Tributes paid to Leeds priest who struck up bond with travelling community

Monsignor Francis Robinson.
Monsignor Francis Robinson.
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A much-loved catholic priest who dedicated his life to serving Leeds will be laid to rest today.

Tributes have poured in for Monsignor Francis Robinson, who passed away on August 31 and spent over 20 years as parish priest at Holbeck’s St Francis of Assisi RC Church after stints elsewhere in West Yorkshire.

Mgr Robinson, known to many as Frank, developed strong ties within south Leeds including at the adjoining St Francis of Assisi Catholic Primary School and at Cottingley Springs traveller site having performed several wedding and funeral services for residents.

He died peacefully following heart and kidney problems at St Gemma’s Hospice in Moortown having retired three years ago.

After a reception and mass at St Francis’, his funeral service and a requiem mass will take place at Leeds Cathedral from 12noon today. He will be buried with family in Killingbeck.

Parish sister and personal friend of over 40 years, Sister Damien, told the YEP: “He will be remembered by this motto said at his retirement, ‘you find true joy and happiness in life when you give and give and go on giving and never count the cost’.

“He was so well respected by everybody – young, old, everyone. We have a school attached here and in his retirement every single day he was over at lunch.”

Mgr Robinson studied philosophy and theology in Ushaw, County Durham, before being ordained in 1956 at St Francis’ in Holbeck.

He studied further in Cambridge before returning to Ushaw to teach until 1972. From there he worked at St Bernard’s Church in Halifax, before moving to St Joseph’s in Batley Carr.

Following at short stint as warden at Woodhall, Wetherby, he became a monsignor and head of adult education within the Diocese of Leeds, then taking up the role of parish priest at his home church in Holbeck in 1990.

Sister Damien said: “He was 78 when he retired but he still used to go into mass when he was in a wheelchair.

“His health deteriorated and he died peacefully at St Gemma’s Hospice, which is a place he used to fundraise for before the hospice itself was built.

“It was fitting that he died there in the end.”

During his tenure at St Francis’, Mgr Robinson developed strong ties with the traveller community around the area.

He took a number of services including the funeral of Kathleen Lowther Morrison, a much-loved member of the community dubbed an inspirational member of the team at Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange (GATE). The 33-year-old mother-of-three died after a battle with cancer in 2012.

Kathleen’s mother and honorary life president at Leeds GATE, Eileen Lowther, added: “Frank was a great friend to travelling people.

“When I lost first my husband and then my daughter Kathleen, Frank was with me every step of the way. Travelling people really looked up to him.”

A tribute to the late priest on the Catholic Diocese of Leeds’ website reads: “May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”

Visit www.dioceseofleeds.org.uk for further information on the funeral.

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