Death of Earby deacon who was ‘minister for the people’

Malcolm King
Malcolm King

St Patrick’s Church, Earby, was packed as friends and family paid tribute to a multi-talented deacon who spent his life helping others.

The Rev. Malcolm King (68) died suddenly as he was due to undergo a heart valve replacement operation at Leeds General Infirmary.

His partner Brian Greenwood and long-time friend David Hartley described Mr King as a “minister for the people” with a flair for all things creative.

Previously living in Withnell, Chorley, Mr King ran a bakery when he arrived in Earby until 1992; the shop in Water Street was later converted into his home.

He had a heart attack in 1993 and recovered well enough to be ordained into the Catholic church in December, 1994.

He had already been serving as an organist at St Patrick’s Church.

Mr King’s first appointment was to the parish of St John’s, Normanton. He later assisted at St Joseph’s, Barnoldswick, and in recent years at St Stephen’s, Skipton, as well as at St Patrick’s.

Among his contributions to church life in West Craven, Mr King was chairman of Churches Together in Earby, Kelbrook and Salterforth for 15 years, instrumental in bringing the Catholic church in the area into communion with other denominations.

Mr Hartley said: “This was quite unusual for the Catholic church but he was very well liked by all the clergy he worked with.

“He was part of the ministry team that brought together the Methodist, Baptists, Anglicans and Catholics and really enjoyed the pulpit swops.

“Even though different Fathers have been and gone in the churches, he has always remained.”

Mr King also formed Earby Christian Singers, a choir representative of all the churches in Earby and still going strong. With well-received performances, especially at Christmas and Easter, he enjoyed leading the choir and was also heavily involved with the Earby to Bethlehem event.

It was his idea to incorporate real donkeys and babies into performances to give audiences a more authentic feel, and got the primary school involved.

Mr Hartley said he had also made a vital contribution to the town’s New Road Community Centre over the years.

Last year he was named Volunteer of the Year in the Mayor of Pendle’s annual awards, for his service to the centre.

He continued to work on the steering group to secure its future even when he was unwell.

Mr King was also very well known in the town for his drama and musical talents, which saw him direct musicals, plays and pantomimes, be involved with Earby Players, and teach youngsters how to play the piano.

His creative flair also extended to cooking, making food for events in Earby.

His most recent contribution was being in charge of catering for 100 guests at a celebration evening at New Road Community Centre to say good bye to the Young People’s Service staff.

Above all, Mr King was known for his kind-hearted nature, within and outside his capacity as a deacon.

Mr Greenwood said: “He would do anything for anyone. Someone had written a message which said ‘A light has gone out in Earby’. That sums it up perfectly.

“Any request for help he would fit it in. People would always say, ‘Would you mind doing this’, ‘Can you do that?’ and he would always say yes, even when he should probably have said no because he had taken too much on.”

Mr King became ill and had a heart valve replacement 18 months ago. In recent weeks he had developed endocarditis, an inflammation of a valve and was due to have a replacement operation when he passed away suddenly.

Mr King leaves his sister Sonya, who lives in Southport, and partner of 29 years, Brian.