Obituary: The Rev Robert Perry

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The Rev Robert Perry

THE Rev Robert (Tony) Perry, of Balk Road, Ryhall, died at his home, aged 89.

Son of the Rev Canon Robert Perry and Mrs Enid Perry, his father was a curate at St Stephen’s Church, Cheltenham. Educated at Crypt School, Gloucester, he was not a natural scholar, but loved cricket, rugby, hockey, tennis and athletics and made the cricket 1st XI and rugby 1st XV at a young age. However as he wanted to be ordained he worked hard in the sixth form and passed the Cambridge Higher School Certificate in Latin, Greek, Ancient History and Religious Knowledge.

In 1940 he attended Leeds University, following his father and elder brother, and lived in the community of the Resurrection Hostel. He joined the university officers’ training corps for two years and was allowed to stay at Leeds until 1942, when he was selected to serve in the Indian Army, and sailed for India on HMS California. After five months in the officers’ training school in Bangalore Tony was posted to Dharamsala and joined the First Gurkha Regiment. He became lieutenant in charge of HQ Company, which involved him in regimental accounts, among other things. Two battalions were in the Burma Campaign and soon casualties were returning to the regimental centre. Tony was appointed captain in charge of caring for the casualties. Within a few days of the war against Japan ending, he was sent to the Pacific to collect prisoners of war.

After demobilisation he completed his degree at Leeds and then went on to the College of Resurrection at Mirfield for two years, before his ordination in York Minster in 1949.

For five years he became curate at St John’s Church, Middlesborough and then was invited by the Bishop of Borneo to become principal of St Augustine’s School, Betong, a large primary and secondary school with 200 boarders. This started his 16 years as a missionary. The pupils were Dyaks and spoke the Iban language. His first task was to learn their language which he did mainly by reading psalms. During school holidays he visited the Dyak longhouses by river to take services.

After six years the Bishop invited him to become Provost of St Thomas’ Cathedral, Kuching, a huge parish to look after, besides managing his cathedral duties. It was during this period he met Valerie, who had worked in London and Malawi before moving to Kuching to take up a lectureship at the teacher training college. They were married in 1964 by the Bishop of Kuching in Kuching Cathedral and a year later they adopted their first child, and named him John. Mark was born two years after. Their much wanted daughter Margaret died at birth, but three years later they adopted Mary. All three children have given them tremendous joy, and they have been blessed with grandsons, Alfie, Christopher, Charlie and Jasper and step-granddaughters, Jess and Lucy. Rosa, Rachel and Joyce are also important members of their family. Perhaps the most important job Tony and Val did together in Sarawak was to reopen the Diocesan Theological College in Kutching. Val taught English, church history and also Sunday school work and they both did pastoral work in the afternoons and taught in the cathedral Sunday school each week.

On their return from Sarawak to England, Tony worked in different parishes, and also in Strangeways and Gartree Prisons as a chaplain. On retirement in 1986 they bought a derelict Methodist Manse in Knighton, which took five years to restore, during which time they opened up the house as a Benedictine refuge for the sick and dying. Few guests had the means to pay which meant that Val and Tony were unable to make ends meet. After seven years they decided to sell up.

Tony was then appointed priest in charge of Ryhall Church, working full-time, although officially retired. He enjoyed this part of his ministry very much, where the people were warm and welcoming, and they lived in the Old Vicarage. During the three years at Ryhall they successfully kept the benefice working together. Both were pleased to return after almost seven years, setting up home in Balk Road and renewing their links with the area. In a short time their garden was transformed from wilderness to a garden with vegetables, flower borders and lawns.

The funeral service took place at St John’s Church, Ryhall, the Rev Paddy McKee officiated, assisted by the Rev John Perry. Mrs Jane McKee was organist.

Family mourners included: Valerie Perry, Rev John Perry (brother), John Perry, Mark Perry, Mary Perry, Rosa Perry-Ward, Rachel Banks, Alfie Perry-Ward, Christopher Perry, Peter and Pat Wild, Andrew, Sandra, Keith, Jane, Mary and Chid Chiddington, Claire and Graham Pooley, Bob and Val Perry, Anthony Perry, Barbara and Ian Crawford, Barbara and Arthur Ogbourne, Eddie Pudge, Steve, Jean Adamson, Jim and Nida and Dresta and Alana Ward, Olive Thorpe, Ken Plant.

Sympathisers included: Martin and Hazel Whitfield, Dennis and Rosemary Chappell, Emmaline Clements (representing Win Toulson), George Clements, Mary Beaver, George Burke, Michael and Jenny Whetstone, Gordon and Maureen Matthews (Vera Fox-Browne), Fr Brian Scott, Susan Scott (Clare and Madeline Scott), John and Helen Saunders (Christopher and Anna), Josie Bushnell (Linda, David, Matthew, Paul, Christina, Jodie), Betty Edwards, Nora and Stella (Edith and Fred Fordham, Janet Williams), Louise Masters (Ian, Tilly and Evan), Jose Fox, Betty Stevens, Ann Grey, Keith Gamgee, Gill Bland (St Andrews Church, Heckington).

Sue Banks, Ian Bland, Mary Barlow (Tony), Heather Shead (Roger), Rev David Boutle, Gillian Boutle, Leonard Moore, Mrs B Beresford, Annie and Harry Fox (Lucy), Fran and Sophie McIver, Carrol Stocker (Nigel, Matthew, Alan and Jonathan), Dan and Judy Pope (Carlby PCC, Norman and Monica Smithers, James and Bridget Everitt), Diana Richards, Deborah Chalk and Sophie-Ann Smith (Philip and Pamela), Irene and Michael Maner (David Plant and Tony and Anne Harrison), Rev Lesley Mathias, Stella and Simon Stocker, Marion, Clare Ferguson (Carlby Sunday School), Molly Flint, Sheila Blower, Sue Steele and Sue Hallam (Ryhall School), Ken Popple (Simon, Helen and family), Win Peck, Peter and Richard Fussell (Frederick), Mary Bunning, David and Iris Fenn (family).

Cyril and Dorothy Dolby, Peter and Melanie Martin, Michael Brackenbury (Jean), Gordon Bland (Elaine Potter), R and M Colgrove (Rev Gordon and Lorna Richmond), B and P Arris, Jean Priest, Joan Renfrew), Joan Bagley (Tony and family), Jo Saunders, Mr and Mrs L Laybourn (Royal British Legion), Beryl and Brian Skellett, Sally Hickman (David, John and Annie-Rose), Rina and Mervyn Waters (Macil Edmunds and Ryhall Branch Royal British Legion), Barbara and Charles Cameron, Joan Caplan, Katy and Richard Parkinson, Grahame and Anne Smith, Tricia and Gerald Massingham, Janet and John Finden, Christine Gunner (David), Jean Williams (Ray), Tony Fen (Marlene), Stella Smith (John), Jill Carlisle, Julian and Sheila Whitby, Roland and Joyce Saunders.