THE Revd Eric Buchanan, who died on 4 March, aged 74, was one of three
ordinands from the same form in Rotherham Grammar School, who all ended up
serving together as Canons of Peterborough Cathedral - a unique achievement,
and a credit to their alma mater.
Valuing the Catholic tradition, he was trained at Mirfield, and gained his
degree at Leeds, where he was a keen cross-country runner and captained the
English Universities team. He served his assistant curacy at St Mark's,
Coventry, under the energetic Eric Buchan (later to be Archdeacon of Coventry);
throughout his ministry he always acknowledged his debt to his first vicar and
He next had a fruitful five years in the chaplaincy team at London
University, where he encouraged vocations and showed a sensitive understanding
of students' needs.
He was brought to Peterborough diocese in 1964 by the Bishop, Cyril
Eastaugh, who, as Bishop of Kensington, had known him before being translated.
The 15 years Eric spent as Vicar of Duston were a time of growth in church
life, and several curates were trained. (He was made a non-residentiary Canon
in 1977, and served as Rural Dean for his last four years in the parish.)
He saw to the building of the daughter church of St Francis, and later he
was involved in the establishment of a new community centre. He loved music,
and had a full choir. The church was very much alive socially, with house
groups and activities for young families; but the retreats that he started for
the congregation were perhaps the most important sign of growth. One
parishioner from that time said: "He always made people part of his ministry,
encouraging us to do things we never thought we could." The eucharist and the
daily office sustained his spiritual life, and were at the heart of all that he
It was towards the end of this period, in January 1977, that his first wife
died. She had been alongside him in all that he did, from his early days in
ministry, and it is good that she is commemorated with a fine figure of the
Madonna and Child in St Luke's.
After Duston, Eric was called to serve in two other large parishes in the
diocese: All Hallows', Wellingborough, and Higham Ferrers.
At All Hallows', his former churchwardens remember him as a forthright
Yorkshireman with strong principles. Strongly supported by Julie, his second
wife, he modernised All Hallows' without losing any of the traditional values.
Always positive, he responded to the many challenges of a modern parish,
despite the distraction of a necessary restoration appeal, which raised more
Backed by the PCC, changes in church life at All Hallows' were soon in
evidence, including the introduction of female servers, choristers, and
sidespersons. The conducting of retreats continued to be a feature of his
ministry, and deepened the spiritual life of many.
The parish of All Hallows' spreads in a triangle northwards from the town
centre. New estates were built, and required pastoral care. Eric addressed the
problem by finding a supplementary place of worship at Gleneagles, meeting at
Redwell School. Thus the more traditional Anglican services at the "Church in
the Town Centre" were complemented by the modern style of worship more popular
with young families at Gleneagles.
Eric never lost his initial vision of bringing together all the Anglicans in
the town, and he was the driving force behind the Church Contact Scheme and the
Wellingborough Anglican Group Council. The Group Council was a way of enabling
the individual strengths of each of the six parishes to serve the wider needs
of the whole town.
Today, there are still fond memories of a happy parish, where young people
were encouraged to take part in all aspects of its life: the successes of
Sunday school, youth club, and youth services speak for themselves. Several
people in their early 20s living in the town today remember with affection
their first steps into All Hallows' as members of the Tiny Tots group, which
Eric led in his early days there. One song he taught them had the chorus "Be
happy, be happy today." The words epitomise his philosophy.
In 1979, Eric was held in such high regard by his fellow priests that he was
elected as vice-president of the diocesan synod, and chairman of its House of
Clergy. He served for 12 years in all. When Douglas Feaver retired as Bishop,
Eric wrote the main article in Cross Keys, the diocesan magazine. His
description of the bishop could also be applied to him: "He has been his own
man. . . He has done and said what he judged to be right. . . He challenged our
cosy religious preconceptions."
Eric received proper recognition in 1992 when he was chosen to be one of the
Queen's Chaplains. He greatly appreciated the honour of being part of the royal
At Higham Ferrers, his gifts of leading worship, writing, and preaching came
to the fore. He never preached a bad sermon. He understood the human condition,
and frequently spoke of the centrality of the incarnation, and how God meets
our every need in the person of Jesus. He enjoyed taking groups on pilgrimages
to explore our Christian heritage.
In his years of retirement, he ministered in several of the village
churches, but he had a particular affinity with the parish of Hargrave, where
his body is buried.
He leaves his widow, five children, and five grandchildren.