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Obituary: The Revd Robert Carter

by
25 February 2022

A correspondent writes:

THE Revd Robert Carter’s involvement in Anglican worship dated from 1945, when he was admitted as a chorister at St Luke’s, Eccleshill, where, for many years, his father was a churchwarden. Here, his faith grew. Hearing the gospel from lectern and pulpit, nourished by music from choir and organ, and strengthened by witnessing the pastoral commitment of the Vicar, Canon Lewis Thomas, he was given life-long inspiration.

Known widely among friends and associates as Bob, he was educated at Woodhouse Grove School, before doing his National Service in the Royal Air Force. Back in civilian life, he qualified as a textile designer and, while working in this industry, studied to become a licensed lay reader. Experience in this post enabled him to develop his skills: a perceptive sympathy with those in need, and a preaching style that combined sincerity with light humour and easily achieved communication with his congregations. His vocation was confirmed.

In 1962, he started ordination training at Cranmer Hall, Durham. He was ordained deacon in 1965 and priest the next year. He served two curacies in busy West Riding towns: largely rural Otley, and then mainly industrial Keighley. These prepared him for his appointment, in 1973, as the Vicar of Cowling, a village with a varied population comprising long-established farming families and a growing number of commuting professionals.

Bob’s friendly and approachable nature served him well in Cowling. He soon got to know his parishioners, and they grew to trust and support him. For 27 years, while discharging his responsibilities in a parish that, like so many others, was not generously funded, Bob’s versatility was well employed, whether in mowing the churchyard, climbing the tower to maintain the clock, or acting as stand-by organist.

For recreation, he found plenty of local opportunities to watch cricket matches. Realising that his playing days were now over, he made enquiries about becoming an umpire. Having an encyclopaedic knowledge of the laws of cricket, a strong voice, and a traditional white coat and cap, he was welcomed into the prestigious Bradford League. When his parish diary permitted, he stood in league, cup, and charity matches for many seasons. These duties were stretched even further when Bradford diocese talked him into becoming its honorary umpire.

From his schooldays, Bob had enjoyed the challenge of solving quizzes and puzzles. Being fascinated by the subtlety of words — their coincidences and ambiguities — he became successful at solving cryptic crosswords, particularly the complex versions published in broadsheet newspapers. As this satisfaction was tending to fade, he met a further challenge by progressing from solver to setter. Bob particularly enjoyed crafting a crossword based on a specialised vocabulary; for example, he compiled a series of cricket crosswords.

Then, turning his attention to ecclesiastical themes, he submitted a specimen puzzle to the Church Times, which had published its first crossword in 1989. An encouraging reception from Don Manley, who co-ordinated the crosswords, brought him an invitation to join the group of regular contributors.

In an article written a few years later, Don recounted the history and character of this weekly feature. It differed from most other crosswords by being “churchy”, but, Don added, “We like a bit of humour, too!” This formula nicely matched Bob’s gifts, and his first puzzle was accepted in November 1993. Its clues included “Damaged choirman’s sustained note (8)”. [Answer: harmonic.] Altogether, Bob compiled more than 100 crosswords for the Church Times, the last in November 2021. In appreciation of Bob’s contributions, Don wrote: “He was very good at poking fun, and always brought a smile to my face.”

Bob’s health deteriorated during the early months of 2021, and, after a period in hospital, he moved into a care home, where he died on 12 December, aged 86. Even there, it was obvious that, surrounded by restrictions imposed by the pandemic, Bob was still bringing smiles to faces and, in response to requests, offering pastoral support to staff and fellow patients.

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