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Obituary: Prebendary Allan Scott

05 February 2021

The Revd Kevin Scully writes:

PREBENDARY Allan Scott, who died on 18 January, aged 81, was a man of firm opinions with a reputation for letting others know what they were. His observations were often tempered with a lively wit.

An only child, he was born in South Shields, studied at Manchester University, and trained for the priesthood at Mirfield, which formed him in many of his Catholic leanings.

On ordination, he served his title in Bradford cum Beswick, in Manchester, becoming Priest-in-Charge of the parish. He left stipendiary ministry to work for the newly formed charity Community Service Volunteers, now Volunteering Matters, serving as an honorary priest in Bramhall and parishes in London.

In 1969, in Sofia, he married Elena, his Bulgarian wife, with whom he had two children, Christina and Anna. She supported his ministry for 33 years.

He was appointed Rector of St Mary’s, Stoke Newington, in 1976, and held that post until his retirement 25 years later. He was installed as a Prebendary of St Paul’s Cathedral in 1991. At Stoke Newington, he was training incumbent to a string of curates, developing a reputation of being something of a tough taskmaster.

As one of these potential colleagues, I was greeted at our first face-to-face encounter with a gesture that took in my florid moustache with the words, “That will have to go!” He had firm rules about clerical wear akin to Henry Ford and the Model T — “You can wear any colour you like as long as it is black” — and insisted that one was in clericals or not — “No mix-and-match.”

He rejuvenated the parish with his inimitable leadership, the congregation grew in number, and he continually sought new ways to involve individuals in their spiritual lives and their practical working-out in their situation. He had a firm eye on all aspects of parish life, including finances, and in effect ran a foodbank from the rectory long before the fashion.

He was extraordinarily well read, and would spend time engaged in reading in the garden with a cup of coffee to equip him for any intellectual locking of horns. For all that, he was a loving pastor who would give time — perhaps too much — to the needy and desperate. Visiting was a plank of his pastoral care.

Priestcraft and the work of a priest was central to his ministry, and woe betide anyone who did not agree with that. Liturgy was well planned, involving congregants in many aspects; hymns had to be played swiftly, and preaching had to be thoughtful and not overly long. It was a probably a blessing that there was no microphone on the altar, sparing his listeners his often brusque comments. He was not a lover of gaps in services. He thought it dragged down the impetus of worship.

He had a unique skill for recruitment. When a long-serving member of the flower rota took up the post of churchwarden, he left rotting blooms in church until someone objected, and then he volunteered to fund her training in floral arrangement.

In retirement, he surprised many by becoming a partner in a clothing-manufacture business, which, among other work, produced high-fashion brands, including lines of Victoria Beckham. The relatively shabby Allan whom most people knew was remodelled as a dapper suit-wearing businessman who thrived in all aspects of the project.

His priestly ministry continued at the parishes of St Alban’s, Holborn, and St Bartholomew’s, Stamford Hill. He moved to the College of St Barnabas, Lingfield, not long before his 80th birthday, which was celebrated with a wonderful event organised by his daughters.

He relished the new, especially in theatre. He was quick to see a bargain, and delighted in seeing a wide range of drama, dance, and cabaret. A lifelong member of the Labour Party, he hosted an all-night party, with the ringing of church bells, on the election of the Blair government. He resigned for a brief period over the invasion of Iraq. He was typically forthright in his political views, which reflected his concerns for the vulnerable and underprivileged.

His theological views did not always match his progressive politics. A firm opponent of the ordination of women to the priesthood, he was ready to scrap verbally on the subject with some ferocity. Indeed, he and I once cleared a pub in the parish, and were looked on with some concern by fellow patrons in the bar before a production at the Old Vic.

Having said that, he remained a selector for the Church of England, although for conferences of male candidates only, and, despite his personal views, would support a number of women who went forward for the priesthood. He saw ministry of women as fundamental, if not in Orders.

He suffered a severe stroke in October 2019, which required a move to a nursing home, where he died on 18 January, having contracted Covid-19. A requiem mass will be held at St Alban’s, Holborn, on 8 February.

He was separated from Elena, and is survived by her and Christina and Anna.

Rest eternal grant unto him, O Lord.

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