The Nidderdale Voices column with Father Paul Skirrow

Father Paul Skirrow
Father Paul Skirrow

It was whilst he was in Bucharest on a placement for the Diocese in Europe that Paul Skirrow met a Romanian journalist who had been working in Sheffield. She had so enjoyed living in Yorkshire that she had written a book about her experiences.

Obviously, Father Paul was interested and to his surprise he found that a whole page was dedicated to our wonderful sweet shop in Pateley Bridge.

Fr Paul celebrates Holy Communion in Bucharest.

Fr Paul celebrates Holy Communion in Bucharest.

So Nidderdale must rejoice – we are on the international map!

Fr Paul grew up in Leeds and after leaving school entered the world of banking.

It eventually became apparent that this was not going to be his career, so for four years he worked as a milkman.

All through his childhood and teenaged years he had had a strong connection with Christ Church, Armley, where he had in succession attended Sunday School, sung in the choir and been a member of the youth group. This upbringing and the wider work of the church led him to become an undergraduate at Hull University studying for a degree in Theology.

On graduation Fr Paul spent four years working with the Leeds Industrial Mission, and then Liverpool Industrial Mission.

This involved working with people who were very deprived – unemployed, low paid, suffering from bad housing. He loved the work because he saw the kernel of the Gospel as compassion and justice.

In his 40s Fr Paul felt ready to move to parish work. This involved further training before he began in the inner-city parish of St Luke’s, Liverpool 1.

Once more it was an underprivileged area but with people who had a unique and important understanding of the Gospel from the perspective of their hard lives.

There was one more Merseyside parish in Widnes and then a spell helping his wife when she became warden of a retreat house in Cambridge.

Because they had lived in tied houses, they had bought a home in Pateley which they made their own special retreat.

Now, in semi retirement they can really say that Pateley is their home.

Describe a typical day

I relax in Nidderdale and have no trouble filling my time. There is correspondence to deal with, writing and sermons to prepare, and we try to have a daily walk. I help out with services in the Parish.

Our children live in Bristol and New Zealand and now we have time for them to visit us, and us to visit them.

I still volunteer for the Diocese in Europe, accepting placements to serve in Anglican parishes where there is no vicar. Our last placement was in Bucharest where, as locum priest, I was also the Archbishop of Canterbury’s spokesperson to the Orthodox Church.

This meant that when the Pope visited Romania I was there in an official capacity with the Patriarch, Cardinals and Ambassadors.

The Queen’s birthday was celebrated in Bucharest with a garden party.

My wife and I were invited and like everyone else tucked in to fish and chips.

What would be your perfect day out?

Mackerel fishing somewhere off the West Coast of Scotland, and having them in the frying pan within the hour.

What is your favourite part of the dale?

The high points on the moors above Blazefield – looking across to the Hambleton Hills. It’s peaceful and in spring you can hear the curlews and the lapwings.

What is your favourite Nidderdale business?

I like RS Discounts on Pateley High Street. Richard can usually meet the oddest of requests somewhere in his boxes or his cellar. He always seems to know exactly where things are!

What is the biggest change you have seen in Nidderdale?

Disappearance of dairy cows.

What makes Nidderdale special?

Not being in the National Park Nidderdale feels more like a working dale. Yet its AONB status helps to preserve the magnificent countryside.

If there is one thing in life that you could change what would it be?

Politicians who are once more committed to justice and compassion, and who are successful in establishing policies which protect the poor, unemployed and disadvantaged, and bring about a more equal society.