Theo Harman Website

In loving memory: Reverend Theo Harman (1927-2022)

It is with great sadness we received the news that Reverend Theodore Harman – former School Chaplain and Honorary OS – passed away peacefully in St. Cuthbert’s Hospice on 19th October aged 95 years. A memorial service was held in Durham on 9th November for family and friends.
Fellow OS Douglas Smith (H 70-75) pays tribute to Theo, a significant member of the Sedbergh community for many years.

Theo Harman never gave much away. When he died, almost none of his friends knew how old he was and, come to mention it, very little about him. He rarely offered an opinion; a question would usually be answered with another question. This could be infuriating. Theo hated to be pigeonholed – what do you do for a living Theo? ‘I breathe’.

A deeply spiritual man, the divine force of the Holy Spirit was at the heart of his faith. He advocated the Laying on of Hands and his interest in spirituality was in the broadest sense and pan-denominational. Theo was non-judgemental. All opinions were of value.

Theo was born in Norwood, near Dulwich on the 23rd January 1927, the youngest of four. Earliest memory? Sitting in his pram. Born into a musical household he remembers accompanying his older brother on the viola. After Whitgift School, he did his National Service where learned to drive 3 ton lorries and motorcycles. Theo attended Lincoln College, Oxford as well as reading Architecture at the Regent Street Polytechnic before deciding to embark on the pathway to ordination.

In December 1963, Theo was Chaplain on board the cruise ship TSMS Laconia when fire broke out off Madeira. Of the1022 on board, 128 died. The majority not from the effects of the fire; but from injury, exposure and drowning in the chaos of abandoning ship at night mid-Atlantic. Theo was deeply affected, but very rarely spoke of it.

Theo came to Sedbergh in 1957, having successfully negotiated the gruelling interview  process – trial by sherry. He stayed there for the next 30 years.

During my time at Sedbergh, Theo – affectionately known by many Sedberghians as Holy Joe – lived at Guldrey Lodge. I recall his domain being Room 10. He was Form Master, Assistant Chaplain and Assistant House Tutor of Hart House. Reflecting on my time in Hart, there could not have been a greater contrast in character between him and that of Chris Bennett, the Housemaster. I wonder what they thought of each other? Theo played the viola in the school orchestra, and was one of the outstanding performers in the staff production of ‘A Man for all Seasons’.

Post Sedbergh, Theo won a place at Hatfield College, Durham University, to undertake a Masters Thesis. ‘New Testament and modern parables: their relationship and literary character a reader’s response’ was published in 1990. He remained at Hatfield as Resident Fellow until 2016 when, it should be said somewhat reluctantly, he moved into a cottage near the college.

Theo was always fiercely independent, but latterly increasingly frail. He remained at home, with escalating support from generous friends until it became clear that this was no longer viable. Agreeing to move to a hospice, Theo was found dead in his room about an hour after arriving there. He was 95.

A truly pious man who will be fondly remembered by the many whose path he crossed during his lifetime.