Duchars, Leonard (1899-2001)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference

LEONARD DUCHARS: born in Middlesbrough on 1st August 1899, was raised in a Methodist family. His father was a ‘Wesleyan’ and his mother a ‘Primitive’ — which may account for his later enthusiasm for ecumenism — and throughout his young days, his interests, social and religious, revolved around the church. He was in the army for a year from 1918-19 but, mercifully, was never called to go to France. After that he attended a mission in his home church and felt the call to go forward and to give himself to the Lord Jesus Christ. The missioner told him something that would stay with him forever; he said, ‘Always remember, you are a learner in the school of Christ.’ And Leonard did remember. So much so that, after a hundred years, he confessed, ‘I’m still  learning.’ 

He was confident and yet humble, a man with a deep and genuine spirituality which undoubtedly arose from his having put Christ firmly at the centre of his life. In 1921 he was accepted as a candidate for the Primitive Methodist ministry and, because of a shortage of ministers, he was posted immediately to serve as a Probationer in New Southgate, London, and after twelve months to Banbury. Only then did he go to Hartley Theological College in Manchester for three years of more formal training. He concluded his probationary period in Darlington and was ordained in his home church in 1927. It was then that he married May. He’d known her from earliest childhood — as babies they’d ‘swapped dummies’, was what he used to say. They went to the same school, the same church and shared the same interests. ‘I always knew I would marry May,’ said Leonard. And so he did. 

Their first circuit was Burnley and it was there that their first son, Denis, was born. Their second son, Keith, was born in Darlington where they spent four happy years. This is the way Leonard summed up his ministry in Darlington. These are his words: ‘I wanted to preach plainly, lead worship that was meaningful, get to know the congregation and work among young people.’ His next circuit was Middlesbrough, followed by Birkenhead. This was during the war years — a most demanding time for everyone — but Leonard served the community so faithfully that, many years later, people were still talking appreciatively about the wartime ministry of the Revd Leonard Duchars. From Birkenhead he went to Wallasey and then, in 1951, to the Isle of Man. Throughout the island he was appreciated as a clear preacher, a good pastor and a gifted administrator. 

He had many other gifts too. He played the piano, had a lovely singing voice and enjoyed painting. In 1957 he went to Cornwall, where he served in Truro and St Austell. During those years he and May were host and hostess at many Guild Holiday Homes. Then, after forty-six years in the active ministry he retired — except that it wasn’t really retirement. He went back to the Isle of Man, where he served for four more years as an Active Supernumerary minister at Laxey. He ‘retired’ again in 1971 and moved to Onchan. It was in June 1975 that his wife May died, after forty-eight years of marriage. It was, of course, a heavy blow. But Leonard bravely continued on his own, with his faith in God’s love, his self-determination and a very loving and supportive family. 

As time went by, he continued to preach regularly, and clearly demonstrated that, in spite of his advancing years, he was up-to-date in his thinking. He seemed to be able to cross the ‘generation gap’ and could communicate with young and old alike. His sharp mind and deep spirituality ensured that he always had something of value to share, either from the pulpit or in conversation. When he was ninety-eight, he destroyed almost all his old sermons — some dating back seventy years — and then he went on to write new ones. 

On 1″ August 1999, he celebrated his one hundredth birthday by preaching to a packed congregation in Trinity, Douglas. His theme was the love of God expressed in Jesus Christ and he said that, even at the age of a hundred, he continued to be amazed by both the simplicity and the depth of the gospel. When his health deteriorated, he agreed to leave his bungalow and move in with his son Denis and daughter-in-law Pam. It was only towards the very end that he was taken into a nursing home. His sight had become so bad that reading was out of the question and his hearing had failed, but, even then, there were many occasions when he could hold a good conversation. He died peacefully in the early evening of 18″ September 2001 in the one hundred and third year of his age and the seventy-eighth year of his ministry.

Family

Leonard was born on 1 August 1899 at Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, to parents Robert Henry, an engine fitter (1901), and Jane.

He married May Bellas (1899-1975) in the spring of 1927 at Middlesbrough, Yorkshire.

  • Denis (b 1929)
  • Keith (b 1933)

Leonard died on 18 September 2001 on the Isle of Man.

Circuits

  • 1921 Enfield
  • 1922 Banbury
  • 1923 Hartley
  • 1926 Darlington
  • 1927 Burnley I
  • 1930 Darlington
  • 1934 Middlesbrough
  • 1938 Birkenhead
  • 1945 Wallasey
  • 1951 Douglas
  • 1957 Truro St Mary’s
  • 1958 Truro
  • 1963 St Austell
  • 1967 Laxey (Sup)

References

Methodist Minutes 2002/27

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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