Priest and social worker driven by a desire to help others

Born: May 15, 1932

Died: July 8, 2019

The Rev. Canon David Leigh Redwood, a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, has died aged 87.

A strong belief in working for social justice was a constant throughout his life. This was driven by a motive “to do some good with my life” as he once explained. This included working as a ‘slum priest’ in the east end of Glasgow, opening the Hamilton branch of the Samaritans, work as a social worker, and becoming the church’s expert on penal matters.

David Leigh Redwood was born in Manchester on 15th May 1932, the first child of Eric Leigh Redwood, an insurance clerk and Eva Redwood, nee Dixon, a primary school teacher until she married. He had a younger sister, Janet, who pre-deceased him. He was brought up in West Timperley (Altrincham), attending Park Road Primary School (Timperley), St. David’s School in Prestatyn at the start of the war, Sale High School for Boys and Manchester Grammar School. He was a school-boy during the war and witnessed the Manchester Blitz.

Leaving school aged 17, he worked in advertising in Manchester for almost 10 years, and served for two-years National Service in the RAF, flying in Lancaster, Wellington and Shackleton bombers as a rear gunner, radar and wireless operator.

He moved to Scotland in 1956 after meeting his wife, Sheila Murray Clark, at a wedding in Glasgow, and they were married on 30th May 1959 at St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Glasgow. They had three sons and were happily married for sixty years.

During this period, he was called to the ministry and attended the Scottish Episcopal Church’s Theological College in Edinburgh from 1957 to 1959, being ordained deacon on 20th September 1959, and priest on 12th June 1960. His first parish was as a Curate at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Stirling.

He then moved to Christ Church in Bridgeton in the east end of Glasgow as Senior Curate, where he was also the Warden of the Mile End Social Centre, set up by the well-known Lilias Graham. He was later a trustee and volunteer, together with Sheila, at her home for broken families from Glasgow and all over the country at Braendam House near Thornhill, now the Lilias Graham Trust.

This was followed by a move to the Church of the Ascension in Mosspark, Glasgow in 1964 as Curate in Charge and then Rector. He became part of a group of young priests on the south side of Glasgow nicknamed the ‘South Side Rebels’ in homage to the so called ‘south bank religion’ then causing ripples through the established church in the Diocese of Southwark in London. The Glasgow group were all young priests who met every Tuesday in each other’s parishes to celebrate the Eucharist, have breakfast and talk. It was from this group that the 1970 Scottish Liturgy booklet emerged, the so called Grey Book. It was first printed privately and had a grey cover because they got a job lot of grey card, and so grey it has affectionately remained ever since.

In 1969 he was appointed as the Rector of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Hamilton, where he set up the Hamilton branch of the Samaritans, having previously been the Vice Chairman of the Glasgow branch. In 1974 he became a ‘Highland minister’ as Rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Callander, and was also responsible for St. Angus’ in Lochearnhead and St. Fillans in Killin. This involved a lot of driving to do Sunday morning services in the outlying churches and be back in time for the 11 o'clock in Callander; this could be hazardous in winter, when he carried a shovel and a sleeping bag in the boot of the car in case he became stuck on the Pass of Glen Ogle which was prone to deep snow, but he never missed a service.

He then took a decade out to work as a social worker and, after gaining a Social Work Diploma at the University of Glasgow in 1978, he worked for Central Regional Council’s Social Work Department in Alloa. He continued as a non-stipendiary Rector at Callander, together with Doune and Aberfoyle, and later Dunblane after the family moved there in 1981.

He returned full time to the ministry in 1985 as the Rector of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Dunfermline. He led the West Fife Team Ministry which brought together the other five Scottish Episcopal churches in the area - Aberdour, Inverkeithing, Burntisland, Lochgelly and Rosyth - into a group served by a team ministry of non-stipendiaries and curates.

During this time, he became involved in penal matters and was appointed by the Scottish Secretary to the local review committee for Glenochil Prison. He became the Episcopal Church’s expert on penal matters, and served as convenor of the Joint Prison Chaplaincies Board from 1994 to 1996.

He was made a Canon of St. Ninian’s Cathedral in Perth in 1990 and a Clerk to St. Andrew’s Diocesan Synod in 1993.

On retirement in 1997, he moved back to Dunblane, and continued to help as a non-stipendiary priest at Dunblane, Doune and Bridge of Allan until well into his 80s.

David had a love of the natural world, a core of his religious impulse. He developed these interests further in retirement, taking a degree in geology at the Open University to follow his eldest son who is a professional geologist, and later, ever a keen bird-watcher, he became leader of the Forth Valley Group of the RSPB, and received the President’s Award for volunteering and fundraising in 2010.

The last three years of his life were marred by vascular dementia. Throughout this his rock was Sheila, and he was able to remain at home until his last month thanks to her unstinting devotion and care. He died peacefully at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert on July 8 2019, aged 87, after a final short illness.

David served the Scottish Episcopal Church for almost sixty years as a priest, formed by and faithful to the ‘via media’ of Anglicanism.

David is survived by Sheila, his wife of 60 years, sons Stewart, Michael and John, and grandchildren Lucy, Tom, Caitie and Sarah. The retiring collection at his funeral was for L’Arche Edinburgh where David and Sheila volunteered for several years. He was buried at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Dunblane on 22nd July 2019.

Stewart Redwood