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Past and Present

    by Janet McNeilly  2002


John Thomas Hopper Ormerod


Born in Darlington on 3rd December 1902, the eldest son of Robert Scott Ormerod and Sarah Elizabeth Hopper. More commonly known as Jack.
According to his sister, Emily, Jack was always the favourite with their Grandad. She said that Jack always got the best or biggest things to eat.
Jack was a witness to the marriage of Emily to James McNeilly in 1925.

He went to Africa where he worked with young people.

On his return from Africa he lived at Mirfield, Yorkshire where he was known as Brother Giles at the House of the Resurrection.

On 16th September 1977 the Mirfield Reporter newspaper ran the following story * -

Anniversary for well-loved Mirfield Man
The man with everything by Robert Taylor
A survey published in a national newspaper on Sunday showed that in Britain today thousands of people are unhappy in their work.
But one man who can truthfully claim to be happy with his lot and who rejoices in his work is Brother Giles of Mirfield's Community of the Resurrection.
And on September 27th he celebrates 30 years as a Lay Reader at the Community.
At the age of 74, Brother Giles is recognised as one of Mirfield's best-loved characters.
He has preached at most of the churches in the area and was one of the stalwarts of St Peter's, The Knowle until it's closure a few years ago.
Residents of the town say that everyone knows him for miles around - and anyone who doesn't is regarded as " a comer-in" and isn't to be listened to.
The first impression one gets on meeting him is that he is a very happy person. His beaming smile breaks any ice that needs to be broken.
His quiet but determined voice describes things in precise detail, leaving nothing to the imagination.
But his road to the Community was not as straight as people may think.
It was in 1937, after a spell in an accountants office, that he realised he was needed elsewhere.
He left his Darlington home and went to South Africa where he joined the Community of the Resurrection and he stayed there until the 1940's. It was then that he returned to England and to the Community's mother house at Mirfield.
Since then he has been the College Bursar, a position he held for 18 years, has preached at most churches in the area and has been involved in more than 34 missions up and down the country.
At St Peter's he was responsible for establishing a boys' club and football team, still flourishing at the Church of Christ the King, Battyeford.
Brother Giles says that he is very happy with his life and feels he has been very lucky.
"What more could I want? I am meeting people all the time and I find a great deal of fulfilment in being with them in their sorrows and their joys. I regard myself as being unselfish and I feel this is the way to be. I want nothing, I have everything I need. Admittedly there are certain things I would like but I tell myself I don't want them. They are not needed."
He says that life at the Community is very exacting but very enjoyable. "We go to church five times a day and get up at six every morning. There is so much to do that the days just don't seem long enough."
Brother Giles says that humour plays an important part in his life.
"If we didn't laugh at things they would get us down. It is vital to see the funny side of life. I remember the time when I first came here. One of the first things I was told was that they would give me a good funeral. I mean, you've just got to laugh at that!"
Brother Giles will be one of the guest preachers at the fourth anniversary celebrations at the Church of Christ the King, Battyeford on September 25th.


From left to right;- Jack, Kathleen and Ruth Roberts nee Ormerod, Bobby Hunter and son John seated at front. 

Jack died on the 18th of April 1993.   

Following his death in 1993 the following article was published in the Quarterly Review of the Community of the Resurrection Journal, Number 361. *

Giles Ormerod CR
John Thomas Hopper Ormerod (known to us as Brother Giles) was born on 3rd December 1902 in Darlington and died on April 18th 1993, having just passed his 90th birthday. He was brought up a Methodist and left school at 14, but continued to study book keeping and shorthand. On leaving school he went to work for a wine merchant and afterwards for a firm in Catterick. He was connected with the YMCA where he taught boys boxing, though he didn't box himself, and one of his pupils went on to become European champion. He was at this time churchwarden of St James' Darlington, a Church he remained in touch with to the end of his life.
What appears to have changed Giles' life was a meeting with Fr Raymond Raynes, perhaps when he visited Mirfield in 1937. He was asked to go out to Sophiatown where he lived as a kind of oblate brother, keeping the books and working with young men. About 1940 he entered the novitiate in Johannesburg and in 1943 he returned to Mirfield to make his profession. And here he stayed till he died, an example of the faithfulness and stability that lies at the foundation of the religious life. Br. Giles' work in the Community was mostly in the Bursary where he amazed people with his ability to add up pounds shillings and pence simultaneously in a single downward move of his pencil. For many years too he was College secretary and so ironically, for one who always felt himself at a disadvantage with priests, has remained greatly admired and loved by priests throughout the country. He took part too in parish missions doing the unspectacular things of visiting and talking with parishioners. But undoubtedly the work for which he was most remembered is that he did in the local parish. Of this Fr Dominic Whitnall writes:
"Giles, as one of the earliest laymen in the Community, found living among so many clergy a sore trial. But early in 1950 Father Raynes asked the Vicar of Battyeford, Father Harry Clough, if he would like Brother Giles to assist him as a Licensed Reader in the Parish. He was given St Peter's Church, Knowle, and the surrounding area to look after. He proved to have great gifts in bringing young and old together in worship. He was a very strong walker and went about everywhere on foot. This enabled him, for instance, to set out from the House of the Resurrection armed with only a pair of scissors, and arrive at St Peter's laden with flowers, either begged or borrowed on the way. He devoted himself to this small mission church and it grew, at least by name, to become known as `Giles' Cathedral'. He cared for it like a child, sweeping up in the yard; on his hands and knees cleaning the church - and on Sundays preaching his vigorous sermons. Both story and visual aid kept the interest; a rabbit or a hamster were two of his assistants. I remember his praise of Our Lady, in saying that many flowers were named in honour of her. The Cornish, he said, called the fuchsia Our Lady's Earrings, and he proceeded to preach with two of the flowers dangling from either ear; between them was set his solemn face.
But probably the finest achievement of Giles' ministry was the building up of a Sunday School, and a Boys Club, from which have sprung people of life-long faithfulness to the Church; some today are priests, church wardens, choristers and church councillors, and so on; and some still form part of the faithful core of Christ the King church in Battyeford.
One secret of his success was to provide an egg and bacon breakfast for the servers after Mass, in the hut behind the church, with ingredients culled from the HR pantry. At half time in matches played by St Peter's football team, Giles would appear with oranges; and he himself was never happier than when invited to a tea of trifle, cake and jelly. Giles had a handsome if solemn face and his voice could be mournful but his smile, to the end of his life, showed a very sweet spirit dwelling in the heart of this man. Of course we had our laughs over him. The Prior seemed deliberately to put Giles down to read the lessons when it was the turn of the book of Job. This was once changed for the worse when Giles was heard reading the Song of Songs - `Stay with me apples and raisins; I am sick of love."
Giles retired, in a kind of way, from the parish at the age of 75, but continued to visit and to go to services there as long as he was able. His last years were hard on him and sometimes on his brethren. He was bored, he was convinced he was in great ill-health (though there was practically nothing wrong with him); he often said how much he longed to go. Why did God keep him alive so long? Perhaps because, in those last years back in the Community he realised how much the Community loved him and was prepared to do to look after him; perhaps to give time for the anger and frustration that was that was deep in Giles to work its way out so that he became in the end a very sweet and lovable man; perhaps to set us the example of one who lived his fifty years of religious life faithfully to the end - saying his prayers, never missing mass or offices if he could possibly help it, and never missing meals at all. It is nice to think that one of the Gospel images of eternal life with God is that of a heavenly banquet. Giles will be joyfully at home there.

* My thanks to John Gribben , from House of the Resurrection for the above information regarding Brother Giles. He also says - "Giles was very popular locally. I still get stopped by men in their forties who testify that they were in Brother Giles' boys' club and Bro Giles' confirmation class. He had a very solemn face but behind it was an impish sense of humour. He had a very sweet tooth and once when he was in hospital not expected to survive a Brother visited him and he opened his eyes and said 'Where's the cake? You're supposed to bring cake to sick people.' He survived that time. There is a fund of stories about him like that one."

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