The Very Revd Nick Bury writes:
THE Ven. Geoffrey Sidaway died peacefully on Easter Day, aged
71, surrounded by his family after a long illness. He had received
communion on Palm Sunday and a blessing on Easter morning. From
2000, until May 2012, Geoffrey had been Archdeacon of Gloucester, a
post that he took up after a distinguished ministry in Kent.
Geoffrey was born in Barrow, the only child of Harold and
Margaret Sidaway. The family lived in a terraced house in the back
streets of the town, and worshipped at St Matthew with St Francis,
where Geoffrey was an enthusiastic chorister. Geoffrey was educated
at Holker Street Secondary School and Ulverston Grammar School. In
school and college holidays, he worked in Barrow shipyard.
Greatly encouraged by the curate at St Matthew's, the Revd David
Baxter, he studied at Kelham Theological College from 1961 to 1966.
Geoffrey adored Kelham, with its monastic community, beautiful
architecture, and a fearless, challenging faith that he could
He was ordained in 1966 in Derby, taking up a curacy at St Mary
the Virgin, Beighton, a gritty mining parish. Here he ran the youth
club, and a colleague remembers vividly his organising a Passion
play through the village, in which, unusually for those days, an
Afro-Caribbean actor played Simon of Cyrene. The production made a
huge impact on the town. It was here that he met and married
Margaret, a Sheffield and Rotherham policewoman, on 4 April 1970.
It was the start of a loving marriage, and a formidable
He moved from Beighton to a curacy at St Mary and All Saints,
Chesterfield, famous for its twisted spire, where he looked after
the parish during an interregnum. His first incumbency was at St
Bartholomew's, Derby, a tough working-class parish, where
parishioners were chiefly workers from the local Rolls-Royce
machine tool factory and railway-stock repair yards.
In 1977, he moved to St Martin's, Maidstone, one of the most
populous parishes in England. He loved the community life, and it
was here that he and Margaret started opening up their home to
regular parish gatherings. Margaret often catered for huge numbers
of parishioners. Geoffrey proved himself an energetic and able
leader, who had the gift of entrusting challenging tasks to others,
believing that they could do more than they thought they were
capable of. Encouragement became the hallmark of his ministry. Here
he established a link with Dortmund in Germany, the first of the
international links that he created and supported.
After ten years, he moved across the town to Holy Cross,
Bearsted. Here he built an extension to the church. To raise funds
and awareness of this project, he launched forth from the village
green in an air-balloon sponsored by the local undertakers. It
landed unexpectedly in a nearby travellers' field. He worked
tirelessly with other Christian churches, and signed a covenant
with the local churches, who continue to work closely together to
He established a strong link with Ruhengeri, in the diocese of
Kigezi in Uganda, spent time there, and encouraged the sponsorship
of Ugandan children in their studies. Many remember his very
successful organisation of Archbishop George Carey's visitation of
the deanery. He was made Hon. Canon of Canterbury Cathedral in
1994, and elected to the General Synod, representing Canterbury,
and later Gloucester, diocese.
He was appointed Archdeacon of Gloucester in 2000. Here his
experience as a parish priest in diverse parishes held him in good
stead. His cheerfulness, sense of humour, ready availability, and
tireless energy made him popular in the parishes. He worked
tirelessly with churchwardens, parish councils, and priests to
produce what he called the "wow" factor in their particular
When the Vicar of Thornbury, John Suddards, was murdered at his
vicarage, Geoffrey led the reaction in the national press, and
ministered in an exemplary way, giving much comfort and hope.
Geoffrey and Margaret bred Labradors very successfully, winning
prizes and breeding champions. One priest said of Geoffrey that he
was like the Labradors that he loved so much: "always glad to see
you, always encouraging, and good company". His family greatly
appreciated that, despite his constant work and boundless
enthusiasm, he always balanced family and church life, and was
always a devoted husband, father, and grandfather.
Geoffrey retired in May 2012, and, a life-long football fan and
qualified football referee, he played in The Geoff Sidaway
Testimonial Football Match, aged 69. But then, typically, he
immediately took up the house-for-duty post at Holy Innocents',
Highnam, and the surrounding villages. He said of this move: "I am
really excited. I am a parish priest to my fingertips: let's hope I
have not lost my touch." He certainly hadn't, because he inspired
great affection, made a great impact, and brought new life into the
parishes in the months he was there, before being forced to retire
through ill health.
Geoffrey leaves Margaret, three children - Mark, Clare, and Paul
- and four grandchildren.