Neil Inkley writes:
AS THE Prayer Book Society celebrates its 50th anniversary, it has lost the leading figure of its first 25 years. Tony Kilmister was, in effect, the founder of the Society, having proposed the establishment of the Society of the Defence of the 1662 Prayer Book and the Authorised Version. This soon developed into the Prayer Book Society, Archbishop Lord Fisher of Lambeth advising that the AV could probably look after itself. These beginnings were at a meeting in Kensington, on 29 June 1972, convened by Lady Playfair, in the face of huge proposed liturgical change in the Church of England.
Tony was born in Swansea and educated at Shrewsbury School. He served his National Service in the Army, and was commissioned into the Welch Regiment. Immediately thereafter, he became an active Young Conservative, and, from 1954 to 1960, he worked for the Party, first as Young Conservative Co-ordinator for the north-west, and then as the agent for the Ealing South constituency. In 1961, he joined the Cinematograph Trade Benevolent Fund, and was involved in the organisation of the Royal Command Film Performances from 1961 to 1972. He thus brought to the Prayer Book Society his contacts with a formidable list of household names in politics, the entertainment industry, and those with a direct line to royalty. This proved invaluable for the Society’s publicity.
When he went to the formulatory meeting (with Prebendary Richard Hetherington, the parish priest of his church), he had just begun a new job as Executive Director of the Parkinson’s Disease Society; so his wife told him not to get too involved. He emerged from the meeting, however, as the secretary of the new society, was soon its deputy chairman, and, from 1989 to 2002, chairman; 29 years of unbroken service in key national offices. No staffed office had been set up during this period, and, in effect, the Kilmister house in Northwood was the office, and Tony and his wife Sheila were the staff.
Tony felt that the sidelining of the BCP liturgy would take away his birthright, and that of others. He was totally uncompromising in its defence, and indeed so staunch a flag-bearer was appropriate to the occasion, because much criticism, some of it caustic, came from within the Church, which might have been expected to be more protective of its heritage. The new liturgies were introduced, but the Prayer Book Society prospered under Tony’s leadership, with a branch in every diocese. It secured the ecclesiastical patronage of Lord Chartres and the royal patronage of the Prince of Wales. The BCP was never totally eclipsed, and it enjoys a generally higher regard today than it did in the 1970s.
In 2002, Tony was awarded a Lambeth Master’s degree by Archbishop George Carey, and, in the 2005 New Year Honours List, he was appointed CBE “for services to health and the Prayer Book Society”. He was a long-serving member, and later president, of the Anglican Association. Describing himself as “a Prayer Book Catholic”, he never came to accept the ordination of women to the priesthood or the episcopate. He remained a vice-president of the Prayer Book Society until his death.
His first wife, Sheila (née Harwood), whom he married in 1958, died in 2006. They did not have children. In 2016, he married Christine Woodworth (née Batho), whom he met in the retirement village where they both lived. Tony underwent surgery for cancer in 2019, but the disease returned and was the cause of his death.
C. A. Anthony Kilmister died on 13 March, aged 90.