Although Malcolm Sadler never trained or wanted to train for the Ministry he was a powerful force in keeping Unitarianism in the Midlands very much alive over many decades as a Lay Leader. He was instrumental in maintaining our witness in both Warwick and Banbury as well as taking frequent services in many other Chapels. He was always a popular visitor because of his genial personality and his thoughtful and carefully prepared services.
Malcolm was brought up in Birmingham where he joined his parents in running their Music shop in Stirchley. The single most important event of his life happened there the day before he was due to be called up for National Service. The bus in which he was travelling into central Birmingham one foggy evening ran into the back of an unlit lorry. Malcolm ended up in hospital with serious hip and leg injuries which caused him much aggravation for the rest of his life. His transfer into the Military Music School never took place, though his love of music continued unaffected.
Malcolm was a life-long Unitarian, as a young man in Moseley and later in Waverley Road Church Small Heath. He was heavily committed to UYPL which was such a strong force in those days in the denomination. He talked animatedly about their activities whether camping in Llanbedr or travelling to France, Holland and Germany. For much of his life he kept up with friends he made on such a trip to Offenbach. He revelled in being one of the drivers leading mixed groups of up to 24 especially to Rev Lee’s property at Kinver where he was a long-distance warden for many years.
When the family business lost impetus in Birmingham, Malcolm and his parents moved to Stratford upon Avon where eventually he became very involved with the Royal Shakespeare Company in a variety of backstage roles. He was very proud to have been introduced to the Queen and to have been presented with a long-service award by Prince Charles as a result of his work there. It was there too that he met Nigel who became his partner and his support for many years.
From Stratford he became involved with Warwick Unitarians in a relationship that lasted more than 50 years. Starting as organist he got more and more involved, developing a lively social and musical backdrop to the spiritual life of the community. There are several people still who recall that it was his warm smiling welcome which drew them in and helped to keep the congregation buoyant. He was the driving force behind the urgently needed renovation of the Chapel: his was the vision that removed the tiered box pews and created an attractive general purpose space on the level, permitting the use of the Chapel for recitals, classes and many other purposes which, together with the 3 flats he developed next door, have kept it solvent ever since. This was not achieved without considerable leadership from Malcolm who though never the best at financial affairs himself nevertheless persuaded the small congregation to hold a vast array of money raising events from weekly raffles to major activities so that the Chapel could be saved. That it is still a lovely Chapel and a popular venue with superb and much appreciated acoustics and facilities is almost entirely due to Malcolm.
In about 1993 he started to provide music for the fellowship that Ruth Fowles was building in Banbury. For more than ten years he was Lay Leader there taking the morning services himself before heading off to Warwick to lead afternoon worship. As he developed as a Lay Person and then Lay Leader Malcolm took on more responsibilities. He was secretary of the Unitarian Association of Lay Leaders for many years and then President of the reconstituted Unitarian Association for Lay Ministry for many more. From 1987-9 he was President of the Midlands Unitarian Association. Though not a Minister he was also for a time secretary and treasurer of that venerable institution the Warwickshire and Neighbouring Counties Monthly Meeting of Protestant Dissenting Ministers. He founded the MUNow magazine and edited it for many years. Together with his life-long friend Peter Sampson he produced a slim volume of hymns called Let us Sing (‘the pink book’ in Warwick terminology!)
He was a gentle, loving man, who gave of himself unstintingly, but after the death of Nigel, with whom he had delighted in exploring the Canals in their narrow boat, he lost some of his mojo and when ill health reduced his mobility he slipped into an amiable lethargy. He died on 17th October in Warwick Hospital, at the age of 83.
Malcolm was central to the survival of both Warwick and Banbury congregations. He will be greatly missed.
Memories of Malcolm Sadler
Excerpts from some of the fond letters we received after Malcolm’s death
John Midgely wrote:
My memories of him go back a very long way. I met him at Waverley Road Unitarian Church in Birmingham. This must have been in about 1954. … The youth group (UYPL – Unitarian Young Peoples League) at the church made frequent use of Kinver Camp. Also, the church bought an old, ex-RAF Bedford Utility bus, which MS used to drive, kitted it out with tents and primus stoves and off we went on camping holidays, including trips to Germany and the Netherlands. Malcolm also became church organist, taking over from a previous organist whose musical tastes were rather conventional. Malcolm’s never were.
I remember him with great affection and as one who was always cheerful and positive. My wife Celia adds that he was always genial and forward looking. She and I looked on his loyal work with Warwick and Banbury Unitarians with admiration and appreciation. He was a generous host and a good friend.
Helen Mills of Walmsley Unitarians wrote:
David Monk and MS were particularly connected through UALL (Unitarian Association of Lay Leaders) and I know that David thought extremely highly of Malcolm and just wanted to pass on a message for that connection as well as remembering Malcolm myself as such a lovely man whose generosity of spirit and kindness were so evident in his interactions.
Peter Hewis wrote:
How sad to hear of Malcolm Sadler’s death, I have known him since our days in the UYPL and also bought music for the French Horn from his music shop in Shipston on Stour.
Please express our gratitude for all that Malcolm has done for our cause over the years, from his work at Waverley Road Church, his stewardship of Kinver Camp Site and on to keeping the Warwick Chapel and the Banbury Fellowship alive.