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Obituary: Sir Roger Scruton

by
24 January 2020

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The Revd Steve Wilkinson writes:

ROGER SCRUTON was an enigma. In contrast to the confident public lecturer, philosopher, and occasional Question Time panellist, his private life was just that — private. He would regularly play the organ for us at All Saints’, Garsdon, and would usually arrive without fanfare but with barely two minutes to go to the start of the service, and, afterwards, he would disappear just as quickly. If I made the mistake of going to the vestry before heading towards the door, I would miss the opportunity to thank him for his contribution to our worship.

He was so private that most people were kept at arm’s length, only a privileged few had fuller access and could say that they knew him well. Even as he went through chemotherapy in the past few months, my offers of visiting for prayer were politely declined; I now understand that he never considered death to be a possibility until his very last days. Consequently, what little I know of his faith is actually gleaned from a (post-mortem) reading of his book Our Church (Atlantic Books, 2012), in which he speaks of his love for the Book of Common Prayer; and, through my reading of it, he has given me a greater appreciation of why the BCP means so much to so many people.

It was his staple of worship, but BCP wouldn’t be my personal choice, and there were so many other areas in which I’m sure we didn’t agree. I was finally granted an audience with him just before Christmas, although I didn’t have long alone with him, and other people joined us shortly, like the Dwarves arriving at the beginning of The Hobbit. Beyond the usual pleasantries, he held forth on the result of the election, and I had to keep my views quiet (as time was precious and I still have to minister to the others who were in the room!), but Roger was a great example of somebody you could disagree radically with, and yet discuss and still get along with — a skill that has disappeared in the public forum in recent years. If they had chosen to listen to him and not treated him so shabbily in his last year of life, our national leaders could have learnt a great deal from the way Roger conducted himself.

Sir Roger Scruton died on 12 January, aged 75.

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