Through a glass darkly – 25

Gordon Ogilvie RIP

Susie, Gordon, & Sylvia at St Andrews, 2015

Gordon Ogilvie died on September 29th, at the age of 78. Gordon and Sylvia had both been living in a care home in St Andrews since the start of this year. He died of a heart attack, having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and with Lewy body dementia [LBD]. Susie and I hope to attend the funeral in St Andrews at the end of this week. Provided that we can safely do so within the parameters of the current Scottish COVID regulations.

We first met Gordon and Sylvia at St Andrew’s, Linton Road, Oxford at the beginning of the 1980s. Susie and I were [becoming] new Christians. Gordon had come from being Vicar of New Barnet to become Director of Pastoral Studies at Wycliffe Hall. Not always a very rewarding role. He was, I think, the first member of staff at Wycliffe who had not trained there as a student. If that suggests that Wycliffe was a bit in-bred in those days, then I think that is probably true. But perhaps no more so than any other Anglican training college. When I consulted Gordon a few years later about the idea of my training for ordination at Wycliffe, he was characteristically guarded. But this may have been more about me than about Wycliffe.

This is not the place for a full cv. [Even if I was sure of all the facts.] I believe that Gordon grew up in Glasgow, that he went to church at St Silas’s, and that his first degree was at uni in Glasgow, where he was involved with the CU.  And then he went south to train for ordination at the London College of Divinity, before it grew into St John’s, Nottingham.  Prior to New Barnet, Gordon did his curacy at Ashtead, in the Guildford Diocese. In 1989 he moved on from Wycliffe to become first Priest-in-Charge and then Team Rector at Harlow New Town, in the Chelmsford Diocese. And in 1996 Gordon moved to his final job as Archdeacon of Nottingham, in the Southwell Diocese. He retired in 2007, after which he and Sylvia returned to Scotland to live in St Andrews.

My memories are of an engaging character, always well informed, a good and thoughtful preacher, a sometimes quizzical look, and a good friend. As I discovered when I consulted him about applying to Wycliffe, his responses were often elliptical. If you asked Gordon the test score, his reply might well encompass a short history of the rules of cricket, a sketch of the architecture of the pavilion where the match was being played, and a summary of the five-day weather forecast for the area. But the score would come. Eventually. Anyway we talked more about rugby than cricket. Early in our acquaintance he came to preach at the Christmas Eve, midnight service in Woodstock, where we then lived, and where preaching was a bit perfunctory. [A polite term.] But Gordon preached a scriptural, expository sermon of some twenty five minutes, and the congregation grumbled a bit at being home later than they had anticipated. A year or two later I recall his helpful expositions of 1 Peter at the Wycliffe Wednesday afternoon Communion services.

Gordon’s extra-parochial activities included a major involvement with Grove Books, alongside Colin Buchanan, [his successor as Chair of Grove Books was Bishop Robert Innes];  patronage work with Simeon’s Trustees over many years; and support for the church in rural Uganda. Which stemmed from a continuing friendship with a former student at Wycliffe. During the Wycliffe years Susie and I went with him and Sylvia on a long day’s outing to Brussels to try and sort out a Rwandan visa for him. We had, as I recall, breakfast at La Légende in the rue de l’Etuve, and lunch in Aux Armes de Bruxelles; and, visa secured, Gordon drove home rather fast in the fog. Word was that he really liked fast cars. Did he perhaps have a day in an E-type Jag for his 60th birthday ?

Gordon came and preached for us at Christ Church, Duns, recognising an Old Hutchies’ tie in the congregation. [It was a visitor.] He preached in Lyon too, and played the piano for us there.  And he was the main speaker at an ICS Family Conference at Le Pas Opton, a rather chilly camp-site and caravan park on the west coast of France. After his retirement in 2007, we met up periodically with Gordon and Sylvia in St Andrews, sometimes for golf, and in Edinburgh, once at Murrayfield but more often for lunch in a Thai restaurant. And in latter years for a meal at South Queensferry. 

Gordon and Sylvia, and CM, St Andrews, 2015

Perhaps related to his patronage work, Gordon had a near encyclopaedic knowledge of Church of England clergy. I would mention names to him sometimes, and he would effortlessly supply dates and parishes. He liked detail and getting things right. When he came to stay in Lyon the book that interested him most was Hart’s Rules, an authoritative reference book and style guide published by the Oxford University Press.

I guess that under COVID guidelines there will only be very few people at the funeral. But there is talk of a thanksgiving service at a later day. We shall miss him. Meanwhile I reflect that Gordon would have been an excellent Bishop of Glasgow. Certainly better than all those that I can remember !

October 2020

Published by europhilevicar

I am a retired vicar living on the south side of Edinburgh. I am a historian manqué, I worked in educational publishing for 20 years, and after ordination worked in churches in the Scottish Borders and then in Lyon in the Rhône-Alpes. I have a lovely and long-suffering wife, two children, and four delightful grand-children

3 thoughts on “Through a glass darkly – 25

  1. Were you referring to the ice conference at st Giles croix de vie? Because I drove from Cannes and remember a very chilly and damp mobile home! And his name finds a bell! Kindest regards to you both -love your blogs!


    1. Thanks, Virginia. Yes, that was the ICS Family Conference.In about 2003. I think that Gordon did some expository stuff on maybe Jeremiah. Disgracefully, what I remember best was our sharing an unheated caravan [mobile home] with Stephen and Marian Coffin. Did you know that Stephen died, sadly, about eighteen months ago ?


  2. Just back from Gordon’s funeral at St Andrews. Anna [daughter] recalled Gordon’s fondness fo a bargain and for end-of-the-day discounts at Waitrose. And his inveterate hunting for coins dropped in the street by students and tourists, which were meticulously recorded and sent to TEAR Fund. Anna [Sylvia’s sister] gave thanks for Gordon’s willingness to support and care for all four sisters. Trevor Hart [Rector of St Andrews] said that the congregation would miss Gordon’s pastoral wisdom and his dry wit. Delivered with a straight face. That sounds about right.


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