Derek Morton: First industrial chaplain at King’s Lynn

A pioneering industrial chaplain, Canon Derek Morton, who has died peacefully aged 82, took orders after working on the shop floor of an engineering firm.

After 20 years in industry, the newly-qualified vicar was appointed as the first industrial chaplain for King's Lynn in July 1972 by the former Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Lancelot Fleming.

He had worked for a dust-control equipment firm for five years in the sheet metal workshop and then in the drawing office as project manager before undergoing his theological training at Wells. He had met his wife, Jan, while they both worked for the same firm.

After ordination in 1969, he became a curate at the parish of Kibworth, near Leicester, for three years and then was surprised to be asked to become an industrial chaplain.

He was attached to St Faith's Church, Gaywood, for 13 years where he worked actively to help the unemployed and was instrumental in setting up the training agency Lynntask in 1980.

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He was chaplain to the mayor of King's Lynn and West Norfolk and was also involved with the Carr Gomm Society's half-way house at Fairstead.

His move to Norwich in 1985 was described as West Norfolk's loss. And Porvair's former managing director, the late John Morgan, recalled that it seemed unusual to have a man wearing a dog collar in the factory. 'But he was talking our language and his chats have been a tremendous help,' he added.

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When he handed back the keys to St Faith's in a ceremonial gesture after preaching for the last time in December 1985, the church warden Michael Fillenham said: 'We've been fortunate to have a man of Mr Morton's calibre in our midst.'

He become a canon in 1990 and was then rural dean for Norwich east until 1993 when he retired as senior industrial chaplain in July of that year. A leading Norwich councillor, Harry Watson commended his work on the city's economic development committee and said that he had encouraged 'linkage between civic life and the Church.'

He worked alongside the late Rev Hereward Cooke at St Peter Mancroft.

In retirement, he remained as chairman of Project 86 and a vice-chairman of St Martin's Housing Trust.

He leaves a widow, Jan, a son and two daughters.

A funeral service was held at Norwich Cathedral on Thursday, October 28 at 2.15pm.

Michael Pollitt

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