St. Augustine of Canterbury Church, Leeds Centenary Book.1905-2005

A Few of the Many Parishioners

Elsie Cracknell
Elsie was born and brought up in Harehills in the Bayswaters Her family were Methodists and attended Trinity United Church on Roundhay Road. Elsie converted to the Catholic faith in the 1960s and became a regular attender at St Augustine’s. She worked for many years in catering management until ill-health forced early retirement in 1970. From that point she used her catering skills to help those less fortunate by going to St George’s Crypt every weekday and Saturday to cook for the “down-and-outs” or “her men” as she used to call them.

Every Sunday she would be seen standing on the steps outside St Augustine’s after every Mass, morning and evening, collecting money to support the cause. The highlight of every year was to cook dinner on Christmas day for all those attending the Crypt. She also became involved in similar work with St Anne’s Shelter both at St Anne’s and later when the workshops were opened in Kirkstall Road.

For services to The Church and her work with the down-and-outs Elsie was awarded the Benemerenti Medal by Pope Paul VI in 1978. When she died in 1983 St Augustine’s was filled with mourners – many of them were “her men”.

Margaret Casey
The New Centenary Church bell rang out for the first time when Margaret was received into Church on the evening before her Funereal Mass.
Margaret Casey (née Fox) moved to Harehills and St Augustine’s parish in the early 1950s, after emigrating from Co. Leitrim Ireland and lived here for nearly fifty years. She and John were married in the parish in 1954 and John is still a member of the congregation. St Augustine’s parish was the centre of her life in Leeds for her faith, her family, her friends and social life.

Margaret was an enthusiastic fundraiser for many parish causes. In the 1960s and 70s, she was a parish pools collector and then one of the organisers of the 300 Club. A regular customer of the Hovingham’s Tetley Coach Company, she organised many parish outings, including trips to Walsingham, the Carfin Grotto in Motherwell, many other popular shrines, Wood Hall garden parties and also annual parish trips to the seaside – John has remarked that she could not really enjoy a day out with him, without fifty other parishioners joining them. Her family has fond memories of the Mystery Bus Tour arranged for one summer’s evening, when as the coach pulled away from St Augustine’s Church, the driver shouted, ‘Just checking, we are going to Harry Ramsden’s aren’t we?’

Margaret also helped found the parish’s Lourdes Fund and organised many jumble sales, coffee mornings and socials to help fellow parishioners go on pilgrimages to Lourdes. Margaret was a dedicated member of the Union of Catholic Mothers and thoroughly enjoyed her year as president. She was also an early member of the parish’s Justice and Peace group. In the 1990s, her fundraising activities slowed down but she remained a regular member of the Padre Pio Parish Prayer Group, and continued to enjoy attending many events at the church and in the deanery. At her reception into St Augustine’s church in October 1999, the night before her funeral, her family were consoled by the knowledge that this church was truly her second home in Leeds.

These were just some of the things that Margaret was involved with in the Parish. Margaret excelled at extracting money and time out of people (she was a great motivator) And always humourous, after jumble sales she would just look at the mess on the floor and state with a great smile “That floor needs cleaning up, would somebody ever get a brush” and somebody always did. She was a marvellous person with a great personality; every Parish should have a Margaret Casey. Sadly missed by many, the Centenary celebrations could not go by without recognizing Margaret’s unique contribution to the life of St Augustine’s Parish.

Margaret Casey – Gone but not forgotten.

Kathleen Murray - Lourdes
One of the backbones of the parish over the last sixty or more years is Kathleen Murray. She is now nearing her eightieth year and much less active due to health and mobility problems. She trained as a nurse, remained single and dedicated her life to caring for others both inside and outside the parish.

Kath’s greatest love is Lourdes and she has been involved with fundraising for the Leeds Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes for ‘donkeys’ years’. Her first pilgrimage to Lourdes was in the 1930’s when Fr. Scannell was chaplain and she has continued to go almost annually ever since serving with a group of nurses and handmaids who accompany the sick pilgrims. It used to be a very long and tiring journey by train and boat to ‘Our Lady’s place’ in the Pyrenees. The sick were housed in those days at the old Asili Hospital which lacked a lot of basic necessities or modern facilities; so when the new hospital was opened in 1997 on the banks of the river Gave opposite the site of the apparitions it was a huge improvement for all concerned, with easy access to the Basilica and Esplanade.

She has seen great changes in transport and organisation over the years, but from her point of view the more recent Youth Group has been a truly wonderful contribution to the ever-increasing work of the nurses and handmaids. Kath, although limited physically, is still keen on the fund-raising aspects of the pilgrimage.

Far Left: Kathleen in Lourdes with her brother Paddy and two of the youth from St Augustine’s
Left: A Happy Nurse Kathleen with a sick pilgrim.
Right: Centre - Winnie Haveron L.O.M. president for many years


The Parish Marathon Runner
Peter Tchaikovsky has become well known in the parish raising money as a marathon runner for the Chernobyl Children, a charity very dear to his heart. He didn’t start running till he was over fifty and ran his first marathon in Leeds when he was fifty five years of age. Between 1981 and 1997 he ran thirty four full marathons. Ironically his running only started because he became ill and collapsed with lung trouble and was strongly advised to give up smoking and get more exercise.

Peter running in Scarborough in 1984

Peter was born in Belarus in 1926 and brought up in the Russian Orthodox faith. He had two older sisters and two younger brothers. At that time Belarus was occupied by Poland so the children were forced to speak Polish in the classroom. When in 1939 the Russians and Germans invaded and divided up Polish territory Peter was compelled to learn Russian at school, and subjected to a regime of Stalinist propaganda. Two years later his country was invaded by Germany, the schools closed, his eldest sister was taken as a slave to work in a German factory and not long afterwards he was taken as forced labour and shipped to Austria to work on a farm without pay. Apart from one of his sisters, he never saw any of his family again.

After the war he was sent to Italy where he found out that his mother had died and he was not allowed to return to his homeland. Peter joined the Polish army, and was posted to England in 1946.

In 1960 he met a Catholic Italian girl who he wished to marry and was dismayed to find that a ‘mixed

marriage’ meant no nuptial Mass nor any great celebration. He challenged an Italian Missionary priest with the words, “Prove to me that Catholicism is right and I’ll change!” The following year Peter was received into the Church and married in St Anne’s Cathedral. He and his new wife came to live in St Augustine’s Parish and subsequently had five children. Peter has been an active member of the parish ever since.

Since his last marathon in 1997 he has taken part in shorter runs until 2003. Now aged seventy nine he can still be seen jogging around Harehills and Roundhay and encourages people to follow his example.

Left: Rob Gabbot and choir
Some of the music group play and sing at St Margaret Clitherow’s Church in Thresfield before going for a walk in the Dales. This was an annual outing organised by Rob Gabbot.