Reginald H. Priestnall
Reginald Hayward Priestnall was born in 1922; the eldest son of Rev Thomas Hornby Priestnall, curate at St George’s Chorley and from 1923 Vicar of Whittle-le-Woods, and his wife Nora. Nora’s maiden name was Hayward, her family had the famous shop of that name in Dean Street Manchester. The family upbringing was formal and probably quite strict. However sport was always part of it. Reg’s father had been a very good cricketer and Reg told of innings played against the bowling of his younger brother Keith (born in 1925) on the long upstairs landing in the huge old vicarage in Whittle. At School he excelled at cricket and rugby. He attended Balshaw's from 1932 until 1939 living with a relative for perhaps two terms in order to finish his School Certificate because his parents moved to their new parish in Burton-on-Trent early in 1939. He appears in the cricket XI in 1939. He moved to Burton-on-Trent Grammar School sometime early in 1940 to complete his Higher School Certificate in July 1940 and went on to do the Cambridge exams in the autumn term that year.
He continued to play cricket for many years including playing for the Diocese of Southwark at both Lord’s and The Oval and in teams including the Rev David Shepherd, who became an England cricketer and later Bishop of Liverpool. He instilled his son Nick with a lifelong passion for the game. From Balshaw’s and Burton-on-Trent, he won an Exhibition to Jesus College Cambridge to read Part I English and never lost his love of literature and poetry. This was war time and he served as a Fire Watcher on the roof of Jesus College. He switched to Theology for Part II and went on to Westcott House for theological training, the path he felt sure about from his early teens. He was ordained in 1946 in Southwark Cathedral and served as a curate in Streatham (south London) and Barking (east London) during which time he married Bessie who had lived round the corner from the Vicarage in Stapenhill, Burton-on-Trent (the parish to which Reg’s father moved in 1938). In 1950 Reg moved to Bonsall in the Derbyshire Peak District to take charge of a parish for the first time at the age of 28. It was very remote and while the views may have been beautiful the rectory was freezing cold in winter and they couldn’t afford to heat it well. Much of Reg’s 42-year ministry as a priest in the Church of England was served in three parishes: St Francis Mackworth (a new housing estate on the outskirts of Derby), St Michael’s Northampton (an inner city warren of Victorian shoe factories and houses) and, finally, Ketton near Stamford (a vibrant and diverse rural community). Between Mackworth and Northampton were three years in Rockingham with Caldecott, where the church and vicarage, although only three miles from the mining town of Corby, were in the shadow of the magnificent Norman towers of Rockingham Castle.
Reg was involved throughout his career in ecumenical activities and was a member of the General Synod of the Church of England for a number of years. He was also committed to hospital chaplaincy work both in Derby, in a mental health hospital, and later in Northampton General Hospital, where he was dedicated to easing the suffering of the ill and dying. He continued to follow sport, especially cricket and loved occasional visits to Lord’s. He loved music, enjoying listening to records and later to CDs; he also enjoyed singing and belonged to various choral groups. He loved nature and was a member of the RSPB. After retirement he surprised many by becoming a Roman Catholic and was a very active member of the RC communities in Northampton, Norwich and Market Harborough during the last 10 years of his life. Reg had a son Nicholas and daughter Rachel, three grandchildren and five great grandchildren. He died on 7th July 2014.