A voice to be heard

PUBLISHED: 10:53 23 August 2007 | UPDATED: 12:46 04 May 2010

AUTHOR: Professor Stead with one of his many books. Photo: HELEN DRAKE

AUTHOR: Professor Stead with one of his many books. Photo: HELEN DRAKE

AS Canon of Ely Cathedral, the Rev Professor Christopher Stead was determined not to be seen as a dog collar on legs and became fully involved with life in the city. Now at the age of 94, although confined to a wheelchair and living in a nursing home, h

AS Canon of Ely Cathedral, the Rev Professor Christopher Stead was determined not to be seen as a "dog collar on legs" and became fully involved with life in the city.

Now at the age of 94, although confined to a wheelchair and living in a nursing home, he is still determined to have a voice and has just released his latest book.

A Voice in the Octagon is a collection of sermons from his time at the cathedral between 1971 and 1980.

These sermons, remembered "first time round" by his son, Martin, then a pupil at King's Junior School, were witnessed by dozens of worshippers who gathered for regular services at the cathedral.

Living at the time in the magnificent medieval Black Hostelry in the city with his wife Elizabeth and their three young children, Professor Stead was the last Professor of Divinity from Cambridge University to take up the position of Canon at Ely Cathedral. Holding this oldest and most prestigious position, he was adamant that he should be very much a part of the community.

"Lots of people think of clergymen as dog collars on legs," said Professor Stead, now living at Ely's Vera James House in Chapel Street. "I was very keen to keep in touch with the eight to 12-year age group and invited the choristers to tea.

"They were the only people who had to come to church. All the other worshippers had a choice but these boys had to be at all the services and all the rehearsals. With them my juvenile interests could be kept alive."

Professor Stead set up a magnificent model railway in the hostelry's 13th Century attic which delighted the young choristers.

Professor Stead also has a book published on railways called The Birth of the Steam Locomotive - A New History which is just one of many titles to his name.

When he retired he and his wife moved to Haddenham.

But a fall two years ago meant he could no longer live at home and since the spring of 2005 he has lived at Vera James House.

Among his treasured photos is a collection of his memoirs dating back to when he was just 10 years old, and there is bound to be another book in the pipeline.

A Voice in the Octagon can be bought from the Cathedral Shop, £3.99.

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