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Obituary: Canon Ronald Clive Adrian Carey

27 October 2017


Radio producer: Canon Adrian Carey took up broad­casting after parish life in Yorkshire and serving as chaplain to Bishop Bell

Radio producer: Canon Adrian Carey took up broad­casting after parish life in Yorkshire and serving as chaplain to Bishop Bell

Dr Andrew Chandler writes:

CANON ADRIAN CAREY, who died on 5 July, aged 96, spent the early years of his working life as a parish priest in Yorkshire, before moving into religious broadcasting at the BBC. His life showed the en­­during influence of Bishop George Bell, whom he had first encountered as a small boy when Bell, newly Bishop of Chichester, became a visi­tor to his dying mother.

Carey was born in Cambridge into a world in which people knew each other, and he relished a sense that all the people and things that he most valued were in some way or other connected. In 1929, the family moved to Eastbourne after his father had been appointed headmaster of his old school. His mother died when he was ten.

Carey won a scholarship to Eton, where he did well, particularly at Greek and Latin, for which he had a genuine gift. He also showed a prin­cipled critical independence: he re­­signed from the Officers’ Training Corps as an act of conscience, and spent his Easter holiday in 1939 helping at a reception centre for Jew­­ish refugees.

After war broke out, he studied at Cambridge, where he was awarded a First in Greek and Latin verse com­position. He then enlisted as an ordinary seaman in the Royal Navy, taking a copy of the Odyssey with him. Connections proved kind: a commission followed soon after. Be­­tween 1942 and 1945, he served on two ships on seven Arctic convoys and one to Malta, became a sub-lieutenant, helped rescue German sailors from a U-Boat, and was mentioned in dispatches.

On one memorable leave he was taken in as a guest by Bishop and Mrs Bell, who introduced him to the Sword of the Spirit movement, and the Presbyterian missionary and ecumenist William Paton.

Carey returned to Cambridge to take the second part of his Classical Tripos, and chose to make Greek literature his specialism. He achieved a suggestive transition to­­wards New Testament Greek, not least in the company of C. H. Dodd, whom he much admired. The precision of his translation skills was already mak­ing a small contribution to the scholarship that would produce the New English Bible.

He went, at Bell’s suggestion, to the newly re-opened theological college at Chichester, where he found the academic standards “min­­imal”. It was a year that, he later admitted, almost broke his vocation, but there were compen­sations: he found in Canon Arthur Young a brilliant Hebraist, and in W. K Lowther Clarke a compre­hensive biblical scholar, while the organist, Hawkins, had been a student of Widor.

When Bell met Carey to discuss a curacy, they agreed that he should head for something more urban and industrial, and Carey decided on Birmingham. He was offered a posi­tion in Harborne, and was ordained deacon in Birmingham Cathedral in September 1948. The Vicar of Har­borne was also Archdeacon of Birmingham, and all visiting, bap­tisms, and funerals were conducted by the curates. This gave them plenty to do. On a single Saturday in 1949, 14 weddings took place, photos being taken by the north-west door while incoming couples arrived at the south-west one.

Carey joined a university sem­inar, whose members included Hed­ley Sparks, Reginald Fuller, and Richard Hanson, and he rejoiced in new tasks of translation. It was then that Bishop Bell came to a confer­ence in Selly Oak, and invited him to be his chaplain.

In autumn 1950, Carey moved into the Bishop’s Palace in Chiches­ter, where he lived and worked for two years. This was a formative ex­­perience. Carey had a strong intuit­ive sense of what rang true in a character and what did not, and he could be sceptical of clergy who were often highly praised by others. He found, and admired, in Bell a liberal and modern outlook, while his private moral standards were “strict and old-fashioned”.

Carey’s second curacy took him further north, to Keighley. Here all denominations were to be found at worship across the town, and this suited Carey, who was a confirmed ecumenist. It was on Whit Monday 1954 that he encountered Anne Binns walking on Ilkley Moor, and was, for the first time in his life, astonished by the beauty of a wo­­man, a sense of her which he never lost. By the time he became the Vicar of Illingworth in January 1955, they were engaged, and they were married on 30 August. Anne became a member of the congreg­a­tion at St Mary’s, having worshipped at Keighley Congregation­alist Church.

After Anne saw an advertisement in The Times, Carey was offered a job as a radio producer at the BBC, and the future of the Carey family lay in East Putney in south London. Religious broadcasting was a real power in Carey’s day. Regular live programmes such as Sunday Half-Hour, The Way of Life, Christian Outlook, Lift up your Hearts, The Silver Lining, Lighten our Darkness, and The End of the Day were in their prime. For almost a decade, he en­­joyed stimulating colleagues, col­lecting, editing, and abridging material for programmes, and interviewing guests from different Churches and many countries.

Carey collaborated closely with David Kossoff, whom he found shame­­lessly self-promoting but lovable. The publication of the New English Bible in 1961 inspired a ser­ialisation of the Acts of the Apostles, the first half read by Michael Hord­ern and the second by Patrick Troughton.

Carey interviewed John Rock, the American gynaecologist who had produced the first contraceptive pill, two years before the invention at­­tracted the attention of other jour­nalists; and an English clergyman who had emigrated to California re­­corded an interview with the astro­naut John Glenn before the latter orbited the earth. But Carey still found time to become a member of the London Fellowship of Jews and Christians, where he came to know Edward Carpenter well.

It was at the suggestion of the Rt Revd George Reindorp, Bishop of Guildford, that in March 1968, aged 46, Carey became Vicar of Holy Trinity, Claygate. The congregation was, for the most part, Con­­servative in politics, well-educated and well-heeled, but not too Evangelical to fail to cope with Carey’s principled theological liber­alism or his tendency to vote Labour (Anne was a confirmed Liberal).

By and large, he kept the diocese of Guildford at arm’s length, but he found he could not avoid becoming a rural dean only a few months after becoming Warden of the Diocesan Readers’ Board. His final appoint­ment was Rector of Holy Trinity, the civic church in Guildford, in 1978, where he enjoyed a chaplaincy to the theatre.

When retirement came, it was to Kemsing, near Sevenoaks, in 1986, and then, in 2004, to Sleaford in Lin­colnshire. Beyond becoming a Canon Emeritus, there were no honours, and he did not need them. In his late days, he received an Arc­tic Star, but wondered if it was really necessary. He died looking to his Church to restore the name of the bishop he had known so well and served so loyally.

Adrian Carey is survived by Anne, and their daughter Rosemary. Their daughters Rachel and Helen predeceased him. 

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