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Obituary: The Revd Dr Herbert Karrach

12 February 2021

The Revd David Grundy writes:

THE Revd Herbert Karrach, who had a unique style and character, had an unusual start in life. He was born to Jewish parents in Vienna, but his mother decided to have him baptised in the local Lutheran church, when he was seven days old, “just to be on the safe side”, as he would later say.

In 1938, as life became increasingly unsafe for them in Vienna, they escaped to southern Ireland, where the family who took them in as “working guests” was originally hoping that Herbert would become apprenticed to their butler. At the age of 18, however, he came to faith and immediately felt a calling to medicine.

After winning a scholarship to Trinity College, Dublin, there followed medical jobs in both Ireland and England and even four months as a ship’s surgeon on a boat bringing jute from India. He joined the British Colonial Service and was posted to Uganda, where he served from 1951 to 1962 in various districts, often being the only doctor in the district.

He met Mollie, a British missionary teacher, while he was convalescing from glandular fever at a tea farm. The address at their wedding in 1953 was given by Erica Sabiti, later to become the first Ugandan Archbishop.

Returning to England in 1962, he joined a general practice in Bedford, where he served in until his retirement in 1988.

The family had a holiday home, charmingly called “Narnia”, in the hamlet of Fring in west Norfolk, and, when he retired, he was ordained as an NSM in 1989, and served as a curate in the benefice for 25 years, only fully retiring at the age of 90.

His whole ministry and faith had been profoundly affected by the Church born out of the East African revival in the 1930s. When Mollie was once apparently close to death, he took her hand, and simply said, “Mollie, please forgive me,” so typical of the spirituality of that movement.

He was a short man, whose whole demeanour was one of someone who was completely devoid of any self-consciousness, and fully committed to serving God. This artlessness, together with his transparent faith, encyclopaedic knowledge of scripture, and tireless work for the people of these parishes won a unique respect and affection.

At the age of 80, after Mollie’s death, he started to spend the winter months in Nepal, where his daughter was working at a mission hospital. He thought that it was hilarious when, at the age of 92, after a 12-hour flight, there was a very long delay at Kathmandu airport, as the official assumed that his was a fake passport, not believing that any right-minded man of 92 would fly from the UK to Nepal.

He died there at the age of 96, where he was loved by the hospital and church community and adopted as everyone’s father. He is buried in a simple forest grave, overlooking the Himalayas.

He leaves three daughters, Joy, Jennie, and Rachel, four granddaughters, and one grandson.

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