JOHN McKIE was a very special sort of Australian who loved the English and English traditions and institutions. His brother William, the illustrious organist of Westminster Abbey, was arguably better known, but John McKie came to Coventry Cathedral in 1960 to be with Bishop Cuthbert Bardsley as his Assistant Bishop at the time of the consecration of that most remarkable 20th-century cathedral.
McKie was born in Melbourne, Australia, and was trained at Trinity College, Melbourne University, and New College, Oxford, where he took a First Class degree in Theology. He was always the scholar, and took an interest in post-ordination training and in the theological reading of the younger clergy.
My first meeting with him was at the ordination retreat at Coventry Cathedral in 1962 when, as Assistant Bishop, he ordained the deacons of that year. He was a splendid foil to Bardsley, Bishop of Coventry from 1956 to 1976, whose extrovert charisma and tremendous energy needed the quiet, gentle, affirming, whimsical humour of someone who was absolutely content and indeed fulfilled at being 'second fiddle'. As well as being Assistant Bishop, McKie was first rector of the little village of Berkswell with its formidable Lady of the Manor, Alderman Christobel Wheatly-Hubbard, whom McKie greatly admired, and then vicar of the even smaller hamlet of Packington, where the Lord of the Manor was the great entrepreneurial Earl of Aylesford whose estate included an industrial refuse experiment supplying electricity to the National Grid. Lord Aylesford delighted in McKie's company, and was assiduous in his duties as Churchwarden.
McKie left the great preaching occasions at Coventry Cathedral to Bardsley and the world theological insights to Bill Williams, the Provost. His was the skill for the short homily and the immediate and caring ministry for the individual.
John McKie was a man of great prayer, sincere and completely lacking in anything like 'side' or guile. He was older than usual when he married, and had a wonderful young wife and children who greeted visitors and especially the younger clergy with great delight whenever they visited the 18th-
century vicarage in Packington.