Alan Neech: Norfolk rural dean’s mission work in India

A clergyman who spent more than 30 years as a missionary in northern India, Canon Alan Neech, has died aged 95.

He spent the last third of his life in south Norfolk having retired in 1981 to help the Bramerton group of Churches. Four years later, he became rural dean of Loddon in 26 parishes serving until 1990.

A year earlier, a service of thanksgiving was held at Holy Trinity Church, Loddon, to mark the 50th anniversary of his ordination.

Born at Oulton Broad, he was educated at Lowestoft Secondary School but felt called to missionary work at the Keswick Convention in the Lake District after studying theology at Tyndale Hall, Bristol, in 1934.

He sailed for India aged 21 but was still too young to be ordained. However, he had an ability for language and after passing examinations in Urdu and Hindi became a priest. As a fluent Hindustani speaker, he preached his first sermon after 13 months in India and working in the diocese of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh.

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He married American-born Evalyn, who was a missionary doctor in the Punjab, in 1940. They spent their next 27 years living in 24 houses, and brought up their three children.

While living at Banaras, the Holy City, now called Varanasi, which attracted thousands of visitors and pilgrims, they were privileged to be presented to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. They also met the Emperor of Ethiopia.

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In one memorable service, which coincided with Mahatma Ghandi's funeral in Delphi, he read the Sermon on the Mount in Hindi to 15,000 mourners. He was made a Canon of the Diocese of Lucknow in 1964.

He was invited to join the Bible Churchman's Missionary Society as overseas secretary. Then in 1966, he became general secretary of what is now known as the Crosslinks Society and returned to England.

His travels took him to Africa, when he was made a canon in 1972, for the second time, of Tanzania as a tribute to the work of the society.

For nine years, he was chairman of the Council of the Keswick Convention, which was dedicated to the deepening of spiritual life. He also twice visited Japan and also the United States.

Always in demand as a guest speaker at churches, he travelled Britain even into his retirement. He assisted the merger of three missionary training colleges, which led to the formation of the All Nations Christian College at Ware, Hertfordshire, becoming vice chairman.

He was a chairman of the Conference of British Missionary Societies and was also chairman of Trinity College, Bristol.

His wife predeceased but he leaves three children, Richard, Rosemary and Elizabeth, 12 grandchildren and 17 great grandchildren.

A funeral service has been held.

Michael Pollitt

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