Fred Secombe (31 December 1918 – 8 December 2016) wrote ten humorous novels, based on his experience as a clergyman ministering in South Wales.

Frederick Thomas Secombe came from Swansea; his family lived in Kilvey Hill.  He was the oldest of the four children of Frederick Ernest Secombe, a commercial traveller for the grocery wholesaler Walters and Batchelors, and his wife Nellie Jane Gladys née Davies.  His two sisters were Joan, who died at four from peritonitis, and Carol.  Fred’s younger brother, Harry, achieved national fame as one of the Goons and later as the presenter of Highway and Songs of Praise.  The family were never well off; their father supplemented his income by entering cartoon competitions in the South Wales Evening Post. The family attended St Thomas’ parish church, Swansea, situated at the end of their street. Fred and Harry went there four times every Sunday, (eight o’clock communion, eleven o’clock service, Sunday school in the afternoon and then evensong). At the age of only twelve, Fred heard a particular sermon given by a missionary; he made up his mind to become a clergyman and never wavered from it. 

Fred studied at St Thomas’ Infants and then Dynevor School, Swansea.  His brother Harry was later to comment about his time at secondary school, ‘… my brother was also an ‘A’ pupil, and every master reminded me of how well he had done before me.’  Fred went on to attend St David’s College Lampeter.  After ordination, his first post was as chaplain at St Woolos’s Hospital Newport from 1949 to 1952.  Then followed a series of roles in South Wales.  He was vicar of Llanarth with Clytha, Llansantffraed and Bryngwyn (1952-1954), rector of Machen with Rudry (1954-1959) and vicar of St Peter’s, Cockett, Swansea (1959-1969).   After this, he moved to London, working as rector of St Mary’s Hanwell (1969- 1983) and rural dean of Ealing West (1978-1982).  He finished his working life as prebendary of St Paul’s Cathedral (1981-1983).  After retirement, he moved back to Cardiff. 

Fred also wrote ten humorous autobiographical novels based on his experience as a South Wales clergyman.  It was said of him, ‘Fred Secombe is to the clergy what James Herriot is to vets and Dr Finlay is to the medical profession.’ Fred’s books included How green was my curate (1989), A curate for all seasons (1990) and A comedy of clerical errors (1995).  The stories start just after the Second World War; the central character has already attended theological college in the cathedral city of St David’s, after the college buildings in Cardiff were destroyed by a landmine. He is posted as curate to the town of Pontywen, in the Welsh valleys. Pontywen is said to have a population of six thousand, with a colliery and a steelworks on its outskirts. At one of his first services, Secombe trips over his cassock and in an attempt to avoid falling, knocks over the huge lectern prayer book. Later, in one of the funniest incidents, he gets stuck to the bottom of his landlady’s freshly painted bath tub.  He eventually marries Eleanor, the female doctor who treats him.  After leaving Pontywen, he becomes vicar of Abergelly, a large industrial parish in the West Monmouthshire valleys. Eventually, he is also appointed rural dean. 

Fred was a devotee of Gilbert and Sullivan and used church-based amateur operatic societies throughout his ministry to embed his churches in their communities.  He was a founder member of Cockett Amateur Operatic Society in 1962, (originally called Cockett Church Gilbert & Sullivan Society).  Not surprisingly he was known as a witty after-dinner speaker.  In his obituary in South Wales Evening Post, Colin Paton commented, ‘He was a good vicar. He organised the parish very well. He was instrumental in forming two new churches in the parish, St Teilo’s in Caerithin and St Deiniol’s in Blaenymaes. He was a very pleasant character, very cheerful.’ 

Writing in The Link, Richard Fenwick remembered, ‘But he was a very remarkable man – and in his way, much more humorous than Harry. He was a great guy – wonderful company. And in many ways he was perhaps Harry’s muse, as his elder brother. He had a real love of zany humour – and you can see that in many places in his books … ‘ 


Barker, D.  (2011, January 06). Secombe, Sir Harry Donald (1921–2001), entertainer. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. [Accessed 17 April 2020]

Rev Fred Secombe.The Link.March 2017. [Accessed 17 April 2020] 

Tributes to ‘father figure’ Secombe. South Wales evening post. December 13, 2016. [Accessed 17 April 2020] 

Wales online. (2019). The vanished Swansea school with quite a remarkable list of former pupils. [Accessed 20 April 2020] 

Secombe, H. (1989). Arias & raspberries. The autobiography of Harry Secombe. Vol. 1, ‘The raspberry years.’ London: Robson Books 

Secombe, F. (1997). Chronicles of a curate. How green was my curate. A curate for all seasons. Goodbye curate. London: Fount Paperbacks 

Secombe, F. (1994). Hello, vicar! London: Fount Paperbacks 

Secombe, F. (2001). More chronicles of a vicar. Pastures new. The changing scenes of life. Mister Rural Dean. Harrow: Zondervan