East Anglian author appointed lay canon

ONE of EAST Anglia's most prolific and best-loved authors has been honoured during a special service at a Suffolk Cathedral.Ronald Blythe, famed for his 1969 novel Akenfield – a best-selling portrait of life in a Suffolk village – was appointed as lay canon of St Edmundsbury Cathedral yesterday in recognition of his dedication to the Christian faith.

ONE of EAST Anglia's most prolific and best-loved authors has been honoured during a special service at a Suffolk Cathedral.

Ronald Blythe, famed for his 1969 novel Akenfield – a best-selling portrait of life in a Suffolk village – was appointed as lay canon of St Edmundsbury Cathedral yesterday in recognition of his dedication to the Christian faith.

Widely acknowledged as one of East Anglia's most loyal sons, the author was born in Acton and educated in Sudbury before setting up home on in Wormingford, Essex, which overlooks the slopes of the Stour Valley and provided the inspiration for two later masterpieces, Word from Wormingford and Out of the Valley.

At yesterday's service, which was attended by hundreds of well-wishers, Mr Blythe's long-standing involvement with the church was recognised.

Already dedicated to the church, the author, poet and editor is currently a lay reader ministering to county parishes around Wormingford on the border of Essex and Suffolk, and will now increase his role in accordance with his new title.

"The thing which is really lovely about today is the feeling of belonging – I have a great sense of being appreciated, which is important, as writers tend to lead rather isolated lives," said Mr Blythe.

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"Something like this makes you suddenly realise that a lot of people know about your work.

"It is a great surprise and an enormous pleasure to be made lay canon of the Cathedral. It has made me very happy.

"But I first got involved with the church in a rather unplanned way, becoming a church warden, then giving readings and helping with the music for services."

Mr Blythe worked as editor of the Penguin Classics for 20 years, and has become highly regarded as one of the country's best rural observers.

Many of his novels and poems chart social decline within countryside communities, concentrating on agriculture and the East Anglian region he still holds close to his heart.

"We used to cycle to Bury as children, and I have lived in Suffolk for more or less the whole of my life," he added.

Mr Blythe was appointed to the position by Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, the Right Reverend Richard Lewis.

He said: "Ronald Blythe is someone who has given so many people so much pleasure. As a lay reader, Ronald is able to speak as a Christian without appearing to do so, because his listeners are charmed, in the best sense, by his words."

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