The Archdeacon of
THE Ven. John Mark Meredith Dalby, Archdeacon of Rochdale from
1991 to 2000, died on 11 February, having recently celebrated his
Reflecting, in a
collection of essays celebrating the 150th anniversary of the
diocese of Manchester, on the office of the Archdeacon of Rochdale,
Mark Dalby had this to say: "As for the archdeacons of Rochdale,
they were sufficiently prominent in their day to have been the
subject of obituaries when they died, but only obituaries of the
charitable kind. . .
"As it is, we have an
overall picture of scholarly and intelligent men, outwardly
forceful, yet sometimes at heart rather shy, who had hobbies as
diverse as cricket and clocks, who were skilful chairmen and, above
all, faithful priests and sensitive preachers. It is a worthy, if
not exciting, picture."
If any priest could be
described as his own man, it was Mark Dalby. Although in many ways
a self-contained, scholarly, and high-and-dry celibate, with an
insatiable appetite for sherry and duty-free cigarettes, he was the
most clubbable of men, who enjoyed nothing more than good gossip;
but never maliciously. A Queen's Scout in his youth, he later
greatly enjoyed his Freemasonry, in which he achieved Grand
A native of Southport,
where he went to the Grammar School, his cousin was the Reformed
theologian John Hick, and his mother Sheila's childhood playmate
was Thomas Holland, later to be the Roman Catholic Bishop of
A graduate of Exeter
College, Oxford, where he came under the influence of the college
chaplain, Eric Kemp, Dalby went on to train for the ministry at
Ripon Hall, Oxford, where he was one of "Uncle" Gordon Fallows's
bright batch of students, which included such future luminaries as
Stephen Sykes and John Rogerson.
A parish priest to the
core, whether he was in refined Oxfordshire, inner-city Birmingham
or Tottenham, suburban Worsley, or at the Advisory Council for the
Church's Ministry in Church House, Westminster, the parish and the
people of the parish were the focus of his care and concern. The
emphasis of his work as an archdeacon was to serve the parishes and
encourage them. He was greatly instrumental in Manchester diocese
in the setting up of the Local Ordained Ministry scheme.
He brought to his work an
incisive intelligence, both as a writer, chiefly on rites of
passage, and as a member of the Liturgical Commission.
Dalby had an extensive
hinterland. An inveterate traveller, lately limited to more local
coach tours, he was quietly pleased with his extensive stamp
collection, and had a consuming interest in family and local
A valued spiritual
director for many of the clergy, he was never afraid of telling it
as it was. One of his favourite hymns was "There's a wideness in
God's mercy"; and that was the keynote of his priesthood, whether
telling people that they must learn to cope with the element of
dissatisfaction in their lives, or telling others never to forget
why the Lord had given them two fingers.
Retiring in 2000 to be
Chaplain of the Beauchamp Community in Malvern, he greatly valued
the friendship of the community there, and the peace of the chapel.
A critical but loyal servant of the Church, at the end, he loved
nothing more than going to church, saying his prayers, and coming
He is survived by his brother Andrew, and by many friends, who
will be for ever grateful for his care and counsel.