'I Just Grabbed God...' Musician And Anglican Priest Peter Skellern Dies Aged 69

Singer and pianist Peter Skellern, who had a huge hit with his song 'You're a lady'  in the 1970s, has died aged 69.

Skellern revealed last October that he had had an inoperable brain tumour for the previous two and a half years.

His family told the Daily Mirror: 'Peter's creativity in art, comedy and music stand as his legacy to love and laughter. The love he brought to us will continue to be shared with everyone through his music.

'We will miss him with all our hearts.'

Before he died he was ordained as an Anglican priest in Truro, describing it as a life-long ambition. He needed special permission from the Archbishop of Canterbury for the ordination.

Rt Rev Tim Thornton, Bishop of Truro, paid tribute to him saying: 'It was a shock for me to hear of Peter's death today. Of course, I knew he was very seriously ill but it still came as a shock. 

'Peter had such strength in life and a strong Christian faith. He also had a twinkle in his eye, a question to ask or a slightly different view on life.

 'Ordaining Peter last year was an extraordinary privilege. The number of people who attended and the clear love felt by all for Peter was obvious. Also very clear was Peter's faith. Ordaining him was not about rewarding someone or, heaven forfend, patronising someone who was ill. Ordination was the right thing to do, it made sense of Peter's long-term sense of calling and it felt entirely right and natural. 

'My prayers are with Diana and the whole family as they come to terms with this sad news.'

Thornton described him as 'a truly remarkable and creative priest whose faith was strong and whose life has made an impact for good on many, many people'.

Skellern grew up playing the organ in his local church in Bury, Lancashire. He had first dreamed of being a priest when he was nine years old but had a highly successful musical career, writing musicals and choral works alongside performing. He was particularly known for his love songs and ballads, of which 'Hold on to love' reached number 14 in the charts. One of his pieces, 'Waiting for the Word', featured on the BBC's Songs of Praise programme in 2001. He performed often with his friend and fellow-pianist Richard Stilgoe. 

When he was diagnosed with a brain tumour, he said: 'For about a week I hung in this abyss and I just grabbed God.

'I was given a year to live and everything fell, apart from my belief in God. It was like that for about a week and then God closed the ground beneath me and I became resigned and happy and I have been like that ever since.'