Alan Morgan (1940-2011), the Suffragan Bishop of Sherwood, was known as the ‘coalfield bishop.’

Morgan grew up in the coal valleys of South Wales, and with an understanding of pit people. When he was a teenager, one of his uncles died of the lung disease pneumoconiosis, caused by long-term exposure to coal dust. Morgan was shocked when the National Coal Board tried to take away the coal allowance from his widow. He commented ‘That was so unjust and it stayed with me for the rest of my life.’ 

He attended Gowerton Boys’ Grammar School, before studying philosophy and history at St David’s College, Lampeter. After graduation, he trained for ordination at St Michael’s College, Llandaff. He was ordained deacon in 1964 and priest in 1965. Also, in 1965, he married Patricia; they went on to have a son and a daughter, Jonathan and Eleanor.  

Morgan’s first clerical posts were back in Swansea, as assistant curate at Llangyfelach with Morriston, and then at Cockett. After that, he moved to the West Midlands and to the parish of St Mark and St Barnabas, Coventry. In 1973 he became team vicar of St Barnabas. After this, Morgan spent five years as the Bishop’s Officer for Social Responsibility, still in the diocese of Coventry. He was Archdeacon of Coventry from 1983 to 1989. In that role, he was very active during the year long miners’ strike of 1984-85. 

Morgan was appointed Suffragan Bishop of Sherwood in 1989, thus an assistant bishop responsible for sharing and supporting the diocesan Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham. This was just in time for him to witness the final collapse of the coal industry and the pit closure programme of the 1990s. Between 1980 and 1997, almost 36,000 jobs in the Nottinghamshire coalfield were lost. By 2000, just four pits and 1900 workers were left. On top of this, many thousands more jobs went in industries supplying and servicing the pits. (The last colliery, Thoresby, closed in 2015). 

Thoresby Colliery

Morgan did everything he could to protest against the pit closures. He chaired the Mansfield Pit Support Group and marched in protest though his town. He fought unsuccessfully for the miners on local and national television, and even met the Conservative Energy Minister Tim Eggar. Morgan later said of the closures, ‘When all that went, the whole community infrastructure collapsed. Every support structure went, as did their incomes – the only alternative employment was primarily for women who had been used to staying at home, or low-paid security jobs and driving taxis. Heads went down. There was no pride, no hope.’ 

In 1997, Morgan was appointed a member of the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott’s Coalfield Task Force. The Task Force’s report, Making the Difference, called for action to raise educational standards, support for business start-ups and expansion, and the reclamation of 29 former colliery sites. It also recommended the formation of a network of Credit Unions, backed by funding from the National Lottery, to help alleviate household debt.  

Morgan became first chairman of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, an independent grant-making charity promoted by John Prescott and focused on former coalfield communities. The trust served an estimated 4.8 million people who lived in areas where at least 10% of jobs in 1981 had been in coal mining. Its regional workers talked to communities, found out their needs and encouraged them to apply for grants. Morgan commented ‘Unlike a lot of organisations, it is not our intention to do things for the people, our goal is to enable the people to do things for themselves … The worth of the trust is revealed in a balance sheet that shows it has brought more than GBP 27m of investment into Notts coalfield communities – not just its own money, but also additional funding from other agencies and the private sector.’ 

In contrast, Morgan was chairman of the Church of England Board of Social Responsibility working group that produced a report on the future of the family, Something to Celebrate: valuing families in church and society, (1995)This document reaffirmed the Church’s commitment to marriage. However, it also called on the Church to embrace those living together outside marriage, warning against “judgmental attitudes about ‘fornication’ and ‘living in sin’”. It also urged a “ready welcome” for gay people.  

Morgan was involved in a wide range of voluntary organizations.  He chaired the National Council of Voluntary Organizations, was a trustee of the Charities Aid Foundation and the president of Nottinghamshire Help the Homeless. He retired in 2004; in the next year’s New Year Honours he was awarded an OBE for services to the community in Nottinghamshire.  

He died on October 24 2011. Paul Butler, the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, said of him ‘Bishop Alan was a tireless campaigner on behalf of the marginalised and the poor, and his time in the diocese was marked by his passion for justice and single-minded efforts to bring people together. He was also someone with a real human touch and compassionate approach to those of much faith and those of little.’

Sources 

Bishop’s tireless work breathed new life into mining communities. (2011, November 8). Nottingham Post. Retrieved January 19 2021 from https://infoweb-newsbank-com.ezproxy.uwtsd.ac.uk/resources/doc/nb/news/13AE8A0355B3D4F8?p=UKNB 

Morrison-Wells, J. (2012). The Rt. Revd. Alan Morgan OBE 1940-2011 – the coalfield bishop. The Link, 65,5. Retrieved January 19 2021 from http://www.sdtcom.co.uk/16_base/Lampeter%20Link/Link%202012.pdf 

Faith, hope – no charity handouts. (2004, March 4). Nottingham Evening Post. Retrieved January 19 2021 from https://infoweb-newsbank-com.ezproxy.uwtsd.ac.uk/resources/doc/nb/news/1012177E72710BBA?p=UKNB 

Morgan, Rt Rev. Alan Wyndham (22 June 1940-24 Oct. 2011), Bishop Suffragan of Sherwood, 1989-2004. Who’s Who & Who Was Who. Retrieved January 19 2021 from https://www.ukwhoswho.com/view/10.1093/ww/9780199540891.001.0001/ww-9780199540884-e-34704?rskey=Ji7qPF&result=1 

Brindle, D. (2000, September 20). Pits and the pendulum. Guardian. Retrieved January 20 2021 from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2000/sep/20/guardiansocietysupplement 

Jones, S. (1998, June 19). National news: ministers urged to back mining communities. Financial Times. Retrieved January 20 2021 from https://infoweb-newsbank-com.ezproxy.uwtsd.ac.uk/resources/doc/nb/news/113D71E3502529D8?p=UKNB 

Wainwright, M. (1999, September 17). New trust given pounds 52m to regenerate coal towns. Guardian. Retrieved January 20 2021 from https://infoweb-newsbank-com.ezproxy.uwtsd.ac.uk/resources/doc/nb/news/0F274B966B04DC23?p=UKNB 

Church warned ‘living in sin’ is outdated concept. (1995, June 7). Independent. Retrieved January 20 2021 from https://infoweb-newsbank-com.ezproxy.uwtsd.ac.uk/resources/doc/nb/news/131FED5FE378A0A0?p=UKNB