A PRIEST who played both God and Pontius Pilate in York’s mystery plays and served the people of the city for 30 years has died.

Parishioners of English Martyrs RC Church, Acomb, are in mourning for Father Hugh Curristan, who died in Letterkenny, Ireland, aged 86.

He was much-loved not just by members of the congregation he led from 1971 until his retirement in 2001, but also by the many people who admired him as a musician and an actor.

Canon Michael Ryan now of St Wilfrid’s RC Church, York, and formerly priest of Our Lady’s RC Church, Acomb, said: “He was just a wonderful man. He was an extrovert, supportive of anyone. He made a huge contribution, spiritually and pastorally, in the parish, and a huge contribution in the city because of his participation in the Mystery Plays and York Settlement Players. He was a great entertainer and he was able to raise money for a lot of projects.”

Some of his fundraising was for projects in South America where he spent six years and worked in the shanty towns of Lima in Peru in the 1960s. He also raised money for CAFOD, the Catholic charity for developing countries and was well-known for his impersonation of Liberace, the flamboyant pianist.

Council 95 of the Knights of St Columba (York), a Catholic organisation, spoke of the “deep regret” of the death of Fr Curristan, who was their chaplain.

The Bishop of Middlesbrough, the Rt Rev Terence Patrick Drainey, conducted his funeral service in Ireland, and a memorial service will be held in York later this year.

Fr Curristan was born on May 20, 1925, in Donegal, Ireland and ordained in June 1951.

In 1978. with the Rev David Johnson an East Yorkshire vicar, he took a specially adapted version of the mystery plays to Nashville, USA, in which he played God, a shepherd, a King, a pharisee and Pontius Pilate.

In 1981, he appeared as Liberace on the London Weekend Television show Game For A Laugh. In 1991, he marked his Ruby Jubilee as a priest and was one of 50 priests who gave a concert at Wembley to raise funds for a Bangladesh appeal.