Obituary: Canon William Girard

by
29 March 2018

The Revd Paul Skirrow, the Rt Revd John Flack, and others write:

ASH WEDNESDAY, 14 February 2018, brought the death of Canon Bill Girard, aged 82, after a short illness.

Bill was unique, but was also in the now, sadly, fading tradition of highly intelligent, eccentric, erudite, deeply faithful priests with scant regard for modern trends. He preferred to exercise pastoral care, per­sonal prayer, study, good preach­ing, order, commitment to proper liturgy, and a love for his people.

William Nicholas Charles Girard was brought up in Rhodesia from 1948 and maintained an interest in and concern for all that happened there. He trained in law before being called by God to Anglican ministry. He kept an interest in law and its history, particularly Ecclesiastical Law, throughout his life.

Bill returned to the England, and trained at the College of the Resur­rection, Mirfield. He was ordained deacon in 1967 to serve the parish of Yate, in Gloucester diocese, and ordained priest on 25 March 1968. He was looking forward to celebrat­ing his 50 years as an Anglican priest this month.

He served a second curacy at St Alban’s, Westbury Park, in Bristol, under Eric Wall, later Bishop of Huntingdon; he established a life­long friendship with his incumbent and his family.

Bill was Chaplain at the King’s School, Ely, and then, in a stipendiary role and later as a retired priest, he served as a parish priest in Fenstanton, Hilton, Horseheath, Balsham, West Wickham, Alconbury cum Weston, Buckworth, Great and Little Stukeley, and Hamerton, all in Ely diocese. He served as Rural Dean of Linton, twice, and later Rural Dean of Leightonstone. He was appointed an Hon. Canon of Ely Cathedral in 1997, and practised his priestly ministry, with permission to officiate in both Ely and Peterborough dioceses, right through to his death.

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For many years, Bill lived in Little Gidding, where he actively and creatively supported the work of Ferrar House retreat centre and the Little Gidding Trust. He delved deeply and systematically into the history of Little Gidding, expanding the knowledge and understanding of its development from the days of Nicholas Ferrar, through the 19th century to the present. He stood in as Warden for a short time; other post-holders are deeply indebted to Bill for his unfailing support, whether reconstructing shelving, repair­ing drains, ordering books for the book­stall, reminding them of history, or just being there as a quiet, intelligent, humble, and humbling force.

Bill leaves behind many people, around the world, who will be always grateful to have known him and been loved and supported by him. He had great wit and humour; he had impressive ancestry and a deep humility; he had much knowledge, born of a mind that was perpetually inquisitive and searching.

Bill was an outstanding priest, committed and utterly devout, and a warm supportive and caring human being. He did not view priesthood as “just another gong, or set of qualifications”, but as the offering, or oblation, of a whole life. He was a great example to many of what it means to be a priest over an adult lifetime.

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