In 1974, aged twenty-seven, Richard Anthony Underwood and Linda May Underwood sold their home and moved into the Salvation Army’s Training College in London, where they spent a couple of years being trained prior to ordination as Salvation Army Officers. At the same time they were trained as Salvation Army Social Workers, and after commissioning they were appointed as the assistant manager of a large hostel for homeless people in Glasgow.
The holistic nature of the work suited me, as I was responsible for meeting both the spiritual and physical needs of the residents, and I was subsequently appointed to London as a hostel manager, working at two of the largest hostels for the homeless in London, one at Blackfriars near Waterloo Station, and the other at Spa Road in Bermondsey. Many of the residents in the hostel had drink problems, and most of those were homeless because excessive drinking had resulted in them losing their jobs, losing their homes and subsequently losing their marriages. In consequence the hostel was full of people who were depressed because of their continuing addiction to alcohol.
After working for a few years as a hostel manager I decided I would like to do more pastoral work, helping people in their own homes before they became homeless rather than waiting until they needed help in a hostel. I had already received counselling training from the Salvation Army with a view to opening new counselling centres, and I transferred to the Salvation Army’s pastoral section to run various Salvation Army Corps (places of worship).
My first pastoral appointment was a one year appointment in Aberdeen itself, and my second was a three year appointment in charge of the Salvation Army in Findochty, a small fishing village north of Aberdeed on Scotland’s Moray Firth. In both appointments I was responsible for taking Sunday services, weddings, funerals, dedication of children, counselling, and lots of pastoral visiting to people’s homes.
The person in national charge of the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen (Fishermen’s Mission) was a member of the Salvation Army, the person in charge of the Fishermen’s Mission in Aberdeen was also a member of the Salvation Army, and the person in charge of the Fishermen’s Mission work along the whole of the Moray Firth was also a member of the Salvation Army. When four fishing boats sank in the Moray Firth within three years, with complete loss of all crew members, it was inevitable that our work would overlap. Because of my involvement with the fishing industry at that time I was later to work for the Fishermen’s Mission also.
After my three years in Findochty in Scotland I was sent on a one year appointment as the Salvation Army Officer in charge of the Salvation Army in Grantham, Lincolnshire, and then as the Salvation Army Officer in charge of the Salvation Army in Belper in Derbyshire.
I have written a book about my time as a Salvation Army Officer and it availble to download as a free ebook by clicking on the image of the book’s cover.
Whilst I was stationed at Belper I applied to work for the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, and I moved to become an assistant Mission Superintendent at the port of Grimsby. After a short period of training at Grimsby I was appointed the assistant Mission Superintendent at Fleetwood, and shortly after appointed Superintendent.
As port missioner I was responsible for managing a hostel for visiting or homeless fishermen in Fleetwood, for managing the public restaurant within the hostel, for managing a dock-side cafe, and for writing a regular column in the Fleetwood Weekly News. Most of my time, though, was spent visiting retired, injured, or ill fishermen in the town. In the event of injury or deaths at sea the vessel owners would inevitably ask me to visit the home of the fisherman, or the home of the fisherman’s parents, to break the bad news.
The large number of retired fishermen in Fleetwood, and the dangerous nature of fishing itself, meant that the number of funerals I had to take far outweighed the number of weddings or dedication of children undertaken, and on occasion I conducted three funerals a day. Because most retired fishermen wanted their ashes scattered at sea each funeral usually comprised three separate services. There would be the funeral service itself, conducted in the Fishermen’s Mission chapel, the committal service at the crematorium, and then on a later date the scattering of the ashes at sea, usually from the port’s pilot boat, with the family in attendance. Each funeral was preceded and followed by a substantial number of home welfare or counselling visits.
Whilst working for the Fishermen’s Mission I was also the honorary agent for the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, the Sailors Children’s Society, and the Royal Alfred Seafarers Society. For all those organisations I undertook welfare visits to retired or injured fishermen, or the widows and children of fishermen, and administered financial grants on their behalf. As part of the grant process I had to check the potential recipients were getting all the state benefit to which they were entitled, and to help them make fresh claims or appeal on their behalf if I believed their applications were incorrectly turned down. I was involved in regularly representing clients at appeal tribunals, and before judges at commissioner hearings.
Between 1989 and 1992 I spent three years as a Welfare Rights Officer for Bury Social Services in Greater Manchester, working full-time representing benefit claiments at appeal tribunals.
In 1992 I returned to Salvation Army Officership and was given a one year appointment as the Officer in charge of the Salvation Army’s work in Torquay. Following this I had another one year appointment as the Salvation Army Officer in charge of the Salvation Army in Wigan, Greater Manchester, and then in 1994 I was appointed to Long Eaton, Derbyshire, where I was also appointed as Chaplain to the local Sea Cadets.
Whilst at Long Eaton Linda and I resigned our Salvation Army Officership and moved to Leeds.
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