“I have been profoundly lucky to serve the people of this area.”
Those are the heartfelt words of Father John Gott, 78, as he retires from his role as parish priest at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Mytholmroyd.
Born in Huddersfield in 1938, Father Gott moved to Calderdale as a young boy when his father was promoted to a job in the Halifax.
He was educated at St Mary’s Primary School, Gibbett Street, Halifax, before moving to Ratcliffe College, near Leicester.
At the age of 15, Father Gott moved to Porthcurno, Cornwall, where he began training as a watchkeeper. In the 1950s, he was then called up for National Service and joined the Royal Air Force. After stints moving across the country, he was demobbed.
“By that time, God had caught up with me,” he said.
“I felt the need to answer that call.”
Father Gott was ordained in 1965 after completing his studies at Ushaw College, Durham, and began his first appointment in Cross Gates, Leeds.
He was also appointed as a chaplain of the children’s hospital in Seacroft.
He was then appointed to Wakefield, where he was chaplain of Wakefield prison, before moving to Dewsbury and eventually coming back to his home borough of Calderdale in 1979.
When Father Gott arrived at the parish, the Church of the Good Shepherd did not exist - instead there were three ailing churches in Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd and Luddenden Foot.
He oversaw the consolidation of the three churches into one and admits it was a nerve-wracking day when it opened.
But he had nothing to fear, for he was told “Father, this is a happy church”.
Since then, the church, at New Road, has flourished and recently bounced back ater the devastating Boxing Day floods.
Speaking about his time in the valley, Father Gott said: “I have found the people fantastic, it really is a superb parish. I wanted to us to reach out into the world. Not to make everyone Roman Catholic, but to show the human, caring side of the church.
“I feel we have done that. The community is aware of us, respects us and supports us.”
In his retirement, he hopes to capitalise on the valley’s community spirit to help and support people in the area, particularly those living alone in more remote spots. He also leads a Sunday evening service at the church from 5pm.