WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2007-11 > 1195389271
From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [WORLD-OBITS] VARAH: Edward Chad Varah
Date: Sun, 18 Nov 2007 12:34:31 -0000
The Reverend Prebendary Chad Varah
Last Updated: 2:16am GMT 12/11/2007
The Reverend Prebendary Chad Varah, who died aged 95, was one of the most
remarkable, and most highly honoured, Church of England priests of modern
The Reverend Prebendary
Single-handedly, Chad Varah founded the telephone help service for people
contemplating suicide which became known as The Samaritans and which, after
a period of rapid growth in Britain, provided a model for similar
organisations in most other parts of the world.
>From 1974 to 1986 Varah was founder-chairman, then president, of Befrienders
International (Samaritans Worldwide), and in his ninetieth year his great
contribution to human welfare was recognised by appointment as a Companion
A dynamic, combative priest of generous disposition and immense compassion,
especially for those with sexual problems, he was quite unshockable. But he
was perfectly capable of shocking the more conventional elements in his
Church, and far beyond it; and while the suggestion that he was responsible
for inaugurating the "permissive society" of the 1950s and 1960s was untrue
it was not entirely incredible.
A controversial article outlining what he believed to be an enlightened
Christian philosophy of sex appeared in a widely read magazine, Picture
Post, in 1953, and for some 20 years he was a consultant to the magazine
Forum, which specialised in the frank discussion of heterosexual and
homosexual problems and aspirations.
One of his many books, published in 1976, was entitled Telephone
The early years of The Samaritans movement were financed, in part, by Varah's
use of his gift as a visualiser, inherited from his mother.
This took him on to the staff of the then highly popular Eagle and Girl
children's comics, and eventually he was in constant demand for newspaper
articles and broadcasts on the subject of suicide.
Edward Chad Varah, the eldest of nine children, was born on November 12 1911
at Barton-on-Humber, where his father, Canon William Edward Varah, was the
vicar (he named his son after the founder of the parish, St Chad).
>From Worksop College he went on an exhibition to Keble College, Oxford, to
read Natural Sciences, but he changed horses midstream and achieved only
modest success in PPE.
He was, however, secretary of the university's Russian and Slavonic clubs,
thus beginning a lifelong interest in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and was
also founder-president of the Scandinavian Club.
Varah prepared for ordination at Lincoln Theological College, where he was
taught by Michael Ramsey, the future Archbishop of Canterbury; and although
he confessed to having had "unspecified sexual relations with an unspecified
number of girls" he became a curate of St Giles', Lincoln, in 1935.
In this new housing-estate parish he soon made a name for himself with his
marriage preparation classes, which included explicit sex instruction,
attracting young couples from all parts of the city.
After further curacies at Putney and Barrow-in-Furness, he became vicar of
Holy Trinity, Blackburn, in 1942.
There, he and a group of young men removed from the church the large, unused
galleries and, as part of a general enlivening of parish life, he instituted
an Industrial Harvest Festival in which representatives of all aspects of
local industry and commerce brought to the church examples of their work.