09 February 2017
We were sorry to learn of the recent death of the Revd Francis Harold Chalk (Frank).
The following words of tribute have been kindly shared with us by Frank's family...
Frank was born on 27th March 1925 in Witham, Essex, about 38 miles from London. He attended the junior school in Witham, followed by Braintree High School. He started work in the accounts department of Crittall Metal Windows in Witham, but in April 1943, at the age of 18, he was called up in to the RAF.
He did his square bashing at Skegness and was then posted to the RAF School of Accountancy at Penarth, near Cardiff. He successfully passed the RAF accountancy exams and was posted overseas to Ceylon. On the journey he was made ship’s accountant and given a cabin to himself, making for an excellent voyage.
On arrival in Colombo he joined a group of 50 staff in a large office working a 9am to 5pm shift with all weekends free. He was accommodated in a hotel in a private room facing the sea. It was whilst in Ceylon that Frank became involved with a number of missionaries from Britain and assisted in services in various churches.
When the work in Colombo came to an end Frank was posted to Madras in India, and after working there for a short while he was told to “thumb a lift” back to England. He did this via Bombay and Karachi and then to Hurn airport in Kent. On arrival in the UK he worked on several RAF stations before ending up at the Eliminated Accounts Unit in London.
On his discharge Frank returned to his old job but like so many men at that time he became unsettled. At his local church he felt the call to the ministry and eventually in 1948 entered the All Nations Bible College at Taplow, Buckinghamshire. It was whilst at college that Frank was sent with a small party of men to help at a Tent Mission near Barnsley in Yorkshire, where he met Margaret.
Frank and Margaret were married at her village chapel at Jump, near Barnsley, in September 1949. She joined him at his first chapel, the Glynn Vivian Miners Mission at Clyne, near Neath, South Wales. Their first daughter, Margaret, was born there.
From here they moved to Woodthorpe, near Chesterfield, then to the Hunningley Lane Wesleyan Reform chapel at Stairfoot, near Barnsley, and then to the Free Church in St Just and Carnyorth in Cornwall. Their second daughter Cheryl was born here in 1955.
Frank lived in St Just for two years before moving to take over the Swanton Abbott circuit of 10 Wesleyan Reform chapels in Norfolk, living in the Manse at Aylsham.
Whilst at Aylsham Frank did some joint services with the local Anglican church and the vicar suggested that he should become an Anglican. An interview with the Bishop of Norwich resulted in Frank being sent to Lichfield Theological College for a year to be “Anglicanised and neutralised”. During this time the family lived in an old farmhouse near Aylsham, courtesy of a local farmer. The house had electricity but no running water, so all water had to be carried in from outside. It was basic living.
Frank was ordained in Lincoln Cathedral on Trinity Sunday 1962 as a Deacon. His first curacy was at St Nicholas Church, Lincoln, where the Vicar had asked for a Curate with Free Church experience because “they knew how to organise things”. Frank had his own daughter church, St Matthias in Lincoln, and eighteen months later he was given his own living.
The family moved to Kirkby-La-Thorpe, near Sleaford, in 1964, where their long awaited son Peter Robert was born. Frank had three other churches to look after, Ewerby, Evedon and Asgarby, as well as being chair of governors at two schools. He became a district councillor and was responsible for some public toilets being built on the busy A17 road, now known by the family as “Father’s Toilets”.
After five years here, Frank moved to Great Gonerby near Grantham in Lincolnshire in 1969, where he was responsible for only one church. He became very involved in other organisations, such as the League of Friends of Grantham Hospital and Age Concern. It was whilst here that Frank began doing tax forms for other clergy members, which grew into a large business that Peter was able to take over. Frank still retained some clients so that he had plenty to fill his time in retirement.
St Sebastian's Church, Great Gonerby
Frank retired in 1989, going to live at St Just in Cornwall where he had bought a house a few years earlier. He became involved in the churches in the local area, taking services in St Just and the churches of the Land’s End group when required. Frank was so busy at one point that he and Margaret used to stop in a lay-by when travelling between two churches to have a flask of coffee as there wasn’t time to return home.
Frank and Margaret enjoyed a long and happy retirement together, going away regularly to stop in hotels at Tiverton, Ilfracombe and Sidmouth. They also visited the Isles of Scilly on a regular basis, catching the early helicopter flight so that they could have breakfast in the hotel when they arrived.
Frank first became a member of the Rotary Club whilst living in Aylsham, Norfolk, re-joined whilst at Sleaford, continuing his membership in Grantham, where he was President from 1971 to 1972. Frank joined Penzance Rotary Club in October 1989 after being a regular visitor for many years. He was President in 1995 to 1996.
Frank and Margaret had a car accident in 2008 whilst travelling to Lincolnshire to spend Christmas with the family. Margaret was not hurt and was taken to Tiverton Hotel, but Frank was admitted to Derriford Hospital at Plymouth. He discharged himself after a day there and took a taxi to join Margaret in Tiverton, and from there they had another taxi from Tiverton to Grantham, such was his determination to spend Christmas with the family.
Frank’s daughter Margaret died in 2009 after a short battle with cancer and this upset both Frank and Margaret greatly.
Following the accident Frank gave up driving, but this did not stop them going out. After the 11 o’clock service at St Just each Sunday there would be a taxi waiting outside the church to take them to Carbis Bay Hotel for lunch. They also still visited Tiverton Hotel regularly, travelling by taxi, making sure that they stopped on the way at their usual cafe for breakfast!
Frank’s health began to decline after the car accident and when his wife Margaret died in 2011 he found it very difficult to cope on his own. He had an electric wheelchair which he used in St Just to collect his pension and to get shopping. He went to the Wellington Hotel every day for his lunch and when he was no longer able to get out of the house, he had his meals delivered to him by the staff at the Wellington Hotel.
Frank was very lonely even though his family, who live 400 miles away, visited regularly. He relied on carers to look after him in the latter years of his life.
Frank died on 9th January in West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance, where he was very well looked after by the caring staff there. He is now at peace and re-united with his wife Margaret.
We continue to hold Frank's family and friends in our prayers.