In memoriam Clifford Jordan 1940-2020


A service of thanksgiving and remembrance for the life of Clifford Jordan was held in St Mary’s church on Saturday, August 14. His death had occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic, inhibiting at the time more public mourning.

In a heart-warming service, we recalled our acquaintance and friendship with a person who had lived in and loved the town of Rye. Some knew him from the earliest days, as a student at Rye Grammar School, a choir boy in St Mary’s church choir and a bell ringer. As a young man he attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and became a music teacher and organist, bringing his talents to the service of music in his home town and area around. He had a fine voice and would on occasion give recitals.

Although seemingly always in a hurry, he had time for everyone. He became a town councillor, standing as an independent, and brought his wit, social concern and knowledge to local affairs. He developed a passion for horse and dog racing, and had a pair of greyhounds which he kept at Heathfield and watched track-race, with varying degrees of financial success.

In later years, he could be seen weaving his way in black coat and fedora hat from his house at Tollgate Lock on New Winchelsea Road. He was afflicted for many of his last years by the onset of Parkinson’s, but never lost his sense of humour and warmth of character.

Rushlight Nocturne sheet music by Clifford Jordan

The memorial service followed a pattern pre-ordered by Clifford himself. We sang one of his favourite hymns and listened to John Breeds read Psalm 23 in the traditional King James version that he loved. A moving tribute was given by Michael Darby, who was once one of Clifford’s pupils. Next came Music for Reflection as the Revd. Christopher Breeds played a recording of an old favourite. It was Ivor Novello’s We’ll gather lilacs in the spring, a nostalgic lyric that brought back so many different memories. He followed this by playing a piece on the piano, Rushlight Nocturne composed by Clifford, before leading us into the Lord’s Prayer and William Blake’s Jerusalem. We gave a rendering of that well-worn hymn that would have made proud the Women’s Institute, the Playden branch of which counted Clifford Jordan’s Granny Nash as a founding member.

A final prayer composed by John Donne, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in the early 17th century, was read in a clear voice by the mayor Rebekah Gilbert. Following the Blessing, we chatted with each other and looked at a selection of photos and mementos documenting in brief a long life well-spent.

Image Credits: Kenneth Bird .

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  1. Thank you, Kenneth, for your thoughtful report on Clifford’s Memorial Service. I just want to correct one thing before someone else does. Clifford did not attend Rye Grammar School. It is also worth mentioning that a good amount of money was given in Clifford’s memory and it will go to the Mayor’s Charity which will help local youngsters.


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