Br Malachy Seymour RIP

Malachy (John) Seymour died on 31st December 2020 at the age of 86. He had been in Whipps Cross Hospital, London, suffering from an infection in the spine when he contracted the Covid virus.

Malachy made his first profession as a Friar Minor on 4th June 1970.


“Are you all right?” this was one of Malachy’s sayings. It was regularly heard as you passed the kitchen and was addressed to Bernadette or Anna, our cooks. Another was for a visitor, “Are you staying to lunch?” This was said before he said, “Hallo” or “Welcome.” He had to lay the table so he needed to know how many places to lay. He often seemed anxious over small things. He would think about laying the table for Christmas months before; it played on his mind. His anxiety seemed to focus on making provision for people, on seeing that they were not overburdened and had a place at the table.

That provision for people is how God acts towards us. He is a very loving Father who provides for us. There is a great deal of anxiety about at the moment. It is hard to plan anything; events like marriages and festivals have been cancelled. St Paul encourages us if we are troubled, worried and lacking the means for life to see it all as the trials through which we triumph by the power of God’s love. There are many rooms in His house and there is a place for us.

I don’t remember Malachy talking much about his childhood. I have done some research and talked to his brother Keith. He was born in Croydon in 1934. His mother’s marriage broke up and they moved to Brighton. Keith told me that during the war, Brighton was bombed as a result of German bombers jettisoning their load. He was sent to the Franciscan Sisters at Littlehampton for safety’s sake. The Sisters provided him with a home and they have welcomed him there ever since as one of their boys. He did his National Service in the Royal Artillery as Bombardier Seymour. He served in Egypt during the Suez Crisis and he had a tattoo to prove it. He told me that once he was on a charge because he was asleep on duty. The Colonel offered him court martial or his personal punishment. Malachy chose the latter and was confined to barracks for a period. On return home, he worked on various jobs, gardening, a dustman and he worked an allotment in his own time. The family moved to Liverpool as the result of another marital breakdown and there he got a job at Speke Airport, now John Lennon Airport. At that time Keith, his brother, said Malachy was like a father to him buying him his first fishing rod. He then joined our Order in the Sixties here in Woodford.

Our recent memories of Malachy are of a man who stayed in his room and came down to the kitchen to talk to the cooks and act as a sous chef. However, before that he had been active looking after the door, gardening, seeing to the refectory and was cook in some friaries. He also worked with the homeless in the shelters provided for them. One Friar said that he was always very welcome when he visited because he was Malachy’s boss. Father Andrew McMahon, his Postulant Master, said that he was a good worker but needed specific direction in what he was to do because he lacked initiative. This seemed to speak of an underlying insecurity. I suppose that came from his childhood experience of family breakdown. That gave him a sympathy for people who also experienced insecurity and let down; “Are you all right?”  He found very active friaries threatening and preferred quieter ones that did not stir up his anxiety. In the friary, he did what he could to provide friendship and help for us Friars and to his friends in the parish. The Lord has prepared a safe place for him. May he enjoy it in peace.

John Hooper, Malachy, Reg Grey 2002