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Obituary: Canon Richard Bevan

11 May 2018

Jock Asbury-Bailey and others write:

CANON Richard Bevan, who died on 13 March, aged 95, was an inspiring priest, whose immense energy, infectious enthusiasm, and erudition made a significant impact wherever he served.

He was Canon Residentiary, Librarian, and Canon Treasurer of Carlisle Cathedral from 1982 to 1989, and also Vice-Dean from 1986 to 1989. He was an examining chaplain to two Bishops of Carlisle, and a Chaplain to the Queen from 1986 to 1993. During his time at Carlisle, he had considerable creative input into the building and, late enhancement of the cathedral’s underground Treasury. Among other appointments, he was Chaplain to the University of Durham from 1961 to 1974, and Rector of Grasmere, in the Lake District, from 1974 to 1982.

He was probably happiest during his years at Durham, where he was greatly respected by the hundreds of students who used to sit at his feet and enjoy his company, conversation, and teaching. They knew him as “Rev Bev”, and his dramatic walkabout sermons became legendary and were much appreciated. As a teacher, Richard supervised those writing theses, and inspired and encouraged those who passed through his hands over the years.

Richard Justin William Bevan was born on 21 April 1922 — the same day as the Queen, but he always said that Her Majesty shared his birthday, as he was born before her, in St Harmon, near Rhayader, in rural Wales, where his father was vicar. The middle son of the Revd Richard Bevan and his wife, Margaret, Richard went to St Edmund’s, Canterbury, as a Foundationer. He joined the Junior School in September 1931, moved into Baker House, and left the lower sixth in July 1939. He was a first-class shot and gained his house colours for football and hockey. When he was invited to return to St Edmund’s to preach at a Sunday service in 1991, it is recalled that there was spontaneous applause at the end of his sermon, which had included amazing recollections from his schooldays in the 1930s.

On leaving St Edmund’s, Richard went to St Augustine’s College, Canterbury, and then to St Chad’s College, Durham. In 1945, he was ordained deacon in Lichfield Cathedral. In 1947, he met his future wife, Sheila, and they were married at Emmanuel Church, Fazakerley, in Liverpool the following year. They would have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in 2018.

Enormously well read, Richard edited a life of Bishop John Cosin and was author of several books, including Does God Exist? and Steps to Christian Understanding, as well as many poems, some of which were read at his funeral.

He was someone who did not just own and read books, but totally engaged with them, and he continued to study well into his nineties. In retirement, he catalogued the Bishop of Carlisle’s library at Rose Castle. Not only able to converse on an immense number of areas at academic level (he gained a Ph.D. in 1980), Richard was also brilliant with young children, and able to meet them at their own level. A most impressive individual, his engaging personality and charm enriched the lives of all who knew him.

Richard and Sheila retired to Burgh-by-Sands, on the Solway coast, where he was a greatly loved neighbour and member of the village community for 24 years. He continued to take services and preach until he was 93. As Richard’s health began to fail, he and Sheila moved to Carlisle for a short time and then to Dulverton House Clergy Retirement Home, in Scarborough.

Richard had a large family: four sons, one of whom died in infancy, and a daughter; 11 grandchildren, one of whom died at 16; and 11 great-grandchildren, the youngest of whom was born only a short time ago in Australia. He is survived by Sheila.

On Sunday 8 July, Choral Evensong at Carlisle Cathedral will include a thanksgiving for Richard’s long life and rich ministry. His ashes will be interred in the churchyard of St Michael’s, Burgh-by-Sands.

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