Obituary: The Rev. Peter Murphy – maverick Lyndhurst and Hythe vicar
REMEMBERED for his inclusive approach and maverick sermons, former Lyndhurst and Hythe vicar the Rev. Peter Murphy has died at the age of 81.
Peter was vicar of Hythe Church in the 1980s before moving to Lyndhurst where he remained until 2005.
His son Jon said: “He never turned away anyone in need and this insistence often landed him in trouble for one reason or another, but he was never a man to let go of his unique moral framework.”
Highlights of his career included frying an egg in the pulpit; leading a sponsored dog wee with his pet Sinner; arranging probably the first internet marriage; and conducting services in a pub.
Born on Guernsey in 1940, Peter was evacuated as a baby shortly before the occupation. His family moved to Brighton where his father ran a corner shop and they became involved with the local church.
Hampered by dyslexia, Peter underachieved at school but with support retook his GCEs and A-levels to secure a place at Kings College London to read theology.
Peter’s first position was serving under the Rev. Cuthbert Scott in his Hyde Park parish in London, where he spent five years. Here he become involved in services for the blessing of horses. The event started in 1967 and celebrated its 50th anniversary with Peter at the helm in 2017.
Peter also helped with Saints and Angels News, overseen by former Time/Life Magazine editor Walter Greber, who sparked a lifelong enthusiasm for photography.
During this time Peter struck up a friendship with Nicholas Brown, a retired naval officer, and together they shared many ocean-bound adventures including the New York Yacht Club Rally off Croatia, cruising in Maine and Denmark, and racing together in Salsa.
Peter’s next role was as vicar of All Saints’ Church in Basingstoke where he became a guiding force and the chief cartoonist for its sometimes controversial parish magazine, launched as the Ephing Times.
Jon said: “Another of my dad’s loves was real ale. He would often serve behind the bar at The Bounty, the pub closest to the church. Here he was affectionately designated pub chaplain and was often to be seen wearing a sweatshirt claiming the honour.” In later years Peter was a popular figure at the Royal Oak at Fritham.
Always keen on colourful and imaginative services, Peter was a fan of outdoor worship and held baptisms in a variety of unexpected locations, including on a boat in the Solent.
He held a wedding in the 1980s over the fledgling internet, uniting a US bride with a British groom – probably the first of its kind.
Peter’s love of the sea drew him to Hythe in 1982, where he was involved with the Ocean Youth Club, which takes children sailing in 75ft yachts.
He became chaplain of the Calshot RNLI lifeboat which flew its flag at half-mast and in a tribute wrote: “Murph’ was an incredibly special person who made it his business to welcome everyone. No matter how long you’d been around, 30 years or two minutes, he knew your name and put you completely at ease. A beautifully grounded man. We’re all going to miss you so much.”
Peter embraced New Forest life and took part in the drifts and annual point-to-points on his daughter’s pony. After retiring in 2005 Peter continued to take services on a part-time basis for Breamore and Fordingbridge. His last service for St John’s in Hythe was at Christmas.
Peter died in Southampton General Hospital last week. He is survived by wife Trish, sons Benjamin, Jonathan and Daniel, daughter Saskia, five grandchildren and previous wife Valerie. Donations can be made to Calshot RNLI.