Tributes: Popular vicar and ‘great character’ dies aged 95

The Rev John Finch pictured selling wine for Garstang St Thomas' organ fund many years ago.
The Rev John Finch pictured selling wine for Garstang St Thomas' organ fund many years ago.

The Rev John Finch, one of Garstang’s great characters, has died aged 95.

Friend of 31 years, Canon Ron Greenall said Mr Finch, who had also become a well-known personality within the Goosnargh community after making his home there three years ago, died peacefully on Sunday at the Royal Preston Hospital surrounded by his family.

Born and bred in East Lancashire, Mr Finch was vicar of St Helen’s, Churchtown, from 1975 until retiring in 1986 and becoming honorary curate at St Thomas’s, Garstang, until 1999.

Paying tribute to the father of three and with whom he said he had shared “many hair-raising experiences,” Canon Greenall said: “John was one of the unique characters of Garstang and a friend to so many.

“A most faithful priest and, above all, a devoted husband and father.

“He certainly missed his wife Hannah, but it did not stop him enjoying life to the full.

“A priest of the old school, but with a mind that took in modern thought, he even wrestled with a computer .. and he is the only vicar I have known who had his own beer tankard in his local inn, The Punchbowl.”

Mr Finch was a past master and chaplain of St Michael’s-on-Wyre Lodge and, together with Hannah, formed Garstang Masonic Fellowship for retired Masons and their wives.

Founder of the “Voice of the Church” column in the Garstang Courier and Longridge News in the late 1970s, Mr Finch was a regular visitor to the newspapers’ offices over the years where his presence, humour and warmth were greatly enjoyed by all.

“He always greeeted you as though he had known you all his life,” said reporter Gillian Whalley and reporter Nicola Jaques said: “You would always have a chuckle when John was around, I’d say how well he looked and he swore it was starting his day with a proper English breakfast.”

On his move to Goosnargh Mr Finch became an active resident of Bushell House and St Mary’s Church community, lending a hand and joining in whenever he could and was still singing in St Mary’s choir until seven weeks ago.

Mr Finch served in the navy during the Second World War and survived his ship being torpedoed. He had many a tale to regale from all periods of his life, including those from his navy days and serving alongside the Duke of Edinburgh.

After the war, Mr Finch worked with the Missions to Seamen in Whitby before being recommended for ordination by the Archbishop of York, becoming a deacon in 1961 and priested in 1962.

He served as vicar of Habergham Eaves, Burnley, in the St Matthew’s parish from 1968 until his move to Churchtown where, said Canon Greenall, he helped to reinstate St Helen’s Patronal Festival.

“He was also very effective in organising the Whit Saturday walking procession and made many discoveries of ancient memorabilia in St Helen’s Church,” added Canon Greenall, who will lead

Mr Finch’s funeral and thanksgiving service on Tuesday, November 3, at 12.30pm at St Helen’s, to be followed by a private interment at the family grave at St Thomas’, Garstang.

Mr Finch leaves sons Peter and John and daughter Elizabeth.