After Philip Tindall retired, the church had difficulty finding a suitable replacement. Into this void came Magnus Cluness Ratter. Born in Shetland in the last year of the 19th Century, Magnus volunteered to come to us as an interim minister while we searched for the right person. He was already into his 70s, but a man of prodigious energy and no little eccentricity. Being born in Shetland, his first language was Gaelic and he had a soft Scottish lilt in his voice.
His background was extraordinary. He had been a conscientious objector and in his late teens was imprisoned in Dartmoor during the First World War. He trained at Manchester College Oxford, and ministered to various churches, including two stints as minister in Cape Town. He also spent time in the Khasi Hills in India as a Unitarian Missionary. A devotee of Albert Schweitzer, he wrote a biography of him published in 1935 (copies can still be found on various internet booksellers).
On appointment to Newcastle he moved in, putting his bed in the Minister’s vestry and living on the premises. He would always visit meetings of church activities and chat to members. He preached without a note and yet always finished on time. His sermon subjects included the Readers Digest and Mickey Mouse – always serious and worth listening to with concentration as he had a florid style of speech.
He left us only when we had found a permanent replacement, but even then was not finished, putting in a further year of ministry at Lincoln. He always said he would live to be 100, but sadly didn’t quite make it, dying in 1993 on the Isle of Wight where he had spent his last years.
This article concludes my series of ministerial biographies. The permanent replacement for Magnus was Roger Tarbuck, until 1994, followed by Peter Roberts and Alan Kennedy. All are still happily with us and I hope it will be many years before I have to update my biographical series.
In the New Year I will start an occasional series of biographies of members of our congregation over the years.