Obituaries 2011

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(In alphabetical order of surname.)

Mrs Muriel Gallagher, née Hyman [MMS CSI Medak Diocese, 27 October 1921 to 24 September 2010] Died 24.9.2010 aged 88.

In thanking God for Muriel Gallagher’s outstanding life and service, we assure her children, grandchildren and wider family circle of our love and prayers. On behalf of the family I express thanks to the Dublin Central Mission and to all at Margaretholme and Mount Tabor for the professional and gentle care they took of Muriel in recent years.

Muriel has been a dear friend since the early 1960s, when Margaret and I joined Ernest and her as mission partners in the Medak diocese of the Church of South India (CSI). After we all returned to Ireland, they continued to be among our best friends and closest advisers. As I said at the time of Ernest’s death, we welcomed their advice on every major decision we had to take. After Ernest’s death we kept in touch with Muriel in both Belfast and Dublin, visiting her from time to time in Margaretholme and Mount Tabor.

Born at Rothley in Leicestershire in 1921, Muriel trained as a teacher. After three years teaching 11 to 16 year-olds, she offered as a candidate for overseas service through the Methodist Missionary Society (MMS) and was accepted in 1945. A further year’s training followed at  Selly Oak Colleges, Birmingham, after which Muriel sailed for India in late 1946 in time to attend the last synod of what was then the Hyderabad district of the Methodist Church, prior to its becoming part of the united Church of South India (CSI) in 1947. Something very special happened at the synod. Muriel met Ernest for the first time! After the synod, Muriel travelled to the newly-established Language School in Bangalore, where she studied the Telugu language and the basis was laid for her years as an educational missionary in what became the Medak diocese of the CSI.

Muriel’s first appointment was to the Girls’ Training School at Karim Nagar under the superintendency of Wilfred Stafford, another Irish Methodist minister, who served in India from 1927. The late 1940s were momentous years in India, witnessing the last days of the British Raj and the granting of Indian independence in August 1947. Hyderabad was not at first directly affected, remaining under Muslim rule as part of the Dominions of the regional Nizam, in effect a state within a state. The Staffords had a radio, and many years later Muriel still recalled gathering around the radio with others as, against the background of rising tension in 1948, Indian Union troops advanced on Hyderabad State on a number of fronts. At the eleventh hour, the Muslim ruler made peace with the Indian Union. By September 1948, the Union troops had entered Karim Nagar, with Hindu officials replacing Muslims overnight. Hyderabad had become part of the Indian Union. The creation of the Church of South India a month later was also a remarkable achievement, a new church for a new nation, with former Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists becoming one in Christ. 

Around four years ago, as part of my missionary research, I circulated a questionnaire to all known surviving 20th century Irish Methodist mission partners. Muriel sent me a thirteen page hand-written response. It was by far the most comprehensive and valuable reply I received. By then Muriel had of course long been regarded as an honorary and indeed highly honoured Irishwoman through marriage to Ernest, though she always valued her Leicestershire roots and family connections. Her reply to my questionnaire was vintage Muriel, beautifully written, clearly expressed and full of fascinating detail and relevant comment. Half way through she included an intriguing little comment about her first meeting with Ernest. As already noted, it had taken place when Muriel, who had just arrived in India, attended, the last Methodist synod in the old Hyderabad district prior to church union. Ernest had been in India for three years, and she wrote: ‘Ernest and I first met while reading minutes of the last Methodist Synod.’ What a magical moment it must have been! Was it, I wonder, a reading aloud of the minutes by the two of them in front of the Synod, or a quiet reading together in a secluded corner unobserved by others? We shall never know. Either way, it was surely a ‘first’, a magical moment when at Synod two young Methodists met one another for the first time and felt, as we say in Methodist circles, their hearts ‘strangely warmed’ towards one another and towards the work to which both had been called? Muriel and Ernest were married in Karim Nagar by Bishop Frank Whittaker, in October 1950. David was born in Rothley during their furlough in 1952, with John, Janet and Ruth following in fairly quick succession. In all, Muriel had six wonderful grandchildren, Ernest and Musa in Kenya, Neil in Denmark, Victoria and James in London and Vanessa in Dublin, all greatly loved by her. What a remarkable family they are, the parents of the grandchildren all distinguished in various fields, scattered across the globe and yet managing to keep in regular contact with one another and with Muriel over the years.

Some of us are familiar with the main details of Muriel’s life and work in Ireland from 1966, including her period of teaching in St. Patrick’s Cathedral School and at Rathgar Junior School, both in Dublin. Muriel indeed became Principal of the school at Rathgar. Her role as a minister’s wife in Charleston Road and Centenary Methodist churches was much appreciated, as was her support of Ernest during his year as President of the Methodist Church, 1981-2. Ernest’s time as Principal of Edgehill Theological College presented new opportunities where, for example, she did valuable work in the library at Edgehill. Her sustained efforts on behalf of world mission and world development, at local, district and connexional levels, through MWA (of which she was All-Ireland President), MWI and the MMS, was remarkable. She was also involved in the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women.  Margaret, for example, has many happy memories of her time with Muriel as a guest in Ruth’s home in Nairobi during the Assembly of the World Federation in Kenya, where she witnessed Muriel’s delight in the company of her grandson, Ernest. Muriel’s interest and joy in small children was both personal and professional. She took a keen interest also in inter-church affairs and world development through the Irish Council of Churches, Christian Aid, the Corrymeela and Columbanus Communities, and in other ways. She never lost her enthusiasm for these and many other areas of joint Christian witness and service.  

I must say a little more about Muriel’s work in India. Her status and recognition as a mission partner would have been radically reduced following her marriage, as was the practice in those days. I doubt though if in any way her application and involvement lessened. As far as family commitments allowed, she continued to be involved in educational, literature and outreach programmes in Indian villages, towns and the twin-cities of Secunderabad/ Hyderabad. I mention just a few examples. Her early friendship with Sister Lily Solomon, Principal of the Girls’ Training School at Karimnagar, blossomed from the start as they trained girls together to become Biblewomen and nurses. Muriel indeed acted as Principal of the school when Sister Solomon visited England. In the 1950s Ernest was appointed to the staff of the Men’s Training School in Medak, the headquarters of the diocese, where he later became compound Superintendent. Muriel accompanied him, helping the wives of Indian staff, and busying herself in the work of the mission hospital, local schools and worship at the cathedral. During this time the Girls’ Training School was moved from Karim Nagar to Medak, enabling Muriel to renew friendships and to become involved in it again. Muriel was granted a Bishop’s licence to preach, the equivalent of becoming a Methodist local preacher, and she became the regional Guide Commissioner in the Bharat Scouts and Guides. Many of these roles enabled her to make interesting contacts with people of other faiths.

Ernest’s appointment to Nizamabad in 1958 led again to adjustments, but Muriel continued with her work as Guide Commissioner and visiting schools and hospitals and encouraging Christian leaders and nurses to maintain a Christian ‘presence’ in what was fast becoming a secular society under State influence. Her appointment as diocesan Nursery Schools’ Secretary involved the staffing and oversight of a dozen or more schools with trained teachers, and organizing refresher courses around the diocese to help the wives of village evangelists in their vital work with pre-school children. Regarding this as an engagement with some of India’s ‘front-line women’, Muriel found it enormously rewarding.

In 1960 Ernest was appointed Diocesan Treasurer and MMS Committee Representative, requiring a move to Hyderabad where they lived in the old Church House, Secunderabad, a home shared with scores of visitors, coming and going constantly. David, by then, was at boarding school in the Nilgiri hills where John later joined him, to be followed in turn by Janet and Ruth at another boarding school. What of Muriel? She continued her work as diocesan Nursery Schools’ Secretary; supervised the running of Church House with its many guests, expected and unexpected; and served as honorary Principal of the Primary and Kindergarten School at St. John’s church, where Ernest served with great tact and acceptance as the first non-episcopally ordained minister of the church. Muriel made time somehow to serve as a teacher for one and a half terms at one of the children’s boarding schools, covering for a teacher who was ill. This gave her deep insights into the intense pain that could be experienced both by children and parents, when separated from one another for educational purposes.

The CSI Synod is the church’s supreme court, the nearest equivalent to the Methodist conference. It was held, I think for the first time, in the Medak diocese in 1964. As ever, Church House, Secunderabad, where the Gallaghers lived, played a key role in proceedings becoming ‘home’ and a central meeting point for leading figures from various south Indian dioceses. As ever, Muriel was a gracious and unflappable hostess. When it was all over, the Bishop in Medak wrote to Muriel to express his thanks. ‘I never cease to be amazed at the way in which you cope with all the…duties that are thrust upon you at Church House, with many important guests to be entertained’, he wrote, adding ‘and yet you are able to come through smiling. You have your reward in the complete satisfaction of your guests and the success of the Synod’. Muriel’s smile was always special, a sign of welcome, acceptance and genuine interest, whether to village people, important officials, visitors from near and far, or people of other faiths. The Gallaghers left India in 1966, beginning a new chapter of their life in Ireland. In 1979 they had the joy and honour of being invited back to India for the centenary celebrations of Christian work in Medak.

The love and devotion which Ernest and Muriel sustained throughout their married life was evident to all. Ernest’s untimely death in 1984, so soon after his year as President of the Methodist Church and while still Principal of Edgehill College, was a great loss to the whole church.  Inevitably it led to massive adjustments for Muriel, moving from the manse, making a new home in the Knock area of Belfast, worshipping in the local Methodist church, and making her special contribution, all this while no longer the minister’s wife. Yet Muriel made and adapted to these changes with characteristic calm, courage and without complaint. Her work in the library at Edgehill continued, and she was among a regular team of volunteers who helped in a local charity shop. In time, a further move to Margaretholme in Dublin, to be near Janet and her family, was seen to be part of God’s plan for her. She was thrilled when her granddaughter Victoria was able to call to see her on her way home from school. Eventually she was admitted to Mount Tabor Nursing Home, to receive special care. She accepted every change with her usual grace, placing herself in God’s hands. She died peacefully on 24th September. Now at home with her Lord, she continues to be part of God’s family, on earth and in heaven.

(Norman and Margaret Taggart)        

Dr Lykle Hogerzeil [Nigeria, Church of Scotland 1955-58 and MMS 1958-63; India, Dichpalli, Leprosy Mission 1970-85  Hogerzeil  South East Asia, Leprosy Mission 1985-90] Died 13.01.2011 aged 83.

Born as the third child in the family, Lykle spent his childhood in Oosterbeck near Arnhem, in Holland. During the war the Hogerzeils, like many Dutch families, sheltered Jewish refugees from the Nazi regime and finally had to flee from their home which was totally destroyed by "friendly fire" during the ill-fated assault on the 'bridge too far'. He remembered vividly seeing the allied parachutes landing on nearby moorland. From an early age Lykle excelled at school and also at music. A bursary to help him study law, following in his father's footsteps, was granted only to be adjusted two years later to enable Lykle to study medicine, which was to become his life's work.

Plans to serve in Indonesia were thwarted but he heard that the Church of Scotland was recruiting doctors for Nigeria. He sailed for Nigeria in 1955 with the written understanding that he would do anything but leprosy. Within 2 years he was working full time in a Leprosy Hospital and from that moment he never looked back.

In 1958 Lykle transferred to the M.M.S. to assist Dr Frank Davey at Uzakoli where he was involved in research into new drugs for leprosy. To his great joy Frank too was a keen pianist and they enjoyed many hours playing Schubert duets together.

Lykle returned to Holland in 1964 to undertake specialist studies in dermatology and during that time he married Conny Van Hoogstraten who sadly died three years later.  Soon after this, Lykle received a letter from Frank Davey, now working in Dichpalli, South India, saying “Come over into Macedonia and help us”. He explained that in the area surrounding Dichpalli there were thousands of leprosy patients needing help and many who could, in their turn, help others by being part of a research programme to identify new drugs to treat leprosy.

 In 1971 Lykle, now working for The Leprosy Mission arrived in Dichpalli and was immediately involved in exciting new work to finally establish the mode of transmission of the leprosy bacillus and the usefulness of newly available drugs. With the arrival of multi drug therapy in the early 1980s the whole picture of leprosy control and treatment was transformed.  Of course in Dichpalli too Lykle and Frank Davey enjoyed music together until Dr Davey's retirement. In 1978, Lykle married Elisabeth Wright who had been working at Dichpalli for M.M.S. for some years before Lykle's arrival.

In 1985 Lykle was asked by The Leprosy Mission to become their Regional Director for South East Asia.  There followed five years of travel and training of staff throughout that region. The work throughout Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Burma and Laos expanded under Lykle's direction. These were years when Lykle's experience, compassion and teaching ability were put to good use.

Returning to England in 1990, Lykle and Elisabeth settled in Ripon, North Yorkshire, chosen because Elisabeth wanted to come home to her beloved Yorkshire, and Lykle wanted to be close to a Cathedral to enjoy the liturgy which he loved and the music which was such a big part of his life. Many happy years were spent guiding visitors around the Cathedral (where Lykle's facility with languages was greatly appreciated as foreign tourists arrived), offering hospitality, being a voluntary warden, visiting elderly people in their homes and enjoying the beauty of the surrounding countryside and the music which meant so much to him.

The loss of sight in one eye in 2000 meant that Lykle gave up driving becoming more dependent on the garden, music and jigsaws which remained a joy as Alzheimers gradually took its hold. A major stroke in 2008 was followed by others. Each took away some measure of independence until by the end of 2010 Lykle was confined to bed and dependent upon Elisabeth and his carers. His death at home on January 13th 2011 was peaceful. At his service of celebration we remembered a ‘gentle' man – a man of warmth, laughter and great intelligence, a talented man able to make friends of people from all walks of life, a man awarded a knighthood of the Dutch Royal Household for his services to the poor and deprived, a man who could happily sit cross-legged on the floor of a leprosy patient's hut and enjoy sharing a meal.

Lykle's work as a doctor was appreciated by his many patients; his teaching has enhanced the abilities of his many students; and his research into various aspects of leprosy has transformed the lives of so many with that disease who never met him.  All who knew him thank God for his life.*         Elisabeth Hogerzeil [Extracted from Pilgrim 39]

Miss Dorothy MacNaughton Leith [MMS CSI Madras 1950 -76] Died 08.03.2011 aged 90.

Dorothy went to Oxford and read Social Sciences. It was about this time that Mrs Leith died of cancer.  As a child  Dorothy found a home with an Uncle and his family and while they were all on holiday at Chamonix, her uncle, Frank Lenwood, was killed in a Skiing accident. Despite this tragic event, Dorothy and her sister kept the faith and continued the pilgrimage.

About 1923, when Dorothy was two years old, her father, the Revd Duncan Leith of WMMS, was drowned in a swimming accident.  Her mother, serving the LMS, was Principal of the LMS Teachers Training College at Vepery and continued there for some time.  When she returned to England with Dorothy and her older sister, she went to work at the MMS HQ where she established Women’s Work which was for about 40 years a very powerful force of the Methodist outreach in World Mission, bringing together activist Lay Women and new recruits with veterans, as one body represented in every Methodist congregation in Britain and lreland.

Dorothy spent some time in Liverpool, working with the Josephine Butler institution fighting for “basic human rights” for women who often had only experienced total degradation and isolation. She offered for a Women’s Worker appointment with MMS and in 1950 arrived in her native Madras to do conventional education and village evangelistic work. But when we worked together in Madurantakam in the late 1950's we were campaigning about the losses to village sabais in the rush of economic migration to the city.  Many young people with any ambition and drive, were leaving the villages with the consequent loss of talent and numbers.  In the city churches, however, there did not seem to be anything like proportionate growth. Nor did the in-comers find a welcome from those who appeared to be the city sophisticates. So in January 1961 the Madras City Mission moved on from being a church extension project to an exploration of areas where the gospel and its messengers could engage with the structures of urban, industrial society.

Dorothy continued to innovate and find new challenges. She became a trusted team member undertaking brothel raids to rescue naïve illiterate girls who had been sold and forced into prostitution.  Undoubtedly, her greatest contribution was the founding of the Madras School of Social Work. lf nothing else, this will stand as a very remarkable tribute to an even more remarkable servant and soldier of Christ.  

Ralph Taylor


From Her Niece

Dorothy was a much-loved aunt and will be missed by her family particularly for her real example of Christian living and service and for her sense of humour.  She was tiny and my father described her as “like a wee bird”.

She was born in Madras (Chennai) of missionary parents on the 28th November, 1920 in what became, appropriately, a Family Planning Clinic.   At the age of 4 her father drowned whilst teaching her sister, Margaret, to swim. Then began a rather unsettled upbringing, staying with Margaret and 3 boy cousins with their Uncle Frank and Auntie Gertie while her mother worked as Secretary to the London Missionary Society and travelled all over the world.  She went to Mary Datchelor’s Girls’ School in Camberwell.  Sadly, she always felt in the shadow of Margaret, our mother, who was a bit of a goody-goody whereas Dorothy was always the naughty one.  This despite looking like a little angel with her dark curly hair and brown eyes.  She was often asked to be a bridesmaid.

She studied Modern History at St Anne’s, Oxford and then Social Sciences at Liverpool before working as a social worker and probation officer.   Rumour has it that she even worked with prostitutes in the East End!  In the early fifties she went to Selly Oak to train as a missionary.  Interestingly then, the MMS sent her to Madras, where she had spent her early years and where her father was buried, to work with the Church of South India.  There she worked for the rights of underprivileged women in several places before becoming Assistant Director of the Community Service Centre in Kilpauk.  She became fluent in Tamil.  She was a lifelong teetotaller and member of the Labour Party.

Auntie Dorothy (Dor) would come home (by sea) on furlough for one year every five years.  We looked forward to these visits, when she would stay with us in East Kilbride, because she always brought amazing presents from glass bangles (many broken in transit) and a tiny red seed, the size of your little finger nail, filled with a dozen ivory elephants to a battery-operated pig that tossed a pancake!  She came with us on a number of holidays and a lasting memory is of her striding down a highland lane singing “Oh, stir my stew – pid heart”.  This goes on to “I’m going to hell-thier climes” and “I want a man-sion there”.  We sang this with Dorothy during the past few months and she enjoyed joining in.  I think, however, our parents found the whole year rather long as, whenever they had a row, Dorothy would start singing hymns (very quietly!). 

She retired from CSI in 1975, after 25 years in India, and worked for a short time in Birmingham again at Selly Oak.  She took a job in Swindon as the ministry development adviser in the Bristol district and diocese and explored alternative forms of worship until 1981 when she retired for the second time.  She was a local preacher and worked at Roundabout in Central Church.  She was involved in many Church and Faith activities – such as the Interfaith Group, secretary of the Swindon Council of Churches and singing with Swindon Choral Society.  She also practised the piano daily.  We, and her many friends, were always welcome at her little house in Plymouth Street, although conditions were somewhat primitive – like India without an ayah! – and, subsequently, at Beatty Court where she would often challenge us to a game of Scrabble!  She drove her little white mini until 2005 when it was handed on to Ruth’s boys and then when she became unable to care for herself, she moved to Foxleigh Grove, near Maidenhead, where she was beautifully looked after for three years.  Ruth would visit her there at least twice a week and we enjoyed a splendid 90th birthday celebration there last year with Indian food, violin music and a birthday cake.  Dorothy was in especially good form.

Dorothy lived an amazingly frugal life herself, but she was always most generous to others and as an example of her generosity, she has donated her body to medical research.   This is why there is no coffin in the Church with us today.  She will be much missed by her friends and family. 

May she rest in peace.


The Revd John Geoffrey Marsden [LMS/CWM 1956-1995, CSI, Rayalaseema Diocese] Died 31.07.2010 aged 80.

John Geoffrey Marsden  1930 – 2010

Geoffrey was born in St Helens, Lancs.  His father Jack was a skilled shoe maker and his mother Mabel an intelligent woman who kept the accounts straight and in the difficult economic circumstances which affected everyone in the depression between the wars, reared their family – Geoffrey, and later Beryl and Margaret,

Geoffrey always said he learnt to read from the writing on a stone hot water bottle he had when he was sick in bed at the age of three. His education progressed from there along more conventional lines.  After Cowley Grammar School, he went into the Air Force to do his military service. There he learnt to type which was certainly more useful to him in is future life than actually flying a plane.  After that he read Classics at St John’s Durham and then theology at Mansfield College, Oxford.  He was President of the Students’ Union at Durham and head of the JCR  at Mansfield: quite a debonair young man.

In 1956 he was accepted by the London Missionary Society, (later the Council for World Mission).  He was intended for Africa but he set his heart on working in India.  He went, not to the Kerala theological college he thought he was going to, but to drought prone Andhra Pradesh.  His first year was spent largely in language school in Bangalore where he learnt Telugu, one of the four languages spoken in South India. At the end of the year (1958) he was ordained into the Church of South India in Jammalamadugu.

The CSI united Anglicans, Methodists, Congregationalists and Presbyterians.  It was formed in 1947 at the same time as Indian independence.  Geoffrey felt very strongly about the unity of the Christian Church  and was proud to be ordained  into the CSI. In his Christmas letter that year he wrote:   “I can only say that in some ways this was the moment to which all my life so far had been leading however varied and disguised each stage may have been.”  The Ordination service had moved him deeply as had the sanctity of the Eucharist.

He spent most of the rest of his first term in the villages of Jammalamadugu taluk as a divisional chairman.  This meant walking for miles, fording rivers or riding on rickety local busesround quite a wide area, spending nights in school rooms with the mosquitoes. This was rather different from his English college life.  But he enjoyed his work and the times of relaxation in Jammalamadugu where a hospital served a wide area and had several missionaries on the staff. He also enjoyed the hot weather breaks in Kodai Kanal where he took an enthusiastic part in the dramas and musicals arranged  by the American school and by missionaries on holiday, 

On his first Furlough in England, over the washing up in the Congregational Manse in Witney where a friend from Mansfield  was the incumbent, he met a young school teacher called Ann.  They were married at the end of his furlough in Mansfield College Chapel and the next day began a relaxed journey to India by way of Corfu.

His first appointment after marriage was to the Church Training Centre (CTC) in Gooty.  Many pastors had seven or eight congregations to care for.  In the Centre, young men and some young women who had at least  elementary education were given basic Bible study and liturgy teaching to help them take morning and evening prayer in their villages.  They were also given practical advice on caring for the congregation.   They came back three times and had supervisory visits to their villages.  Geoffrey saw great potential in these young people and enjoyed the work.

When Bishop Sumitra  retired  Geoffrey, a short way into his second term, was called by the Moderator to be his Commissary during the period leading up to the appointment of a new Bishop .  This meant that Geoffrey had to spend quite long stretches away from Gooty  and gave  Ann the impetus to take language study seriously, for very few people in Gooty spoke English.

This was only the first of several jobs that he took in addition to his main work in the CTC. When Dr Somervell returned to England, Geoffrey inherited his job of taking care of the Diocesan property. This was not just a matter of inspecting new churches and authorising a grant for a church roof when the village congregation had saved up enough and had  built the walls, it meant many court appearances.  When the Church of South India was formed, one group of people refused to join it and remained the Telugu Church Council. This former, largely congregational church took out a court case against the CSI for possession of the very valuable property that it had – schools, hospitals and churches which they thought were rightfully theirs.  Geoffrey followed the case from District Courts to the High Court in Madras to the Supreme Court in Delhi where it was finally won in 1995 – just after he had left the country for good.

He found court cases very tiring and was always glad to return to Gooty, his family,  the CTC and the hostel for boys which had expanded and  flourished with help from the German organization KNH and of which he was correspondent.  He was also given the job of Diocesan Treasurer for a term. Although he had clerks to help he was responsible for overseeing accounts and taking financial matters to the various committees and since the Diocese was very often hard up there were many struggles.

Geoffrey joined the CSI because he believed. like many other people, that the  uniting of denominations in one church was the right way for churches everywhere.  And although, as time passed and the first excellent Bishops retired, cracks appeared in administration and court cases went on, Geoffrey never regretted being part of it.    His work meant a lot of accounts, administration, traveling and nervous appearance in witness boxes but his time spent in teaching, in talking to villagers and hostel boys and in house visiting and taking the Sunday service in the little English speaking church for railway workers where latterly he was the pastor, refreshed him and restored his belief in the church and the people who made it up.

Latterly his health was not good. But he finished his term and when he was 65 retired to Witney, becoming a member of and celebrant in St Mary’s church. He also helped in an Old People’s group and in a group for post-stroke patients as well as pursuing his interest in Drama with a group of young people both abled and disabled. Playing Prospero in the Tempest in the rain at an open air theatre in the village of Bibury was probably the pinnacle of his acting career.

He was as much loved not only by Ann and his children Liz and Chris, but by all who knew him.


Mrs Pat Morton (née McGrath) [MMS. Widow of the late Revd Dr Harry Morton] Died aged 86.

MortonAs a young woman, my mother, Pat Morton, who has died aged 86, was travelling secretary to the Australian Student Christian Movement, visiting campuses all over her native Australia. In 1953, attending the conference of the World Student Christian Federation in Nasrapur, India, she was appointed to co-write the conference report with a young Yorkshireman, Harry Morton.

She married him the following year in England, and they spent the next six years working for the Student Christian Movement of India, Pakistan and Ceylon, supported by the Methodist Missionary Society. Travelling by boat with three small children, Pat briefly visited home again in 1959 before moving to Switzerland, where Harry was by then working at the World Council of Churches. Then, in 1963, the family moved to England.

Pat taught at William Penn school in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, and then at Hurlingham school in Fulham, south-west London. She threw herself into campaigning locally around issues such as anti-apartheid, shelter, CND, fair trade, and refugee and immigration rights. She was also active in the National Union of Teachers and was part of the vigil outside the Blair Peach inquest.

Harry's work as general secretary of the British Council of Churches perhaps took the limelight, but Pat shared his convictions and helped to shape his views on matters of faith and politics. The broadcaster and Methodist minister Colin Morris described her as "the still centre of a heavenly hurricane". Caring for Harry following his stroke in 1981 limited her actions in the wider world, but she quietly made a difference to everyone she met.

Pat was born in Manilla, New South Wales, daughter of Effie and Francis McGrath, and raised in the Sydney area. She excelled academically, gaining a degree in English and history from Sydney University, before becoming a teacher and then travelling secretary to the ASCM. Pat grew up with her head in a book – a love she kept all her life and shared with family and friends.

Harry died in 1988. Pat is survived by her four children, Ruth, Tim, Bridget and me, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Jeremy Morton


Dr Margaret Pierce MB ChB DCH (later known as Margaret Collins) [MMS CSI Mysore Diocese 1947-58; Paediatrician, Holdsworth Memorial Hospital, Mysore, South India.] Died 21.5 2011 aged 87.

pierceDr Margaret Pierce (later Collins) died on May 21st.2011, aged 88, in Fareham. She was a medical student at Bristol during the Second World War years. Apart from her medical studies, together with other students she did regular fire watching and was present during the bombing of Bristol when the city centre was destroyed. She attended Westbury Park Methodist Church. She was an active member of the Methodist Student Group and of the Student Christian Movement at a time when Ban-it-Chiu, later Bishop of Singapore, was the travelling Secretary. She became interested in working abroad and joined the Student Volunteer Missionary Union. She contacted the Methodist Missionary Society and let them know her intentions.  She qualified MB ChB in 1944 and did a period of training as a junior doctor in several hospitals. She developed an interest in paediatrics and passed the DCH (Diploma of Child Health) examination. During this time the Methodist Missionary Society accepted her as a candidate and in 1947 she was posted to the Holdsworth Memorial Hospital in Mysore, South India. This Hospital had been founded in 1906 as a Hospital for Women and Children. It had developed a widespread reputation for its work and for the standard of its Nurse Training. At the time when she joined, Dr Grace Gillespie was in charge and there were two Missionary Sisters,  Sister Edith Thomas and Sister Lois Treadgold. The Indian senior staff consisted of 4 Doctors, 6 Nursing Sisters and 4 Midwives.  There were 26 Student Nurses and 4 Student Midwives. The hospital had 200 beds. Margaret worked as a general physician and also took charge of the Children’s Department.  Later she was appointed to look after the children of the Maharaja, and was a frequent visitor to the palace.

In 1951 the Hospital had to become a General Hospital in order to maintain its recognition for Nurse Training and they were joined by Frank Tovey, a surgeon, who opened a Men’s Department.  The Hospital rapidly grew over the next few years.  In 1955 Princess Gayathri, accompanied by her father, laid the foundation stone for a new 50 bedded Children’s Hospital, and one year later it was opened by the Maharaja himself.  Margaret took charge and commissioned the new hospital.  In 1958 Margaret had news that her father was unwell and she had to leave rapidly to look after him.  She was a very kind, gentle and loving person and she was greatly missed as a colleague and a valuable member of the staff.

On returning to England she became a general practitioner in Fareham. Coming from the Church of South India she was very active ecumenically.   She became an Anglican lay reader and, together with Bishop Ban-it Chiu now living in England, was involved in the faith healing ministry. 

In 2006 she was one of a party to visit the Mysore Hospital for its Centenary Year. Many people still remembered her. She met Dr Karat, a paediatrician who was in charge of the Children’s Hospital and Hospital Director at the same time.  When we heard the sad news of Margaret’ death he was informed and sent the following message which is a fitting tribute in her memory:-  “We were very sorry to hear about Margaret’s death. Kindly convey our condolences to the family. The work that my colleagues and I are doing now is due to the pioneering work of people like her.   

[The photograph shows Staff at Holdsworth Memorial Hospital in 1956]

Frank Tovey OBE.ChM.FRCS (Eng)
June 2011


Sister Winifred Florence Rutter [SPG 1953-1990, Calcutta and from 1961 at Barisal with the Oxford Mission’s Sisterhood of the Epiphany] Died 26.5.2010 aged 87.

It was in 1952 as a new student at the SPG College of the Ascension in Selly Oak Birmingham that I first met Winifred Rutter, another northerner.  She was already a qualified infant teacher with a qualification in theology and missionary training.  Although rather quiet and dedicated she was very friendly. During our time there among many others were Ann Biswas, a church worker among women in the Calcutta area and a Swedish church worker, Signe Anderson. At the end of our last term Anu returned home to continue her work.  Winifred, Signe and I sailed to India together in October 1953 and during the journey beginning to study the languages we were to use in India.  Signe left Bombay for work in South India. 

Signe left Bombay for work in South India, Winifred and I by train to Calcutta where Winifred was to live with the Oxford Mission Sisters in their compound in Behala while leaning Bengali and engaging in children’s work under the Bishop. I moved on to Chotanagpur Diocese, keeping in touch and occasionally meeting with Winifred and with Anu until she died, being much older than us. By 1955 Winifred was in charge of Sunday School work throughout the diocese until 1961 when she joined the Oxford Mission's Sisterhood of the Epiphany.

The Mission's work was not only in the Calcutta area but extended to the east in the area which et the time of partition ceased to be in India but in East Parkistan, East Bengal, now Bangladesh. As the greater part of the O.M's work was in this area it was there that most of the Sisters including Sister Winifred continued to Serve.  At this time an indigenous Bangladeshi Order of the Christa Sevika Sangha (Handmaids of Christ) was developing under O.M. Indian Sister Susila as Revd Mother. The O.M. Sisters, including Sister Winifred, returned to England in 1993, living and working with the Community of AII Hallows, Ditchingham but in touch with the O.M.'s educational, medical and other work being continued by the Christa Sevika Sangha in Bangledesh and by the O.M. in Calcutta. Winifred became Revd. Mother of the O.M. Sisterhood in 1997 and died peacefully on 25th May 2010 at the age of 87 after a long life of service, being the last member of the Sisterhood.

(Mary Ullyott)

Mr Stephen Rider Smith [CWM-CNI Siksha Sangha, Bishnupur, Bengal, N.India, son of Frederick & Ethel Maltus Smith (LMS- CSI, Rayalaseema Diocese] Died on 9.8.2010 aged 75.

From diagnosis of the disease (a virulent form of myeloma) in November of last year to the time of his death Stephen bore his illness with typical dignity and courage. The son of LMS missionary parents, Stephen was born in India and only came to this country when he was nine years old.  He became a boarder at Eltham College, the school for the sons of Missionaries.  Stephen retained an interest in hjis old school and remained a governor of the college until his death.  He was responsible for the publication of a book containing the reminiscences of sons of missionaries.

After studying Geography at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, Stephen taught for five years at Harrow School.  His talent as a rugby player was recognised – he captained Cambridge University, Richmond and Hampshire before playing for England in 1959 and 1964.  He continued to play rugby when he left England for India, playing for the Calcutta Cricket and Football Club before going on to captain the Indian team, composed almost entirely of expatriates, on tours of Ceylon and East Asia.

Stephen married Helen fifty years ago.  They were an impressive partnership, first as missionaries with CWM in India where Stephen was a teacher in a mission school on the Ganges delta, and then at Caterham School (the URC school established in the nineteenth century for the sons of Congregational ministers), where Stephen was headmaster for over twenty years.  Helen and Stephen were able to celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary on 30 July, only a few days before he died.

Stephen was a man of determination and diligence.  In India, he was active in establishing agricultural projects in the school grounds, and during the independence struggle of Bangladesh in 1971 he coordinated the school’s efforts to help the Bengali refugees who had fled across the border not far from where the school was located.  At Caterham, Stephen expanded boarding, attracting pupils from Malaysia and Hong Kong, and pioneered the introduction of girls, enabling it to become a flourishing coeducational school.

Stephen suffered several long-term rugby injuries but these did not prevent him continuing to organise and lead.  Upon retirement in 1995 Stephen served as a secretary of Lewes URC and was the architect of the scheme making the church a united one with the Methodists and where helped he oversaw substantial building alterations and improvements.

Helen and Stephen moved from Sussex to Marlow in 2007 so that they could be nearer their family.  Stephen became an elder at Christ Church URC in Marlow and a member of the Wessex Synod’s World Church Group.  In December 2009 he organised a reunion of the Cambridge and Oxford rugby teams who had played in the Varsity match fifty years before.  Stephen also spearheaded the exhibition and sale of Zimbabwean sculptures at Christ Church in March 2010, raising over £20,000 for the impoverished sculptors working at Silveira House in Harare.

Stephen’s legacy for us at Christ Church lies in his vision and the tenacity with which, despite his illness, he guided us towards the Zimbabwe exhibition.  We are grateful to him and will remember him always in our continuing mission work, holding to and taking forward in faith his vision of a world united in Christ.

From David Smith:-

Dad was a man who in his time played many parts – pupil, teacher, sportsman, leader, son, brother, husband father, grandfather.  Amongst these, it was Dad’s centrality as a family man that stands out.  

Travel, living and working abroad has been central to our family, and Dad and the family’s time in Calcutta will always be remembered.  Dad had to teach Bengali, no mean feat, and was active in setting up fish, rice and coconut projects at the school.  Growing up in this environment brings great memories for the family, with the exception of running away from rabid dogs.  Apart from the joyful family holidays in the Himalayas, there were also more sobering experiences. There was the passing of Jonathan (David’s elder brother, who sadly drowned when a young boy). 

Dad lived a full, committed and energetic life, serving others and following his principles as a devoted Christian.  Dad has led by example through his attention to detail and hard work, his sense of humour, humility and his unconditional love and support.  He will be sadly missed.       


Miss Barbara Tasker [MMS Lucknow & Faizabad, North India 1950-65; Senior Tutor, Kingsmead College, Selly Oak, Birmingham 1966-71] Died 9.2.2011 aged 91.

TaskerMy sister Barbara had a very long and full life. She was named after our Grandmother, Barbara Rollo, although she didn’t quite reach the 96 years of her name sake. Being two generations later she had a much more varied life and was able to have an independent professional career

of her own, and was not tied to the male dominated world of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

However, she did come across the many barriers to female independence when she reached India. As a qualified teacher she sailed to India in 1950.   When she arrived there she discovered that she had to do much more than preach and teach.  For instance, she had to manage the installations of several septic tanks in the cantonments.  It was then that her little dog Susie disappeared.  She went to the police station to report its loss, accompanied by an Indian from the mission to help her with any difficulties.  The policeman wanted particulars about Barbara.

Policeman:  “The name of your father? “
Barbara:  “Well, Frank, but that won’t help as he’s in England thousands of miles away.”
Policeman: “All right then, the name of your husband?”
Barbara: “I haven’t got one.”
Policeman: “You’re here in India without a father or husband? Well what are you then?”

The Indian who’d accompanied her came to the rescue and after a bit they found a formula to satisfy the red tape of the police force. The name of the person registering the loss was "Manager Tasker". 

Perhaps she should have taken two of the books on the list which someone had suggested she have with her in India. They were entitled - Scouting for Boys, and Fishing for Men.

One particularly fraught day she described, was when everyone wanted so see her at once: when the cook came to say all the saucepans are leaking, and the pani wala said the buckets have fallen down the well, and the sweeper says someone has stolen his broom, and somebody comes to plead that you let their child be considered as having passed his exam even though he has failed abysmally.

She had a sharp and precise mind which helped her to become fluent in Hindi although her tutor had complained about her accent—not her Hindi accent, her English accent. This fluency saved her life on one occasion. She was travelling by train with another English lady who didn’t speak Hindi. Two Indian men got into their compartment and having eyed the two defenceless women and particularly their extensive luggage started talking to themselves in Hindi. They would kill the two women and throw the bodies out of the train when they crossed a wide river further down to line. Barbara kept this to herself. In those days in India women could request that their compartment be declared for women only so when the train stopped at a station before they’d reached the viaduct she got out onto the platform and made such a request. The two men were turned out of the compartment and Barbara and her friend continued their journey, shaken but unharmed.

She visited Val and me in Market Drayton with her great friend Dorothy Leith. The walk to the Methodist Church passed the town cemetery where there were some striking monuments, full of angels with wings, erected by one of the local gypsy families. She and Dorothy made a thorough but silent inspection. "Hmmm," she said after she’d read the inscriptions, "Not theologically sound!"

Barbara was a great raconteur and had a strong sense of humour. On one of her voyages to India with Dorothy the ship held a fancy dress ball. She and Dorothy went as Rock and Roll. Dorothy was dressed in a white nightie with coloured bands wrapped round her to represent a stick of rock and Barbara festooned herself with bread rolls supplied by the purser. They won a prize for originality and then had to perform Rock and Roll. Neither had the slightest idea what to do, so they improvised what they thought might be appropriate. The rest of the people joined in, copying their antics.

Barbara was a most loving and caring person. When my mother died, I was 13, Janet was 11 and Ian not quite 9, it was Barbara together with Christine who took care of us all, looking after the house, washing, ironing and cooking. She took us walks and taught us the names of all the wild flowers I have ever known.  When my father lost his second wife it was Barbara together with Christine who visited him nearly every weekend in his house in Budleigh Salterton. And when he was no longer able to look after himself it was to Barbara that he moved, to stay with her in the Selly Oak college.

She truly was an exceptional person, spending so much of her life in the service of others, and we all will miss her enormously.                       

Neil Robertson Tasker


Prof John Webb [CMS 1952 to 1970, Director and Head of Paediatrics, Christian Medical College and Hospital, Vellore, South India.] Died 17.08.2010, aged 91.

Funeral tribute spoken by Michael at St Mary’s Church, Painswick, Thursday 2nd September, 2010

It is my privilege and good fortune to stand before you today to describe the life and achievements of, and to pay tribute to a great man, my father, John Webb.

He studied medicine at Balliol College, Oxford and qualified as a doctor in 1942 at the age of 24, but the War determined that his first and immediate medical practice would be as Army Medical Officer for a Royal Artillery and tank regiment. Their regiment was one of the first of the allied troops to liberate Holland in May 1945, and he often described seeing the Dutch people swarming onto the streets and practically breaking his arm off as they clambered up onto his truck and the tanks as one of the most moving experiences of his life.  After leaving the army in 1947/8, he took up his first post in Paediatrics, again in Oxford. Two seminal events took place there – as he put it, his ‘eyes were opened to his love of children’ and he met and married my mother in 1949. They then moved to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where he worked under one of the first leaders of Paediatrics in this country, Sir James Spence. It was here that, following what he described as a spellbinding lecture by Dr Frank Lake about the Christian Medical College and Hospital in Vellore in South India, he became convinced overnight that he should devote his life to Paediatrics as a missionary doctor in Vellore, to which he moved with my mother in 1953, along with me aged just over 2 and my brother Andrew aged one.

Although there was already a medical school of a few years standing there, and although Vellore was already one of the largest and best hospitals in India, he was the first and only Paediatrician there, in one of only six paediatric departments  in the whole of India. Faced with the multiple challenges of having to learn about a whole new range of medical conditions affecting young children, in a country with social and political mores that were of course entirely new to him, all the while trying to master a new language, Tamil, he was in effect pioneering Paediatrics in India. He was known as an excellent clinician – a colleague of his in Vellore was quoted as saying that “even if I had to move to Assam (which in our context could be taken as moving to the North Pole), if my child became ill, I would bring him to Vellore for Dr Webb to look after”.

He was clearly also a great teacher – one of his students has written to my mother since his death saying “his teaching was so vivid and real, it was almost better than seeing the patients themselves”. Many of the letters of condolence received by my mother have used the word ‘‘inspirational’’. In a different context, my youngest brother, whilst being interviewed for an article in The Lancet about him as surgeon and rugby player, was asked ‘Who was your greatest teacher, and why?’ Jonathan replied “My father, because he showed me that gentleness of spirit will always overcome anger and disharmony”.

Despite being incredibly busy looking after large numbers of sick children, he conducted hugely important research relevant to India and  published in the medical journals in India. Vellore, along with just one or two other institutions in India, spearheaded the development and introduction of increasingly sophisticated and high tech hospital medicine in that country through the 50’s and 60’s, but he crucially recognised the fundamental importance of low tech, low cost health care for the overwhelming majority of India’s poor population and helped set up the so-called ‘Rural Health Care’ programme. He was elected president of the Indian Pediatric Society, as it was then, in 58/59. During the latter years in Vellore, through force majeure, he became Director (what we might now call Chief Executive) of the entire institution, which was by then a hospital of well over 1000 beds with an international reputation for excellence.

In 1971 he was awarded the OBE by Her Majesty The Queen, for ‘Services to Medicine’ – a remarkable recognition for someone who would have described himself as ‘a humble missionary Paediatrician from South India’.

In that same year, after 18 years in Vellore, he returned to this country largely through family pressure – four years previously, my mother had had to move back to England to set up a family base from which the five children could attend school and university – at this stage I should therefore pay tribute to my mother, without whose love, strength, dedication and significant self-sacrifice (they did, after all, live 5000 miles apart for four years, each struggling with their own ‘battles’ without the immediate presence and support of the other) – without her beside him, my father quite literally could not have followed his vocation and achieved to anything like the extent that he did. On returning to England, he was appointed Professor of Paediatrics in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1972, itself an extraordinary achievement having worked in India all his life, joining again many of the colleagues with whom he had trained and worked some 20 years previously. In the 11 years he was there, he continued the Newcastle tradition of emphasising the transcending importance of the individual patient and family in paediatric practice.

Following his official retirement in 1983, he maintained an active involvement in developing-world paediatrics as an Emeritus Professor at Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Institute of Child Health, and was Director of the ‘Child to Child’ programme, in which children were instructed in common health issues and encouraged then to share what they had learned with their family and other villager members.

My father and mother first retired to a lovely house with a gravel pit lake just outside Lechlade, not far from here, and then after some time to a smaller house overlooking the beautiful river estuary in the small village of Newton Ferrers in Devon. He had long suffered from Parkinson’s Disease and when his failing physical health really became too much for my mother to be able to care for him on her own, they moved to Richmond just down the road, where they have lived in great comfort and both have been cared for, when necessary, with great professional and sympathetic skill. His last few days in the nursing wing were totally peaceful and his final passing, in many ways, a wonderful release for him.

In describing his life and work, I have set the scene for those of you who have not known him that well, or all his life. But what of my father, the man?

He was quite simply a lovely, kind, generous and gentle man of enormous intelligence and absolute integrity. A close friend of my mother’s from school days, on hearing of his death, said ‘he was the nicest man I ever met in my whole life’. He was a devoted husband, and the most wonderful father – a talisman, a beacon leading each one of us into and through adult life. He was the benchmark against which I have measured my every major decision and action in life, and will probably continue to do so for the rest of my life. He adored his 15 grandchildren, and they adored him. He loved nothing more than to hear of their latest achievements, preferably directly from them, and praising them and encouraging them to go even one step better. They all revelled in, and have thrived on that encouragement.

He did have a dry sense of humour, not averse to a little irreverence from time to time, and his laugh was hugely infectious. I remember at his investiture for the OBE, having just received his gong from The Queen, as we were about to leave through the front portals of Buckingham Palace, he slightly startled my mother and sister by suddenly turning sharp right, saying to me that he had to have a pee. As he and I stood surveying the gentleman’s toilet, he admitted that he hadn’t really needed a pee at all, but had felt a sudden and compelling urge to assess the quality of the Buckingham Palace gents room – we both agreed –  ‘nothing very special’! In his latter years, most of his humour has been directed against himself and his failing physical faculties – I’m sure his carers at Richmond will recognise this, but if ever you asked him “How are you John?”, or “How are you Dad?”, he would never, ever complain but would respond “I’m alright” or “I’m OK”, followed by some quip or other, accompanied by a smile, about his legs not working very well that day, for example.

His failing physical powers were, I know, a great burden to him, not least because in his youth and well into middle adult life, he had been a considerable sportsman. He was captain of football, cricket, and Eton fives at school, and went on to represent Oxford at football and cricket, in which one of his greatest achievements was scoring a half century against Frank Tyson, the demon England opening fast bowler who later would terrorise the touring Australians.    With his partner Howard Fabian, he won the national competition for Eton Fives three times – his name was even in the Guinness Book of Records for many years as the one who had won the cup the most times. Sport was, however, the arena that reveals one chink in his character – he could not lose! That’s not to say that he was a bad loser – he wasn’t – he just didn’t like to lose. To the extent that, even when we were quite young children, as he was tutoring us in the skills of tennis or whatever, when it came to the games, he always made sure he never quite lost – that final serve, or throw, or bowl, would be just un-returnable. If I were being charitable, I would say ‘maybe he was teaching us how to be able to lose gracefully’. But I think actually he just wanted to win.

What really defined him, however,  was his spirituality – he was an intensely spiritual man. He had an absolute conviction in what he described as the one and only and ultimate truth –  in the presence of God and in the Christian faith. This faith unquestionably determined the course of his life, and every action on every day of his life. This faith was also undoubtedly behind the limitless love he felt for, and bestowed liberally upon so many, particularly his family and closest friends – at a small family gathering we held nearly two years ago for his 90th birthday, he gave a short speech in response to my toast – in it, he said – ‘‘This creative selfless love is God’s gift and the well being of our family is God given. Our love is a pressing reality ................ ” and here he faltered for many seconds, before finishing ................... “Dash it!! I love you all so much.’’

I have tried to paint a picture of his professional life and his great achievements, many under very challenging circumstances and at the very highest level of his profession, though I fear that in the time available I’ve barely done him justice. But for me, and I have no doubt, for everyone in this church this afternoon, (whether he was your husband, father, grandfather, father-in-law, brother, uncle, godfather, colleague, teacher, friend or even patient), it is who he was and what he meant to each of one of us that are his greatest accolades – his gentleness and humility allied with utter self-conviction, his ultimate and selfless humanity, his interest in, and compassion for, every human being with whom he came into contact, the unconditional love and respect that flowed out of him and enveloped each of us in a warm sense of security and self-worth, his humour – these are the qualities that made him the great man that he was and the qualities that define the gaping hole that his passing leaves in our lives. The sadness will soften with time, I’m quite sure, but the clarity of the memory of him and the brilliance of his light and spirit will, I’m equally sure, never dim.


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