KEIGHLEY-bred writer the Reverend John Waddington-Feather has died in his 84th year at his home in Shrewsbury, writes Ian Dewhirst.
Born John Feather in 1933 into a well-known Lawkholme family, he was always grateful for the influence of the former Holy Trinity Church and his education at Eastwood and Keighley Boys’ Grammar Schools.
Although after teaching English at Keighley Boys’ and Salt Grammar Schools he moved nearly 50 years ago to take up a post in Shrewsbury, Keighley often featured in his work.
His verse-play Garlic Lane, which won the Burton Prize in 1999, drew on his boyhood memories of the Lawkholme Lane district and his e-book series of detective stories set in a thinly-disguised Keighworth, always opened with the discovery of a body in such identifiable locations as Ingrow St John’s churchyard, the public library or museum, or the Lawkholme Lane scrapyard!
His detective stories, particularly popular in America, led to a Puritan Drama Group in Texas commissioning him to write plays on John Bunyan, William Tyndale and Martin Luther, the latter due to be performed in Dallas this year.
John Waddington-Feather was a larger-than-life character. After graduating from Leeds University in 1954 he did his National Service in the Intelligence Corps in Cold War Berlin, also volunteering for parachute training.
On taking early retirement he spent nearly a year as a voluntary teacher in a trouble-torn Sudan and had to be evacuated with other Europeans in an emergency.
When he qualified as an Anglican non-stipendiary priest he took on a temporary ministry in the Yukon, visiting some of his congregations by canoe and flying-boat. From 1969 until recently he served as a priest visitor in Shrewsbury Prison.
A keen sportsman in his younger days, he played for the Keighlians. At various periods he was actively involved with the Bronte Society, the Yorkshire Dialect Society and the J B Priestley Society.
In the 1960s he appeared on-stage with the Keighley Little Theatre and he maintained a lifelong association with the Keighley Cycling Club of which his father had been a prominent social member.
His literary output was prodigious, ranging through novels, short stories, children’s books, poems, essays and sermons, latterly in the face of failing health.
He spent the last 15 years on hospital dialysis three times a week, and osteoarthritis had recently confined him to a wheelchair.
“Thank God I’m gifted with an active pen which keeps my mind going!” he wrote in one of his last letters to me. He died with a half-finished story on his desk.
He leaves a widow and three daughters, two of whom have inherited their father’s wanderlust and made their lives in Australia.