Memorial for 'sporting vicar' who collapsed while preaching

A memorial service is being held for Rev Tony Clemens who died in 1976.

A memorial service is being held for Rev Tony Clemens whose legacy lives on in Gorleston. - Credit: supplied by Peter Cresswell

A memorial service is being staged in tribute to a town vicar who was also an able seaman in the Navy, an intelligence officer, and a football referee.

The Reverend Anthony Clemens was a respected and much loved vicar of Gorleston for ten years until 1976.

His sudden death in Northgate Hospital in 1976, aged 55, a week after he collapsed while preaching, was front page news locally triggering an outpouring of grief and sadness and a flurry of letters to this newspaper hailing his jovial nature and enthusiasm.

St Andrew's Church, Gorleston (photo: James Bass)

St Andrew's Church, Gorleston (photo: James Bass) - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

He was buried in the Magdalen Cemetery at Oriel Avenue, Gorleston.

Now a refurbished headstone has been placed there, and, at the initiative of his son Adam a teenager at the time of his father's death, a memorial ceremony will take place at the cemetery on Wednesday, March 9 at 12pm.

Rev Clemens was a founder of Gorleston Rotary Club and a chairman of Gorleston Football Club for three years.

He also stood as a conservative candidate for the St Andrews Ward in 1973.

Most Read

HIs varied life spanned being an able seaman in the Navy and an intelligence officer in the  Far East before training at Oak Hill Theological College and being ordained in 1951.

He came to Gorleston in 1966, taking over from Canon Ernest Corbell, vicar for 22 years.

By all accounts he threw himself into local life visiting almost every household in his first few months as well as conducting services at factories.

It was also said he rushed between weddings and home games on Saturdays. 

Under his inspiration and leadership the Chapter House, adjoining St Andrews Church,  was built widening the appeal and reach of the church to take in the wider community.

The new building also lead to the creation of the St Andrews Festival of Music and the Arts - a huge event in the town's cultural calendar for many years.

Peter Cresswell, former deputy manager at Wellington Pier, said he was a "larger than life" character who everyone knew.

"Here I am in my 70s and out of the many people I have met he is up there with the tops," he said.

Anyone wanting to attend the ceremony can contact Peter Cresswell on 01638 661138 or 07960 733420 for further details.