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Alan Gaunt (1935–2023)
Alan Gaunt was born in Manchester in 1935, where his father was minister at the Moss Side Congregational church. When he was three years old the family moved to Blackpool. In 1946 he went as a boarder to Silcoates School in Wakefield, and he was educated subsequently at Lancashire Independent College and Manchester University, where he trained for the Congregational ministry. He was ordained at Clitheroe in 1958, and thereafter served the Congregational and United Reformed Churches in the North of England. His final pastorate was in Windermere, where the hymnwriter Fred Kaan was a member of the congregation. It was at Clitheroe in about 1960 that Alan Gaunt wrote his earliest hymns. The first half-dozen of them received typically stern yet sympathetic and encouraging criticism from Erik Routley. Routley also wrote the introduction to his New Prayers for Worship, which proved to be something of a bestseller in Britain, Australia and New Zealand, and was followed by Prayers for the Christian Year, based on the Joint Liturgical Group Lectionary, and the popular collection Each Day’s Delight.
Though few could match Alan Gaunt’s talent in crafting words for worship, he was at first reticent to bring his hymns before the public. A small volume of them, New Hymns for Worship, was published in the 1970s, although most texts surviving from that time were later drastically revised. Characteristically, too, he tended to alternate prolonged periods of writing hymnody and poetry, although the two modes were deeply co-dependent in his thinking. A further preoccupation was the translation of hymns from Latin, German, French, Greek, Danish and Welsh, and in particular a focus on the work of the Danish nineteenth-century author and pastor N. F. S. Grundtvig and the eighteenth-century Welsh Methodist poet Ann Griffiths. In 1998 Alan Gaunt received an honorary MA for his hymn-writing from Manchester University.
In June 2000 he and his wife Winifred retired to Little Neston on the Wirral peninsular, where he had been minister in the Heswall United Reformed Church from 1974 to 1985.