Graham Long obituary

·2-min read

My father, Graham Long, who has died aged 83, was a United Reformed church minister who wrote reports from the New Forest for the Guardian’s Country Diary from 2003 to 2018.

He was born in London, the only child of Jonathan Long, a semi-professional violinist and building society manager, and his wife, Lucy Clare, a hairdresser at Harrods. In 1946 the family moved to Southampton and Graham did his schooling at Peter Symonds college in Winchester.

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He initially trained as a chartered surveyor before changing tack in 1958 to study theology at New College London. He was ordained into the Congregational church in 1962 and, having married Sheila Brock, a fellow congregationalist and hospital clerk, in the same year, he undertook his first ministry at Ash and Sandwich in Kent, before moving to the Channel Islands, where he was minister for the URC churches in Jersey and Guernsey.

Later, as a minister in Camberley in Surrey, he led the building of the new High Cross church there, a local unification of the United Reformed and Methodist churches that exemplified his belief in bringing people together. He also founded counselling services and support groups, chaired local and national church committees, and wrote books to help other ministers in their self-care and well-being.

In 2002, after his final ministry in Rugby in Warwickshire, he and Sheila retired to Fordingbridge in the New Forest. Less than a year later Sheila was killed in a car accident that also left Graham seriously injured.

In the beginning, writing for the Country Diary gave him a focus outside of church life to distract from the death of our mother. Later on, as he struggled with prostate cancer, it provided a reason to defy the pain and get out in the great outdoors. On many of his walks he was accompanied by Beryl Fletcher, a member of the Fordingbridge United Reformed church, whom he married in 2006.

Over the last few years I also went with him on a good number of the outings that led to his articles. Some days we did not go far at all, as his energy was low or pain high, but he always amazed me that without taking notes, other than photographs, he was able to conjure up a great description of what we had seen that day.

His faith meant he was not afraid to die, but he was incredibly frustrated that he had not completed so many tasks in hand. He died in Salisbury hospice with a good view over hedgerows and fields.

Beryl died in 2019. He is survived by his children, Andrew, Rachel and me, and four grandchildren, Kirstie, Callum, Abby and Jonathan.

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