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The Revd Thomas William Boulcott

01 April 2016

Canon William Price writes:

THE Revd Thomas William Boulcott, who died on 12 January, at the great age of 99 years, was a wise and faithful priest, who served in three dioceses for more than 65 years.

Fr Tom, as he was universally known, was born in Wolverhampton; his family moved to London in 1926. He was educated at Barnet Grammar School, and he said that he received the call to priesthood when he was confirmed in 1932. After leaving school, he worked in his father’s motorcycle business, while awaiting entry to theological college. He served as a special constable, and, early in 1939, he became a full-time policeman, and was accepted for ordination by Bishop Furse of St Albans.

With the onset of war, he joined the Royal Air Force as an engineer. He was posted to Shawbury, in Shropshire, and then to Bloemfontein, in South Africa. On the voyage to South Africa, he was washed overboard by a wave. In his own words: “I started to say the Lord’s Prayer, convinced that this was my last moment on earth. The ship rolled again to meet the next big wave, and I was washed back aboard, at the stern of the ship. I was convinced that I had been saved to allow me to fulfil my vocation to the priesthood.” At Bloemfontein, he ran the hydraulic side of the airfield, and worshipped in the cathedral.

After his discharge from the RAF, Tom was able to train for ordination, at Bishops’ College, Cheshunt. He was ordained deacon in St Albans, in 1949, and priest the next year. He served curacies at Hitchin and Kempston, both in the diocese of St Albans; at Kempston he was also Chaplain of Bedford General Hospital. He moved to Leicester, first as Vicar of St Augustine’s, Newfoundpool (1954-61), and then of St Stephen’s, North Evington. He was also Chaplain of Leicester General Hospital for 11 years.

Leicester was already becoming the home of many faiths, and Tom was fond of recalling the time when he was made an honorary Guru of the Sikh religion. The PCC had refused to allow the Sikhs to use the church hall of St Stephen’s for their creation festival, but Tom overruled his PCC, and was thus rewarded by the Sikh community.

In 1973, he became a country parson, when he was appointed Vicar of Loppington and Newtown, near the Shropshire town of Wem. He entered fully into village life, not least as a beater with the Loppington shoot, enjoying long shoot lunches in the local pub. Here he remained for 12 years, being also Rural Dean of Wem and Whitchurch for two years.

On retirement, he moved to Wem, where he was a familiar figure in the town, always in his cassock. He helped out in many local churches, especially, until he had to give up driving a few years ago, in the parish of Ellesmere. In recent years, physical weakness kept him housebound, but his mind remained as acute as ever. He was, in his own words, “fine from the neck up”.

He had thought that he might become a monk after his ordination, but he met Leslie Ann Wright, a nurse, on a train as they both happened to be travelling to Lee Abbey. Five days later, he proposed to her, and they were married in 1950. They had three children, Priscilla, Virginia, and Simon, but tragically Virginia died when a toddler. Leslie died in 2003.

Fr Tom was a “character”, of whom many stories are told. He was a priest to his innermost soul, and his life was centred on the eucharist, the mass. He said mass every day at home, and it was a blessing to be with him five weeks before he died, when several of us joined him in his home, when he commemorated St Ambrose, sitting in a chair to celebrate. The text was Common Worship Order One, but the style and tone, especially the frequent biddings, took me back to 1950s Anglo-Catholicism.

It was my privilege to preside, at his request, at a solemn requiem mass in Ellesmere Church on 1 February. His ashes were buried with those of Leslie in the Garden of Remembrance in Ellesmere. May Fr Tom rest in peace, and may light perpetual shine upon him.

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