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Obituary: The Revd Derek Young

07 January 2022

Canon Andrew Willie writes:

LIKE many Welsh clergy, the Revd Derek Young, who died on 3 October, served only in his home diocese. For him, this was Monmouth.

He was born in 1942 to John and May Walsh, but, two weeks after his birth, his mother died. He was given stability by his Aunt Elsie and her husband, Fred (then a POW), and he was brought up with his older brother, Philip, and adopted sister, Vivienne, in Abercarn, in the industrial valleys of Monmouthshire. It was a very happy family environment, sowing the seeds of the kindnesses that all experienced from him.

Working in retail and insurance, he gradually felt a call to the priesthood. This meant his returning to college, which he most willingly did, achieving qualifications to earn a place at St David’s University, Lampeter. This was in 1970, just as it was about to become an integral part of the University of Wales.

He was ordained in 1973, serving his title in Griffithstown and a second curacy in Ebbw Vale. In 1977, he became Vicar of Penmaen, also known as Oakdale, which, during his incumbency, also took on Crumlin in 1981. Six years later, he moved to New Tredegar.

In 1999, he moved to a rural parish north of Abergavenny — Llanfihangel Crucorney with Oldcastle and Cwmyoy and Llanthony — where he remained for more than 21 years, continuing as Priest-in-Charge when he had to retire as Vicar.

With his congregation at Llanvihangel Crucorney, he managed a magnificent dualling of the Church for religious and community purposes; and, despite problems with subsidence, services were still held at Cwmyoy. At Lanthony, he supported a bold and ingenious scheme — which was not accepted — to allow Cadw (Welsh Heritage) to take over the church. The plan was to preserve the east end for worship and turn the rest into a visitor centre for Llanthony Priory, of which it was once part. He was forward-looking in both this and in using the gifts of the late Derek Lee, who had been ordained to the permanent local diaconate.

In her address at his funeral on 5 November, the Bishop of Monmouth, the Rt Revd Cherry Vann, remarked that Derek’s retirement had been brought on by his ailing health. His last day as parish priest was to have been 3 October, but, first thing in the morning, a colleague found him slumped on the vicarage floor and immediately summoned an ambulance. He died overnight. He had sent a message that the Sunday service, which was to have been his last eucharist, should still be celebrated and the luncheon afterwards be held. Derek was always thinking of others and did not want arrangements spoilt simply because of him.

He was much valued by all his parishioners and the clergy in the deaneries in which he served, as the epitome of the old-fashioned parish priest. Those fortunate to hear him preach spoke of his brilliant sermons. He could be described as Wordsworthian, sometimes solitary, but never alone, and among the Black Mountains, reminiscent of those of Wordsworth’s Cumbria. Also within his parish are the ruins of a priory, a Monmouthshire monastic house, similar to Tintern Abbey which inspired Wordsworth’s “Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey”, in which the poet describes the best part of a good person’s life as “His little, nameless, unremembered, acts Of kindness and of love”. These are words that beautifully sum up Derek’s ministry.

May he rest in peace and share in the glory of our Lord’s resurrection.

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