Canon Hugh Beavan writes:
THE Revd Dr Don Gordon, who died on 26 January, aged 86, was a priest who always set the pattern of the Good Shepherd before him. Like Chaucer’s poor priest, Christ’s lore and that of his apostles twelve he taught, but first he followed it himself.
For more than 40 years, he served as an NS assistant curate in the village of Latchingdon, on the Dengie Peninsula in Essex, where he totally involved himself in every aspect of village life, while teaching full time.
Don was born in Sale, Greater Manchester, on 3 November 1930, and attended St Mary’s Primary School and Sale Grammar School. He read history at Nottingham University from 1949 to 1952 and remained in Nottingham to take a post-graduate teaching qualification.
After National Service, he taught at Lymm Grammar School, outside Warrington, and Swanwick Hall Grammar School, and then moved to Essex, where he became a lecturer at Saffron Walden teacher-training college.
While working at Saffron Walden, he was accepted for training for the ministry. Rather than take time out from teaching, Don was able to study part-time and at weekends at Westcott House, before being ordained deacon in 1971 and priest in 1972, serving his title at St Mary’s, Newport. The family moved to Latchingdon in 1975 when he took up the post of head of humanities at St Peter’s High School in Burnham-on-Crouch.
Although Don was technically an NS assistant curate in the Crouch Valley benefice, of which Latchingdon formed part, he was to all intents and purposes the “vicar” of Latchingdon, and lived in the former vicarage, which he managed to buy from the diocese.
Over the years, there could have been few people in the village who did not know him. He threw himself, utterly and sacrificially,
into every aspect of village life, serving (among other things) as chairman of the Parish Council, chairman of the school governors, chairman of the local housing association, and vice-president of the cricket club.
His pastoral care to people in times of need was greatly appreciated. In 1995, the village came under the media spotlight when a local girl, Leah Betts, took an ecstasy tablet on her 18th birthday, collapsed, became unconscious, and died a few weeks later. Leah’s image was placed on billboards around the country, and her parents became campaigners in drug education and awareness. Don took her funeral and represented the family and the village in media interviews. After Leah’s death, her parents became good friends of Don and his wife, Barbara.
Don was a man of many and wide interests. He was an avid reader of novels, and completed the Telegraph cryptic crossword every day. But his great passion was railways. He completed a Ph.D. at his old university in 1964 on “The East Anglian Railway Company: A study in railway and financial history”.
In 1968, his book in the Regional History of the Railways series was published under the title of The Eastern Counties. His model railway at home remained a source of constant delight and an absorbing hobby into his later years. The family home in Latchingdon was named Holden House in memory of James Holden (1837-1925), a locomotive engineer.
Don was married to Barbara for 62 years; they first met under the clock tower of Nottingham University. In the words of a prayer
in the Common Worship marriage service, the hospitality of their
home certainly brought refreshment and joy to all around them, and their love overflowed to neighbours in need and embraced those in distress.
They were blessed with two sons, Malcolm, and Jonathan, a rural dean in the diocese of St Albans; and five grandchildren.
The village of Latchingdon, and the deanery of Maldon and Dengie are the poorer for his loss but the richer for his remarkable ministry. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.