02 November 2006

 The Ven. John Duncan writes:

GERRY HOLLIS, who died on 25 November, was a man of straight speaking and straightforward ways. His father was Canon Walter Hollis of Hull. Born in 1919, Gerry was educated in Oxford, at St Edward’s School, and as an undergraduate at Christ Church. Always keen on sport and fitness, he was secretary of the Oxford University Rugby Club, and captain of the Blues side.

In the war years, he was a PT instructor at Dartmouth — colour blindness precluded active service — and he played for the Barbarians and Combined Services, and wrote (with Mark Sugden) Rugger: Do it this way, a coaching manual for young players of the 1940s and ’50s.

In 1945, he went to Wells Theological College, and served as a curate at St Dunstan’s, Stepney. In 1950, he moved to South Yorkshire, under Bishop Leslie Hunter of Sheffield, and for ten years worked in the pit villages of Rossington and Armthorpe. He often spoke warmly of those days, of the qualities of the people, and of the National Union of Mineworkers banners with "Karl Marx on one side and Jesus Christ on the other".

In 1960, he became Vicar of Rotherham, where he was known for determinedly establishing the parish communion, and for being priest not only to the congregation but, in his cassock on the streets, to the whole community, and to the local council, of which he was both supportive and critical. He became an Hon. Canon of Sheffield in 1970, and was also Rural Dean — "the best job in the Church of England", he would sometimes say.

In 1974, he became Archdeacon of Birmingham, under Bishop Lawrence Brown at first, and then Hugh Montefiore. He lived close to the Moseley Rugby Club, and the Edgbaston cricket ground, where he was well-known. He kept regular contact with the parishes of his archdeaconry, visiting them, often on foot, for Sunday worship, the Offices, and saints’ days, as well as over the routine business of an archdeacon.


His support was always tempered with a strong emphasis on the independent responsibility of the clergy. His manner was direct, some would say brusque; others detected a twinkle. Endless discussion was not his style, and he was always keen to resolve matters and achieve, as he was fond of saying, "game, set and match".

He tended to regard bright schemes devised by bishops or others with suspicion, preferring a loyalty to the straightforward structures of the Church of England’s parochial ministry. He was chairman of the parsonages and schools committees, diocesan ecumenical officer, and a quietly perceptive chairman of the ecumenical industrial mission — a reflection of his Sheffield days.

For nine years, he was a General Synod member, typically regarding himself as the "archetypical back bencher". His wife Doreen — always known as Dee — was a constant support in both Yorkshire and Birmingham, where she was a well-loved diocesan president of the Mothers’ Union. Many enjoyed the hospitality of their table and home.

They retired to Salisbury in 1984. There, Gerry led a quiet life and sustained his interests in sport and gardening. He leaves his widow, three daughters, and a son.

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