A POPULAR vicar, dubbed ‘the people’s parson’ has passed away after a long battle with cancer.
Reverend John Lambourne, who was the vicar of St Mary’s at Salehurst for 30 years, died last Thursday (May 3).
Rev Lambourne touched the lives of many people in Robertsbridge and Salehurst, presiding over hundreds of parishioners’ weddings, Christenings and funerals over the years.
Many of those have written to Rev Lambourne’s family, expressing their condolences.
The reverend’s son, Matt Lambourne, said: “People are terribly upset, as are his family, but we are taking great comfort in the fact he made such a different to everybody’s lives.
“It’s going to be very hard living our lives without him, but we are all religious and spiritual people, so we feel he is very much around us still.”
Born in Reading, Rev Lambourne decided he wanted to join the priesthood after meeting an RAF padre during his National Service.
He quit a banking job for a career in the church, starting as a curate in Canterbury, moving on to East Grinstead, then Storrington, before arriving in Salehurst in spring 1976.
Rev Lambourne had a novel way of introducing himself to his parishioners.
During the long hot summer of 76, Rev Lambourne bought himself a white T-shirt with the word ‘vicar’ emblazoned across it and wore it out and about in his parish.
Matt says this set the tone for his father’s time in the village.
He said: “He was a real people’s parson.
“I don’t know if I can go into a pub or rugby club in Sussex where people did not know him.
“And he was a brilliant father.”
Matt added: “His great hobbies were rugby and golf and in fact he used to play for one of the Harlequin’s teams when he was younger.
“He was known as the ‘sporting vicar’.
“He used to play cricket in Robertsbridge and was known to take a wedding with his cricket whites still on under his cassock.”
Rev Lambourne was also a familiar face at the Salehurst Halt pub, which is located next door to St Mary’s.
Karen Collier-Keywood, joint owner of the Halt said: “He was a man who knew how to mix in the community. He was very accessible to people.
“He would be at the end of the bar, just having a chat with someone.
“We will miss him hugely.”
Rev Lambourne was the agricultural chaplain for East Sussex and a TA padre.
Working in the heart of the Sussex countryside also allowed him to indulge his passion for butterflies.
Rev Lambourne retired from the church in 2006 and moved to Lower Lake in Battle with his wife of 44 years, Lorna.
The couple had four children, Matthew, Kate, Rebecca and Victoria, and 14 grandchildren.
Rev Lambourne’s family gathered for his 76th birthday, less than a week before he passed away.
For a number of years, Rev Lambourne was also the chaplain at Vinehall School in Robertsbridge.
Amongst the condolences from Vinehall parents, Rev Lambourne’s family received a personal letter from Peasmarsh-based musician Sir Paul McCartney.
Headmaster Richard Follett said: “We are all deeply saddened by the death of Father John.
“He had been our school chaplain for ten years and conducted our chapel services with enormous devotion.
“His association with the school stretched back over 30 years.
“Father John originally coached rugby and taught religious studies.
“John was the head of a Vinehall dynasty.
“His son Matthew attended the school as have six of his grandchildren.
“His wife, Lorna is one of our long-standing secretaries and his daughter Kate was school nurse.
“John had a special skill of communicating with children of all ages and he will long be remembered with immense fondness.
“We offer our deepest condolences to Lorna and all his family at this difficult time.”
Rev Lambourne’s funeral will take place at St Mary’s Church in Salehurst on Tuesday May 22, starting at 2pm.
Family flowers only, donations to MacMillan Cancer Support and St Michael’s Hospice via C Waterhouse and Sons at Burwash.