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Obituary: Canon David Redwood

13 September 2019

A correspondent writes:

CANON David Redwood, who died on 8 July, aged 87, had a strong commitment to working for social justice throughout his life. This was driven by a motive “to do some good with my life”, as he once explained, and included ministry as a “slum priest” in the east end of Glasgow, opening the Hamilton branch of the Samaritans, employement as a social worker, and becoming the Scottish Episcopal Church’s expert on penal matters.

David Leigh Redwood was born in Manchester on 15 May 1932, the son of an insurance clerk and a primary-school teacher. He attended Sale High School for Boys and Manchester Grammar School, and as a schoolboy witnessed the Manchester Blitz. Leaving school, aged 17, he worked in advertising in Manchester for almost ten years, and did his National Service in the RAF, flying in Lancaster, Wellington, and Shackleton bombers as a rear gunner and radar and wireless operator.

He moved to Scotland in 1956, and married his wife, Sheila Murray Clark, in 1959, at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Glasgow. They had three sons and were happily married for 60 years.

After training at the Scottish Episcopal Church’s Theological College in Edinburgh, he served his first curacy at Holy Trinity, Stirling, before moving to Christ Church, Bridgeton, in the east end of Glasgow as Senior Curate, where he was also the Warden of the Mile End Social Centre, set up by the well-known Lilias Graham.

He was later a trustee and volunteer, together with Sheila, at her home for broken families from Glasgow and all over the country at Braendam House, near Thornhill, now the Lilias Graham Trust.

This was followed by a move to the Ascension, Mosspark, in Glasgow in 1964 as Curate-in-Charge and then Rector. He became part of a group of young priests on the south side of Glasgow nicknamed the “South Side Rebels” in homage to the so-called South Bank religion emanating from the diocese of Southwark. The Glasgow group were all young priests who met every Tuesday in each other’s parishes to celebrate the eucharist, have breakfast, and talk. It was from this group that the 1970 Scottish Liturgy booklet emerged, the so-called Grey Book. It was first printed privately and had a grey cover because they got a job lot of grey card.

In 1969, he was appointed as the Rector of St Mary’s, Hamilton, where he set up a branch of the Samaritans, having previously been vice-chairman of the Glasgow branch. In 1974, he became a “Highland minister” as Rector of St Andrew’s, Callander, and was also responsible for St Angus’s, Lochearnhead, and St Fillan’s, Killin.

This involved a great deal of driving to Sunday-morning services in the outlying churches, and to be back in time for the 11-o’clock in Callander; this could be hazardous in winter, when he carried a shovel and a sleeping bag in the boot in case he became stuck on the Pass of Glen Ogle, which was prone to deep snow; and he never missed a service.

He then took a decade out to work as a social worker. After gaining a diploma at the University of Glasgow in 1978, he worked for the Central Regional Council’s Social Work Department in Alloa. He continued as a non-stipendiary rector at Callander, together with Doune and Aberfoyle, and later Dunblane, after the family moved there in 1981.

He returned full-time to the ministry in 1985 as the Rector of Holy Trinity, Dunfermline. He led the West Fife Team Ministry, which brought together the other five Scottish Episcopal churches in the area — Aberdour, Inverkeithing, Burntisland, Lochgelly, and Rosyth — into a group served by non-stipendiaries and curates.

During this time, he became involved in penal matters, and was appointed by the Scottish Secretary to the local review committee for Glenochil Prison. He became the Episcopal Church’s expert on penal matters, and was convener of the Joint Prison Chaplaincies Board from 1994 to 1996.

He was appointed a Canon of St Ninian’s Cathedral, Perth, in 1990, and Clerk to St Andrews diocesan synod in 1993.

On retirement in 1997, he moved back to Dunblane, and continued to help as a non-stipendiary priest at Dunblane, Doune and Bridge of Allan until well into his eighties.

David had a love of the natural world, which was at the core of his religious impulse. He developed these interests further in retirement, taking a degree in geology at the Open University to follow his eldest son, a professional geologist. Later, ever a keen bird-watcher, he became leader of the Forth Valley Group of the RSPB, and received the President’s Award for fund-raising in 2010.

The last three years of his life were marred by vascular dementia. Throughout this, his rock was Sheila, and he was able to remain at home until his last month, thanks to her unstinting devotion and care. He died peacefully at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, in Larbert, after a final short illness.

David served the Scottish Episcopal Church for almost 60 years as a priest, formed by and faithful to the via media of Anglicanism. He is survived by Sheila, his sons Stewart, Michael, and John, and his grandchildren Lucy, Tom, Caitie, and Sarah.

The retiring collection at his funeral was for L’Arche Edinburgh, where David and Sheila volunteered for several years. He was buried at St Mary’s, Dunblane, on 22 July.

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