At Bognor – 1976 -1984
Birth – 1921
Marriage – Sheila
Family Details –
Son, Michael, living in New Zealand.
Academic Details –
Christ’s College, Cambridge, BA 1947; MA 1952
Queen’s College, Birmingham
Ecclesiastical Details –
Ordained Deacon 1949; Priest 1950 (Worcester)
Curate of Kidderminster 1949 – 52; of Wimbledon (in c. of St. John Baptist) 1952 – 53;
Chaplain to the Forces (T.A.) 1950 – 52; Chaplain, R.N. 1953 – 76;
Med. Fleet Flotillas, 1953 – 55; HMS Bulwark 1955 – 57; HMS Dryad &Collingwood 1957 – 58;
Albion 1958 – 59; Home Fleet Flotillas 1959 – 60; HMS Excellent 1960 – ;
Rosyth Naval Base, – 1976; Hon. Chap. to the Queen 1974 – 76; Vicar of Bognor 1976 – 84;
Rural Dean of Arundel & Bognor 1977 – 82; Chairman Angl. & E. Chs Assoc. from 1977
Incumbent, Skirwith, Ousby and Melmerby with Kirkland 1984 – 87; Retired 1987;
Permission to officiate, Carlisle Dioc. 1987 – 93; Chichester Dioc. from 1993
Other Information –
Lived latterly at Eastbourne. Died 2011
Sheila in her young days had a resident post with the Greek royal family in Athens and special care of the Princess Sophia which was to develop into a friendship which lasted until the end of Sheila’s life in 2003.
As an adult the Princess married the King of Spain and as Queen (sitting in the centre of the picture below) she visited England frequently and always visited Harold and Sheila in London for many years.
The Reverend Harold Embleton
10.6.1921 – 8.6.2011
The funeral took place of the Rev’d Harold Embleton (vicar of Bognor 1976 -1984 and Rural Dean of Arundel & Bognor 1977 – 82) on Monday 20th June at Eastbourne Crematorium. The funeral service was conducted by The Rev’d. Zachary Allen, vicar of St. Peter and St. Paul, Rustington, who was a curate at St. Wilfrid’s during Harold’s incumbency and who has very kindly provided an abridged version of his tribute below.
Background and origins
Harold was born in Glodwick, a district to the east of Oldham, one of the leading cotton towns in the UK. Harold’s father was ‘a cotton man’. Harold’s arrival prompted a move away from the rather grim surroundings of a Lancashire town, and yet within reasonable distance of his father’s place of work. Harold was thus born a Lancastrian, whereas his brother Ronald, 3½ years younger, was born a Yorkshireman. Their father, having started work in the mill as the office boy at the age of 14, had become the general manager and principal salesman. For some time after the move, the family went back to Glodwick to church on Sundays where Mr Embleton served on the Parochial Church Council, acting as Treasurer. It may have been the birth of Harold’s first grand-child, Sophie, in 1982 which prompted Harold to write his memoirs. These sheets of typescript headed ‘For my Grand-children’ include fascinating memories of Harold’s childhood and formative years. This extract gives a hint of Harold’s future vocation:
‘… among the many parts which we children all played together over the years, I was the only one who “pretended” to be a clergyman…. The back of a rocking chair was my pulpit and my long-suffering younger brother and the dog were the congregation!’
Education – schooling, university
1929, the year of the Great Slump, brought about a radical change to the pattern of Harold’s family life. One day his father was an executive without any serious problems and the next day literally unemployed. Rather than give in to adversity, he bought a small business – a shop selling tobacco and confectionary in one of the southern suburbs of Manchester. Harold’s BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES meticulously detail his school and university careers. He pays warm tribute to his schoolmasters: It seems to me that they never counted the time spent on those of us committed to their charge…. (p.7) Harold also writes, ‘As for the Vicar (of Marple – F.S. Spackman), undoubtedly he had a very considerable influence on me and in his later years, long after we had all left Marple, he referred to me as his son Onesimus’: he encouraged me to feel my way in church life – for example, he early got me reading lessons, and later persuaded me to become a pupil teacher in the Sunday School’. Harold records his sense of indebtedness to his parents and others who influenced his development and his gratitude to his mentors and guides.
‘As a result of increasing air raids and the tide of war continuing to flow against us, very much against my mother’s wishes, I decided to renounce my exemption and wrote to the authorities accordingly’. Harold was commissioned in the Royal Marines. He saw service in the Middle East. Whilst in Alexandria ‘it was most desirable to have an alternative pied-a-terre. This I found in the Union Club…: there one could have a bath, as well as meeting old and new friends from various branches of the forces and also making acquaintance with local civilian residents…It was the first Club to which I ever belonged, and I think it proved to me that I was completely ‘clubbable’ – as more than one person has informed me since. Harold also saw service in Ceylon before returning to the UK in early 1944.
‘…on 6th October 1945, I arrived in Cambridge on the first day of Full Term, still in uniform but free to continue my course:
In 1947 my graduation was attended by my mother, my brother and one or two close friends, and was naturally a great day for us all; but, because at that time my parents still had their business, both of them could not be away together. It is, therefore, only fair to say that when, in 1952, I took ‘silk’ (conferment of MA?) it made my day on entering the Senate House to see my father in the gallery immediately above the place where one knelt for the Conferment of the Degree.’
Career – Royal Navy, church
Besides serving ‘in’ various ships of the Fleet, Harold also served as Chaplain at a number of shore-based establishments including Greenwich, SHAFE (Belguim) and Rosyth
Family – marriage to Sheila (1951), Michael (b 1952)
Greek Orthodox connection, the ‘Royals’, Bognor
“Harold was an expert on the Church in Greece and was a member of the Eastern Churches committee of the Church of England Council on foreign relations. As such he offered advice on relations with the Orthodox Church in Greece to successive Archbishops of Canterbury and their satff. This includes the time of the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey in 1974.
“His personal friendship with the Greek Royal family was also important ecclesiastically. Also, he was a warm supporter of junior staff members at Lambeth who worked on foreign relations – this is the testimony of a current Bishop of the Church of England (the Bishop of Guildford).”
Throughout their lives, Sheila and Harold continued to enjoy their friendship with “the Royals” and how very touched he would be by Princess Eirene and Queen Sophie’s presence here today. I am simply not sufficiently competent or well-informed to be able to comment at length on the depth and extent of the affection that has characterized the relationship between Harold and Sheila and ‘the Royals’. Except I remember Princess Eirene’s coming by train to Bognor, and how thrilled Harold and Sheila were to be offered the opportunity to fly to Australia and New Zealand with the King and Queen of Spain. The Royals have shown quite exceptional family loyalty to Harold and Sheila – they undoubtedly trusted them – ‘it stays with me, and that’s that’.
There were a number of distinguished visitors to The Vicarage at Bognor, including the late, great Michael Ramsey and his wife who I got to meet and be present when the former Archbishop presided at Holy Communion in St Wilfrid’s Church on the Feast of St Alban the Martyr, 22 June 1983.
As a keen student of the Eastern Churches, Trinity Sunday was always very important to Harold. He preached entirely from memory, and yet he always made sense, and never seemed to lose the thread of what he was trying to put across. From Harold I learnt how very important the church’s worship of God is, and he expected everything in both the sacristy and the sanctuary to be ‘ship-shape’, and in good order. At Bognor there were occasions when he was simply unable to disguise his frustration at some especially obtuse view expressed in PCC meetings. However, he was generally a model of courtesy and respect, and however irritated he was on occasion by some of his parishioners, deep down he cared for them all very much, and they generally loved him for that.
As Rural Dean, Harold had a job trying to weld together two groups of parishes, most of which resented having to make the necessary adjustment … the extra dimension constituted both a challenge and a compliment. After our time of working together in Bognor came to an end, later we both found ourselves working in the Diocese of Carlisle. Harold was Vicar of Skirwith, Ousby & Melmerby with Kirkland, four fell-side villages above the Eden Valley. There he did his best to encourage the churches to work more closely together – Harold was a great one for encouraging people to set aside their differences and co-operate with one another.
Hobbies and interests
His interest in genealogy (“my old bones”) took him to Alnwick Castle in Northumberland. Harold and Sheila remembered birthdays and anniversaries – remarkably, Harold kept this up even after Sheila died.
Personal recollections of Harold
Harold often seemed reluctant to regard himself in any way as my mentor, although that, of course, was what he was supposed to be. The relationship between training incumbent and curate was not nearly so clearly mapped out as has become the case in recent years. But looking back, I believe that, along with many others, I have many reasons to be extremely grateful for having known Harold. Despite his diffidence, I did actually learn quite a lot from him which has proved to be of lasting value. He was kind, generous and caring – and he never minded me slipping off to play cricket – ‘mind you make a good score, though!’
I still have the copy of the Septuagint: Greek and English, which is inscribed thus: ‘For Zachary, on his Ordination to the Priesthood, Sunday 4th July 1982 with affection and many prayers – Harold.’ It will be with lasting affection, and very many prayers that all of us who knew Harold will remember him. May he rest in peace, and rise in glory. Amen.
Reverend Zachary Allen
The Reverend Harold Embleton
Felicity, Ruth, Elizabeth and I attended Harold Embleton’s funeral at Eastbourne on Monday. Zachary Allen, who led the Service and gave the address came with us. As you know, Zachary is Vicar of Rustington and was here as Harold’s Curate from 198l – 1984. We took with us memories, prayers and affection from many who knew Harold during his time as Vicar of Bognor from 1976 to 1984, and from members of our family and Zachary’s family.
It was a moving and simple service (as requested by Harold) and was arranged by Zachary with Harold’s son, Michael, and daughter in law, Penny, who were over from New Zealand visiting Harold during the last few weeks of his life. The funeral was attended by family and friends from many parts of the world and we know Harold (and Sheila) would have been moved by the presence of Queen Sofia of Spain, Princess Irene of Greece and Belgium, and other relations of the Royal family from Paris, who clearly held Harold in very high esteem – they not only attended the funeral and mingled for some time with all the guests at the Reception afterwards, but had also visited Harold in hospital during the last week of his life.
As Zachary said on our way home, Harold made a significant impact on the lives of many of us whilst he was here and he remained in touch with us regularly since leaving Bognor.
We will miss him and remember him with gratitude and love.