Mgr Martin Molyneux

Vice-Rector of the Beda College

Martin Seddon Molyneux, priest and teacher: born Westhoughton, Lancashire 30 April 1923; ordained priest 1965; staff, Pontifical Beda College 1968-86, Vice-Rector 1976-86; Parish Priest, Claughton-on-Brock 1987-99; died Allithwaite, Cumbria 22 November 2006.

Martin Molyneux was responsible for the formation of a generation of Roman Catholic priests. He taught for 18 years at the Beda College in Rome, latterly, from 1976 to 1986, as Vice-Rector with some 60-70 seminarians in his charge. His intellectual rigour was exacting, even for some daunting, but balanced by warmth, humour and wit. He came from a generation that eschewed self-aggrandisement, and personally was so modest and self-effacing that he would never have suspected his influence.

A former distinguished student wrote of him: "Martin Molyneux was everything that I would have liked to be, but could never achieve."

The Pontifical Beda College, as it was formally called from 1898, was founded in 1852 by Pope Pius IX to prepare English convert clergy and "late vocations" for the priesthood, and it remains Rome's priestly training school for English-speaking men of more mature years.

Molyneux himself had been a convert. Born in 1923, he was one of a number of intellectually distinguished Lancastrians whose early promise was nurtured by the education they received at Wigan Grammar School - albeit if, in Molyneux's case, he attended less regularly owing to ill-health. He came from an old Westhoughton family - his brother Edward traced their line back to Norman times - and he grew up at the family's terraced home at 89 Market Street, Westhoughton, which doubled up in the front room as his father's shoemaker's shop.

However, his parents did provide him with a home tutor, and he was also coached at home by "Eddie", his equally brilliant older brother, and he once said he could not have received better tuition. Other notable ex-pupils of Wigan Grammar School included the brothers' lifelong friends Derek Latham, a future Professor of Arabic at Edinburgh, and James Crompton, another Westhoughton boy and the authority-to-be on Wyclif and the Lollards and church architecture.

After Italian and Philosophy at Manchester University, Martin followed Eddie up to what was then St Catherine's Society, Oxford, living for some of the time in the home of Professor Paul Kahle, editor of the critical edition of the Hebrew Bible. He read Theology, graduating in 1950, and his BLitt was on Dante. While at Oxford he won the Italian Essay Prize. After the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, his academic abilities were put to use teaching. He was ordained in 1965 and joined the staff of the Beda College three years later.

He was much at home in Rome. A considerable linguist (he served as a holiday replacement for priests in French- and German-speaking countries, even giving sermons in Swiss-German), he was a master of Italian, yet infinitely patient with those who struggled in vain to emulate his own expertise in that language. He introduced seminarians to famous places like the Opera and Santa Cecilia for music, and the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, where the fireflies glow at eventide; he schooled his student priests in the delights of traditional Italian cuisine. He was a deeply learned teacher and a cultural and theological universalist.

As a former Anglican, Martin Molyneux was keenly ecumenical and applied himself in Rome to developing good relations between the English-speaking Christians there, being a close friend of Harry Smythe, for long the Director of the Anglican Centre. Back home he carried on his ecumenical work, both in his parish of Claughton-on-Brock in the Forest of Bowland in central Lancashire, and on a national level, eventually as Chairman of the Diocesan Ecumenical Commission.

As his health declined and retirement loomed, his retreat to Boarbank Hall, near Grange-over-Sands, and the community of Augustinian Sisters saw, as Brian Noble, the Bishop of Shrewsbury, put it in his funeral homily, the wheel come full circle. Years before, when afflicted with the illness that had left him permanently susceptible to chest infections, Molyneux had gone there and found

an environment of wholeness and holiness. Being able to return for his last years, he never failed to regard as a total blessing and a gift for which he constantly gave thanks.

His funeral mass in Boarbank's chapel was concelebrated by three bishops and more than 30 priests.

Roger Noël Smith

Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt

Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Life and Style

The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes

Video: It is the type of thing no parent wants to hear

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £100,000

£1000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Doing more admin than selling? ...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development - Software Technology - £60,000 OTE

£30000 per annum + £60,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Basingstoke, Brighton,...

Langley James : Field Support Engineer; Dynamics, SQL; Manchester, £33k+Car

£33000 - £36000 per annum + Car+Laptop+Phone: Langley James : Field Support En...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planning MRP Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's most progressive and innovativ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game