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Obituary: THE REVD ROBERT JAMES CLIFFORD LLOYD

by
20 September 2013

Courtesy: the Revd Robert LLoyd

Courtesy: the Revd Robert LLoyd

The Dean of Canterbury writes:
THE Revd Robert LLoyd, who died on 16 August, aged 94, lived long enough to celebrate his 75th anniversary as a Friend of Canterbury Cathedral. His accurate and amazing memory was a point of reference for everyone who loved church music and, particularly, cathedral music. At his funeral, his son Mark spoke of his father as one from "a bygone age of good conduct, strong values, modesty in one's achievements, courtesy and gratitude for what life gave".

Robert brought those qualities to his long years of ministry as a parish priest, and retained them in his equally long years of retirement, enjoying the life and worship of Canterbury Cathedral.

He was brought up by his grandparents, after the premature death of his mother, at Olantigh, near Wye, in Kent, and learnt there to love the countryside, gaining an encyclopaedic knowledge of birds, butterflies, and flowers, but also of church music. These interests, together with his passion for cricket, never left him. His greatest passion, though, was for his priesthood, particularly his ministry as a parish priest, faithfully carried out from his priestly ordination in 1948 till his retirement in 1992.

He had been educated at Radley College, and Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he read History, and trained for ordination at Lincoln Theological College; but his training was interrupted by his years of service during the war. Very recently, a collection of his wartime letters were discovered, describing the horrors of entering Berlin after it had been captured by the Russians in 1945. He was an intensely private man, and kept such experiences quietly within him.

In 1950, while serving as curate at Holy Trinity, Clapham, he fell in love with, and married, one of the students at the deaconess college on Clapham Common, Gilmore House, for whom he had to pay one third of a year's stipend for the fact that she was now to be a wife and not a deaconess. Later in life, he was to become Pamela's biggest supporter, as she became one of the first women to be a priest in the Church of England.

For Robert and Pamela, it was always a shared ministry, and their passion clearly communicated itself to their family; for two of Robert's sons, Nigel and Jonathan, are now priests, and he was thrilled also to have a daughter-in-law, Jane, who is also ordained.

Robert's long ministry took him from Clapham to curacies at High Wycombe and Hampstead, but it was in his years as Vicar of Wellington in Somerset, from 1955 to 1966, and as Rector of Chartham in Kent, from 1966 to 1981, that he exercised the ministry of a parish priest with such total dedication and faithfulness, undergirded by his strong traditional spirituality, based on the daily Office.

In these parishes, he and his family were greatly loved, and that ministry was to continue after his retirement in Chartham, when he became an honorary curate of Elham with Denton and Wootton, again in the diocese of Canterbury, and near to the cathedral that he loved, with all its music.

He was, in fact, for long years a Friend of the cathedrals of Canterbury, York, Winchester, and Salisbury, and a founder-member of the Friends of Cathedral Music. One could never catch him out in any fact or piece of information about characters whom he had known in the world of cathedral music throughout the 20th century, and happily that memory, and his ability to tell amusing anecdotes about many composers, clergy and cathedral organists, stayed with him right to the end.

He was a constant letter-writer, and his handwriting on an envelope was always recognisable, so that one knew one was to be treated to several stories relating to the last conversation that one had had with him. It was his rule to write at least one letter to someone every day, and, if gathered, these would be an archive of English church music, at least from 1930 to the present day.

Robert's health had been failing, but by grace he was given a happy extension through this beautiful summer, when the flowers and birds he loved were in evidence in such profusion, when the English cricket team, captained by an ex-cathedral chorister, won the Ashes, when he celebrated his 75 years as a Friend of the cathedral, and also became a great-grandfather for the first time, and met his new great-grand-daughter, Keira, with great joy.

Dressed in the black shirt and white tie of the generation of priests to which he belonged, he was in his place in the cathedral on the Sunday before he died. He will be sorely missed. Nevertheless, the ministry of the LLoyd family will continue to serve the Church of England, which Robert loved so much, to its great benefit.

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