27 February 2007

The Very Revd Gerald Stranraer-Mull writes:

THE Very Revd Donald Howard, the former Provost of St Andrew’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, who died on 30 January, aged 80, was someone whose gentle manner and smiling kindness won him friends wherever he went.

As a student at Hull College of Technology, he studied engineering and worked as a design engineer for seven years, before training for the ministry at King’s College, London. He returned to the diocese of York for a three-year curacy at Emmanuel Church, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, before a formative ten years in South Africa at the height of the apartheid regime.

He was Rector of St George’s, Warrenton, and St Hubert’s, Hartswater, and Director of the South Bechuanaland Mission District for three years. He served a further six years as Rector of St John’s in the Indian Ocean port city of East London.

He came to the Scottish Church as Rector of Holy Trinity, Haddington, in 1972, and in 1978 was persuaded to the north-east to become Provost of St Andrew’s Cathedral, and later also Priest-in-Charge of St Ninian’s, in Aberdeen.

He fell in love with the city and its people, and served them for 13 years. He encouraged the companionship links that the diocese of Aberdeen & Orkney had formed with two contrasting dioceses — Connecticut on the wealthy New England coast of the United States, and St John’s in South Africa, which, in those apartheid days, was largely made up of the black homeland of Transkei.

He travelled to both Connecticut and Transkei, and his good nature and charm won him many friends. Indeed, on the very day of his death, I was in the diocese of Mthatha, as St John’s diocese is now known, and many people asked after “the silver-haired one”.

Donald was also silver-tongued. In 1982, the Scottish Episcopal Church held a Partners in Mission consultation. Donald’s sensitive celebration of the eucharist enfolded a keynote sermon from Bishop Lesslie Newbigin. He coped with his own deafness by paying close attention to everyone around him, and was always an excellent communicator. He acted as a religious adviser to Grampian Television, and was an effective member of the chaplaincy team at Aberdeen University. He was unmarried.

In his retirement, just before his 65th birthday, he returned to Yorkshire to live in Ripon, close to the Cathedral. When diagnosed as having liver cancer, he chose to spend his 80th birthday, and the last few days of his life, in a hospice in Harrogate. Bishop Fred Darwent, who was Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney throughout Donald’s ministry as Provost, will preside at a requiem mass for him in St Andrew’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, on Sunday 11 March at 6.30 p.m.

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