In Memoriam: Chad Varah

(With thanks to Jeremy Briggs): downthetubes is sorry to report the death of Reverend Chad Varah who co-founded and wrote comic strips for Eagle, and Girl, and was what he himself once described as “Scientific and Astronautical Consultant” for Dan Dare. He was 95.

While also undertaking his duties as as vicar of St Paul’s Clapham Junction and Chaplain of St John’s Hospital Battersea he recalled that “When I wasn’t running an ‘open’ youth club, or bawling prayers at geriatric patients, or teaching in my Church School, or cycling around giving Holy Communion to the sick, I was pounding my typewriter up to 2 or 3am earning my living, as my stipend was only enough to pay my secretary.

“There was no time to discover whether I was happy or not, and I’ve managed to keep it that way.

“Chad Varah… was with me from the first,” Eagle founder Reverend Marcus Morris once decclared, “and brought his considerable powers of mind and invention to write not only the scripts for our Bible stories but also to take on the scripting of Dan Dare at a moment’s notice.”

Dan Dare was originally conceived as an Anglican chaplain, described as “Chaplain Dan Dare of the Interplanet Patrol”, such were the Christian ideals of the Eagle‘s co-founders.

“I had the pleasure of meeting Chad at a couple of events over the years,” recalls downthetubes contributor Richard Sheaf, “and he was always very approachable and happy to talk about his Eagle days.”

Varah, who dedicated his life to both education and the provision of emotional support., founded Samaritans in 1953 with one telephone line “to befriend the suicidal and despairing” and saw it grow into a world-wide organisation helping thousands of people to avoid the ultimate act of desperation.

The Movement is now a household name, with 202 branches in UK and Ireland, and around 15,500 Samaritans volunteers providing confidential, non-judgmental, emotional support, around the clock.

In addition to his strip work (including the Dan Dare story Marooned on Mercury), Varah also wrote carried a religious feature on the back page bearing his by-line. More controversially, but in line with a long-standing commitment to sex education, he was for the better part of three decades a member of the board of reference of the British edition of the adult magazine Forum.

He was awarded the Order of the Companion of Honour for Services to the Samaritans in the Millennium New Year’s Honours List.

Edward Chad Varah, CH, CBE Born 12 November, 1911, died 8 November 2007. He is survived by four sons and one daughter.

• Steve Holland has also posted a tribute on Bear Alley with more detail on his strip credits.

• A lengthy biographical article about Varah can be found at the website of the Samaritans.

• Further information from: BBC News (8 November 2007), Daily Telegraph (9 November), Guardian (9 November), The Independent (9 November)

Categories: Obituaries

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