Monday, 20 August 2007

Book of Condolences

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When I see the modern manner by which he is addressed I feel I don’t know the man. He could sound like one on a wanted list. R.J. Sullivan aka Ritchie, Nicholas Owen, was nick[!] named Ould Nick by some of his students [with a few choice descriptions carved on some desks] and probably the ladies of Mary Ward also had some names for him . You remember him as a pastor, a good shepherd, an intellectual whereas he was always Ritchie to me, the fellow I met long ago in Liverpool . A mate whom I could talk to plainly and he to me.

I knew him as Ritchie and often called him Sullivan. In later years he claimed descent from Suleiman the Magnificent and often referred to himself as a little Turkish delight. He was aware that both names when translated meant “one eyed”. He took great delight in his surname, was an Everton supporter [brother Bernie was a Liverpool supporter] and the family had a dog called Paddy whose party piece was to sing for visitors.

I came to Liverpool aged 16 straight from the bogs in the Black North to work for my first and only employer in the Customs in Liverpool. We worked as clerks in Branch 6 in the Cunard building. The Chief Clerk was Tom Cronin from Cork whose claim to fame was the advice he gave to Beatty on the bridge at the Battle of Jutland. When Beatty said "there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today," Tom advised "Steer two points nearer the enemy." Advice which Beatty gladly accepted and the result is history. But I digress.

I was soon told about the fellow who had a crucifix in the middle of his desk. I liked him at first sight. Even in those days he never had a real scouse accent not like his brother Bernie, and as the years passed the accent became more neutral. He was in the Catholic Evidence Guild and used to preach at the Pier Head on a Saturday evening. I was always admonished by him - not preaching , he was licensed to speak on some subjects. I went at times to listen to him with a threat that I would heckle, but never did.

We had one thing in common. Both our parents were postmen. His mother was an intensely religious person and I believe gave him as birthday presents a certificate for one brick for the Cathedral and Butler’s Lives of the Saint’s. Will he appear in a future edition?

One of my memories of him was the Twalfth [my dialect] in Liverpool. I was invited by him to see the procession. We met in Shaw Street. I had never seen such a procession in my life. Billy on his magnificent white charger and the fervent inebriated followers dancing up the footpad singing “ee eye ee eye o ee eye Paddy was a bast…” Then a hail of stones came down from the gardens; a charge was made up the slope which soon ground to a halt due of a long day spent drinking William’s health and kicking the Pope. At any rate the miscreants had vanished. As each band passed SFX the big drum was soundly beaten. Now here was I a bog trotter who had never witnessed anything like this before in my life. I have seen our twafth parade on television but the Liverpool one was more enthusiastic, brighter, more fervent, and more organised. I recall at that time the Lord mayor was called Longbottom of the Independent Orange Order. The centre of Liverpool was closed to traffic for most of July and August. Again I digress.

He came with me to a couple of dances at Bootle Town Hall and up at the Cathedral . Both were around St. Patrick’s Day: I never saw him dance.

At work at times he would discuss the priesthood and would ask what order we should join. Being bigoted I would always plump for the Irish Misson to China. He never cared for them . They were lucky for had I gone to China I might have joined the long march and prayed from my little Red Book. But the day arrived when he told me he was joining the Salvatorians. I had never heard of the order and joshed him about becoming a member of the Salvation Army. But it was plain that something had happened and he was earnest. I often wondered how he picked the Salvatorian and later in life thought it was because he was half German. Later I got an invitation to his ordination.

I could go on and on about him. His mother visited us in Ireland and he was a constant visitor until 1993. He conducted our wedding in 1965 and also my daughter’s in 1993. I never bought his book but believe he referred to my wedding in it. I don’t know what he wrote but the truth is Father Farry the P.P came to him for his fee. Ritchie advised me of what was happening. I approached my brother who had forgotton to bring the money and Ritchie ended up paying. As a reward we brought him with us on our honeymoon.

I’ll leave you his good friends with this blessing

May the road rise to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

The rains fall soft upon your fields and,

Until we meet ,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Gordon McKeown

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Thanks to Fr Richard for providing sanctuary for me at times.

Thanks for his wonderful sense of humour and for sharing Gs and Ts with him.

In particular thanks for one confession which was difficult for me and probably for him too as he was not too well at the time.

Thank you for your generous giving of yourself.


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At the time when it was becoming more common for girls to become altar servers as well as boys, my four young daughters became servers at Keele Chapel in the early 90s.They were dubbed by Father Richard as "Serviettes."

As a family we remember many happy times among the varied congregation at Keele Chapel - with father Richard, of course, as its spiritual force. We loved him very much and will miss his humour and humanity. God Bless Richard!

Sue and Pete Holmes; Jessica; Isobel; Bryony and Cecilia.

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One of Richard's favourite poems was Francis Thompson's The Hound of Heaven and you can see why he identified so much with the poet because Richard spent his life living very much in this world but longing for the next. His whole life was a journey, as it is for all of us, and one where he constantly sought self-improvement and found himself wanting. He never censored anyone and yet he felt he was always just a whisker away from failure.

Richard was a very spiritual person though he did not think of himself at all as such. He often gave so much to others that he was exhausted and then would judge himself remiss if he took a short-cut in his prayers. He had great vision and clarity sometimes in his ability to cut through to the heart of a problem and find absolutely the right words to help, to console, to comfort and to uplift the spirits of those who needed to feel valued.

He was never the "simple little monk" he said he was and when people wonder what was his gift? What was it that made him so special? It is simply that he, like Francis Thomspon, spent his life searching for God, trying and often failing to be wholly virtuous, and his own very humble and often difficult beginnings enabled him to identify with the suffering and pain of all of us who crossed his path and walked with him for a while.

He never, ever, thought he was anything special. That was reserved exclusively for us.


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Richard was a remarkable man and an inspiration to all who had the pleasure meet him. He will be sadly missed but at the same time will always be with those of us who loved him.

Jan Lowe

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Richard always put others first and could always put people at ease. He lives on in our thoughts and prayers. His funeral though sad was a celebration of a wonderful fulfilled life. In our sadness, we hugged the person next to us for reassurance yet were able to smile at the thought of the Sullivan laughter and times past we all spent together.

Richard loved parties and bringing people together. We can all vouch that he was an excellent chef. Liam reminded me of the curries, which were remarkable because Richard did not particularly like chillis .

In time; perhaps the most fitting tribute to Richard's legacy is for us to gather together on the anniversary of his birth. (2 June)

As Anne White said that whilst we remember him, he remains with us.

Stephen Evans

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I have just been reading Richard's Blog and feel curiously at ease with the idea that he is gone, beacause he hasn't really gone whilst we remember him and can talk about him.

Ann White

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Richard taught me at Christleton Hall in the mid sixties. He was a very caring and gentle man. Last year,after forty years, I made contact with him and we spent a very peacful weekend at Chew Magna recalling our time together and stories of the people we knew.

May he rest in peace. (I was known as Anthony Fox by those who studied with me at Christleton.)

Danny Fox

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I thank God for having had the good fortune for knowing Richard for the last 30 yrs, but I wish it could have been longer. I thank God for Richard’s navigation on my own irregular journey in faith and I now have the hope that one day we can be reunited in glory.

The autobiography is a great comfort. Thank you Richard, that the book contained more "Blessing" than "Telling".

Your fellow (one-time) pipe-smoking buddy,

Liam Madden

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We have opened a book of condolences so that friends of Fr. Richard (RIP) can share their thoughts, observations, anecdotes, prayers.

I am sure Richard’s family in Liverpool and his world-wide Salvatorian family will be comforted by knowing that Richard guided so many of us on our journey of faith.

Please use the comment facility for this posting and I will intermittently transfer them to the book of condolences. If you prefer not to write anything but wish to contribute, then please just leave your name. If you forget to write your name then please contact me directly at and I will add it.

1 comment:

Helen and Mike said...

I need up to date addresses for Kevin Qwek, Winston, Maria Lee,Monique Platt, Michelle and David, Karen Wilson and Mr and Mrs Weiner.

If you are out there, or if you are friends of the above, please send the address to

Many thanks,