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Wednesday, December 9, 1998 Published at 21:00 GMT


Abbey organist loses appeal

Westminster Abbey: Claim and counter-claim have divided the congregation

The man who arranged the music for Princess Diana's funeral has lost his appeal against dismissal from Westminster Abbey.

Doctor Martin Neary was sacked by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Wesley Carr, for alleged financial irregularities.

Dr Neary appealed on the grounds that he had been unfairly dismissed, and the Queen, who has the right to adjudicate in such matters, asked a former judge to investigate the case.

The BBC's Alex Kirby reports on the case
The two men, who together staged the funeral service for Diana, Princess of Wales, parted company after a row over "secret profits" made by the organist, Dr Neary.

[ image: Both dean and organist were praised for organising Diana's funeral]
Both dean and organist were praised for organising Diana's funeral
Dr Neary, who was decorated by the Queen for his work in arranging the funeral music, was dismissed in April along with his wife Penny by Dr Wesley Carr.

The affair began in March when Dr Neary and his wife were suspended after Dr Carr found they had set up a company to handle proceeds from concerts by the Abbey's choir without telling him or the abbey's governing body, the chapter.

'Secret profits'

The couple allegedly made "secret profits" by retaining "fixing fees" paid to Mrs Neary for organising concerts and recordings.

In April the Nearys were dismissed for "gross misconduct".

The Nearys have denied the allegations from the day the row first broke.

Normally, a case like this would be settled by a bishop. But the abbey is not a normal church.

It is known as a Royal Peculiar. Together with St George's chapel in Windsor Castle, it is governed by the Queen.

Dr Neary exercised his right of appeal to her but Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle heard the appeal on her behalf and dismissed his argument.

After a 12-day hearing behind closed doors the retired Law Lord ruled the Nearys had "fatally undermined the relationship of trust and confidence which should have subsisted between them and the Abbey".

[ image: Westminster Abbey: The place of national commemoration]
Westminster Abbey: The place of national commemoration
The dispute - which is estimated to have cost up to £750,000 - polarised worshippers at the abbey, once known as the "parish church of the British Empire".

Embroiling the Royals

Government ministers, leading Conservative politicians and members of the House of Lords intervened and offered to mediate without success.

Dr Carr, who has a reputation as a moderniser, said the decision to dismiss them was not his alone.

He says he had had the support of the chapter.

His critics say his career has been marked by acrimonious disputes with fellow clergy and other colleagues and he also sacked the organist at his previous post, Bristol cathedral.

Dr Neary, who will have to leave his home in the abbey buildings after losing his appeal, said afterwards he felt his name and that of his wife had been cleared of allegations of dishonesty.

'Period of healing'

Lord Jauncey's judgement may not resolve the row but the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, called afterwards for a "period of healing" at the abbey.

Dr Carey said: "This has been a difficult and testing time for the Abbey and for all those who have been involved in its work and worship.

"I would hope that in the light of Lord Jauncey's judgment it will now be possible for the Abbey to move forward and to re-focus fully on its historic mission to the nation."

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