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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

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Tynedale: Former Hexham Rector loses cancer battle

FORMER Rector of Hexham and Vicar of Ovingham, Canon Michael Nelson, has died at the age of 69 after 40 years serving the church.

Former Rector of Hexham and Vicar of Ovingham Canon Michael Nelson.

He revealed last year he was suffering from inoperable cancer of the oesophagus.

The son of a Manchester bishop, Mr Nelson was an ardent Manchester United fan – a fact reflected by the Red Devils shirt he received among the many farewell presents he was given when he left Hexham for Ovingham in 2003.

His departure was also marked by a three-and-a -quarter hour peal of Hexham Abbey’s 10 bells, incorporating 5,040 changes, to mark the esteem in which he was held by the Abbey bellringers.

Born in Barrow-in-Furness, the son of the Bishop of Middleton in the diocese of Manchester, he grew up in Liverpool and Manchester.

He studied at the University of London, before going on to Mirfield Theological College in West Yorkshire.

He was ordained a priest in 1969, taking on his first job at Newbold in Chesterfield.

Posts at Gosforth, Ashington and Blyth followed, before he came to Hexham in 1993 to succeed Canon Michael Middleton.

His appointment was slightly delayed however, as before accepting the post he had agreed to take part in a three-month exchange visit with a parish just outside Melbourne in Australia – a must for the avid Neighbours fan.

He proved such a popular figure over the next 10 years that around 200 people attended his farewell party at Hexham’s Queen Elizabeth High School.

Each of the 16 members of the Hexham Abbey Sewing Group helped create two cushions – one for Mr Nelson and one for his wife. physiotherapist Fae.

After a decade in Hexham, he decided to accept the Bishop of Newcastle’s invitation to become the priest in charge of Ovingham, which includes Ovington, and the Area Dean of Corbridge, giving him pastoral responsibility for churches in the Corbridge Deanery.

While at St Mary’s in Ovingham he celebrated his 40 years in the priesthood.

He retired in 2009 and went to live in Bedlington.

As well as his wife, he leaves sons Robert and Daniel, and three grandchildren.

The funeral service will take place in Bedlington at a date yet to be fixed.