The Revd Francis Davis Cobley: 1928-2015
A diligent preacher and faithful pastor, Frank was never happier than when sharing tea and conversation with his congregation
Frank Cobley was born in Belshill Hospital, Glasgow in 1928, the seventh child in a family of nine. He grew up in the town of High Blantyre where his father, William Cobley, worked as a Motor Vehicle Mechanic.
Frank left school in 1942, aged fourteen, to seek employment. He was taken on by the Glasgow building firm ‘John Lawrence Ltd,’ where starting out as an office boy he went on to perform a wide range of duties, including surveying, measuring and acting as timekeeper on the building site. He left the company after 11 years, and like his elder brother William Cobley had done before him, he began training for Baptist ministry at Spurgeon’s College, London.
After completing his training in 1958, Frank was called to the ministry at Lyndhurst Baptist Church where he was ordained. He was the minister at the church for seven years, during which time he also served as chaplain to Southampton Hospital, to Lyndhurst Toc H, and for a brief period to the RAF base at Calshot. It was at Lyndhurst that Frank met Vivienne, the daughter of the Church Secretary. The two became close friends and in 1962 they married.
In 1965 the family moved to Walmer, Kent, where at the local Baptist church, Frank took up his second calling. While there, he also served as the free-church chaplain to the Royal Marines School of Music, and he frequently invited members of the orchestra to the church where their musical talent would enrich and enliven the the morning services.
Frank left Walmer in 1973, and moved to Fleet with his wife and four children to begin a new calling at Fleet Baptist Church which was to last twenty years, until his retirement in 1993. It was while he was at Fleet, that he achieved his longstanding ambition of gaining a University degree. In December 1981, after seven years of study with the Open University, involving many late nights spent watching the BBC teaching broadcasts, he was awarded a BA in Sociology.
Frank Cobley was a gifted and diligent preacher. He prepared his sermons weeks in advance with painstaking care, practised them endlessly in the seclusion of his study, and delivered them with visible enjoyment, good humour, and a soft Scottish burr which delighted his congregation. His true passion and calling, though, was in his role as a pastor. He relished being part of the church community.
Driven by his interest in the people around him and lives they led, he spent many hours each week visiting people at home, in hospital, or wherever else, to comfort, console and share the pain of those who were suffering difficult times. He disliked inequality, in all its forms and wherever he saw it. Watching football, he would hope for a draw, and would lose interest if one side pulled ahead.
When not at work Frank liked to walk, often for miles and at a tremendous pace. It was his relaxation from the pressures of ministerial duties. It was quite perfect that retirement took him to the New Forest, where he would go on long walks along the coast and through the woods. From time to time he would also preach at local churches.
Over the last years of his life Frank’s health began to decline. His walks became shorter and shorter, and eventually they stopped altogether. As his body began to give up on him, he looked forward to passing on to a better place and on 25 June 2015 he died peacefully at his home, with his wife by his side.
He was a much loved husband, father and grandfather and will be fondly missed and remembered by all his family.
Jonathan Barr is Frank Cobley’s grandson. This was written with the assistance of David Cobley, Frank’s son.