Wakefield clergyman and actor dies as car swept away by flash flood

Roger GraingerRoger Grainger
Roger Grainger
A RETIRED Wakefield clergyman and actor has died after his car was swept away by a flash flood on an island off Ireland both he and his late wife had fallen in love with.

Rev Roger Grainger, 82, who appeared in Emmerdale, Heartbeat and Last of The Summer Wine, was a few hundred yards from the cottage he had recently bought on Achill Island, Co Mayo, when he was washed off the road by a torrent.

Rain at the time was described as blinding and the flood was reportedly several feet deep.

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Dr Grainger, a retired Anglican cleric in the Wakefield diocese in West Yorkshire, moved to Ireland last summer following the death of his late wife Doreen in 2013. He settled in Mayo, first in Newport and more recently on Achill.

He had been a chaplain for mental health patients at Stanley Royd Hospital in Wakefield from 1973 to 1991, when he retired, and in 1996 was ordained. He was also a psychotherapist and counsellor supporting people who had suffered trauma or emotional problems.

Following his ordainment, he served as a curate in West Bromich and then Wallsall before returning to Wakefield an assistant priest at St John’s Church, and as an honorary chaplain at Wakefield Cathedral.

A member of Equity, he began his career as an actor and as an academic, giving up performing full time to dedicated his life to the church. He was ordained in 1996.

He moved to Ireland in August 2014 at the age of 80.

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Rev Stephanie Buchanan, of St John’s Church, said Dr Grainger had made the “very brave” decision to move after the death of his wife.

She said: “They had had very happy holidays together there and he felt very close to her there. We were absolutely amazed that he did it - it was a very brave decision to move there alone.”

Dr Grainger, who lived in Horbury, Wakefield, preached at St John’s, and also ran drama groups where people explored their faith.

“He very much felt St John’s was his church and saw it as a place where he belonged,” said Rev Buchanon. “He was a person of very deep faith, but not an easy faith. He had lots of challenge in life but found God in the tough places.

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“He was a really stimulating, interesting man, that you could have great conversations with. But he was also in touch with his own vulnerability and was good at asking for help when he needed it, especially after the death of his wife - though he surprised himself at how well he coped. Moving to Ireland was a positive, joyful decision.”

Dr Grainger was returning from dinner with friends in the Bervie Guesthouse in Keel on Sunday evening when torrential rain hit, causing a flash flood near his home.

A local man discovered the accident, but due to the torrential conditions the man was unsure if Dr Grainger was still in the car or if he had managed to escape.

Tributes to Dr Grainger have come from the highest reaches of the church in Wakefield.

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The Bishop of Wakefield, Tony Robinson said: “Roger Grainger was one of life’s great characters. Highly intelligent and very wide ranging in his gifts and skills. After training at RADA in London Roger was an accomplished actor appearing at the Old Vic and on popular television programmes like Emmerdale and Heartbeat. Only last year he starred in a drama with Michael Palin called Remember Me.

“Writing books and studying academically was just part of Rogers very busy life. Even in retirement he was beginning study towards his doctorate.”

The Dean of Wakefield, the very Rev Jonathan Greener said: “He was held with great affection by everybody here. He was an eccentric soul but that added to his appeal in many ways. He knew what it was to be vulnerable and that meant people could sympathise with him, as he would with them.

“We were so distressed to hear not just of his death, but the tragic circumstances of it. He is very much is our thoughts and prayers.”

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Dr Grainger trained as an actor at Rada, took to the stage at the Old Vic and had small roles in the likes of Heartbeat, Emmerdale, the Mrs Bradley Mysteries and Last Of The Summer Wine.

His most recent role came as an elderly patient in last year’s BBC mini-series Remember Me starring Michael Palin.

“Mostly he had character parts which he took a shine to. It was about the parts that he was right for. He was well respected and it was never a fame thing for him,” his management Actors Direct said.

Dr Grainger moved to Achill after buying a house close to St Thomas’ Church of Ireland where he helped local minister Rev Val Rogers, who became a close friend.

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He was also planning to embark on his eighth doctorate, and had been talking to National University of Ireland about completing a PhD on Irish expressionist theatre.

“He had a growing love and ended up with a full-blown love affair with Achill,” local Church of Ireland cleric Rev Val Rogers said.

“Anyone around Keel would have known him, he was getting involved in local groups, he liked creative writing, he was a prolific author of anything to do with trauma therapy and liturgy drama, that intersection between healing and liturgy and faith.

“He was always interested in people. The parishioners are very, very distressed.”

Rev Rogers paid a glowing tribute to his fellow clergyman.

“He was a most affectionate man and an utterly gregarious person,” the clergyman said.

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