Colin Riches: Author and broadcaster was Methodist voice of Norfolk

Broadcaster and author, the Rev Colin Riches, who has died after a long illness, aged 82, became a 'voice of Methodism' across his native Norfolk.

His biblical stories in Broad Norfolk featured on Anglia Television's epilogue from 1975 and later led to publication of his two popular dialect books including 'Dew Yew Lissen Hare.'

A regular contributor to BBC Radio Norfolk since September 1980, he also appeared in Anglia's Highway programme and in BBC Television's Songs of Praise from Thursford Christmas show.

A long-serving Methodist minister, he served in Harleston, Martham, Diss, Dereham and finally Wells.

Born in Norwich, he went to Bracondale School, before joining the city's weights and measures office. He had always considered himself 'City' rather than 'Country' but when a friend asked him to help with the harvest at Shotesham All Saints, he gained a love of the country and was introduced to the Methodist Church.

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A member of the Chapelfield Road Methodist Church, he decided to train for the ministry and went to Wesley College, Headingley, Leeds for three years. His training was completed in a mining district at Platt Bridge, near Wigan, Lancashire.

He moved to Norfolk as minister of Harleston Congregational Church in September 1957, where he remained for five years until taking over a ministry at Edinburgh.

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Then he returned to Norfolk and was superintendent minister of the Martham circuit for eight years, where he had used his dialect to welcome new ministers at the synod of the East Anglia Methodist district.

The then chairman, the Rev Geoffrey Eddy, Free Church adviser to Anglia Television, was so impressed that he suggested a dialect recording be offered to the studio. The dialect reading of the 'Prodigal Son' was the first in the 'Bible for Today' series.

Then, he compiled 20,000 words of dialect for 'Dew Yew Lissen Hare,' which was a collection of New Testament favourites. Published in 1975, it sold more than 4,000 copies within weeks.

He had moved to Diss in 1976 and two years later his second book, 'Orl Bewtiful an New' was published, which contained 29 stories from the Old Testament, illustrated by his son, David. In the story of John the Baptist, beheaded on Herod's order, it became: 'Orf John went to heaven; no hid on.'

In September 1984, he became minister on the Dereham circuit, which included 10 surrounding villages, and five years later moved to the Wells circuit.

A regular broadcaster to BBC Radio's 'Pause for Thought' from 1976, first with Roundabout East Anglia and then with Radio Norfolk, he was also Methodist representative on the Norfolk Churches Radio Committee.

He received a gold badge for giving his 50th point of blood in March 1981 having started at college in 1952.

Two of his stories are contained in a new selection of Norfolk dialect stories, 'Come Yew On, Tergether, compiled by Keith Skipper, who added: 'I have many fond memories of mardles with him on Radio Norfolk's dinnertime show.'

Married to Pamela for more than 50 years, she died in 2007. He leaves a son, David, and daughter, Catherine, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A thanksgiving service will be held at Diss Methodist Church, on Friday, December 9 at 2pm.

Michael Pollitt

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