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17 October 2014

A correspondent writes:
THE Revd Ronald Charles Treasure died on 4 July, after a short spell in hospital. Only months before, he had celebrated his 90th birthday with his twin sister, Pamela, and had since enjoyed revisiting his large family: five sons, a daughter, and 16 grandchildren.

A full church at Kirbymoorside heard heartfelt tributes to his work and character, influential far beyond the bounds of the parishes that he had served: Whitby as an assistant curate, North Hull, Malton, and Kirby itself. Retirement had come with a renewal of spirit, and advances on several fronts: conducting retreats, guiding the Diocesan Renewal Fellowship, and working for Amnesty International.

Ronald was a priest of rare gifts, in whom a fine intellect and deep and prayerful faith were allied to a lively interest in people, a willingness to listen with patience and good humour, and, always, to pray. All was grounded in the faith that he had learned at home and school, tested in war, enlarged at Cuddesdon, and deepened in parish ministry - supported through all by shared faith and the complementary gifts of a loving marriage of 66 years.

Ronald's was the kind of upper-middle-class home where privilege meant responsibility and leadership. His father, who had commanded a battery on the Somme, read the lessons; his mother presided over the deanery Mothers' Union, and entertained clergy at summer parties on the lawn; Pamela ran an ambitious Sunday school. This near-vanished and not always comfortable world was a prime nursery, alongside vicarage families, of Anglican priesthood.

From early days, there was much to test character, to shape the compassionate priest. He saw the deprivation and misery of his mother's depression, and the work of faith in her recovery. His talented sister Anne died, aged 16, from tuberculosis. He did not share his father's love of horses, though he was always ready for a day's beagling. With a growing sense of religious vocation, he realised that he would not follow in his father's timber and building business.

At Shrewsbury School he was head of his house, and he won an exhibition to read Modern History at Oriel College, Oxford. The origin of a lifelong concern for social justice can be traced to his encounter with bomb-battered Liverpool, where at Everton the school maintained a boys' club.

So the young officer in the Coldstream Guards, who led a platoon in the intense fighting in the Normandy bocage, was no callow youth, but already something of the thoughtful, conscientious person revealed in his diary. Ronald was wounded. It took a day to get him to a casualty centre. Then the hospital ship was sunk, and many were drowned. Ronald, hazy with morphine, was lowered into the remaining boat. After six months' recuperation, he returned to his battalion in Germany. He had seen enough of war to ensure that he would never talk about it.

At post-war Oxford, he relished much of theology, rowed keenly, and, in his first summer vacation, on a trip to Scandinavia, met Eliza Chance. At Cuddesdon, he was the first married student, returning to the cottage he shared with Eliza and soon their first baby. For Ronald, it was a Catholic training, with the discipline and sacramental focus that would sustain and inspire him to the end.

Only a few landmarks of his ministry can be recorded here. At Victorian St Hilda's, and in Whitby's clifftop church, Ronald appreciated the busy fishing port. The ruins would often come to mind when he shared in or led retreats, with the nuns of the later house. Tramp- ing over the moors, he first experienced what would be a lifetime's source of refreshment and delight.

With a cure of 15,000 souls in the vast housing estate of north Hull, the heavy footwork of daily visiting, and the administrative load in a community that could offer little lay help came the chance to build a fine new church, which was consecrated by Archbishop Ramsey. To parishioners, the family's green Austin Seven van, their modest style, and the ever-open vicarage door spoke plainly: it was not to be "them and us".

At Malton, the challenge, like the congregation and expectations, was different. Ronald came to heal, after his predecessor's abrupt departure. For some years, he had solid, appreciative support, but few were ready for change. The congregation was weakened when some moved to Old Malton, preferring Prayer Book matins to parish communion.

He became Rural Dean, but needed the bigger challenge that the diocese failed to offer. Perhaps he was ill advised when he resolved to stay on to rebuild, but he found inspiration and reached many in the Charismatic ministry of prayer and healing. As a district nurse recalled, his number was the first one to call. Some may be uncomfortable with so direct appeal to the Holy Spirit, but the theology was well grounded, and never broke the bounds of Catholic discipline and training. Nor did it take over from the main work of a diligent, caring parish priest.

He was a great walker along many British and Alpine trails. Eliza shared his enthusiasm for walking, though not the others: old churches and trains. Their last great venture was to the Holy Land, a fitting last journey to crown a life of dedication, of serving, helping, and learning to the end.

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