005. She continues to run in other charity events.
During the period of unimaginable suffering, Fiona, was comforted by Roy’s visions of heaven.
“One of the last things he said before he died was: ‘I thought I was a good gardener, but this gardener is something else. Don’t hang around darling, you need to see this!’”