OBITUARY : The Rev Kenneth Loveless

Kenneth Loveless was born of a generation that expected many of its clergy to be eccentric. He lived up to that expectation with flair. Looking through his wardrobe gave a hint of the kaleidoscopic life of this colourful man. So many different uniforms and costumes (all with accompanying headgear): his Morris Men's outfit, his naval uniform, a three-cornered hat, priestly cassock and vestments; and his scouting uniforms. Each had a story to tell.

Studies finished, Loveless joined the Royal Navy and rose to the rank of lieutenant- commander. When, for a second time he found himself floating in the cold sea after being torpedoed, he made a vow that if he was saved he would serve the people of east London as a priest, which he did for 45 years. Two curacies prepared him for the task of becoming vicar, in 1954, of the war-ravaged AngloCatholic Shrine of Holy Trinity, Hoxton. He took no heed of the warning that he would not be able to "run his parish like he ran his ship". He made up for his smallness of stature by a largeness of personality which he used to the full.

Loveless could make people work for him. Many curates became entranced by his spell, as did a grateful set of parishioners who found his sparkle so refreshing. Scouting and guiding flourished in the parish - despite the fact that he could not put up a tent himself. His liturgical flair was right on target: a plaque in his house reads, "God is watching so give Him a good show." He was offered the Bishopric of Nassau and the Bahamas but feared the way of life might be too tempting to a man who loved a drink.

He loved possessions: he had a prodigious collection of records (over 10,000); his walls were covered with coffin handles - death, funerals and cemeteries were all fascinating to him. He had such a collection of books that the gas cooker was used to store the overflow. Loveless never made a hot meal at home and boasted that he had never served a cup of coffee or tea to any of his many guests.

In the early years, Loveless became involved with the English music and dancing tradition. He was a member of 58 Morris sides and finally Squire of the Ring in 1980. He was appointed MBE for services to Morris dancing in 1990.

Loveless was much in demand as a concertina player. He had also been an inspiration for the "voice of God" in Benjamin Britten's Noye's Fludde, and his voice was still hail and hearty when he sang his last hymn in church: a favourite, Sydney Carter's "The Lord of the Dance".

After doing a very effective job as Area Dean of Hackney, he retired in 1976 to a little cottage in Islington. The handsome figure of early years became a mellow, bearded and ruddy-faced old man. He smoked his pipes with relish, his cigars with a flair and took his snuff with a superior snort.

Latterly, Loveless looked out with a sad eye on the church he had tried to serve so faithfully and at an England to which he had given so much. He was particularly upset and angry with the proposed closure of Bart's Hospital, London, where he had been brought back from death's door.

Kenneth Loveless had wanted to be buried off the Nab Tower at Portsmouth, in English water and by Her Majesty's Royal Navy. In fact, with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing's export licence in hand, in international water and in the tugmaster's boat from Newhaven, he returned to the sea that he twice cheated. He knew England wasn't what it was, so he will understand.

Stuart Wilson

Kenneth Norman Joseph Loveless, priest, dancer: born 1 August 1911; deacon 1949, priest 1950; vicar, Holy Trinity with St Mary 1954-68; Area Dean of Hackney 1968-76; MBE 1990; died 19 March 1995.