MARION Bamford, who was one of the first women to become a priest after the Church of England voted to allow them to be ordained, has died aged 78.
Although at first she resisted the ordination of women, she later went on to be an inspiration to others as well as being known in the communities she served for her kindness, caring nature and ability to be a good listener.
The Reverend Marion Bamford was born in Teesside, the daughter of Sydney Williams, a railway guard, and his wife Annie. The family moved around the North of England with his job including for a time living in the remote railwaymen’s cottages at Garsdale Head on the Settle to Carlisle line.
Her father died when she was six, as a result of being gassed while serving in France during the First World War – he forged his age when he signed up in 1914 claiming to be 18 when he was only 16.
Her mother remarried a few years later and the family moved to Saltburn where Mrs Bamford attended the Girls’ High School becoming Head Girl in her final year. From there, she won a scholarship to Kings College, London, and studied General Arts, including theology.
Her mother was a committed Christian and brought her daughter up in the Church of England and at Kings she continued the tradition. After gaining her degree, she took a teaching post in Spalding, Lincolnshire.
In 1960, she moved to Dewsbury to be head of Scripture at the Wheelwright Grammar School for Girls. There she was invited to play tennis by Keith Bamford, a young physics master at the local boys’ grammar school, and they married in 1962.
In Dewsbury the family regularly attended Thornhill Parish Church until, in 1972, they moved to Ilkley.
After her two daughters started school, she returned to teaching. She took a temporary post in Otley and then became head of the Adolescent Unit at Scalebor Park Hospital, Burley-in-Wharfedale, teaching young people with a variety of additional needs, liaising with their schools and helping them to achieve educationally while undergoing treatment at the unit.
The family worshipped at Addingham Parish Church, where her husband became organist, she and their elder daughter Lois were Sunday School teachers, and their younger daughter Ruth was a bellringer and a member of Junior Church.
It was at Addingham that her deep religious faith led her to the conviction that she wanted to work within the Church of England so, in 1982, she began training as a Deaconess with the Northern Ordination Course, travelling to Manchester one weekend in four.
She was ordained deaconess in Manchester Cathedral in 1984 and worked alongside her day job as a non-stipendiary assistant at Baildon Parish Church until Ruth finished her A-levels. She then became Curate at South Kirkby Parish Church, near Pontefract, in 1985. Her husband was by then teaching at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield.
She spent nearly five years at South Kirkby, before obtaining her own parish in 1990 as Deacon in Charge of Brotherton, near Ferrybridge, also in Wakefield Diocese.
The Bishop of Wakefield at the time was Dr David Hope, later to be Archbishop of York, and she took part in one of the pilgrimages he led to the Holy Land which was a great adventure for her as she had rarely been abroad. Initially she resisted the ordination of women priests after the Church of England’s General Synod voted for it in 1992, but while at Brotherton she felt God was calling her to become a priest.
When legislation was enacted in 1994, she became one of the first to be ordained becoming priest-in-charge of the parish until she and her husband retired in 1996 and moved to Eldwick, near Bingley. There she continued to serve as a non-stipendiary priest working with local churches.
Away from her church commitments she was a keen walker and led many walking groups and Youth Hostelling holidays with her students, having a particular love of the Lake District
Following the death of her husband a month after they celebrated their Golden Wedding in August 2012 she decided to move to Penistone, near her daughter Ruth and her family,
and was looking forward to continuing her ministry with local clergy there early this year. But she was diagnosed with cancer in January and died on Maundy Thursday, one of her favourite Holy Days. Dr Hope was principal celebrant at her funeral at Holy Trinity Church, Bingley.
She is survived by daughters Lois and Ruth and grandchildren Robert, Patrick, Edward and Heather.