South Leeds Life has received this nostalgic and heartwarming guest post from the Rev Jean Mortimer on her return to South Leeds.
I first came to South Leeds in 1966 when I was ordained and inducted as the minister of Belle Isle Congregational Church, Nesfield Road, and the assistant minister and youth worker at Salem Church, Hunslet (left).
In those days as ‘a dedicated follower of fashion’, I wore mini-skirts and dresses, but when leading worship, these were always covered by my long, black, wide sleeved preaching gown.
One Sunday morning, as I stood outside to greet people at the church doorway, a young lad called out, “ ‘Ere, Miss, lift your arms up.” So, I did – revealing the mini-skirt and the legs !
The sleeves of my gown began to flap in the wind like giant batswings.
Next Sunday there was a message scrawled on the church noticeboard. ‘BATWOMAN PREACHES ERE ‘, and an item in the local press described me as ‘the minister in a mini-skirt’.
Soon afterwards a young man from Beeston (whom I later married) began to come to my evening service each week on his motor bike.
After the service he would whisk me off down Belle Isle Road to Salem Church, where he helped me to run a youth club in the cellar.
So the ‘batwoman’ graffiti was then replaced with ‘TON UP REV. PREACHES ‘ERE’ ! A
fter my marriage I left South Leeds to minister in another lively community – Toxteth, Liverpool, where two lads who later became members of the pop group ‘THE REAL THING’ used to give me all kinds of good humoured hassle in the youth club there.
In my retirement I settled in North Leeds and began to renew my links with my former congregations at Belle Isle and Salem (now known as The United Reformed Church in South Leeds) by leading worship on a regular basis. Two years ago I decided to transfer my church membership back to South Leeds to try to give back, to both church and community, some of the encouragement and support I had received here in my youth.
Some of my friends and neighbours in Roundhay were gobsmacked when I told them.
You would have thought that I was going to travel into dangerous, far off, foreign territory with the need of a passport, visa and all kinds of protection! It takes me 40 minutes on a no 12 bus from Street Lane.
I make the journey several times a week, often returning quite late at night and have never felt unsafe doing this.
On the contrary, on some occasions when the bus has been late, I’ve had some very interesting and friendly chats at the bus stop.
A few weeks ago I met two teenage girls who’d been learning to knit at The Hub Youth Centre. One was lefthanded and having a few problems, so we had a long chat and an impromptu knitting lesson.
Since then they’ve made contact again and took part in our recent Scarecrow Festival, winning first prize for their ‘Good Samaritan’ entry!
I get very annoyed when people who live in North Leeds do and say things to perpetuate the North – South divide. Such barriers must be challenged and broken down.
For all kinds of reasons I AM GLAD TO BE BACK IN SOUTH LEEDS and delighted to see so many signs of growth, renewal, good neighbourliness, community solidarity and care.
All of this is captured so well in the pages of South Leeds Life. I look forward to reading more and perhaps to becoming a regular contributor.
These days I don’t wear mini-skirts. After spinal surgery and two hip replacements, I no longer have the ‘super powers’ of ‘Batwoman’ or the speed of a ‘ton up Rev’, but I am wholeheartedly committed to my involvement in South Leeds and very happy to be back here again.
– the Rev Jean Mortimer
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