The funeral of Fr Brian Davies was held on 26 August at St Michael and All Angels, Wombwell, where Monsignor John Ryan spoke of the man with whom he had worked for a number of years.
Brian Davies was not your stereotypical priest. He was not one for the Gamarelli well-cut suit, with the diamond cuff-links and high clerical collar. In fact he didn’t look much like what you expect a priest to look like. With his close-cropped hair and stocky build you might have expected to see Doc Martins on his feet and a bulldog tattoo peeping through his shirt. He would not thank you for a gin and tonic; he did not spend his Mondays at the golf club; and his Black Country accent, which despite years in exile he never lost, was always a surprise to hear in these parts. In short he was not what most people, even in South Yorkshire, expect their priests to be like. But if he didn’t look or sound the part, he most certainly lived it. He would do anything for people; and there was no distinction between folk. If you had a genuine need Brian would try and do something to help. He was a man from the working class who never lost his identity; a man of the ordinary people.
Brian was born and brought up in Bloxwich, in the Black Country, north of Birmingham. He didn’t follow an expected path to the priesthood. Brian had a happy upbringing, with hard working parents and sister, but not a religious one. He left school at sixteen and began a series of jobs, beginning as a painter and decorator, working for neighbours. His parents attended the local Catholic Church in Bloxwich and Brian began to join them. He embraced the Catholic faith. He thought about the priesthood. He considered a life as a religious. He had a series of jobs, as a machine operator, making “Keep Left” signs, as manager of Rumbelows, and all the while he helped in his local parish.
Eventually he took the step, applied to the Archbishop of Birmingham and was sent to Campion House, Osterley. He then went on to Oscott, the major seminary in Birmingham and was ordained in his parish Church of St Peter in Bloxwich on June 29th, the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul in 1982.
His first appointment was very happy with a kindly parish priest, Fr O’Shea. Then in 1985 came a letter from the Archbishop, Maurice Couve de Murville, informing Brian of a new appointment – to St Marie’s Cathedral, Sheffield.
He had to look in his atlas to find out where Sheffield was. When he arrived in Sheffield Brian got on well with his fellow priests and the people of Sheffield. Eventually Brian decided that his future was in South Yorkshire and he was incardinated into the Diocese of Hallam.
Brian moved from St Marie’s to the Manor, Sheffield, St Theresa’s parish, first as assistant to Fr Pat O’Connor and then he took over the parish. Brian was a man for the Manor. They were his sort of people. Then he came to Wombwell, where he also settled well. Gradually his sphere of influence extended, and took in the parishes of Goldthorpe and Hoyland and he forged them into the single parochial entity of Corpus Christi. Brian willingly took on each task.
Brian was committed to his parishioners. He cooked for the parish and also worked very hard for the needy.
Brian’s holidays were always with parishioners to Lourdes or to Spain. How appropriate that his final journey was to Lourdes where he celebrated Mass a fortnight before he died. May he rest in peace.
Visit the lead story page to read Mgr John Ryan’s full eulogy.