Harry Chicken RIP

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    Harry was known to many in Suffolk as a Methodist lay preacher. He was on the local circuit and visited many congregations from Framlingham to Ipswich and Capel St Mary; and from Woodbridge to Brantham.


    Harry was born in County Durham in 1928. Officially named James Henry, he was always known as Harry. His father worked down the local coal mine and was the union representative as well as a Methodist lay preacher. Harry wanted to follow his father’s footsteps and also decided to study part time for a degree in theology. This was difficult in a poor working family and he often had to work on mastering ancient Greek and Latin while lying in the empty bath as the only quiet place in the house. He achieved his BA and then his MA by distance learning.

    Harry served in the RAF during National Service reaching the rank of Corporal. He was famous for being able to forge the signature of his officer, a skill appreciated by his fellow national servicemen as well as the officer involved who appreciated having a quiet life. When asked about his RAF experience Harry often replied that he was “in Lancasters”. Most assumed this was a modest summary of a dangerous flying role rather than the truth which was that he and his team used to nap in the tail turret of the bombers when they were guarding them at night in quiet Yorkshire airfields.

    Harry quickly realised that being a full-time minister was not going to be for him. He said he liked wine, women and song a bit too much! So he became an RE teacher instead but remained a lay preacher wherever he was. He met Betty while they were working at a Christian hotel/holiday camp in Norfolk. Although starting as an RE teacher he, like many teachers, had to help out by covering other subjects as diverse as maths and PE. He always did well by being confident rather than actually knowing much about those subjects! This broad expertise was to help him later when he became a lecturer at the teacher training college at Alsager in Cheshire. Again, starting solely with Anglican RE, he became popular with his students by broadening the subject to include an appreciation of other religions including Judaism, Hinduism and Islam. This breadth led him to writing articles and two books on the subject which were published in the UK and USA and are still available online; Who is Your God? aimed at school classrooms and Worship Amongst UsLooking at World Religions for higher education students of theology.

    Harry led three student visits to Israel in the 1970s and also mentored students through teaching practice in schools. His multi-disciplinary experience and real-world skills were valuable here and he tells a story about one of his good students having trouble with a particularly rowdy class in PE which risked the student getting an undeserved poor mark. Harry told the student not to worry as he had spoken to the class. When the independent inspector visited he found that the class was really well-behaved and marked the
    student appropriately well. The student asked Harry what he had said to the class and Harry replied that he had told them that the stranger was a talent scout for Manchester United. No further incentive to behave well was needed!

    Before coming to Suffolk, Harry was a lay preacher around Cheshire for many years. He married his son, Steve, to Sally in Alsager Methodist Church which required great negotiating skills as Sally was a Roman Catholic. The line up at the altar included the local priest by special permission of the Catholic Bishop.

    Many years later Harry assisted at the wedding of his granddaughter, Elizabeth, to Matt at Museum Street Methodist Church. He also assisted at the christening of his great grandson, James – who was named after him.

    In retirement, Harry and Betty went on many holidays with cruises and trips to Egypt. Harry particularly enjoyed seeing India’s multi-faith culture, visited mosques and Hindu temples and celebrated with a Christmas Day visit to church.

    Harry died peacefully at home after a short illness.