Subdeacon Michael Carol Attlee SIMMONS (1930-2000)
Born on 7th January 1930 at Bickley in Kent, Michael moved with his family to the village of Ash near Sevenoaks at the age of five. He was to spend much of his life in this village that he loved.
He went first to the village school, then to Dulwich Preparatory School and later to Dulwich College from the age of eight. Having been evacuated along with the whole school to Wales during the war he returned home to a ‘crammer’ in the neighbouring village of Hartley where one of the tutors was Gilbert Harding. It is tempting to speculate that Michael’s great love of argument and debate owed something to Harding’s influence. National Service followed where Michael attained the rank of acting-Captain.
Michael’s early professional life was spent working for his father who made paper and who had two mills one at Ryburndale in Yorkshire, the other at Bath. Michael studied bookbinding at the London College of Printing and was always proud of his association with the paper making and stationary industry. He was a member of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers and a Freeman of the City of London. His subsequent career took him into the Cafe Royal for a time as banqueting manager, then into the retail outfitting business and, in later years, in senior management at Guaranteed Securities.
In 1949 Michael joined the Hartley Players, a local amateur dramatic society, where he remained a member until the end of his life. He had a great love for the theatre and knew it well. At Hartley Players he was known for his willingness to do everything over the years, from front of house to producing. Following his marriage to Marion, Michael also began to show an interest in cooking and a love of fine food which became the foundation of his generous hospitality shown to many friends.
Michael loved children and enjoyed good relationships with so many over the years. Many regular members of Ash parish church will remember him in his Anglican days sitting in his usual pew at the back with a whole group of children whose parents were generally with Marion in the choir. He had time for young people and as Sacristan at Ash trained the team of servers, holding an annual get together for them, usually consisting of a morning’s rehearsal followed by lunch at his home. Later at Hartley Players, where lighting had become his speciality, he trained a team of young technicians who are now able to carry out many of the tasks associated with lighting a production.
Michael was for most of his life an Anglican; he was sometime churchwarden at Ash over a period of about eight years. He knew his faith, especially the Bible, which he would only read in the Authorised Version, and the Book of Common Prayer, much of which he knew by heart. Cranmer’s collects were always a great source of joy and strength to him. On 20th December 1994 he was received into the British Orthodox Church, having left the Church of England like so many others over the decision to ordain woman to the priesthood. He was subsequently ordained reader on 10th October 1995 and subdeacon on 20th November 1995 and served at St Athanasios’ Orthodox Parish at Maidstone. From April 1996-October 1998 he served as Treasurer of the British Orthodox Church.
Michael had been in poor health for some while but he died on 2nd January 2000 suddenly and unexpectedly from viral pneumonia on the way home with Marion from visiting a friend. Although a faithful and committed Orthodox Christian Michael had never lost his affection for the historic Church of England and so it was fitting that his funeral, conducted by Abba Seraphim, should be held in his beloved parish church of St Peter and St Paul at Ash.