A clergyman who served as the priest in three Norfolk parishes has died at the age of 95. 

A love of people and enthusiasm for life threaded through all that Canon Derek Price did, from his four decades as a clergyman to his volunteer work with severely disabled people in Dereham during his retirement – as well as the many hobbies he kept up throughout most of his life.  

Born and brought up in rural Shropshire, he moved far from his farming roots but always considered himself a working-class boy. 

He attended Bridgnorth Grammar School, then enlisted for military service in 1945, and was posted to Japan immediately after the end of the war. It was on seeing the devastation in Hiroshima, just months after the nuclear bomb was dropped, that his thoughts of the priesthood crystallised into a decision.

Thetford & Brandon Times: Derek Price with his daughter Rachel Jackson beside Cranworth ChurchDerek Price with his daughter Rachel Jackson beside Cranworth Church (Image: Newsquest)

On returning to England, he studied for a degree in Theology at St Peter’s Hall, Oxford, and then attended Queen’s College, Edgbaston, for his theological training.  

It was while working as a curate in Marylebone, London, that he met Dorothy Forrester. They were married in 1956 and had three daughters.  

The family subsequently moved to the new town of Stevenage and then to Linstead in Jamaica in 1963, returning in 1967 when Derek became rector of East Harling. He was to remain in Norfolk for the rest of his life, moving to Thetford and then Castle Acre before retiring to Dereham in 1992.

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In his 13 years in East Harling, he made a huge contribution to the life of the community, firmly believing that the parson serves everyone, and not just the faithful. One highlight was a parish trip to see the passion play in Oberammergau in Austria, held once every 10 years. Most of the thirty or so parishioners involved had never travelled abroad before; some did not believe in cheque books and insisted on paying for their ticket in cash they had stashed under the mattress.

Thetford & Brandon Times: Derek Price with his daughter Rachel Jackson inside Cranworth ChurchDerek Price with his daughter Rachel Jackson inside Cranworth Church (Image: Newsquest)

During this time he was editor of the Norwich Churchman, a diocesan newspaper printed by Eastern Counties Newspapers.  

A man capable of both great wisdom and great silliness, he could turn his hand to comic parish revues as well as deeply felt sermons.  

In the 1980s, he was inspired to take up clowning, and on at least one occasion was known to celebrate communion in full clown costume and make-up. Both his love of ceremony and his sense of the absurd left an impression on his grandchildren, who recall the daily ritual of ceremonially saluting the grandfather clock before it was wound up.

He was an avid sportsman and enjoyed football, hockey, cricket, squash, tennis, and golf. He took up running later in life and ran his first of several marathons in 1982, aged 55. His motto was “you can do more than you think” and he raised money for many charities with his efforts.

Thetford & Brandon Times: Derek Price (vest number 1227) and his extended family at the Archdeacon's Charge charity run on May 4, 2015, at Houghton HallDerek Price (vest number 1227) and his extended family at the Archdeacon's Charge charity run on May 4, 2015, at Houghton Hall (Image: Family)

He and Dorothy shared a love of growing things. She filled the garden of their Dereham home with flowers, while he tended the allotment. She died in 2004. 

The following year, however, brought a new joy with the birth of his first great-grandchild. He was devoted to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who remember his warmth, laughter and willingness to listen.  

His ministry was always rooted in love for ordinary people and for the world. In a memoir written in 2002, he wrote that what he saw in Hiroshima made him realise that he had to “do all I could to work in the interest of love.” 

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With his mobility failing, he spent the last few years of his life in the care of the Norwich Methodist Home, Cromwell House, enduring with fortitude the challenges of the Covid pandemic, supported by family nearby.  

He died on December 3 and leaves three daughters, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. A funeral will be held on Friday, December 30 at 11.30am at East Harling Parish Church. Contact Littleprouds Funeral Directors for more information. 

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