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Obituary: The Rt Revd David Galliford

07 January 2022

Philip Lowe writes:

THE Rt Revd David Galliford described his love of reading and music from his early schooldays, and he particularly loved the tales that his grandfather told: “Listening to the old man, who took a long time to talk and tell his stories, taught me very important lessons. His patience made a very important mark on me: he had a personal discipline which rubbed off on everybody around him. I recall his gratitude to people. . . . He had an innate love of God.”

Surely, here were sown the seeds of a highly effective communicator, whose talks and sermons fully engaged the listener, and of one adept too at listening, who was sought out as a confidant and spir­itual director.

David recalled that on a visit to Ripon Cathedral on Michaelmas Day 1939, “the beginning of God’s call was heard. I could not articulate it at the time, but when I discussed it six years later with Bishop Philip Wheeldon at Preetz Church House in Germany, it was clearly the be­­ginning of that vocation to serve God in the Church either musically or in some other way.”

David won an organ scholarship to Clare College, Cambridge, where he read English. His studies were interrupted in 1943 when he was called up to serve in the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards. Two episodes at this time were probably pivotal for his future career. The first was a near fatality at the age 18, when the tank that he com­manded be­­came a “sitting duck”, stranded on inshore sandbanks off the Nor­mandy beachhead and strafed for around 36 hours by bomber aircraft. The second was when, after a serious accident in Holland, the use of his hand was miraculously saved by surgeons, thus enabling his organ-playing to continue.

After the cessation of hostilities, David was detached to 8 Corps’s Church at Preetz in Schleswig-Holstein. Here, he continued to hear God’s call, and, after acceptance at a selection conference in Germany, he returned to Cambridge, changing his degree course to theology, and then training for ordination at Westcott House.

At Preetz, David met Archbishop Garbett, who invited him to fly home with him. Garbett instructed him, “You come to my diocese.” Thus, after ordination at York in 1951, David served his title at St John’s, Newland, Hull, under the Revd Mark Green, whom he had known from the army. In 1954, he married Enid, a primary-school teacher.

At this time, the Archbishop was instrumental in David’s being offered the post of Minor Canon and Chaplain of St George’s, Wind­sor. Here, besides using his musical skills, plan­­ning the lit­urgy, caring for the castle com­­­­mun­ity, and cov­ering services for the Dean, David also served as assist­ant curate of Eton Wick and Boveney. He was tasked with help­ing to integrate those who had been previously moved from the East End in the Blitz to an estate of prefabs.

After their daughter, Clare, was born in 1956, the chaplain to the new Archbishop of York (Michael Ramsey) travelled to Windsor to ask David to consider returning north to take over the care of a large training parish, St Oswald’s, Middlesbrough, where a gifted young incumbent had died suddenly. After some delibera­tion, the invitation was accepted, and the family moved, as David humorously put it, from the “sub­­lime to the Cor Blimey”.

During these busy five years, he established a key relationship with his spiritual mentor, Fr Gordon Thompson, who taught him “much about direction and dealing with people’s souls”.

Rural ministry in a close-knit community at Bolton Percy, near York, followed in 1961, along with the post of Diocesan Training Of­­ficer. Then, in the early 1970s, dur­ing lunch with Archbishop Coggan at the Dean Court Hotel opposite St Michael-le-Belfry, he was asked to take on “the little church over the road which was in a bit of a mess with its finances”. David assumed that the Archbishop was referring to St Michael’s in the shadow of the Minster, but the post was actually that of Canon Treasurer of York Minster. David protested that he did not know much about finance, but the Archbishop laughed and told him, “You soon will.”

His episcopal ministry began in 1975, on his consecration to be Suf­­fra­gan Bishop of Hulme in Man­chester diocese, where he served under Patrick Rodger. His ministry focused on people: he nurtured lay ministries, cared for his Readers, was a pastor to the clergy, and lead re­­treats and parish days in Craw­­shaw­booth, the Manchester Confer­ence House.

Tragically, while there for a week­end gathering in 1983, Enid died suddenly. Despite his grief, David “kept on trooping”, and, under the new diocesan Bishop, Stanley Booth-Clibborn, he was ap­­pointed the first Bishop of Bolton.

Happily, a few years later he married Claire Phoenix, a Reader whose support became crucial when he later suffered seri­ous problems with eyesight, owing to a detached retina and advanced glaucoma. This necessit­ated slacken­ing the pace,
and semi-retirement to Thornton-le-Dale in 1991.

He be­­came an hon. assistant bishop in York diocese and was later chaplain at the care home where he and Claire lived for the last few years. Claire predeceased him in 2020, and the presence of their fellow residents from the care home at his thanks­giving service was both wonderful and moving. Treasured happy mem­­ories have been be­­queathed to his extended family, which now includes five grand­chil­dren and two great-grandchildren.

David’s spirituality has been com­pared to that of St Francis de Sales: “Down to earth, generous, and ac­­cepting; always looking for the positive and giving hope. He was not in love with structures, but was an old-fashioned Anglican pastor.”

Typically, his preaching focused on being close to Jesus; the centrality of prayer and making space to allow ourselves the chance to hear what God might be saying to us. A good listener himself, he was also some­­one who had the imagination and insight to spot opportunities and might say “I’d like you to consider doing this work,” or “Why don’t you think about . . . ?”

Recalling the deliberate way in which he enunciated the words “Confirm this thy servant with thy Holy Spirit” with loving care, his ministry was seen as one of con­firming and encouraging many in their varied ministries and callings; for this, the Church can and should heartily rejoice, saying “Deo Gratias”.

The Rt Revd David George Galliford died on 13 October 2021, aged 96.

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