Worthing funeral celebrant who appeared on The Weakest Link says fond farewell

A Worthing funeral celebrant who was the first full-time non-denominational chaplain at the town's hospice is leaving the south coast after more than 27 years to return home to Whitby in North Yorkshire.
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Fr John McCormack, 64, came to Worthing in February 1995 to take up the role of chaplain at St Barnabas House hospice, when it was at its former site in Columbia Drive, and served there for nearly 12 years.

He then found fame in September 2010 when he appeared on the television show The Weakest Link and survived the wrath of Anne Robinson. He was the last contestant standing and scooped the winner’s prize fund of £3,100.

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He had always watched the programme, as it was something light-hearted that stimulated the brain, and decided to apply to be a contestant, though it was two years before the producers gave him the go ahead to take part.

Fr John McCormack has been an independent funeral celebrant in Worthing since 2006. Picture Leo StaarFr John McCormack has been an independent funeral celebrant in Worthing since 2006. Picture Leo Staar
Fr John McCormack has been an independent funeral celebrant in Worthing since 2006. Picture Leo Staar
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Fr John enjoyed the three-hour filming in Glasgow in March 2010 as part of a team of nine contestants taking turns to answer quickfire general knowledge questions.

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He was amazed he could answer his questions and was not voted off by the other contestants. Afterwards, he said it was quite nerve-wracking but huge fun and one of his most exciting experiences.

Fr John spent the majority of his winnings getting to Malta to be made one of the Knights Hospitaller, an ancient chivalry under the Order of St John.

Membership is offered to people with a connection to relief of suffering or pain through a hospital or hospice and it was through his work as chaplain at St Barnabas House that Fr John was given the order.

Fr John said: "I had the privilege of serving Worthing's community in that capacity until 2006 and subsequently the wider geographical community as an independent funeral celebrant.

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"As I prepare to move back to my home town, I would like to express my gratitude to, and affection for, all those whom I have been privileged to call colleagues and friends during this time, and those families who have trusted me with the spiritual care of their loved ones in their final days and at their funerals. I shall take with me many happy memories of my years in Sussex."

Fr John was ordained as an Anglican minister at Hereford Cathedral in 1988. He went on to serve in Lymington and then at St Nicholas Church in North End, Portsmouth, before coming to Worthing.

At St Barnabas, he helped all staff, patients and families, regardless of religious beliefs. This led him to reconsider faith, belief and the church, and although he maintained his own faith, he moved away from the church to become an independent celebrant.

As a farewell gift from friends, Fr John has been presented with a painting of Jaeger’s Tree at Cissbury Ring, his favourite place and where the ashes of two of his pet labradors, Geordie and Rumble, are scattered.

He plans to continue as a celebrant, conducting services in and around Whitby.

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