Father Denis – In memoriam

by Father Clive

On Sunday morning I received a telephone call from Ann informing me that Denis had passed away early that morning in his care home in Tavistock, Devon.

Denis Hutchings was an assistant priest at Saint James during the time of Fr. Francis Butcher and was someone who gave so much to so many. He was an enthusiastic rambler and led many a ramble and pilgrimages for the members of our family of Saint James. His parents lived in New Malden and his mother was an enthusiastic member of the Saint James Players….her role as Miss Marple was mind blowing as she was almost the splitting image of Margaret Rutherford.

Denis was not here all the time as he was also chaplain at Denstone College in Staffordshire and had been a Chemistry master at a school in south London. He had a great sense of humour and on four/five occasions welcomed up to twelve students and two staff to Denstone for a five day retreat for those who has just finished their ‘O’ levels. We studied the Prayer of Saint Francis, joined, in the school’s chapel services and had wonderful trip around Derbyshire. Michael Malone was also a visitor there and we can both tell you of one very amusing story but not for this text now. Denis became Vicar of Lydford in Devon for a time and then Vicar of Saint Budeaux Church in Plymouth where members of our Parish visited on several occasions. Both Denis and Anne would join us for a dinner at the Manor House Hotel on every holiday there with ‘Piggy Tours’. When in New Malden he would take part in various activities and outings.

During various times he acted as relief vicar in Cyprus and the Far East and his stories were really worth listening to. A truly remarkable life.

He and Ann retired finally to Tavistock in Devon and a group of us went down to celebrate his Golden Anniversary as a Priest….despite the fact that he could hardly walk and was on crutches he celebrated the Eucharist and went around the whole Church offering everyone the Peace…just what we expected from such a devoted priest and a man of faith. He helped at the Church with services again as an assistant. His health however got a lot worse and he was admitted to a Nursing Home in Tavistock. Ann visited him every day to keep his mind active and see he was OK but for the past seven weeks was not allowed to see him which for her is a terrible tragedy…..they were just inseparable. I visited him several times in the nursing home and saw him gradually deteriorate but he had a strong personality and kept going but in the end it was too much and he has sadly passed away.

I know he had a tremendous effect on my faith and he, Ann, Alice and myself shared many happy times. I know that Denis in now at rest with the God whom he served so faithfully for so many years and we who knew him gained so much in faith and knowledge and happiness from his energy and companionship.

Dear Ann is in our prayers and may Denis rest in Peace and Rise in Glory.

There are others who will remember Father Denis and might like to share their memories. Time has passed and I hope that I have remembered everything in the right order…let me know if not. But none of us shall forget him. The large icon of St. James by the candle stand was given to Saint James by Father Denis in memory of his parents.