Obituary: The Rev Canon Frank Colquhoun

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The Independent Online
Frank Colquhoun was a much respected evangelical priest and popular author in the Church of England. He wrote or edited 26 books of prayers as well as guides to preaching, hymns, the gospels and moral problems. He was also for a time editor of The Churchman and editorial secretary of the World's Evangelical Alliance.

His patient, gentle, conciliatory character gave him hundreds of friends in his south country and London parishes and also during his work as a cathedral canon. For six years, from 1966 to 1972, he was Principal of the Southwark Ordination Course, that radical experiment pioneered by Bishop Mervyn Stockwood and Bishop John Robinson.

Colquhoun was educated at Warwick School, Durham University and the Bible Churchman's College at Bristol. He was ordained in 1933 and after curacies in Maidstone and New Malden he became vicar of St Michael and All Angels, Blackheath Park and afterwards Vicar of Wallington.

In 1961 he was appointed Canon Residentiary of Southwark and in 1973 of Norwich. At both cathedrals he preached fine and memorable sermons. He retired in 1978.

Colquhoun was a shy man who did not find a rapidly changing church in a rapidly changing world at all easy, but he was never confrontational. When his evangelical friends asked him how he managed to work alongside such an "unsound and unorthodox" bishop as Robinson, whom Archbishop Fisher called a "stumbling block", he replied that though his book Honest-To- God left him rather cold and his head was in the clouds, Robinson's heart was in the right place. So he was able to see Bishop Robinson as a "most attractive character, not a controversial figure, but a man of devout faith, a dedicated servant of Christ." Colquhoun might have been describing his own ideals

Colquhoun was the reverse of the gladiatorial ecclesiastic and never rushed into print to condemn the errors of others or to proclaim his old infallibility. His quiet intelligence was welcomed by those who bought and used his many devotional works based on his interpretation of the Bible and the prayer book.

From 1946 for 50 years he was continuously publishing material for others to use as sermons, services, and in discussion groups and private prayer. His parish prayers in their blue and white covers are almost as inevitable as the various prayer books in the stores of Anglican parish clergy. In the diocese of Norwich his sermons revealed his reverence for the scriptures and his shrewd and kindly commonsense. On public occasions he never allowed any form of controversy, though he did once startle the High Stewards Committee of Norwich Cathedral by stating that he had put a printed cathedral report into the wastepaper basket unread.

Perhaps he was misled in 1973 by an episcopal invitation into coming to Norwich at the age of 64 which he was persuaded would be semi-retirement and allow him to continue his writing without undue interruption. In fact he became a busy Treasurer and Vice Dean and as director of ordination training he encouraged young ordinants to read deeply. He presided over an interregnum with shrewdness and grace.

"He was a lovely man . . . A real gentleman" people used to say of Frank Colquhoun. Perhaps he did not succeed in persuading more enthusiastic church people to quieten down though he did his best. In retirement at Bexhill he listened to music, wrote more than a dozen books and kept in touch with his many friends.

Frank Colquhoun, priest: born 28 October 1909; ordained deacon 1933, priest 1934; Curate, St Faith, Maidstone 1933-35, New Malden, Surrey 1935- 39; Vicar, St Michael and All Angels, Blackheath Park 1939-46; Editorial Secretary, National Church League 1946-52; Editor, The Churchman 1946- 53; Priest-in-Charge, Christ Church, Woburn Square 1952-54; Vicar, Wallington, Surrey 1954-61; Canon Residentiary of Southwark Cathedral 1961-73; Principal, Southwark Ordination Course 1966-72; Canon Residentiary of Norwich Cathedral 1973-78 (Emeritus); married 1934 Dora Slater (deceased; one son, one daughter), 1973 Judy Kenney; died 3 April 1997.