Berwick Parish Church vicar retires after 18 years tending flock

A WELL-KNOWN vicar at England’s most northerly town has announced his retirement.

Canon Alan Hughes, who is retiring as vicar of Berwick Parish Church
Canon Alan Hughes, who is retiring as vicar of Berwick Parish Church

A WELL-KNOWN vicar at England’s most northerly town has announced his retirement.

Canon Alan Hughes, who has tended the flock at Berwick Parish Church in Northumberland for 18 years, is stepping down from the post at the age of 66.

Canon Hughes last night said it had been “an enormous privilege serving such an historic town and church”.

Born in North Yorkshire in 1946, he went to church in Middlesbrough as a boy where the vicar suggested he try the ministry.

Canon Hughes wanted to become a farmer but ended up joining the Coldstream Guards in 1963, serving in Aden, East and North Africa and guarding Royal Palaces in London and Windsor.

He first came to Berwick in the late 1960s when, as manager of an Edinburgh based firm, he dealt with clients from the town, staying at the Kings Arms. Canon Hughes’ military career continued as an officer with The Royal Highland Fusiliers in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

But in 1970, he signed up to theological college in the Scottish capital.

He married Edinburgh-born Susan shortly before beginning his studies, at St Mary’s Cathedral with the ceremony performed by the Bishop of Edinburgh.

Ordained in 1974, Canon Hughes’ first ministry was to found a new congregation, in the newly-built Edinburgh housing estate of Wester Hailes, around the time of the birth of the couple’s daughter Tamsin.

He also became chaplain to Territorial Army Unit 15 Para, a parachute regiment.

Son Hugo was born in 1977 and a year later, Canon Hughes was invited by the Archbishop of York to take on New Marske, a parish in his home area of Yorkshire.

There he served in a TA Signal Regiment and the Fourth Battalion of the Parachute Regiment.

In 1984, the archbishop offered Canon Hughes the parish of Kirkbymoorside, just over the moors from New Marske.

Around this time, he was appointed chaplain to the Duke of Westminster with the Queen’s Own Yeomanry.

In 1994, Canon Hughes was offered the parish of Berwick.

He accepted although he only planned to stay four or five years, viewing the post initially as a stepping stone back to Scotland.

However that turned into 18 years, and in his time in the role, Canon Hughes worked with Viscount Ridley to bring the Queen to Berwick and gained the freedom of the town for his beloved Coldstream Guards, the colours of which now rest in his church.

The last project with which he has been associated was the restoration of the church’s 18th-Century pipe organ. Delays in the scheme caused Canon Hughes to postponement his retirement, something he planned to do in his early 60s.

Eighteen months ago he promised to conduct the marriage of his niece in Perthshire this Christmas.

With the organ restoration recently having been completed, Canon Hughes has now chosen to retire just in time for the wedding.

He has been Berwick’s 50th vicar since 1150AD as well as the longest serving in almost 100 years. Canon Hughes was also the last freehold vicar – effectively owning the church. He said: “It has been an enormous privilege serving such an historic town and church.”

Canon Hughes will conduct his last service at Berwick on December 16, when the organ will be dedicated.

He will be continuing as a military chaplain and his various other chaplaincies.

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