One sunny day in 1978, I was sitting with the man dressed as a monk. I was living at the time in a dosshouse in Barnsley. About four months earlier, I had moved from Sheffield after being made redundant. I planned to stay a week at least, then carry on to Bradford, where my family lived.
But I got in a rut and couldn't get a job. Then this monk said to me, 'Are you visiting someone?' I said, 'No, I live here.' He said, 'You're too young to be wasting your life in this place.' I went to make a cuppa, and when I got back he was gone.
The next morning I went to the bookie's, but it was shut, so I walked along the road a bit and heard banging and grinding noises from down a small street, so I went to the office of the works, at the bottom of the street, and asked if there were any jobs. Remembering what the monk had said, I decided to try once more to get a job. I started work on the Monday, and after five months I left the job and Barnsley and came to Bradford. I'd been putting money in the bank each week, so I had about £1,000 to start anew in Bradford.
Then in 1980, I came to live with my sisters (my mother had passed away the year before). My sisters have both passed on, and I now rent the house and should have a roof over my head till it's my turn to cash in my chips, as they say.
So in a way the monk made a difference to my direction in life. I was young and stuck in a humdrum day-after-day, so now I can write this and give something back, as this will be here for all to see and the monk from Bradford will be remembered for all time.
His story begins in Buxton, Derbyshire, when as a boy, he was born and brought up, not in a religious family as such. He didn't belong to any church, but one day he took a Bible and his toothbrush and left his home in Derbyshire to move to West Yorkshire. The papers say that in 1960 he was thirty-three. He last worked in February as a machinist at the International Harvesters' factory in Bradford, West Yorkshire.
He discarded the trappings of what we call a normal life and made a monk's habit from a brown blanket, wearing open-back sandals on his sockless feet. All he had was a pencil, paper and a small amount of money, and his Bible and toothbrush. This was when the Telegraph and Argos did their first story on him on the 11th October, 1960.
He moved into a cave at Attermire Scars, Victoria Cave, North Ribbledale Fells, near Settle. He slept on a flat rock with hay as a bed, about ten feet off the ground. He had no fire. He first told the reporter, 'I shall stay here and meditate until I receive the message. It may take three weeks.' In his hand was a packet of cheese; he said also, 'I begin in earnest tomorrow. I shall fast until it is time for me to leave. When this cheese is done, I shall have nothing more to eat. There is a spring of clear water not far from the cave.' He added, 'I am on my own. I am just a Christian,and I believe the Lord will look after me and show me what I have to do.'
He as been seen in Bradford, Manchester, Barnsleyand Sheffield, that I know of, as I was the one that saw him in these towns — from Manchester in 1966 to Saturday, 24th February, 2007, in Bradford town centre, where I got his verbal permission to write this guide. I'm not using his name, but anyone can read his story at the Bradford Central Library on the film rolls.
But with his story being front-page, the crowds came to see what it was about, and after a week or so he had to leave the cave, as he couldn't get any peace from the people who wanted to see the squatter of Victoria Cave. This is an interview he gave with a reporter from the Yorkshire Post in 1972 that tells his story. After leaving the cave, he went to Bradford and slept for several nights in the open before a man offered him the free use of a room:
'I have lived there ever since. I get no money from social security and have never asked for anything in my life. There have been days when I went hungry, but mostly each day the Lord provides me with something,' he said. 'I walk about 20 miles a day and have a special route for each day of the week. I wave and smile at passing motorists and now they have come to know me they wave back. It gives me great pleasure, and from the many people who stop their cars to ask me what I did,and have a chat. I feel I must have given them somethig to think about. It is wonderful to find there are so many friendly people in the world. I have met many people, some quite influential in the business world, who tell me they envy my way of life. When they see I don't wear socks or gloves, even in the coldest weather, they ask me how I stand it and why I go on doing it. But if you decide upon something like this, you have to keep going in all weathers, otherwise I would feel a phoney. I have walked through gangs of skinheads and never been harmed, and in fact I can't remember having on unpleasant incident during the whole of the eleven years. I could not go back to my old life in Buxton now. Some children that see me for the first time say, look mummy, there's Jesus. What really gives me the greatest thrill is when little children I see in the streets smlie and say 'hello'. Children are wonderfully sincere and trusting; it makes it all very worthwhile.'