Obituary: THE VEN. WALTER FREDERICK EWBANK

by
09 May 2014

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Lady Renfrew of Kaimsthorn andthe Archdeacon of West Cumberland write:

THE Ven. Walter Frederick Ewbank, who died at home on 23 March, aged 96, was a true Cumbrian through and through, and spent his whole ministry in the diocese of Carlisle.

He was born in Poona, India, in 1918, the elder son of Sir Robert Benson Ewbank (Private Secretary to Lord Reading, Viceroy of India, member of the Commission of Government of Newfoundland, and High Sheriff of Westmorland), and Frances Helen Simpson. His grandfathers were John Ewbank, Rector of Boltongate, and Frederick William Simpson, Rector of Caldbeck, both in the diocese of Carlisle. His brother, Robin Ewbank, who died in 2011, had been Dean of St John's Cathedral, Bulawayo.

While his parents were in India, Walter spent time with his Simpson grandmother at Standing Stone, Wigton. He was educated at Lime House School, then Shrewsbury School, and entered Balliol College, Oxford, as a Classical Scholar in 1936. His love of the Classics sustained him for the whole of his life.

At the outbreak of the War, asa conscientious objector, he joined the Friends' Ambulance Unit, and served from 1939 to 1942. In this capacity he went to Scandinavia, and later was awarded the WinterWar Remembrance Medal (Finland, 1940). For much of the rest of the war, he worked as an agricultural labourer in Cumbria.

Returning to Oxford, he took his BA and MA in theology in 1946, and his BD in 1952. He trained for the ministry at Bishop's College, Cheshunt, and was made deacon in 1946 and ordained to the priesthood in 1947. He was assistant curate to his uncle, the Revd Harold Ewbank, at Bowness on Windermere, from 1946 to 1949. When he moved to his first parish, Ings, in 1949, he was also Diocesan Youth Chaplain. From there, he went to Casterton as Vicar, and Chaplain to Casterton School, from 1952 to 1962. (He was a Proctor in Convocation while at Casterton.)

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He was Domestic Chaplain to Bishop Thomas Bloomer, and Director of Ordinands, and Vicar of Raughton Head, from 1962 to 1966, when he was made Hon. Canon of Carlisle Cathedral. He then moved to Carlisle, where he was Vicar of St Cuthbert's, and Chaplain to the Corporation, from 1966 to 1971, and Rural Dean of Carlisle from 1970 to 1971. He and his wife, Margaret, led the parish and civic groups in the restoration of the 15th-century Tithe Barn at St Cuthbert's, as a meeting-place in the centre of Carlisle.

His first archdeaconry was that of Westmorland and Furness, and he became Vicar of Winster also, from 1971 to 1977, when he he moved back to become Archdeacon of Carlisle and chairman of the diocesan board of finance until 1984. Hewas Canon Residentiary of Carlisle Cathedral from 1977 to 1982, when he again became an Hon. Canon. As Archdeacon, he wrote extensive reports on the parish visitations that he conducted; they have been deposited for posterity in the Cumbria Archives.

He also kept very detailed diaries. He published Salopian Diaries (1961), Morality without Law (1969), and memoirs of Charles Euston Nurse in 1982, Thomas Bloomer in 1984, and Ellen Margaret Cartwright in 1991. Memories of the Border Regiment in the First World War appeared in 1991, Faith of Our Fathers followed in 1992, and Characters and Occasions in 2002. He also wrote poetry, including Poems of Cumbria and of the Cumbrian Church (1985).

Walter was married, first to Ida Margaret Whitworth in 1941, by whom he had three daughters, Jane, Clare, and Anthea, who survive him. Margaret died in 1976, and he then married Josephine Williamson, a consultant gynaecologist, who died in 2003. In his last years, he was cared for by his good friend Jennifer Ghey. He took great pride in his descendants, seven grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren, and it was a great joy to him to have so many of the family celebrating his 96th birthday with him shortly before he died.

He loved to give himself challenges, whether it was rowing for Balliol, translating Homer's Iliad into iambic hexameter, studyingthe Psalms, observing and recording sunspots and meteors, climbing mountains, exploring potholes, or devotedly nursing his second wife, Josephine, through her very long illness.

After she died, in his mid-eighties, he went to Kuopio in Finland (his wartime base) and was given a civic reception. Later, he insisted on travelling by himself (with his Zimmer frame) to India to find the home of his earliest memories in Simla.

He was very sociable and generous, and, in his later years, loved giving large parties for family and friends, and having day-trips round Cumbria and southern Scotland. As one of his grandsons has written, "He was a wonderful man, a real character. He faced many challenges over the years with remarkable good grace."

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