Rev. Canon Ralph Mayland VRD* - 1927 to 2020
|We have received the very sad news from Hexham that former Vicar of Ecclesfield,
Ralph Mayland, has died from complications associated with heart failure.
Born in Beeston, Leeds, Ralph was educated at Crossflatts Elementary School and
Cockburn High School. Ralph had his military service deferred towards the end of
WW II and he entered Teacher Training School in Leeds. In 1946, he joined the
Royal Navy as a recruit. Promoted to officer training, he stayed in the Navy after
compulsory national service and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. After 10
years, he left the Royal Navy to teach in London Secondary Schools, becoming a
member of Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. In 1957, he began training for ordination
at Ripon Hall, Oxford, and two years later was ordained Deacon in Southwark
Cathedral to serve as Curate at St. Andrew with St. Thomas, Lambeth where he
became a Priest in 1960.
|During this time, he met Jean Goldstraw and they were married in 1959. The
marriage was more than a love match as both Ralph and Jean had sharp intellects
and would enjoy a life debating a range of issues together. In 1962 Ralph was
appointed Priest in charge of St. Paul’s, Manton near Worksop, where he had a
brand new church building on a new housing estate and was also made a Chaplain
in the RNVR. In 1968 he was appointed Vicar of St. Margaret’s, Brightside, and
became a member of the Sheffield Industrial Mission.
|Ralph moved to St. Mary’s, Ecclesfield in 1972 where he was to stay for 10 years
becoming Chaplain to the Master Cutler. He was a vicar who led from the front with
clear and thoughtful sermons and quite firm and clearly expressed views about society.
While at Ecclesfield, he oversaw a re-ordering which included removal of some pews
and a range of changes including the completion of the nave altar. He had hoped to
include a kitchen but some objections from people wishing to prevent the church from
“becoming a coffee bar” resulted in a Consistory Court and deferment of the plan (the
kitchen and toilet were finally constructed in 2002)! Ralph, with his naval background,
also started an annual Trafalgar Day service, partly in commemoration of Nelson’s
chaplain, Revd. Alexander Scott, who is buried at Ecclesfield and whose daughter
Margaret married a previous vicar, Dr. Alfred Gatty. He lived in what was then the “new
vicarage” behind the church with his wife Jean and daughters Sarah and Alex plus a
range of animals in the vicarage “garden”.
|Jean became the first female licensed lay-reader in Sheffield in 1974 and was a lifetime campaigner for the cause of
women in the church, with strong support from Ralph, becoming a member of the National Synod and World Council. She
was also instrumental in revising the church services into what became known as the alternative service book or ASB. At
Ecclesfield, it was encouragement from Ralph and Jean which resulted in Norma Priest and Jeni Fryer training to become
licensed lay-readers with Jeni subsequently in the first group of women to be ordained in Sheffield. After leaving
Ecclesfield Jean was also ordained in the first group of women priests. Ralph was well liked in Ecclesfield and is
remembered with affection as a charismatic vicar.
|He moved from Ecclesfield in 1982 on appointment as Canon Residentiary and Canon Treasurer at York Minster. In York
he oversaw completion of the huge project to underpin the foundations of the building and the recovery from the fire in the
South Transept and also became Chaplain to HMS York. He was in great form when a group from Ecclesfield visited York
for a tour of the Minster and to see the amazing new foundations. As Canon Treasurer, he met both HM the Queen and
HM the Queen Mother. He retired from York after 12 years in 1994 and served as a non-stipendiary minister as honorary
curate in charge of St. Brandon’s, Brancepeth, near Durham, until he fully retired 2 years later.
In retirement, Ralph and Jean moved to live in Barmston on the East Coast near to Bridlington where they both worked
with the local churches including Bridlington Priory. Their final move was to Hexham in 2009. They were regular
worshippers at Hexham Abbey, sometimes preaching and taking part in leading services. Ralph continued his
association with the Royal Navy Reserves with the appointment as honorary chaplain to the Eighth Destroyer Association.
Ralph was always proud of the long service medal for officers in the Navy Reserves (Volunteer Reserve Decoration) in
1962, to which a bar was later added in 1972.
Visitors to their homes always received an extremely warm welcome and in Hexham were entertained in a sitting room
that was completely full of mementos from a full and busy life in the church and the Navy, each item with its own story.
Both Ralph and Jean moved into care homes last year with Ralph in a nursing home. A gathering of friends and family,
from near and far, celebrated Ralph and Jean’s 60th wedding anniversary on 25 July 2019, an occasion that was also
marked by a congratulatory message from the Queen. Ralph died peacefully in hospital on April 27th aged 93. Sarah had
been able to visit and Ralph spoke with Jean, Alex and his grand-daughters Lauren, Rachel and Isabel. The family were
so grateful that they were able to say good-bye to Ralph in these troubled times. There will be a small private cremation on
14th May and a memorial service in York Minster at a later date.
Ecclesfield Church sends its condolences and love to Jean, Sarah, Alex and family. RIP Ralph.
|Tending his flock
|Ralph and Jean with choir at