Fr. Richard McKivergan died peacefully in his sleep on the morning of 25 March 2005 – appropriately Good Friday. He was 90 years old, and had been cared for by nuns in London since becoming very frail in his late 80’s.
He first came to Rye during World War Two, as a curate of St. Anthony of Padua’s Church, then as a parish priest from 1949 to 1955 and again from 1960 to 1966. During the 1990’s the parish was sometimes without a permanent incumbent and Fr. Richard used to commute by train from his base in Manchester to Rye to say Sunday Mass, administer the sacraments, and look after what he had become to regard as “his” flock.
He had the gift of being able to communicate with people of all social classes, giving everyone equally courteous attention whether they be a Duchess or a delinquent – and he was on good terms with plenty of both.
Fr. Richard was born in Down, Nothern Ireland on 13 January 1915. During the early 1930’s he joined the order of Friars Minor (Conventual) as a novice, being ordained on 4 August 1940. He was sent to New York before returning to Liverpool; in both places he encountered tough families living in bad conditions and put his considerable abilities at their service.
Before 1949 Rye had a Scout Troop, that for some reason, died out. Fr. Richard, appreciating from his own experience in his previous postings that Rye’s boys and young men needed an organised outlet for their energies, restarted the troop. It was not specifically attached to St. Anthony’s church, and was not intended to be; it flourished, still exists, and is prominent at the Remembrance Sunday parades.
Whole columns of “Rye’s Own” could be given over to tributes to Fr. Richard from so many quarters, he did so much and had so many friends in the town. He was specifically mentioned during the funeral service for the late Sir Christopher Davson in St. Mary’s church on 7 January 2005 as being one of the two remarkable men who had been there when Chris needed them, the other being the then Anglican vicar, Canon John Williams. Fr. Richard who never fudged any issues when it came to defending Roman Catholic doctrine, equally never had the slightest compunction about working with clergy of other denominations in serving God’s people; Christian charity demanded as much.
On 4 August 2004 he celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of his ordination with a Mass at St. Anthony’s concelebrated with nine other Franciscan Friars, one of them a Bishop. This was followed by a banquet at the Mermaid paid for by the parish at which a great many of his friends from Rye, whether Catholics or not, were present.
Royston Godman Picture Caption Left to Right Fr. Aidan Walsh (Parish Priest from 1999), Fr. Michael (U.K.), Fr. Basil (Vatican), Bishop John Jukes (Scotland), Fr. Richard, Fr. Patrick (who gave the address), Fr. Philip (the then provincial), Fr. Fritz (Zambia), Fr. David Young (Parish Priest 1987-1992), and Fr. Andrew Fraser (Rye, special duties).
Rye’s Own May 2005
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