The Right Rev George Noakes: Former Bishop of St Davids and Archbishop of Wales

As we stood on a hill in Galilee in the early 1980s, George Noakes, then the Bishop of St Davids and later to become the Archbishop of Wales, turned to me and said in Welsh, with an enormous smile, "This is just like Cardiganshire." Somehow the scene had brought together the two deepest elements in his spirituality: a love for the Jesus of the gospels and a rootedness in the rural community in which he had been brought up.

He was a native of the Cardiganshire village of Bwlch-llan, the son of a Welsh-speaking mother and a father from English-speaking south Pembrokeshire. This gave him a natural and unforced bilingualism which made him a fluent and attractive preacher and broadcaster in both languages. As a child he would attend Nantcwnlle parish church in the mornings and Bwlch-llan Calvinistic Methodist chapel in the evenings. He thus escaped the denominational prejudices that have so often been the bane of Welsh religious life, and he later devoted much of his time and energy to ecumenical activities.

Born in 1924, George Noakes was educated at Tregaron Grammar School and served as aircrew in the RAF during the closing months of the Second World War. He read philosophy at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and went on to Oxford to train for the ministry at Wycliffe Hall. A curacy in Lampeter was followed by a first incumbency in Eglwyswrw, North Pembrokeshire. He then moved to Tregaron, where he was particularly successful in working with young people. A keen footballer and cricketer, he was also an enthusiastic fisherman.

In 1967 he was appointed vicar of Eglwys Dewi Sant, the Welsh-language Anglican church in the centre of Cardiff. He swiftly earned a reputation as an able communicator on both radio and television. In addition, he assisted as chaplain to the Welsh-speaking inmates of Cardiff Prison, whose numbers were swollen by the Welsh Language Society's campaign of civil disobedience, then at its height.

After nine very happy years in Cardiff, Noakes returned to the diocese of St Davids as rector of Aberystwyth, becoming a canon of the cathedral and then Archdeacon of Cardigan in 1979. Three years later, he was elected Bishop of St Davids, to the delight of both clergy and laity. As a parish priest he had been an extremely dedicated pastor, valuing each individual and showing a striking depth of compassion and kindness. Having become bishop, he showed an equal degree of care and concern in his treatment of the clergy of his scattered and largely rural diocese.

A gentle evangelical by nature and conviction, he had a deep desire to "show Jesus" to the people of west Wales. This led to a diocesan mission which culminated in a morale-boosting open-air service at Stradey Park rugby ground in Llanelli, attended by a large and responsive congregation. He was a master of the bilingual sermon, moving effortlessly from Welsh to English and back again in a way that held the attention of all listeners, whatever their mother-tongue. At a time of considerable social and linguistic tension and change in west Wales, this proved particularly important.

In 1987 he was elected Archbishop of Wales. It was a burden which he shouldered with characteristic conscientiousness and he soon became regarded as a spokesman for Welsh Christians of every background. He was a firm supporter of the ordination of women to the priesthood and began to pave the way for its eventual implementation in Wales. He also played a significant role in the negotiations which ultimately led to the passing of a new Welsh Language Act. One action which was to have great future significance was his success in persuading Professor Rowan Williams, the most gifted young Welsh theologian, to abandon academia and accept nomination as a candidate for the vacant see of Monmouth.

He was supported throughout his ministry by his wife, Jean, a quietly perceptive judge of character. Unfortunately, the combined burden of running both a diocese that covers an enormous geographical area and a province of the Anglican Communion began to take its toll on his health. In 1991, Archbishop Noakes resigned. Two years previously he had been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Wales. In his retirement he continued to be a wise counsellor and friend to many clergy. A man of genuine humility, he will be remembered as one of the best-loved Archbishops of Wales in the years since the Church in Wales was disestablished in 1920.

Patrick Thomas

George Noakes, priest: born Bwlch-llan, Cardiganshire 13 September 1924; Curate of Lampeter, 1950-56; Vicar, Eglwyswrw 1956-59, Tregaron 1959-67, Dewi Sant, Cardiff 1967-76; Rector of Aberystwyth 1976-79; Canon of St Davids Cathedral, 1977-79; Archdeacon of Cardigan 1979-82; Vicar of Llanychaearn 1980-82; Bishop of St Davids 1982-91; Archbishop of Wales 1987-91; married 1957 Jean Davies; died Carmarthen 14 July 2008.

Sport
premier leagueLive: All the latest news and scores from today's matches
News
politics
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker