Fr Richard George Dangerfield died on Saturday 6th October 2018. The funeral Mass will take place on Tuesday 23rd October at 11am in Westminster Cathedral. Cardinal Vincent Nichols will preside at the Mass.
Known as Fr George Dangerfield, most of the ministry of this Priest of the Diocese of Westminster was devoted to the education of young people in various Catholic secondary schools in the diocese. He touched the lives of countless numbers of young people, and of teachers too. Writing to the Cardinal in 2001, a teacher at St George’s School, Maida Vale was full of praise for Fr George: ‘As a Muslim, I have always found Father George to be very open, welcoming and interested in my faith, belief and way of life…. I have noticed a great difference in the spiritual life of the school since Fr George has been with us. He is an inspiration to members of all faiths at St George’s.’ It was because he attended to his own spiritual life, including starting the day typically before dawn for personal prayer, and his devotion to daily Mass, that he was able to nurture the life of the spirit in others.
George was born in London on 26 April 1932, the sole child of Arthur and Margaret (formerly Weldon) Dangerfield. Arthur was not a Catholic, his mother was but non-practising. The young George was unaware that he was a Catholic, even though he attended the local Catholic school in Brook Green. He was a bright pupil, and went on to the Salesian College in Battersea when he was 14. He embraced the faith and became a regular Altar Server, and developed a devotion to St John Bosco. When he was 17 years of age he was Confirmed by Bishop Craven at Westminster Cathedral. He made it known that he wanted to be a Priest. His parents were supportive of his application to the diocese as a student for the Priesthood. He went to St Edmund’s College, Ware. He was praised by the President of the Seminary for being ‘a tremendously hard worker…I doubt whether there is another student who works so hard.’ While hard working, George did not excel academically and he struggled with Latin. He was ordained to the Priesthood at Holy Trinity, Brook Green on 27 May 1956 by Cardinal Griffin.
Fr George’s first appointment was to Swiss Cottage as Assistant Priest, 1956-58. He was then appointed as Assistant Priest to Isleworth, until 1964. During these years he ministered in local hospitals, and in Nazareth House and Gumley House. His next appointment was to Stoke Newington where he remained for a few months before being appointed Assistant Priest at Burnt Oak, until 1970. By 1968 Fr George had become the diocesan Director of ‘Pueri Cantores’, boys choirs, operating out of The Annunciation Centre at Burnt Oak. This appointment involved introducing the vernacular sung liturgical texts into diocesan schools. From 1970 to 1974 Fr George continued in this role while based in Hendon. He became involved with various schools, working with their choirs. He continued this ministry while based at Stonebridge until 1977. He then went to live at his parents’ home in Uxbridge, and this was to remain his home until the summer of 2017. From 1977-78 Fr George studied at St Mary’s College, Strawberry Hill, gaining a Certificate of Education. From 1972-79 he taught music at St Gregory’s school, Kenton. This was followed by a year at Cardinal Hinsley school in Harlesden. With the support of Cardinal Heenan, and encouraged by priest-friends, Fr George went to teach at the Cardinal Wiseman secondary school in Greenford from 1980-91. He then moved to Douay Martyrs school, Ickenham where he taught from 1991-98. He went on to teach and minster at St George’s School, Maida Vale in difficult circumstances. He and the Head Teacher, Marie, Lady Stubbs, did much, with others, to improve the school. Fr George was reluctant to retire from teaching, and carried on well beyond the usual retirement age. Throughout his career as a teacher he was faithful to the Prayer of the Church, the recitation of the Rosary, and to the Mass. His preference was for the Tridentine Mass, and the life of the Church pre-Vatican II, yet he had an understanding of, and empathy with, contemporary young people.
He served as Chaplain to the Bridgettine Sisters at Iver Heath from 1989-99. He made himself available to celebrate Masses in prison in west London; he was a regular celebrant of Tridentine Masses at St James’, Spanish Place on Sunday mornings; he regularly took part in ‘A Day with Mary’ on Saturdays in churches around the diocese. He was the National Director for the World Apostolate of Fatima in England. Fr George was also involved with ‘Mission Together’ (Holy Childhood) in 1999, but after a few months he retired from this work. In February 2000 he wrote of his love of supply ministry at Spanish Place, and of his longing to return to teaching, even at the age of 68! He let the new Archbishop know that he had ‘just left teaching after thirty years and await something to do…I would like to be one of the first of your Priests to find out what I could do in your Archdiocese to help you.’ Fr George was devoted to his mother, who died in his arms in February 2002. Fr George returned to teach at Douay Martyrs school, but by the spring of 2012 there was concern for his failing health. Over the years he made annual visits to Archbishop’s House to apprise the Archbishops of his activities, and regularly wrote letters to express his interests and concerns.
Fr George could be somewhat temperamental, a trait noticed while he was a seminarian. Priests and teaching colleagues who worked with him learnt to cope with his this. Fr George, a tall and energetic man until affected by the consequences of old age, who has been described as ‘sartorially elegant’ in his prime and beyond, made a deep impression on those with whom he was involved: in parish ministry, various chaplaincies, as a teacher and as a gifted musician and singer.
Fr George arranged for the diocesan Pueri Cantores to travel to The Vatican and sing for Pope St Paul VI. Fr George had a love for the papacy and made regular visits to Rome and took part in papal audiences. His last visit to Rome was earlier this year, in February. With carers from the Whitby Dene care home in Ruislip, where he had been living since the summer of 2017, Fr George attended the General Audience at the end of which he met and spoke with Pope Francis, arranged by Cardinal Vincent as a gift to a Priest of the diocese of 62 years who had, over the years, touched and influenced the lives of countless children, parents, colleagues and parishioners. He died peacefully at Whitby Dene care home. May he rest in peace.