150 years of vicars in the family

AS a young man, the Rev John Waller could not imagine any other life than sailing the seas.At the age of 18, he packed his bags and headed to Australia to join Missions to Seafarers, a charity which offers emotional support to mariners and the merchant navy across the globe.

AS a young man, the Rev John Waller could not imagine any other life than sailing the seas.

At the age of 18, he packed his bags and headed to Australia to join Missions to Seafarers, a charity which offers emotional support to mariners and the merchant navy across the globe.

But after many years of quiet contemplation on the ocean, he felt his calling to become a priest.

The 67-year-old's change of heart ensured the continuation of a Century-old legacy which had seen no fewer than five generations of his family become members of the cloth.

And on Saturday the vicar, whose parishes include Waldringfield, Hemley and Newbourne, near Woodbridge, marked the 150-year-old unbroken line with a special celebration at All Saints Church in Waldringfield.

The tradition began in 1833 when Rev Waller's great-great-grandfather, Charles Waller, became rector of All Saints at Waldringfield, which at the time did not include the parishes of Hemley and Newbourne.

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Two non-family members became rectors for a short period after that but then his great-grandfather, Thomas Henry Waller, took over.

He was followed by his son, Arthur Pretyman Waller, the current vicar's grandfather, where Hemley was added to the benefice, and then in 1948 by Trevor Waller, the Rev Waller's father, at which stage Newbourne was added.

The Rev Waller became vicar in 1974 but he admits his calling was not as straightforward as his predecessors and that it took him 12 years to decide.

He said: “I started out at 18 but I just thought I was in the wrong ship and not ready for it. I went to Salisbury Theological College and lasted eight months.

“I didn't want to be a vicar. It was the last thing in the world I wanted to be - I ran away to sea.

“It's one of those great mysteries. It comes when you have been out and have seen life and been kicked in the backside. Life at sea is so quiet.”

Rev Waller said it remains a mystery why so many generations of his family have become vicars and said it is so unusual even the Guinness Book of Records is interested.

The vicar spent three years as a curate to Canon Ray Kent at St John's the Baptist in Ipswich before taking over from his father at Waldringfield, where he has remained for the past 32 years.

But Rev Waller said the tradition would end with him as his children, George, 38, Arthur, 36, and Agnes, 35, had chosen other careers.

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