Frank and Jean Hytch, 1929 – 2009

We are gathered here today to pay tribute and give thanks for the lives of Frank and Jean Hytch, loyal members of this congregation for more years than most of us remember.

Frank and Jean had been married for nearly sixty years, and were inseparable in life, sharing their love of music and bridge and working closely together in latter years, producing The Unitarian magazine. Both Jean and Frank were in their 81st year. It is perhaps a kind and happy outcome that Jean should follow Frank so quickly into the afterlife. I feel sure that this is what she would have wanted.

Jean was born and grew up in Glamorgan and she undertook teacher training at Derby. she and Frank met at a Christian conference in Swanwick. Jean taught music students at home until quite recently, but ceased attending church several years ago, when she developed agoraphobia. She never left the house in Moseley until after Frank was admitted to hospital, when she followed him shortly afterwards. Her sometimes abrupt manner concealed a kind heart.

Frank was born in Leicester in March, 1929 where his father worked for the Inland Revenue. But this was a career which entailed regular moves to different parts of the country, and Frank’s own career would follow a similar peripatetic pattern. He attended school at Wallington in Surrey, where his precocious talent led to the award of a scholarship to Wadham College, Oxford at the age of 17, mingling with such fellow undergraduates as Tony Benn and Roy Hattersley. Frank graduated in Politics, Philosophy & Economics at the age of 20 and he and Jean were married in 1950. Those were the days of universal National Service and Frank then volunteered for a Short Service Commission in the RAF and during the next seven years served in Germany, Northumberland, and Bridgnorth.

On leaving the RAF, he joined the Civil Service as a graduate trainee in the Ministry of Labour, where his hard work and ability led to rapid promotion. He went on to serve as Manager in Charge at Labour Exchanges in Wolverhampton and Worcester before joining the Industrial Relations Service which in 1974 became the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration  Services – ACAS for short. The following year the new enterprise became part of the Department for Business,Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and was organized into several very large districts within the United Kingdom. Frank was appointed to manage the Wales Region and as he was by then living in Moseley, had  to spend a great deal of time traveling. He was then promoted yet again to run the vast Midland District with its headquarters in Birmingham where he rapidly earned the respect of the leaders of both the Employers and the Trade Unions, on one memorable occasion dealing with Unitarians representing each side!

Despite his busy life, Frank also served as a Birmingham magistrate for over 20 years. And typically, he was noted for his approachability and willingness to share his wisdom and experience with newly appointed members of the bench.

Frank joined The Church of the Messiah in Broad Street during the ministry of Hilton Birtles and remained a member when the congregation reverted to its original name of Unitarian New Meeting and moved to the present premises in Ryland Street. He then ran the Ryland Youth Club, started in the new premises, until its closure in 1976. He soon became a member of the Vestry Committee and served as Congregational Secretary for over twenty five years, interrupted only by a two year spell as Chairman. Frank’s equable temperament and willingness to see both sides of an argument were always a calming influence in congregational affairs. His unremitting dedication and skill in quietly carrying out the basic tasks essential to the success of the congregation earned him the love and respect of all. For many years, he combined the role of Secretary with management of the church lettings which made such a valuable contribution to its income.

Frank was generous too with his time in contributing to many other areas of the Unitarian Movement. He served on the Executive Committee of the Midland Union – as it then was – for several years and became its President in 1989-91. Both he and Jean were life members of the Association. He was a staunch supporter of the Unitarian Church Music Society, working with David Dawson. David and his wife also have happy memories of meeting Jean and Frank at the Unitarian Family Holiday Conferences held at Great Hucklow and Peter Hewis tells of how Frank and his family volunteered to help him run a London Send a Child to Hucklow week at Great Hucklow.

For 57 years, Frank was also a strong supporter of The National Unitarian Fellowship, serving variously as Secretary, President and Editor of the magazine. For several years in the 1990s he also organized the Annual Conferences of the Unitarian Society for Psychical Studies. Frank held firm views about life after death and at the 1995 Conference, when President of the Society, he gave a major paper on The Supreme Adventure, Crookall’s seminal book on the subject.

He was a Trustee of the Hibbert and Gregson Trusts from 1986 to 2003 and participated in several research projects with them. His colleagues have fond memories of his kind and gentle nature.

He was Life Governor of Manchester College Oxford and regularly attended the Annual meetings of friends and governors.

In latter years, Frank became even better known nationally, after he succeeded Alan Curren as Editor of The Unitarian magazine in 1996. He used his wide knowledge of Unitarian affairs to make every edition both interesting and challenging. He was a self-professed technophobe and relied heavily on Jean’s computing expertise to meet the technical demands of modern publishing, editing his final edition in October 2009.

He was a GA Recognised Lay Preacher and preached tirelessly in churches and chapels throughout theWest Midlands for many years where his addresses were deeply appreciated. One hearer speaks of Frank as ‘an interesting and eloquent preacher’ who ‘will be sorely missed, a true voice of reason’.

As well as their shared interest in music, Frank and Jean were keen Bridge players and took part in Bridge tournaments as far afield asAnglesey. Their younger son Michael died in a tragic motor cycle accident many years ago, but they are survived by their daughter Tessa, their son Christopher, their grandchildren Max, Leo and Giles and Frank’s brother David and his family. We offer them our sympathies in their loss.

Frank Hytch was a man loved and respected by all who knew him. he left the world a better place than he found it. There can be no better testament to any man. Like Saul and Jonathan in the Book of Samuel, Frank and Jean were ‘lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided.’

Sandy Ellis