Obituary: Canon Jack Higham

by
13 July 2018

A correspondent writes:

CANON Jack Higham, who died on 27 June, was born on 5 May 1933 in Bolton, Lancashire, the younger son of a trade-union leader. As a child, Jack experienced being bombed, and sleeping in air-raid shelters while growing up in Rotherham in the Second World War. In 1940, he travelled with his parents by train to Manchester to spend Christmas with relatives in Chorley, and discovered Manchester station in flames after a bombing raid. He remembered feeling frightened as he and his family walked through rubble and damaged buildings. In 2017, he wrote accounts of his childhood wartime experiences for his granddaughters, Amy and Lucy.

Jack attended Rotherham Grammar School and completed two years’ National Service in Hong Kong. He won an open scholarship to Lincoln College, Oxford, where he completed degrees in modern languages and theology. He attended theological seminary in Birmingham, and won a scholarship to Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he completed a Master of Sacred Theology degree, summa cum laude. While studying for his Master’s degree, he assisted at Grace Episcopal Church, Rutherford, New Jersey, where he met Patricia, who was to become his wife.

He and Pat had two sons, Hugh and Tim. They remember him as a kind, loving father, with a good sense of humour, interested in their development, offering encouragement and a listening ear when needed.

After his curacy at St Mary’s, Handsworth, in Sheffield, Jack became Vicar of St James’s, Woodhouse, and taught theology part time at the University of Sheffield. In 1970, he moved to the diocese of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, as Vicar of St Barnabas’s Episcopal Church in Kutztown and Chaplain to Episcopal students at Kutztown University. In 1978, he became Rector of four Northamptonshire villages, Stoke Bruerne, Grafton Regis, Shutlanger, and Alderton, in the diocese of Peterborough. In 1983, he became a Canon Residentiary at Peterborough Cathedral. During his ministry at Peterborough, he developed a cathedral visitor-centre and a theological society. He lectured to numerous societies there and at Peterborough Adult Education College. He took groups to historic venues and on tours abroad.

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Jack retired from Peterborough Cathedral in 2003, and moved to Nottingham where his wife, Pat, was Professor of Social Work at Nottingham Trent University. He began a new life of activity, teaching courses on art, architecture, and church history at the Mechanics Institute in Nottingham, Peterborough Adult Education College, and branches of the Workers Educational Institution throughout Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. His ministry continued in the dioceses of Southwell & Nottingham and Derby, where he helped congregations during times of clergy vacancies by celebrating holy communion on Sundays. He was a regular celebrant for the Anglican nuns at Costock. His sermons were thoughtful, profound, but understandable. He helped congregations to think not only about the religious texts but also how these related to current events. When he had a free Sunday, he and Pat attended St Mary’s Greasley, near Nottingham.

Jack was interested in photography, history, art, and architecture. He attended classical-music concerts at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham, the Buxton Festival, and St Endellion in Cornwall. Jack and Pat travelled widely throughout Europe, Russia, and China, to learn about their history, art, and architecture. Each summer they spent several weeks in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, where they attended Boston Symphony concerts at Tanglewood. In Massachusetts, Jack took services at Lanesborough Episcopal Church.

He was a keen walker in Derbyshire, and in the Scottish hills. He climbed all the Scottish Munros, and more recently climbed many of the Scottish Corbett range. On 27 June, during a walking trip to the Loch Lomond area, he had a sudden fatal heart attack after reaching the summit of Beinn a’Choin. He died doing what he loved, and did not suffer.

He was a kind, helpful man, not pompous or overbearing, and was always ready to listen. He was sympathetic to all who approached him. His energy and intelligence seemed boundless. He leaves Pat, his sons, Hugh and Tim, and two granddaughters, Amy and Lucy. We shall remember his caring, dedication, and humanity with love and admiration.

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