Farewell to Grantham priest Father Norton Collard who has died at the age of 94
The funeral service of a clergyman who wrote a column in the Journal every week for 26 years has taken place in Grantham.
Father Norton Harvey Collard died at the age of 94 on March 17. His funeral service took place on Tuesday at St Anne’s Church, where he was vicar of the parish from 1970 to 1987.
On Wednesday he was taken to Gravesend, where his wish to be buried with his parents was fulfilled.
Fr Collard wrote a column called Thoughtful Moment for the Journal from 1985. He never missed a week of writing the column, until he fell ill in 2011 when he suffered a stroke. He still managed to write a few more columns from his hospital bed.
At Tuesday’s service, Fr Collard’s son, Harvey, gave the eulogy in which he told the congregation of 140 people about his father’s illustrious past in London.
Before becoming a priest, Fr Collard worked in the advertising industry and was a pioneer of television advertising. He wrote only the third ever advert for TV, for Country Life butter, and also penned some memorable advertising slogans including ‘Don’t say bread, say Hovis’ and ‘Esso – put a tiger in your tank’.
Fr Collard appeared in some TV advertisements himself and was a keen amateur actor, playwright, and director with the Erith Theatre Guild. He had an Equity card and always had a love of film and the theatre.
Harvey told the Journal: “He was a writer, producer, director and almost everything in those days. I still have all the newspaper clippings with the reviews of his plays and the photos. It was this that brought him to the attention of the executives at ITV and he became involved in investigating the possibility of advertising in TV.
“It was nice in a way to see that many people at the service had no idea he had led that kind of life before he gave it up to join the clergy.”
Harvey described his father as a ‘tidy hoarder’. Fr Collard kept all his old scripts, plays, photos, billboard posters and newspaper reviews in a filing cabinet which would later be joined by his sermons and Journal columns.
Harvey, who is a former King’s School boy, said his father was ‘old school’ and would always dress properly and never missed a deadline for his Journal column. “I think that goes back to his advertising days when he had deadlines,” he said. “But he was early for everything. He was that kind of character.”
Fr Collard served in the RAF in Egypt during the war when he got involved in shows.
He married Rosemary at the age of 42 and they had three children, Harvey, Suzanne and Louise.
In his sermon Harvey said: “A huge change in his life came about in 1963 when he gave up his successful career in London and his amateur dramatics to enter the priesthood. There was no particular one thing that made him do this, just a series of events – he always said that he knew it was just something he needed to do.
“Theological College in Rochester was followed by curacies in Swanley and Dartford, before being offered the parish of St Anne’s here in Grantham which was to be his one and only living.
“He loved this church, this parish and this town, and served them all so wonderfully until his retirement in 1987.”
In retirement, Fr Collard still served the church, looking after the Harlaxton group of parishes and also St Wulfram’s whenever he was needed. He also helped at St Mary’s in Stamford and was chaplain to the Royal Corps of Transport at the Prince William of Gloucester Barracks in Grantham.
Fr Collard suffered a stroke in 2011, but after a spell in hospital he was able to return to his home in Kenwick Drive.
But he missed many things he was able to do before his stroke, such as play the piano, drive his car, write and socialise.
But his pastoral care continued and he would regularly phone parishioners, often from his kitchen table, when it was a birthday or a wedding or bereavement anniversary.
Harvey added in his eulogy: “He touched the hearts of so many, and was of course a loving dad to the three of us and grandad to his five grandsons and one granddaughter.”