Catholic Life

Sporting priest looks back

Fr John Williams was both a former pupil and a teacher at St Bede’s College, Manchester, and has just celebrated his golden anniversary of being a priest.

Fr Williams was ordained in 1960 in his home parish of St Kentigern’s in Fallowfield, south of the city, and has just celebrated his anniversary with his parishioners at St Luke’s in Eccles, where he is the parish priest.

The well-loved priest was a talented footballer and was signed as a teenager to his beloved Manchester United, but he decided to reject the opportunity of becoming a United “Busby Babe” to instead go into the priesthood.

Throughout his life he has maintained very strong links to United and is a close friend of Sir Alex Ferguson. The award-winning manager sent him a personal telegram congratulating him on his 50th anniversary. While a teacher at St Bede’s he coached the college under- 14s team, who under his leadership managed to win every available trophy.

When asked to describe what his secret was in getting them to win so much silverware he replied: “I had two secret weapons – Paddy Crerand and Wilf McGuinness from United, who used to come along to help coach the team.”

Joe Bowden, a former member of the legendary football team and now a senior teacher at the college, said: “Fr John was a great football coach and player, I remember him getting Paddy Crerand to referee a match once – he came along in his slippers.

“It was a great team which had the likes of Eamon Kavanagh who went on to play for Manchester City, and the sport mad Jimmy Wagg, who is now a sports commentator with the BBC.

“Everyone has very fond memories of Fr John and the College is delighted to see him celebrating his golden anniversary.”