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The Rt Revd Richard Henry McPhail Third

03 June 2016

Pastoral care: the Rt Revd Richard Third

Pastoral care: the Rt Revd Richard Third

The Revd Alan Vousden and Dr Julian Derry write:

THE Rt Revd Richard Henry McPhail Third, who died on 5 May, aged 88, was Bishop of Maidstone and Dover.

He was educated at Reigate Grammar School, and Emmanuel College, Cambridge, before studying for ordination at Lincoln Theological College. Ordained deacon in Southwark in 1952 and priest in 1953, Dick served his title at St Andrew’s, Mottingham, followed by a curacy at All Saints’, Sanderstead, in 1955. In 1959, he was appointed Vicar of Sheerness in Canterbury diocese. During his incumbency, he was to meet his future wife, Helen Illingworth.

Dick moved to Orpington, appointed by Bishop David Say to All Saints’, and also served as Rural Dean of Orpington (1973-76). Several assistant curates passed through his hands. All of them can attest to a wise and thoughtful priest, a man of integrity and great care. Dick and Helen were the proud parents of two daughters, Christine and Hilary, and revelled in seeing their grandchildren — Ben, Jonny, Kaya, and Nadia — grow up. Helen died in 2011.

Dick’s gifts of administration and pastoral care were put to excellent use when he was called by Archbishop Donald Coggan to be Bishop of Maidstone, in 1976. Soon after, in 1980, Archbishop Robert Runcie recognised in Dick the ideal colleague to assist him in his diocese, and so, being translated to the suffragan see of Dover, Dick was created Bishop in Canterbury. Many will recall his “Dover Passage” in the diocesan leaflet, signed “Richard Dover”. Dick received an honorary doctorate of Civil Law from the University of Kent in 1990, and retired in 1992, moving with Helen to Martock, where he became an Assistant Bishop in Bath & Wells diocese.

During his time as Bishop of Dover, Dick became chaplain to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, the Warden of the Cinque Ports. Dick was a true pastor; his care of everyone in his parishes, or whoever needed counsel, gave the same sympathetic ear and sage advice, whatever their background or personal beliefs, gender affiliation and sexuality.

Not necessarily a contrarian, he was a logician with past passions for mathematics and chess, a fearless intrigue with computers and the internet, and an admirable commitment to Solitaire. One always felt that his opinions and judgements on even the most sensitive ecclesiastical subjects were informed by intelligence and compassion. For these, among his many humane qualities, he was widely held in warm affection. He was also an accomplished pianist — accompanying both of his daughters in the final of Ashford Young Musician of the Year in 1978 — and a keen walker.

When an appropriate moment offered itself in conversation, he endeared himself with a gentle wit and modesty: proud to have sculpted a word pun, or when recalling a memory where his physical stature had him looking at odds with, and inevitably up at, the other clergy towering about him in procession. When communication was failing him, he invested all he had on letting his carers know that he was grateful and loving. He was appreciated by all, and loved by many.

After his move to Edinburgh 15 months ago, Dick was once again able, despite being quite physically frustrated, to take part in many activities that he loved. These included worshipping at the churches and cathedrals, attending classical concerts in the Usher Hall, visiting gardens, and spending time with his beloved family. He became a resident of Tor Christian Nursing Home in Edinburgh, and died peacefully there.

There will be a celebration of Dick’s life in All Saints’, Martock, on 13 August at 4 p.m. Those wishing to make a charitable offering in his memory are kindly asked to send donations to Water Aid. Dick’s ashes, and Helen’s, will be interred at Canterbury Cathedral on Sunday 26 June at 3.15 p.m., after choral evensong.

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