Issue date: 02 November 2001

John Simpson is to be awarded the Honorary Degree of Master of Music in recognition of his contribution to music and the performing arts, and to the creation of a very special partnership relationship between the Dean and Chapter of Bristol Cathedral and the University of the West of England.

John Simpson was born in Dehra Dun, India. He attended Malborough College and then read engineering at Cambridge University. His lifelong interest in music was developed at Cambridge where he also studied the organ and conducted the College Music Society. He is married and has two daughters and one son.

From 1951 to 1963 John Simpson served in the Royal Navy, mainly in submarines, his last appointment being Training Electrical Officer in charge of all submarine electrical training. During that time he developed a passion for collecting early keyboard instruments and gained the reputation of being the only person to have taken a harpsichord below with a submarine.

John Simpson retired from the Royal Navy in 1963 and studied theology at Wells Theological College. He was ordained Deacon in 1965, and then taught religious education and music at Peter Symonds School Winchester until appointed Senior Chaplain at Repton School.

In 1972 John Simpson moved to Helston in Cornwall to become head of religious education at a large comprehensive school. He continued his involvement in music and started the Helston and Kerrier Music Society and conducted a Choral Society. In 1976 whilst continuing to teach full time, he became resident governor of the Trelowarren Fellowship, an ecumenical Christian Charity.

John Simpson moved next to Somerset in 1979 and became Parish Priest at Curry Rivel. In 1980 he was Chairman of the South Somerset and Avon Committee of the Royal School of Church Music. His wider contribution to the performing arts continued and he became Chairman of the Music Panel of South West Arts. In 1987, John Simpson became Vicar of the Church of King Charles the Martyr, Tunbridge Wells.

In 1989 John Simpson was appointed Canon Precentor at Bristol Cathedral. He became particularly concerned with promoting the Cathedral as a centre of culture and with encouraging visitors to discover its delights. Canon Simpson was Chairman of Bristol Cathedral Concerts and also of the Bristol and Swindon Area of the Royal School of Church Music and a member of the Bristol City Tourism Committee.

Canon Simpson planned the first Ordination Service for women admitted to the priesthood of the Church of England and helped to form the Cathedral Girls’ Choir. He also gave much valued and longstanding support to the University of the West of England in expanding its use of the Cathedral for religious services, degree ceremonies, charity concerts, other musical events, lectures and exhibitions.

Canon Simpson retired in 1999 to Ilminster in Somerset and now helps with services in local churches and serves on the Council of King’s College Taunton.

The Honorary Degree of Master of Music will be awarded to John Simpson as the awards ceremony of the Faculty of Art, Media and Design at Bristol Cathedral on Tuesday 6 November at 11.30am.


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