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Rev Clifford Hughes

Minister, singer and teacher

Minister, singer and teacher

Born: December 16, 1936; Died: December 25, 2013

Rev Clifford Hughes, who has died aged 77, was a Church of Scotland minister whose ministry was just one of three distinguished careers: in education, in music and in the Kirk. He was a headmaster of Loretto Junior School in Musselburgh, he was once described as Scotland's foremost lyric tenor, and he was a popular and diligent minister of St Mary's Church in Haddington.

As his name, including a middle name Eryl suggests, he was born in Wales, in Newport, Monmouthshire, and until the age of five his spoken language was Welsh. When his father was appointed to a post in Somerset House, he received his secondary education at Dulwich College and then at the University of Cambridge where he graduated in 1959.

Having been a boy soprano in Southwark Cathedral, during his years in Cambridge, Mr Hughes was a choral scholar with the prestigious Chapel Choir of King's College. With the King's choir, he sang to Second World War refugees in camps in Lunz, Graz and Salzburg.

Cambridge was a far from staid place in the 1950s and on his own admission, Mr Hughes's time there was fairly boisterous. However in his third year he came under the spell of Rev John Stott, vicar of All Souls Langham Place in London, a powerful preacher and conservative theologian. This was to be a crucial experience which determined Mr Hughes's understanding of Christian faith and very soon he became involved in organisations such as Scripture Union and Christian Outreach.

On coming to Scotland, he became a freelance professional singer. When he performed at the 1974 Edinburgh Festival, he was described as Scotland's foremost lyric tenor. He had also been training as a teacher at Moray House College in Edinburgh and in 1969 became the first headmaster of Beaconhurst Grange Preparatory School in Bridge of Allan, a merger of two local fee-paying schools with just over 180 pupils, 35 of whom were boarders.

As well as his responsibilities as headmaster, Mr Hughes taught English, history and scripture and was involved in rugby coaching. He recorded a record of sacred music with the school's boys' choir and his own singing career continued with frequent radio and television broadcasts. In 1975 he moved to be headmaster of Loretto Junior School in Musselburgh.

After 13 years at Loretto, he decided to train for the ministry of the Church of Scotland at New College Edinburgh, adding a BD degree to his Cambridge MA. He then started training as a probationer minister in the summer of 1992 at St Mary's Church in Haddington under the direction of the minister there, Rev Alasdair MacDonell.

In October of that year, Mr MacDonell retired. Mr Hughes however continued at St Mary's and quite a few ecclesiastical eyebrows were raised when, early the following year, he was called to be the minister of St Mary's. Ministers in Mr Hughes' position were not expected to be considered for the ministry of a congregation where they were in training at the time, as it was thought that might be construed as constituting, even if more apparent than real, undue influence in the appointment.

However, Mr Hughes was a popular minister and these early concerns were soon forgotten. He retired in 2001 and moved to the village of Rumbling Bridge and membership of the Presbytery of Perth.

He had been diagnosed as suffering from cancer of the larynx, and following radiotherapy and an operation, he lost the use of his voice. St Mary's Haddington had always been a place of ecumenical pilgrimage so it was appropriate that Cardinal O'Brien and Pastor Jack Glass assured him of their prayers.

"At this stage," he later wrote, unsurprisingly for someone whose voice had been central to his careers, "I thought that my life was effectively over. I gave away my books; I threw out lots of personal ephemera; I binned my sermons. But then, at last, I did reach acceptance of the reality of my situation, and with that, came the need to get on with my life."

With the devoted help of his wife, he grappled with discovering a new way of "speaking". He was able to climb the Lomond Hills and enjoyed walking and cycling holidays in France. He is survived by his wife Kathleen, whom he married in 1965, and his son Richard and daughter Clare.

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