Bradford Mourns its “Jesus Man”: For more than 50 years Geoffrey Brindley walked the streets of Bradford in the north of England, dressed in a brown robe and sandals, spreading good cheer with a wave and a smile. Most people knew him simply as the “Jesus Man” of Bradford.
News of his death from a stroke at 88 on Aug. 24 has met with collective sadness. People paid tribute to a “gentle spiritual man” who brightened the day by smiling and waving at strangers wherever he went.
The Rt. Rev. Toby Howarth, Bishop of Bradford, said the community would “greatly mourn his loss.” As word spread of Brindley’s death, his admirers donated £2,000 to ensure a fitting funeral at Bradford Cathedral.
Brindley’s transformation into the Jesus Man started in 1960 when the factory machinist, then 33, left his job to live in a cave in the Yorkshire Dales, where he claimed to receive a message from God. But he did not settle on a hermit’s life. Instead he set out for Bradford wearing his habit and, for the next 50 years, walked its streets come wind, snow, rain, or shine.
In the early days he found himself in trouble with police for his puritanical Christian beliefs. He was once arrested for causing a breach of the peace for preaching against the evils of gambling outside a bingo club. In the early 1960s he was arrested for protesting outside a Beatles gig at Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre.
As years went on the Jesus Man mellowed. Such was the local affection for him that 23,000 people signed a petition in 2012 asking that he become an Olympic torch-bearer. He modestly declined.
He made friends all over the city and made regular stops where his hosts would serve him a cooked dinner. People recalled stories of his cradling them as babies and singing to them. Later, inspired by the Jesus Man, they did the same for their children.
When an interviewer asked two years ago why he adopted this life, Brindley replied: “I just like walking.” And whenever it rained, he said, “I get wet.”
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Image of Geoffrey Brindley by Baildon Methodist Church