(Edward) Chad Varah

(1911—2007) Church of England clergyman and founder of the Samaritans

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Church of England clergyman who founded the Samaritans, the British telephone service for befriending the suicidal and despairing. Born in Barton-on-Humber, of which his father was vicar, he was educated at Worksop College and Keble College, Oxford. As a priest in south London he recognized the problem of isolation that human beings can suffer, even in the midst of a family. This was brought home to him when he had to bury a young girl who had taken her own life because she believed herself to be terminally ill when she began to menstruate. An article he wrote on sexual problems for the magazine Picture Post also brought a large mail from people who had no-one with whom to discuss their problems. In response to this apparent need he was eventually able to set himself up as a counsellor in 1953 in the crypt of the Lord Mayor's parish church, St Stephen Walbrook, of which he was rector (1953–2003). Recognizing that many of the people who responded to his initial advertisements were helped by talking to his untrained, but carefully selected, helpers, he founded the non-religious movement later dubbed ‘the Samaritans’ by the media. This now has 187 branches in the UK, manned by 22000 volunteers. Chad Varah was president of Befrienders International (Samaritans Worldwide), which seeks to spread the movement abroad, from 1983 to 1986. He travelled widely abroad, including a visit to the then Soviet Union, to spread the Samaritan principles. He was appointed a prebendary of St Paul's Cathedral in 1975 and his autobiography, Before I Die Again, was published in 1992.

From Who's Who in the Twentieth Century in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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