Canon Ron's remarkable Reverent Reflections record

Is he a record breaker? Lancashire cleric Canon Ron Greenall has been writing his weekly newspaper column for nearly 30 years.

Thursday, 28th January 2021, 1:12 am

This week marks a milestone for a remarkable Lancashire cleric.

On Sunday, January 24 it was Canon Ron Greenall's 80th birthday.

This week also sees another very significant anniversary - 30 years since he was invited to write his first column for a Lancashire weekly newspaper - our sister paper the Garstang Courier.

Canon Ron Greenall

Now, more than 1,500 columns later, his work is syndicated to several local titles, as well as the Courier News an is eagerly turned to by readers seeking his characteristic mix of history, reflection, nostalgia and humour.

The former vicar of St Thomas's Garstang, who lives in Catterall with wife Beryl, and was brought up in Preston, recalled how he began his writing career.

He said: "The first article I ever wrote was for the Harris Children's library magazine when I was nine on 'My town of Preston'." I have written parish magazine articles every month from 1961 and I'm still writing them now."

It was in 1991 that the then editor of the Garstang Courier took Ron out for a birthday lunch and proposed he write a column for the weekly paper.

One of Canon Ron's treasured photos shows him receiving Maundy money from the Queen at Blackburn Cathedral

Ron recalled:"He suggested I write for him for £10 a week for four weeks. I said I couldn't write it for money but I would write it as long as he allowed our adverts for church to be free in the advertising columns!"

His first column, entitled ' Hot Under The Collar", appeared some weeks later. After about five weeks it evolved to become 'Reverent Reflections' with Ron homing in on local history and memorable past events and pictures.

Canon Ron recalled many visits to the then Courier office where he picked up his copy of the paper. He said ; "In those days I wrote about 150 to 200 words and there was just one picture about a local history event. People gave me all sorts of materials and loaned me pictures.That's how it started".

His article now features seven photos or illustrations each week and runs to 500 words.

Canon Ron sharing his enthusiasm for model railways at St Helen's Churchtown Patronal Festival

Over the years his column has helped reunite friends and families, sparked happy memories and met a growing appetite for nostalgia.

Canon Ron, who arrived to take up his role as vicar at St Thomas's in 1984 two days after the Abbeystead disaster, credited the late journalist and cancer appeal campaigner Pat Seed with teaching him about the art of a good column.

As a founder trustee of the local Bowland Village Trust/ Shared Approach charity, which helps those with physical and/or emotional conditions he was also able to share stories with the Courier about its development from an idea to its present role providing accommodation and support for 26 residents in eight homes in Garstang and district.

At one point the Canon suffered a period of ill health, developing a heart problem and extreme neuropathy but he carried on submitting his column - for those months dictating it to staff journalists to type up.

He also shared many of his pictures in his local history book entitled 'Garstang In Times Past'.

Over the years readers have gained insights into Canon Ron's own interests and personal history - from growing up in Victoria Street, Preston where he attended St Thomas's school, Moor Park Methodist school and the Harris Technical School to his love of train sets and cooking.

One or two pictures stand out for him - being presented with Maundy money by the Queen at Blackburn Cathedral and taking a photo for the Courier of the new Pat Seed scanner being unveiled at Christie's hospital in Manchester.

He studied for O' and A'levels at night school whilst working in the office at Preston Corporation's transport department.

From the age of 14 he had felt called to the ministry and was one of the youngest people to be ordained in the Blackburn diocese at the age of 24, becoming a curate in Adlington, near Chorley. He then spent two and a half years in charge of St Anne's Church Centre in Moor Nook, Ribbleton, before serving as vicar at Coppull for some 15 years.

He retired from his post in Garstang in 1999 and has continued to minister in and about the area, leading services when needed and providing support to parishes when appropriate. Since late summer 2019 he has been Honorary Coordinator of Ministry at St Anne's, Woodplumpton, taking regular services.

Researching the column is, he says "tremendous" and has given him many insights into times past. He said: "It's quite wonderful. I've enjoyed it. Yes it brings a tremendous challenge."

It has been a labour of love which continues to this day.