Canon Chris Bracegirdle writes:
WHEN Canon Arthur Joseph Dobb died, aged 78, on 28 November, more than 50 years of faithful ministry in the diocese of Manchester came to a faithful end. Parish work was at the heart of Arthur’s ministry, but it was by no means its sum total. The author of six books, ranging from biblical studies and the story of church music to a history of the parishes of the diocese, Arthur retained an imaginative and fertile mind until the end, with an eye always fixed on the next project before the last one was ended.
Arthur was born in Droylsden, East Manchester, and educated at Audenshaw Grammar School and the Manchester College of Art; his early career was as an architect. The firm foundations of faith laid in the parish of St Clement, Openshaw, never left Arthur, and stood him in good stead when he became a Reader in Southwark diocese, and then moved on to Oak Hill Theological College, where he trained for ordained ministry.
Ordination came in 1958, and it was back to Manchester diocese to a curacy at St Paul’s, Deansgate, with Canon Colin Craston, which laid the foundations for a lifelong ministry in the diocese. It was particularly fitting, therefore, that Canon Craston shared in the celebrations of Arthur’s 50th anniversary of ordination, and that he read the Old Testament lesson at Arthur’s funeral on 8 December.
At the end of his curacy, Arthur met and married Kathleen, with whom he was able to share nearly 50 years of family life — they had five children, ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. A second curacy, in Rawtenstall, was followed by incumbencies at Bircle in Bury, then Harwood, and finally Wingates in Bolton, before he retired in 1996.
Retirement was almost unrecognisable in Arthur’s life, as he continued to provide huge support at Christ Church, Heaton, where he and Kathleen worshipped, and across the diocese, where he was always in great demand.
Chairman and long-serving member of the diocesan advisory committee, Registrar and Vice President of the Guild of Church Musicians, Hon. Canon, then Canon Emeritus, of Manchester Cathedral, a fine embroiderer, artist, and photographer, he was, with his many gifts, a great pastor, teacher, and friend to many.
Arthur was a man of contrasts: forthright in his condemnation of individuals or organisations that he perceived as contrary to the gospel, and yet extremely kind and compassionate towards those in any kind of need. Respectful of tradition in the design of places of worship, he was unafraid to innovate and to challenge the status quo. He valued his low-church roots, and yet his finely embroidered stoles and cope would grace the sanctuary of any high-church parish. Arthur was a fine organist, and an authority on church music, but his singing got no further than all the right notes rarely in the right order. Always one thing or the other, Arthur’s life and ministry were never lukewarm.
In the preface to his book Like a Mighty Tortoise: A history of the diocese of Manchester, Arthur wrote: “May what is recorded be the means of encouraging us to further achievements for Christ’s sake.” What was true of that book is true of Arthur’s life and ministry. Many can be thankful that, because of Arthur Dobb, they have been able to achieve great things for Christ’s sake.