Canon Maurice Simmons (89) whose funeral in the Cathedral is at 2.15pm on Tuesday 19th Dec. was a distinguished alumnus of St Chad’s, a friend and contemporary of Mervyn Ellis, both matriculating in 1948. Maurice was ordained in 1952 and served in the Diocese of Durham for 64 years, the latter part of his ministry was as Vicar of St Mary’s, Norton and that is probably the context in which most people remember him today …… that and his subsequent voluntary Cathedral Chaplaincy.
However, the Maurice we knew in the 60s (in a very different world and Church) was pursuing a trail-blazing ministry of theologically-inspired engagement in training and in industry. Such work was of far-reaching consequence, spanning as it did the ending of the Post War Consensus, the de-industrialisation of the North East and the dawning of a global economy. As Youth Chaplain, his initiation of school leavers’ conferences, entailed careful building of relationships within regional industries – most particularly in the National Coal Board, for naturally ‘Coal was King’ in Durham. Sure-footed in his approach to senior management and unions and gifted in forming networks of collaborative endeavour, he developed (with his colleagues) a programme of work within the regional training centres of the National Coal Board. Some 40-50 parish ministers of various denominations were trained alongside the apprentices, afterwards spending a day each week in the training centres delivering a life-skills programme – one which naturally included discussion on faith and ethics. Indeed, the present RC Bp. of Hexham & Newcastle, when a curate at Leadgate, was one of the most popular contributors – not least in propagating the faith! The developing partnership between Church and Coal Board was seen to be mutually beneficial and Maurice developed a chaplaincy role which encompassed participation in the training of managers, as well as of apprentices. His leading of NCB-sponsored trips for trainees to the Pyrenees and to gliding sessions in North Yorkshire became well-known throughout the industry in Durham, paving the way for the introduction of chaplaincy in production pits by suitably trained local clergy. This and work in training centres was a truly ecumenical endeavour, initiated by Maurice and managed by his successors in office. His pit visits provided him with a vital overview of the industry, useful in relating both to senior management and unions. One of his successors will never forget inching behind Maurice, lying squashed to the ground, helmet scraping the rock above, along the 100yd. face of the 18” Victoria Seam at Bearpark! Maurice was as much at home there as at top-level Board Meetings of the NCB. His contribution to the Industrial Mission of his era was incalculable – driven by his vision, entrepreneurial and negotiating skills and wide network of regional acquaintance. He made the first contacts with the shipyards on the south bank of the Tyne and negotiated the way for industrial chaplains both in Consett and with the Caterpillar Tractor Company in Birtley. Together with his counterpart in Newcastle Diocese, Canon Peter Dodd, he was a founder member of what became known as Northumbria Industrial Mission……still running today, albeit in different mode, under the leadership of Fiona Usher. In retirement, Maurice came to reflect upon this and much else in his M.Phil dissertation, on The History and Theology of the Northumbria Industrial Mission
Maurice’s subsequent work with the Diocesan Social Responsibility Group, the Board for Mission and Unity and Family Welfare were a further testament to his remarkable energy and social concern. He is warmly remembered by those few of us remaining who worked with him, and by a surprising number of others in the region whose lives he touched for good and for building the Kingdom of God.
Obituary was written by Ian Zass-Ogilvie: December 2017
Canon Maurice Samuel SIMMONS (deceased)
Biography – Extracted from Crockford (Online)
Born: 23rd August 1927
Ordained Deacon: 21st September 1952
Ordained Priest: 1st January 1953
Education – St Chad’s College Durham BA 1950, Newcastle University MA 1999, Newcastle University MPhil 2002 – Dissertation on The Theology & History of Northumbrian Industrial Mission 1950 – 2000.
Ministry – Curate, SOUTH SHIELDS St Hilda – 21.09.1952-20.08.1958, Youth Chaplin – 01.01.1956-01.01.1960, Rector, CROXDALE (St Bartholomew) – 21.08.1958-19.07.1981, Soc and Ind Adv to Bp Dur – 01.01.1961-01.01.1970, Gen Sec Soc Resp Gp – 01.01.1970-01.01.1975, Hon Can Dur Cathl – 01.01.1971-27.11.2017, Sec Dioc Bd for Miss and Unity – 01.01.1975-01.01.1982, Vicar, NORTON (St Mary the Virgin) – 20.07.1981-31.10.1992, Retired – 01.11.1992-27.11.2017, Permission to Officiate – 05.07.2004-27.11.2017
Working first with young people in industry as part of his duties as Diocesan Youth Chaplain. Maurice was able to establish the network of chaplains who served the National Coal Board, first in the Training Centres and later throughout the Durham Coalfield. He transferred to industrial chaplaincy in 1960, being responsible for developing the work of the Church in the National Coal Board in County Durham. He also made the first contacts with the shipyards on the south bank of the Tyne and negotiated the way for industrial chaplains both in Consett and with the Caterpillar Tractor Company in Birtley. He was a founder member of what became known as Northumbrian Industrial Mission.
Maurice’s Dissertation p.205