OBITUARY: Canon Douglas Rhymes

Douglas Rhymes was one of the unsung heroes of the turbulent years when Mervyn Stockwood was Bishop of Southwark, and South Bank Religion was all the rage. Although not recruited to the chapter at Southwark by Stockwood, Rhymes spent almost his entire ministry in the diocese, and was proud of having been appointed a minor canon, a residentiary canon and an honorary canon, ending up in 1984 as canon emeritus.

Rhymes was born in 1914. He was educated at King Edward VI School, Birmingham, and at Birmingham University, and trained for the priesthood at Ripon Hall. He served as assistant curate at Dovercourt in Essex, and in 1943 enlisted as an army chaplain. It was in 1950 that he was appointed sacrist at Southwark by Stockwood's predecessor, Bertram Simpson, "a charming person and a very good bishop in his way" as Rhymes used to recall. "But he would get his mitre all skew-whiff and sit any old how on his throne, showing his suspenders." When contributing reminiscences last summer for a forthcoming biography of Mervyn Stockwood, Douglas Rhymes described Southwark, in Simpson's day, as "a perfectly ordinary, normal diocese". He was one of those who made sure it did not long remain so.

In 1962 Mervyn Stockwood put Douglas Rhymes in charge of lay training, made him canon librarian and invited him to teach ethics to the newly created Southwark Ordination Course, a bold appointment at the time, for although Rhymes had yet to make public his own sexual orientation, neither Stockwood nor the chairman of the Ordination Course's college council, the Bishop of Woolwich, John Robinson, would have been in any doubt that he was homosexual. In 1964 Rhymes made his own considerable contribution to that unprecedented period of theological and sexual exploration with probably his most important book, No New Morality. And when, in an article in the London Evening Standard in 1963, Stockwood came to delineate the term South Bank Religion he made specific reference to sexual ethics, with the sermons of Douglas Rhymes in mind.

Having served faithfully a radical cathedral chapter he referred to as "the most difficult you could ever have, a bit like the Ministry of all the Talents", in 1968 Rhymes surprised those who did not know him better by gently withdrawing from the ecclesiastical fray. He was inducted first as vicar of St Giles, Camberwell, and in 1976 moved to Woldingham as parish priest. Eventually he retired to Fontwell, West Sussex.

Much to Mervyn Stockwood's astonishment, for he abhorred all church assemblies, Douglas Rhymes was a member of the General Synod for a decade from 1975. In debate he always spoke pastorally, for he was at heart a parish priest and a loving and lovable man, with a streak of Anglican eccentricity that endeared him to many of his friends, but not necessarily those whose briefcases he absent-mindedly wandered off with after Synod sessions. He was, generally, accident-prone. Returning once from a holiday in Cornwall he stopped off to have a bathe, only to have his car, and all the clothes he had left inside it, stolen. Decently kitted out again, he returned to Cornwall to retrieve his car, the police having found it - and promptly drove it into a wall.

Among the recreations he listed in Who's Who was conversation, an art in which he excelled. He was much more interested in other people than himself and had the perfect manners of a born listener.

Michael De-la-Noy

Douglas Alfred Rhymes, priest: born 26 March 1914; ordained deacon 1940, priest 1941; Sacrist, Southwark Cathedral 1950-54, Canon Residentiary and Librarian 1962-69 (Honorary Canon 1969, Canon Emeritus 1984); Vicar, All Saints, New Eltham 1954-62; Director of Lay Training, Diocese of Southwark 1962-68; Vicar, St Giles, Camberwell 1968-76; Parish Priest, Woldingham 1976-84; died Chichester 1 January 1996.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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 People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?