David Obbard: 1922-2011
David Obbard passed quietly from this world on Saturday morning, 1 October 2011, at the age of 89.
He was born at Bullingstone Farm, Speldhurst, near Tunbridge Wells in Kent on 7 July 1922, the youngest son of a smallholder and farmer. He moved with his family to Cherry Gardens Farm, Groombridge, in East Sussex, at the age of just three.
He spent nearly the whole of his adult life on the farm where he was brought up, and which he shared with his farming parents and family.
Those bald facts hide a lifetime of service to family, farming, and especially to the Lord, whom he loved so dearly.
As a small boy, he attended the village school in Groombridge, St Thomas, where not only his brothers and sister were educated, but also his mother, both his children and some of his grandchildren. This harks back to a past age, and in some ways David’s death marks the end of an era. Today families are separated by so many factors, but David’s generation had a sense of place not often found today.
As a young man, David revelled in working on the farm. His great love would be to take his favourite horse ploughing early in the morning, with only company from the rising sun and the ascending lark.
As a mixed farmer, he was familiar with milking the herd of 30 Guernsey cows by hand, rearing calves, keeping chickens and raising fruit and vegetable crops for sale locally.
In 1945, he married his childhood sweetheart Doris, on 7 July, his birthday — to ensure he never forgot his wedding anniversary! They shared a loving partnership of 57 years, working together on the farm and in the church.
Later David had a call to the ministry at his local Baptist chapel, Forest Fold, near Crowborough, East Sussex. This engaged him in travelling as an itinerant preacher in many Baptist chapels as far afield as Cornwall and Northumberland.
Often he would rush from a job in the field and then out to a preaching engagement, then back to deal with a sick animal late at night.
In 1963 he was appointed as pastor at Rehoboth Baptist Chapel in Tunbridge Wells and served there for 21 years, retiring to help his son and daughter-in-law back on the farm.
During this time he began to put together some of his poems and stories into a series of books, which reflected on his life as a farmer and pastor. A countryman’s heritage was the first, published in 1991, followed by Countrywise, ploughboy to pastor, and One man’s furrow in 1993.
Other collected works of poems followed, and a treatise on the role of the Holy Spirit in the modern church. His death leaves a grieving, but also rejoicing family — his sister Ruth, son Keith, daughter Rosemary, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.