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David Farmer

Sunday 11th April 2021

David Farmer was born in 1923 in Ealing, West London, the second of eight children. At an early age, the family left London to live in Bagshot, Surrey, and there built a Catholic Church in their garden, a visible sign of the family’s deep faith and devotion. David was a bright pupil and academically gifted. Unlike many others, however, this gift was nurtured through a period of around twenty years as a Benedictine monk, where the first of his many publications, The Monk of Farne, about a Benedictine hermit of Durham, who lived on the island of Inner Farne, emerged in 1962. 

David left monastic life in the mid-1960s, and went to Lincare College in 1966. This was an important time for him both personally and professionally and he hugely valued the time he spent at Linacre, where he studied and further deepened his understanding of medieval history and hagiography. 

He subsequently secured a Lectureship at the University of Reading, where he published his magnum opus, the Oxford Dictional of Saints, which remains an authoritative guide. In addition, he published widely, including the Age of Bede (Penguin), Benedict’s Disciples to mark the 1400th anniversary of his birth, and the Life of St.Hugh of Lincoln.

His friend and colleague Dr Henry Mayr-Harting wrote: “David was a very fine scholar, learned, measured in his judgements, in no way polemical but with obvious religious devotion in his interests and his whole tone.”

David married Ann, a teacher, and they had two children. In later life, he loved walking and resumed his pursuit of cricket and red wine. He lived independently in Pangbourne until his death shortly after his 98th birthday.