Brother John Francis

brother john francisThe Ashton Linen and Woollen Stock Charity might have a ‘Dickensian’ air about it, evocative of high stools, desks, quill pens and soot covered windows. Yet no one could describe Circle Vice-President, and former Clerk to the Charity Trustees, John Francis as a Bob Cratchit, the abused underpaid clerk of Ebenezer Scrooge little less of Scrooge himself.

But John was treasurer of this Charity founded in the 16th century for the alleviation of poverty for ten years. Perhaps that is a reason for his enthusiasm in pursuing brothers to contribute to the Catenians Bursary Fund. Although far too polite to ‘collar’ brothers directly he can be very persuasive when holding the floor!

John was born in Tuebrook Liverpool 68 years ago into an Anglican family and was baptised at St.John’s Tuebrook, a notorious centre of anglo-catholicism where the whiff of incense brought demonstrators out onto the streets. Not that John would have noticed as he left the area at the age of four to move to West Derby where he attended Blackmore Park Primary School before moving onto the Holt High School for Boys on passing the 11+. John played sport and although not excelling in any one discipline, considering himself more of an all-rounder, it was something which he did and still does enjoy. He studied maths, physics and chemistry at A level but on his own admission, it was only with limited success, precipitating his decision to leave School after 6th Form and enter the world of work.

He joined Barclays Bank as a Clerk and remained with the Company throughout his working life, retiring as Area Operations Manager, based in St. Helens, in 1997. John was at one time transferred to Barclays DCO and would have been bound for Nigeria but for the Biafra conflict breaking out. He remained in London dealing with the computerisation of branches. He eventually returned to branch banking in the Liverpool region becoming District Marketing Manager in the early 1980’s, before he was transferred back to HO, operating out of Knutsford, in 1986. He was next seconded to an American firm of management consultants, Proudfoot, where he was responsible for producing and developing important management control programmes and computer software. A very challenging but exciting time he confesses.

Away from work John met Helen his wife who was a Sister at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital at a friends party, were married in 1969 and have twin daughters Claire and Judith, both modern foreign language teachers.

It was after meeting Helen that he became interested in the Catholic Church. “At this time I suppose I would be classed as a nominal Anglican but having been going to Mass with Helen, I decided to investigate the faith in a much deeper way and found an excellent mentor in Canon Meagher . In fact I do have Catholic roots as my paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother were both Catholics so I guess I must have Catholicism in my genes but I became a Catholic out of conviction”.

For John, his faith is very important and he takes a full part in the life of his local parish St.Oswald’s, Ashton in Makerfield, where he reads regularly at Mass and as the occasion arises gives talks on the architecture and acts as tour guide around the church. He and Helen also work on a voluntary basis for the Archdiocesan Tribunal for the annulment of marriages. “I think we all need something in which to believe,” he says, “and for me the Church and its teachings continually influence the way I live my life. However that does not mean I am unquestioning as I think the Church does need to change with the laity taking a much more full and responsible part in the decisions of the Church than in the past. With Pope Francis we live in hope!”

Outside of the Church John has been a Venture Scout leader and was district treasurer to Wigan Scouts and Treasurer of Newton le Willows Boys Club as well as many other charities and organisations over the years. He has also been on the board of governors of a number of local schools including St. Edmund Arrowsmith in Ashton, St.Peters at Orrell, St.Aelred’s at Newton and at St.Malachy’s Junior School in Toxteth. He also acts as auditor for a number of local organisations and charities.

Currently John is a Magistrate on the Wigan and Leigh Bench where he sits as a Bench Chairman. He is also a member of ‘Magistrates in the Community’ who make presentations to the public on all aspects of the Magistracy and he was a member of the local Advisory Committee responsible for the recruitment and discipline of the Magistrates.

Surprisingly, despite all this, John still has time for hobbies and is very interested in aviation especially its history and being also a keen photographer he is able to combine the two; John also has an eclectic taste in reading from fiction to philosophy.

“Looking back I have been much blessed in family life, had a career which I thoroughly enjoyed and I hope I have in some managed to make a contribution to the general community” he added.

Few would disagree.

Geoff Lightfoot



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