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From The Sunday Times 26 April 1998 Page 3

Christopher Morgan, Religious Affairs Correspondent

'Westminster dean is turbulent priest, says his daughter'

THE daughter of Wesley Carr, dean of Westminster, has described her father as a "withdrawn workaholic who finds it difficult to communicate".

Helga Mann, a university student who is the foster daughter of the dean, has spoken for the first time about her relationship with her father since he was accused of being a bully in his management of Westminster Abbey.

She admitted to family tension but denied she was estranged from her father. A church insider, close to the family, described their relationship as "turbulent".

Carr has been critised for his heavy-handed dismissal last week of Dr Martin Neary, the abbey's organist. Carr was recently described as "a zealous but abrasive moderniser determined to establish his executive authority".

The dispute over Neary's sacking has already become one of the most notorious causes celebres in recent church history. Cherie Booth, QC, wife of Tony Blair, will represent him as he seeks the restoration of his post. Frank Field, the social security minister, has accused Carr of being a bully.

Carr said the decision to sack the organist and his wife was made by the full chapter of the abbey and followed claims of financial irregularities involving the couple. The Nearys have denied the charges and the sacked organist has formally appealed to the Queen. Lord Irvine, the lord chancellor, is likely to investigate.

Mann's comments may be used by critics in the church and parliament to reinforce their claim that Carr was an inappropraite choice as dean of Westminster. Mann admitted she had difficulty communicating with her father, but dismissed reports that she had been banished from the deanery, having spent time there at Easter. She said her rift with her father could shed light on the abbey dispute, but did not elaborate on the nature of the family turbulence.

It has emerged that Neary's sacking is Carr's fourth such dismissal since he became a senior cleryman. After sacking his cathedral organist in 1989 when he was dean of Bristol, Carr next moved against Roy Collard, headmaster of Bristol Cathedral School, and forced his dismissal in 1993.

Colleagues have described an 18-month campaign waged by Carr against Collard, now headmaster of Worksop College. A supporter said Collard did not want to speak about it: "He and his wife had such a thoroughly miserable time".

Following Collard's departure, the Headmaster's Conference, the body that represents Britain's leading public schools, was so outraged by Carr's behaviour that it refused to admit the cathedral school to its membership. A four year suspension lasted until Carr moved away from Bristol deanery to Westminster last year.

A prominent figure within the conference said yesterday that Carr was also involved in the dismissal of Anthony Verity as master of Dulwich College in 1995, when Carr was a college governor. Verity said: "He is very strong-willed; he likes getting his own way".

A regular worshipper at Westminster abbey claimed this weekend that the abbey had become a "gulag" under Carr. Stories of intimidation and excessive discipline are now circulating among London's clergy

by Christopher Morgan, Additional reporting: Sarah Toyne

 

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