There is a light that will never go out...
It is with deepest regret that we announce the deaths of the following valued members, volunteers and staff.
It is with sadness we pass on news of the death of John Durkin, one of oldest former members of the SVP of Corpus Christie parish, Bromley Cross Bolton. John died on 28 January 2021, aged 89. Although he lived in Bolton most of his life, John was a countryman at heart, who came from Haigh, a village outside Wigan. John lived opposite a farm, near the Leeds Liverpool canal and when young enjoyed helping at the farm and tending the horses. His mother died when John was only ten. Later his father re-married and John and his younger brother and sister were largely brought up by his eldest sister, Josie. He recalled that several times a week Josie and he would hitch a lift on a commercial barge travelling to Wigan where they would alight and meet up with the other two children and the four of them would be looked after by their grandparents for the day.
John left school at fourteen and eventually trained as a weaver, becoming an over looker at a local Mill. John also enjoyed travelling round Lancashire and Yorkshire collecting and delivering cotton goods. He became very knowledgeable about different cloths and he learned to identify different cloths ,where they came from and whether they were natural or man-made.
Later John worked for Dorma, working nights for the rest of his working life. He became very proficient at housework and cooking although like most men he couldn't always get the timing right and frequently his rice pudding was ready sometime before his Lancashire hotpot!
After moving to Bromley Cross in 1966 John and his wife Theresa became active members of St John's church (the former name of our church) and they helped out when the old church-previously a Ministry of Pensions building- was dismantled to make way for the new church. John retired in 1996, sadly Theresa died only two years later. In retirement John enjoyed following the fortunes of Wigan Rugby League Club and travelling abroad to Australia and Singapore where two of his three daughters lived.
In 2008, John became very ill with sepsis. His companion Kathleen realised how seriously ill he was, and he was hospitalised for three months, one month of which was in intensive care. He recalled hearing the voice of his granddaughter Gabrielle and he thought “Why is she here?” Gabrielle lives in Australia and John realised he must be very ill if his daughter Carolyn and her family had flown over to see him. After this, John gradually got better, helped immeasurably by the care and devotion of Kathleen.
John's faith was very important to him and the SVP, with its emphasis on visiting and caring for those in need, suited him as the best way to put his faith into practice. He was a member for over fifty years, and president on two occasions. He always attended our Monday evening meetings before going off to begin his night shifts. He was very popular with all our visitees and will be sorely missed. He died at peace with his family gathered at his side. May he rest in peace.
Anne passed away at the age of 82 on 26 July 2020. Anne was a long standing member of the SVP for over 30 years and was one of the founder members of Holy Cross & St Francis Conference, Walmley, Sutton Coldfield which is as strong today as it was when Anne helped set the Conference up. Anne always offered her time to take on officer roles including Conference President and also District President for Sutton Coldfield. Anne was well thought of and respected by all SVP members she came into contact with, her no nonsense approach twinned with her Vincentian spirit shining through always. Anne always wanted to say yes to helping others. Anne’s mobility reduced in her later years however this never stopped her coming to the weekly meetings and still visiting right up till Covid 19 unfortunately arrived. Even with meetings taking place on Zoom, Anne overcome any technology problems and participated in the Zoom meetings right up until the week that Anne died. Her last meeting on Zoom Anne made sure a Gin & Tonic accompanied her on the screen which was great to see. A perfect role model to the act of charity for us all and will be sorely missed by all SVP members who knew her. RIP Anne
Margaret Josephine (Peggy) O'Brien
Margaret Josephine (Peggy) O’Brien lived for most of her life in Altrincham, attending Loreto with her sister Sheila. On leaving school, Peggy obtained her diploma in Institutional Management, subsequently becoming the much-loved Head of Catering at the Hollies Convent school in Fallowfield.
In 1972 she married George Heath, a member of St Vincent’s Altrincham Conference. She founded the Ladies Conference and was their president, and more recently a member of the joint Conference. She always enjoyed visiting beneficiaries and organising special Masses for the sick and housebound.
1989 was a sad year for Peggy. Her mother died in July 1989 and George died in December of the same year. In 1990 she moved into Silverdale, an apartment complex where she made many friends.
Peggy was efficient, practical and independent. Over the years she enjoyed visiting Sheila in California and Father Chris, her brother, in London. When her health declined rapidly in 2020 she had to leave her beloved flat and go to Our Lady of the Vale Care Home. Coronavirus meant that she could not have visitors but she could see Father Chris, who was also resident there and on 6 June 2020 she died quietly and peacefully.
Peggy was forthright and outspoken. She was also big hearted and faithful to her family, her friends and her Church. It would have surprised her that many parishioners, including Conference members, lined the route of her cortege to show their affection.
May she rest in peace.
Will Cochrane of St Vincent's Conference, Altrincham, died from the coronavirus on May 3 2020. Will was a retired director of a family wholesale textile business in Manchester. He became a Catholic in 1961 and was actively involved in parish life in so many ways. In 1980 he was a founding member and Chairman of the parish CAFOD group and he participated in justice and peace campaigns across the country, such as Making Poverty History, Banning Landmines and Raising Environmental Awareness. For over 41 years as a dedicated and much-loved member of the SVP, he was assiduous in his attendance of Conference and Festival meetings. Always conscientious in his visiting, and other Conference activities, he additionally provided assistance to refugees.
In his younger days, Will was a keen and talented sportsman who became the Cheshire County Tennis Champion, winning cups on numerous occasions. Lately, he was a member of Hale Golf Club but sadly in recent years his rheumatoid arthritis restricted his mobility. However, that did not prevent him from climbing flights of stairs to give comfort to poorly parishioners.
Will's brother Ian is also a much-loved member of the SVP Conference and Will leaves Christine, his dear wife of a 58-year marriage, and their three children Richard, Elizabeth and James.
David Hallworth, of St Vincent’s Conference, Altrincham died on April 25 2020. David was a retired solicitor and convert who was actively involved in parish life as a eucharistic minister and reader at mass and a member of the parish choir. David participated in interfaith work through Altrincham Christians Together, and for over 38 years as a dedicated and much-loved member of the SVP. In the 1990’s David served as president of the Conference, and when attending or chairing meetings he expressed his views clearly and firmly, whilst at the same time displaying great humility. His visits to beneficiaries were thoroughly organised and he invariably appeared laden with Catholic newspapers and magazines, and a prepared stock of anecdotes, appropriate for those being visited. His visits were always highly entertaining, and he had an instinct for knowing when a visit was ready to conclude with prayers. His enthusiasm belied his years and he was telephoning parishioners isolated by the coronavirus lockdown right up until his sudden death. He was always ready to offer lifts to beneficiaries and other SVP members, all of whom are greatly upset by his passing, and his presence within the Conference will be sorely missed. David and his dear wife Joan, who died just a few months earlier, were keen tennis players for many years and David was also a member of Hale Golf Club. He leaves three daughters, Alison, Claire and Sarah and their families.
Chris was a real stalwart of the Church and some years ago he received the “Benemerenti” medal from the Pope for his service to the Church. His work with the Saint Vincent de Paul Society was outstanding. Chris displayed all the virtues of a True Vincentian; simplicity, humility, gentleness, selflessness and zeal.
Chris very rarely missed a meeting of the SVP Conference and would often have a funny story to tell concerning his visits. His work with Society was prolific, and the number of visits he made was quite amazing. Nothing was too much trouble for him, and he would always go out of his way to help those who needed a kind word or errand, and always displayed great love and respect for those he visited.
In the time I knew Chris, he was often visiting people younger than himself and even when he was unwell, he would soldier on without complaint. His faith was, like him, very strong. His example was one of service care for those he visited.
Chris served for 62 years with the SVP and was a founder member of the St Joseph’s Conference. Last July, Chris received the Long Service medal from the SVP. Although he is no longer with us, he will always be remembered and greatly missed. Chris R.I.P.
Word by Jack Ewins, president St Joseph’s SVP Conference
Catherine Gaw passed away at the age of 89 on 27th February 2020. She was a kind and dedicated member of St Bernadette's Conference Nunthorpe, Middlesbrough, for over 20 years from the mid eighties, and served as secretary to the conference for a short period. In the latter part of her life she suffered from Parkinson's disease. Although a physically debilitating condition, her mind remained sharp to the end and her kindness, prayerfulness and humility was a source of delight to all who knew her. May she rest in peace.
Brenda Bethell (retired member)
Brenda was a very popular lady who touched the hearts of so many people during her lifetime. She was kind and generous and never talked badly of anyone. She was never selfish and always encouraged her family and friends to make the most of their lives and not worry about her.
She was born in 1932 and was married to Tony her husband for 61 years. Brenda was one of the first lady members at English Martyrs Conference, Alvaston Derby. She joined the SVP around 1975 and during her time as a member served two terms as conference president and supported her husband Tony through his term of office as Nottingham Central Council President. This was all whilst her young family was growing up. Also (during all this) she carried on with her normal SVP activities, visiting lonely people and helping those who were generally less privileged in life. She was used to cooking for a large family but decided that wasn’t enough. She took on the Head Cook kitchen challenge at the SVP Girls camp in Mablethorpe and provided meals for 60 x 12-14 year olds for a week each year. It was only supposed to be for one year but with many willing volunteers she made a success of it and handed the baton to her friend Rita 13 years later. Actually Brenda and Tony were the instigators of the Nottingham CC Girls camps at Mablethorpe after many years of there being only Boys camps there.
Her next challenge was to work with the Padley group for homeless people. She got involved with all sorts of activities which culminated in her biggest retail challenge which was to set up and run the Padley Group Shop on Sadler Gate in Derby. She worked there for 6 – 8 hours/day, 6 days/week. She had a way with people and roped in other volunteers to help from various denominations. Tony also worked there initially sorting out the shop with fixings and fixtures supplied from Boots and M&S. By the end of three months, the shop was making enough money to employ someone to run it. She had no retail experience whatsoever but made a success of it and testament to her, the shop is still open and earning today, albeit in a different location in the Intu centre.
Brenda’s later years were plagued with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular Dementia but this did not stop her from laughing and smiling with everyone, having the odd tipple of Merlot and even the occasional walk in the fresh air of the Peak District and local Park.
Brenda spent most of her life helping others in one way or another. She had a very happy life and made many great memories.
Brenda was a beautiful lady who cared for everyone. She didn’t moan, she just got on with life. Brenda died on the 14th October 2019 R.I.P Brenda. She will be deeply missed by all of her family and friends and will be at peace and pain free on her onward journey to heaven.
It is with a sad heart that we report the death of a true and stalwart servant of the SVP. Ricky Johnson passed away on the 24 September last after an illness. Ricky had been a member since the mid-1990s having served the Lee Conference as secretary since joining until he retired from active duty last year through age, but more to care for his wife Lyn who is quite unwell.
Everyone who knew him was impressed by his cool and calm manner; I never saw him flustered. And more than that, I never saw him turn away from what he saw as his responsibility towards the Society. As such, he took on the Presidency of the Portsmouth District when no one else stepped forward. In similar vein he accepted the post of Secretary to the Portsmouth Central Council.
Ricky took on these responsibilities and applied his measured and diplomatic approach. Wherever he was involved we all benefitted from his calming influence. Ricky had been a seaman with the RFA. His specialisation was navigation and he retired in the rank of Captain. My lasting memory of Ricky is a man with a steadying hand on the tiller. He was a wholly dependable member of the SVP and a true friend to all whom he met. He is greatly missed and those who knew him are the richer for his friendship. Rest in peace Ricky and thank you for your total giving.
Words by Edward Cuerden, late Portsmouth DC President
Eric Ashcroft (1936-2018)
Eric Ashcroft died at home on 24 June 2018, peacefully with Joan his wife, Nicholas his son and parish priest Fr Neylon. Eric was born in St Helens, he grew up in the Running Horses pub and trained as a mechanic. He then went into National Service and later became a school teacher, while giving more than forty years of service to the SVP. Eric’s membership began with the St Teresa’s Conference, and he went on to hold numerous positions including two terms as president of the South West Lancashire Central Council. To many who knew him, Eric was the embodiment of the motto “turning concern into action”, only retiring aged 81 when forced into lengthy hospital stays due to a sudden Leukaemia diagnosis. Eric was forever a stalwart of St Teresa’s parish, a supporter of numerous charitable causes and enjoyed local clubs, sports and social interests, seemingly getting busier and busier as his retirement went on.
We were touched by the number of SVP members in attendance at his funeral and the kind messages sent from the charity. Eric left behind a legacy of doing the good work without ever seeking recognition and if we had one thing left to say to him it would be thank you, Eric.
Words by Eric’s son, Nicholas Ashcroft
We are very sad to report that Aidan Smith died on Tuesday 18th September 2018. Aidan was a long standing member of the S.V.P. in Grange over Sands where he lived for all his life, raising a family of six with his wife Veronica. He was President of the St. Charles Borromeo conference for many years, until shortly before his death when he handed on the Presidental ‘baton’ to his successor, and had also been a District President in the past.
He was a well-known and well-loved figure in the town and an important member of the community in many ways. Until fairly recently, Aidan was always in attendance at the Grange Town Council meetings, held monthly on a Monday night at Victoria Hall. He had been a member of Grange Town Council for over 30 years before retiring in 2007 and he was Mayor of the town on two occasions: 1989/90 and 2002/03. He was born, and grew up, in Grange-over-Sands and had a long and distinguished career for more than 40 years in education culminating in the role of Deputy Head at St. Bernard’s secondary school, (formerly St. Aloysius), in Barrow, and received a papal medal for services to education He has always been a ‘leading light’ in the Town, a lifelong supporter of St. Charles RC Church and many organisations. He was an active member of the Natural History Society and Probus to name just two. An enthusiastic gardener, he was renowned for his vegetables and for growing pounds of the raspberries he could always be seen sitting amongst, and collecting, in the summer months. Aidan always had Grange at the heart of any decisions he supported in his quiet and measured manner. His knowledge of the Town and its history was phenomenal. We have lost a true gentleman who will be sadly missed. Our sympathy goes to his wife, Veronica, and his family.
John Michael Lydon (1932 - 2018)
Michael was born in Manchester, educated at St Bede’s College and, after National Service in Iraq, worked all his life in the paper industry. He was a faithful member of The Holy Name Conference in Leeds for over 30 years, being a most assiduous treasurer for most of that time, as well as making a significant contribution to Parish life; through the SVP, he was the first to offer practical support with furniture, repairs and financial advice, but his real forte was visiting.
Alongside his work as a member of the SVP Michael was hugely involved in the work of the Sylvia Wright Trust, a charity supporting the work of Sylvia Wright, a nurse from Leeds who built a hospital, a school for deaf children, a day centre for disabled children and a nursing college in South India. Michael was a founding member of the Trust, as well as a chairman, a Trustee and a friend for 36 years.
Further friendships developed through the Catenians, of which Michael was a member for over 50 years in Manchester, Warwickshire and Leeds, being president of the City of Leeds Circle on two occasions.
Michael’s circle of friends was legendary and was maintained by his kindness and by continued contact through his wife Judith’s conscientious letter writing and generous photograph sharing.
Michael had a deep and true faith and love for his family. He was full of life and enthusiasm, for rugby, for golf, tennis and squash, gardening, singing and especially for good works.
May he rest in peace
James (Jim) McEvoy
James (Jim) McEvoy, dedicated member of the SVP for more than three decades, passed away on 18th December 2017. Jim held several SVP posts within the Diocese of Brentwood, initially as a member of Immaculate Conception Conference, Chelmsford. In the 1980s he was a founding member of St Augustine’s Conference, Springfield, holding positions of Treasurer and President. Jim was later elected as Chelmsford District Council President and Twinnage Officer for Brentwood Central Council. Over the span of his life, Jim’s work was extensive; from supporting the distribution of food to needy families in his local area, to providing temporary accommodation for the homeless in partnership with Churches Together in Chelmsford; whilst as a Twinnage Officer Jim supported various ongoing projects including the Indian Student Sponsorship Scheme, the Sudan children’s feeding programme, and the “Self-Help Village Plantation” in Madurai, India.
At the time of his death, despite failing health, Jim still held the post of Chelmsford District Council President, persuading members to carry on the task of helping the City’s needy. He’ll be greatly missed by SVP members, parishioners and the many whom he directly helped for more than thirty years.
One parishioner suggested, “Mr SVP Chelmsford” as a suitable epitaph. Those of us who have worked alongside Jim and learned from him would certainly agree with that!
Peter George Willis (1927-2017)
Peter was on the Board of National Council, firstly as the President of Northampton CC in the late 60's. In 1972 he was elected National President for England & Wales. Having been a member of the SVP in his home town of Bedford for many years, also a prison visitor, he was very alert to the work of the SVP and the members. In his time ladies became full members of the SVP, it was this decision taken on a Worldwide basis, which has served the Society so well.
Peter was born on Christmas day 1927, the oldest of three children, his father was a Dentist, so they moved around London and other places in the UK during his childhood and teens. After school, Peter joined the Bank of England and met his lifelong friend Tony Ockenden, in 1946 he was called up for National Service in the RAF, after demob in 1948 he entered Guy's Hospital to train as a Dental Surgeon.
Whilst at Guy's he spotted a girl called Dilys,having been introduced by a mutual friend "Dilys, this is Willis, he wants to meet you!" Dilys became an RC before they were married in 1954, he joined his father's dental practice in Bedford.
Peter became active in Round Table as well as the SVP, plus four children Mark, Nick, Rebecca and David. Peter was a family man through and through and would do anything for all his family
After Peter stepped down as National President he joined the Trustees of the David Young's Charity and served as Secretary for some years, he and Dilys were also involved with working with the Deaf.
Peter was a lovely man in all senses, and I was very fortunate to work with him as National Secretary and on the David Young's Charity. His Funeral was packed with Family, Friends, SVP, Catenians, Knights of St Gregory, and Equestrian Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.
He was a fine man, and we are all blessed if a little of Peter rubbed off on ourselves. May he Rest in Peace.
A member of St Edwards & Holy Spirit Conference, Runcorn, Cheshire for 13 years, Anne passed away on 15th October 2017 after a short illness. Anne was a loving, caring and unassuming lady who enjoyed being a Vincentian. She was much loved by those she visited and by all her Sisters & Brothers in the Conference. She will be sadly missed.
President of St Chad and All Saints Conference Sedgley, Dudley. John passed away suddenly on 26 August 2017 while recovering from a short illness. He had been a member since 1978 and was a wonderful caring person who always gave his time and support to everyone who came into contact with him. John kept the Conference alive when there were only two members and encouraged new people to join so that the Conference now has a membership of seven enthusiastic volunteers.
His generosity and willingness to help is a great loss to the SVP and St Chad and All Saints Parish. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him. His funeral on 7th September was packed with family, friends and colleagues and was a testament to the esteem in which he was held. God Bless Him.
Roland Catlow - Former President of St Anthony's Conference, Fulwood, Roland served as President of Preston District Council for the past 4 years and retired from the SVP only in September thie year. In addition to being an active SVP member, Roland was also a Eucharistic Minister and often took communion to sick and housebound people in his community, including to Derby Lodge, a care home in Preston for young adults with physical and learning disabilities. As well as a loyal Preston North End supporter, Roland was a well-known, much liked and totally unselfish Vincentian who will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
President of St Joseph’s Neath Conference, passed away on 16 July 2017 after a courageous battle. Peter served as President in Neath for a number of years and worked hard to retain the presence of the SVP in the local church. He was a much welcomed visitor to many parishioners' homes.
In 2016 Peter welcomed a Polish family to our church and his family home. The purpose of their visit was to see the grave of their uncle, Jan Pojasek, who tragically died in 1952 while working on the construction of a new bridge. It was their lifetime ambition to pay their respects, as the SVP were responsible for the upkeep of the grave, which was refurbished by the local Conference and will be maintained for as long as possible.
On May 26th 2017 George Mackie, President of the SVP Conference at St Patrick’s Grangetown Cardiff, passed away suddenly whilst on holiday. He was a wonderful SVP member, who always gave his time and his support to everyone who came into contact with him. His generosity and his willingness to help is a significant loss to the SVP and St Patrick’s Parish. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him. His funeral on 21st June was packed with family, friends, and colleagues and was a testament to the esteem in which he was held.
Graham Wilkinson - Former volunteer and manager of the SVP Lincoln Green Community Shop, Leeds
Mary Davis – Long serving member of Our Lady of Canvey and English Martyrs Conference, Essex
Joan Garnett – Long standing member and later an auxiliary member of St Anthony’s Conference, Onchan
Susan James – Former Secretary of Sacred Heart and St Peter’s Conference
Sandra Walsh – Long standing volunteer at CSP Trowbridge, Cardiff