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Obituary: Canon Peter Nicholson

29 July 2022

Dr James P. S. Thomson writes:

CANON Peter Nicholson, an inspirational general secretary of St Luke’s Hospital for the Clergy for 14 years, died peacefully in Hillingdon Hospital, on 6 June, aged 96.

Peter’s early life was in Catfield, a village in north Norfolk, where he was a chorister at All Saints’. Aged ten, he entered the well-known Paston Grammar School in North Walsham, where he received an education that he valued greatly. During the early years of the Second World War, he was engaged in fire-watching duties. On leaving school, he joined the Royal Corps of Signals. He participated in the signalling operations for the D-Day invasion of France and then served in Italy as it was being liberated. He completed his military service in India. After demobilisation he taught at approved schools. He was a housemaster at Pishiobury School in Sawbridgeworth, and while there he became a Reader at St Mary’s.

Responding to a call to ordination, Peter entered Chichester Theological College in 1957, to be ordained deacon in 1959 and priest the following year, while serving his title back in Sawbridgeworth, in St Albans diocese. In 1962, Peter was appointed Minor Canon of Peterborough Cathedral where “his fine baritone voice, kindly nature and wonderful pastoral gifts made him an ideal Precentor”. In 1967, he became Vicar of Hoveton and Wroxham in Norwich diocese. He was delighted to be appointed a governor of his old school in North Walsham. In 1974, he moved to be Vicar of Lyme Regis in Salisbury diocese. He was a very good parish priest, working hard to care for his flock who loved him, to teach the faith, and to order beautiful worship.

In the late 1970s, Peter required a stay for treatment in St Luke’s Hospital for the Clergy in Fitzroy Square, London. When, in early 1980, the General Secretaryship was advertised in the Church Times, he applied. He was duly appointed and so began his last appointment and a great period in the history of this remarkable independent (not private) hospital (now sadly closed but continuing as the charity St Luke’s for Clergy Wellbeing). Here the medical staff all gave their services, and the funds raised were required to employ the other staff and maintain the equipment and the building. Peter worked tirelessly and succeeded in making St Luke’s better known and in raising the necessary funds. By the time he retired in 1993, more patients were being treated than ever before. His achievement was acknowledged by his becoming a Prebendary of Chichester Cathedral, the awarding of a Lambeth MA, and the appointment of OBE.

Peter’s beloved wife, Dorothy, who pre-deceased him in 2013, also served St Luke’s in several voluntary positions. They were married in 1960, while he was a curate, and had two children, Timothy and Jess. During his time at St Luke’s, they lived in Harlington, Middlesex. Peter was a non-stipendiary minister at St Peter and Paul, Harlington, where his funeral was held on 4 July.

In the early years of his retirement, Peter worked with McCabe Travel, overseeing their educational trust and resource centre. He also led pilgrimages to the Holy Land and Oberammergau.

Peter was an excellent person, a fine priest, and a good friend. We give thanks for his very full life and pray that he may now rest in peace.

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