Shock as dean of ‘cardboard cathedral’ dies

Lynda Patterson
Lynda Patterson

The family of a top female Ulster cleric have spoken of their loss after she died in New Zealand.

Lynda Patterson, 40 and from Dromore in Co Down, had been the dean of Christchurch Cathedral for around one year.

She failed to turn up to Sunday service, and was later found dead at home.

It is thought she died of a possible heart attack some time on Saturday, although it is not yet certain what the cause of death was.

Christchurch Cathedral had suffered catastrophic damage in the 2011 New Zealand earthquake and a temporary one, made of cardboard, was erected in its place.

Lynda had been inside along with 19 others at the time the quake struck, and her father Cedric described it as a miracle that no one had been killed.

Speaking yesterday, he said they had lost “a first-class daughter” and that both he and wife Evelyn were devastated.

“We got word on Sunday morning, at about a quarter to three,” said Mr Patterson.

“When the phone goes at that time of the morning you don’t like it, for it’s hardly ever good news.”

It was the PA from Christchurch, who told him: “I’ve awful sad news for you. Your darling daughter Lynda’s passed away.”

When she did not appear for church, someone had gone round to her home to investigate. Although the dog was barking, no one answered the door.

“She had gone to bed probably on Saturday night, we assume, and hadn’t wakened up again,” said Mr Patterson, 68.

Police had said it was not a case of foul play, and a doctor “reckoned it was a 
heart attack”.

She had no siblings.

Asked to describe her, Mr Patterson said she was witty, brainy, and quick to make new friends.

“She was a great daughter, a brilliant daughter. She was our pride and joy,” he told the News Letter.

“She was a first-class daughter, and in all her 40 years she never, never gave us any trouble or any bother in her life.”

She had attended Dromore Primary and Banbridge Academy, and attained an undergraduate and then a Master’s Degree in Theology at Oxford.

She was ordained in New Zealand in around 2004, after first visiting the country a couple of years before that.

She learned the indigenous language of Maori as part of the requirements for entering the New Zealand church.

In February 2011, disaster struck in the form of a large-scale earthquake which damaged much of the city of Christchurch, and led to more than 180 deaths.

The cathedral was a popular tourist spot, and Lynda had been very fearful that visitors may have been inside the cathedral’s spire when it collapsed.

Thankfully nobody was, but the cathedral was so badly affected that it was decided to open a new one, which Lynda herself described online as “the world’s only cathedral made substantially of cardboard”.

When it comes to her funeral arrangements, the bishop in Christchurch told the family that Lynda had expressed a wish to be buried in New Zealand.

However Mr Patterson does not know how firm this wish was, and said his own preference is that unless Lynda made some official request for such a burial, he would like to bring her body back to Northern Ireland.

The situation will become clearer in the days ahead, he added.