Page 5, 17th March 1961

17th March 1961
Page 5
Page 5, 17th March 1961 — Fighting for a come-back

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Locations: London


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Fighting for a come-back


By Hugh Kay

SCOTS and Irish lads — some on probation, some just out of prison — sleeping in the gallery of a Free Congregationalist Church in the toughest centre of London's coloured quarter, and spurred to Mass on Sunday by a Free Church minister.

This is what I found at the weekend when I made my

.way through the reeking

slums of Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove, over the rotting vegetables cluttered round the street barrows, past the convents of Poor Clares. Dominicans, and Sisters of Nazareth.

It is a tiny church, a temporary ceiling shutting off the tightly packed rows of second hand beds in the gallery where lines of washing once cut across the organ pipes above the minister's head as he preached.

New guests

Downstairs. in a back room, men of anything from 18 to middle-age sat around the telly— men fighting desperately for a come-back; some ragged, haggard and defeated; others showing signs that they were already on the way, proudly offering you one of their own cigarettes .

"I've been inside myself", said one of the full time voluntary helpers. So had his assistant. Both had been reclaimed by the Rev. Bertram Peake, who in his youth knew what it was to "live rough", and who to this day can only provide for his wife and children by working as a clerk at Acton: His little Sunday congregation cannot support him, let alone his adopted family of never less than 20. But police and probation officers send new guests to his Gotborne Centre now, and the N.A,B. is helping to fill cupboards that once were bare save for bits and pieces scrounged or borrowed.

A Catholic probation officer is one of the hostel's closest friends.

It was a big day for Mr. Peake when he could take his "boys" off the floor and give them beds and blankets. Now he longs to give them sheets and pillow cases something to help bring back their self-respect.

In the past four years or so", he told me, "I've had about 1,500 men here, of all faiths and none. Something like half of them are Catholics, many of them Scots and Irish boys who drifted to London to try and find work.


"We've had men who've served 12 year sentences, a manslaughter case, safe breakers, drug addicts. and many petty offenders.

"One of them ran away from my house taking quite a bit of money with him. Then he went to prison for something else, and ultimately came back to me. We took him back and helped him to find himself again. Now he's one of our most valued full time workers.

"Many of these boys will work night and day to help others who come to us in the same plight as themselves. Our aim is to give them somewhere safe to stay while they get jobs, save a little money, buy a few clothes, and then get on to their own feet again."

Speaking of his admiration for the Catholic faith, and his unofficial contacts with priests and nuns, Mr. Peake insisted that he never forces anyone to go to the services he conducts in his own church, and is most concerned to help his Catholic guests to maintain the practice of their religion.

He is desperately anxious for Catholic help — not so much in the financial sense; he wants types like the Young Christian Workers who will come down to the hostel and befriend men who are utterly alone.

A rosary hangs in his little vestry — a memento from an encounter from the C.E.G. platform in Hyde Park where he learnt to love Fr. McNabb and now admires Fr. Proudman.

As he spoke of his interest in reunion. I remembered Archbishop

Heenan's plea for joint social action by Catholic and nonCatholic, As I met the exprisoners now helping him in his work, I thought of Mgr, Cardijn's principle of the apostolate of liketo-like.

Imet an Irish Catholic — a drug addict, suffering from tuberculosis and a duodenal, recapturing the will to go on trying in the secure atmosphere of Golborne Road.

I heard of some of the hostel's successes, like the non-Catholic who had done 12 years in Parkhurst, came to Golborne Road, and on one of his evenings nut met a woman with a had past. He told her about Mr. Peake and brought her to see him. Mr. Peake ultimately had the joy of marrying them in his own church and they now live happily on their own smallholding, sending gifts to the hostel from time to time.

Another former resident has taken up a correspondence course for the Nonconformist ministry. A third, this time a Catholic, was reconciled permanently with his wife and family.

Whatever you do, however often you fail. there is always a place

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