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15 May 2009
Graham Taylor makes some interesting points about the process for awarding Blue Plaques and it is good to know that the criteria are to be reviewed in the light of his comments.
However valid his arguments may be, it is a great pity that he used his letter to malign one of this year's recipients. His comments about the late Fr. Nick Richards are both inaccurate and unfair. As far as I am aware his name was put forward by the Southwark Heritage Association and not by any Church group of supporters.
Mr Taylor claims that Fr.Nick was opposed to women. I know many of his female friends and parishioners who would dispute such a comment. He may have held a traditional view of a male priesthood in the Church of England, and contentious as that view may be, it was not the be all and end all of his ministry in Rotherhithe for almost thirty years, and it is a view held by a not inconsiderable minority in the Church of England as a whole today.
Fr. Nick was once convicted of a driving offence. It was something which caused him considerable sadness and about which he was absolutely penitent. He carried out his community service diligently.
Those who knew Fr.Nick and many who voted for him will have known about this indiscretion and the way he reacted to it. One offence does not sum up the life and work of a man who made a huge contribution to the life of many people in Rotherhithe and the local community for a generation.
Communities are not necessarily built on people who become famous and move away. It takes men like Nick Richards who devote their lives to local people and whose memory lives on not merely in Blue Plaques but in people's hearts and homes. The posthumous award of the plaque is a recognition of that work of love, and it is unfortunate as always when people choose to speak ill of the dead who cannot answer for themselves.
Fr. Mark Nicholls, Parish Priest, St.Mary's Church, Rotherhithe.
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