Father Gordon Andrew Alfonso Dorricott was born on 16 March 1924 of Catholic parents in Shrewsbury, a town to which he retained a lifelong devotion, including support of Shrewsbury Town Football Club. His father Andrew, who was a convert to Catholicism, was killed in a road accident in 1968 aged 73, but his mother Ann lived until she was 103. Both parents were natives of Shrewsbury and the name ‘Dorricott’ is an old Shropshire word meaning ‘shelter for the deer’.
Young Gordon was educated by the Sisters of Mercy at St Winifred’s Convent, Shrewsbury, and at the Priory Grammar School, Shrewsbury. After leaving school he worked for the Inland Revenue (1941-1942) and as a telegram messenger for the National Fire Service (1942). At the age of 18 he was conscripted into the King's Shropshire Light Infantry (1942-1944) and thereafter served in the Intelligence Corps (1944-1947). He saw war service in India and Burma. While stationed at Madras, he used to serve Mass at the Presentation Convent alongside another young soldier by the name of Hugh Lindsay, who later became the Bishop of Hexham & Newcastle.
In 1947 he began studies for the priesthood at St Edmund’s College, Ware, as a student for the Oblates of St Charles. However, in 1949 he was accepted as a student for the Diocese of Brentwood and was sent to St John’s Seminary, Wonersh. He was the first diocesan priest ordained by Bishop Beck at Brentwood Cathedral on 30 May 1953, the Saturday after the Coronation. He served as an assistant priest at Upminster (1953-1955) and Chelmsford (1955), took temporary charge of Prittlewell (1955) and then went as an assistant to Colchester (1955-1958). In April 1958 he succeeded Canon Smith as parish priest of Rayleigh, where he was to serve for no less than 46 years. Here he completed the building of the Church of Our Lady of Ransom (1962-1964) and brought the Sisters of Mercy from Cloyne (Ireland) to open Our Lady of Ransom Primary School (1966). As parish priest he had 17 assistant priests in the parish. He was also a dedicated chaplain to the women’s prison at Bullwood Hall, Hockley, for 42 years (1962-2004), the former inmates of which he used to refer to as ‘my old girls’. In recognition of his service to the local community in Rayleigh, including his work as a prison chaplain, he was awarded the MBE in 2000. Two years later he was granted the Freedom of the City of London.
The Catenian Association, the Knights of St Columba and the Catholic Nurses’ Guild were among the many Catholic organisations he supported. He served as Dean of Basildon, a Diocesan Consultor, a Trustee of the Diocese, and was for many years a member of the Finance Board. He retired as parish priest of Rayleigh in 2004 but continued to reside in the town. In 2012, he received a Ministry of Justice Award with the citation “Awarded to Fr Andrew Dorricott for outstanding performance and commitment at HMP Bullwood Hall”. In retirement, Fr Andrew continued to visit Bullwood Hall to celebrate Mass and give pastoral care. He also assisted Fr Martin Joyce, Rayleigh’s parish priest, by saying Mass in the parish when needed. More recently, Fr Andrew had been in fragile health following a stroke. He died peacefully in Southend Hospital on 3 May 2013, less than one month before his Diamond Jubilee of Ordination.
His Requiem Mass will take place at 11am on 17 May at Our Lady of Ransom in Rayleigh. He will be buried in his beloved Shrewsbury.
Fr Dorricott was interviewed back in 2003 when he celebrated 50 years as a priest. You can read the transcript below:
Around 400 people attended Mass on the anniversary itself, Friday 30 May 2003, somewhat to Fr Dorricott’s surprise. “I didn’t expect so many,” he said modestly. During the service he told the congregation: “I have never lost the sense of wonder that comes to me at the consecration, that I could be used to bring Christ to others.”
Fr Dorricott, who was awarded an MBE for services to the community in the Millennium honours list, was showered with gifts on his anniversary. One was particularly interesting. A woman serving life in Hockley prison Bullwood Hall, where he has been chaplain since 1962, had painted him a picture of the crucifixion, using colours that matched decoration in the parish church.
A weekend of celebration of Fr Dorricott’s anniversary was rounded off with a special Mass in the church on 3 June, attended by many of Fr Dorricott’s brother priests and the Bishop of Brentwood, Thomas McMahon, who gave the homily. A reception followed in the church hall.
Fr Dorricott began his ministry as a curate at Upminster 50 years ago, where he recalls getting on his bicycle to look after Harold Wood Hospital and setting up a branch of the Catholic Nurses Guild. He then served as assistant priest at Immaculate Conception in Chelmsford before stepping into the breach in Prittlewell while the parish priest was in hospital.
A stint as assistant at St James the Less in Colchester followed. At that time Brightlingsea, nine miles away, was in the parish and he had to get there fairly frequently. He abandoned the bike and bought an old car. “It was a 1934 Rayleigh Kestrel,” he recalled.
In April 1958 Fr Dorricott was appointed parish priest at Our Lady of Ransom in Rayleigh. During his tenure the church itself was completed, the presbytery and Pope John Paul II Hall built and St Pius X church in Hockley extended. He was the driving force behind the establishment of Our Lady of Ransom primary school, travelling to Ireland in 1961 to negotiate with the Sisters of Mercy in Cloynes. In 1966 the school opened, funded by the parish and the Order, and the nuns built a convent next door. “The nuns are the trustees of the school and provided many teachers in earlier years,” said Fr Dorricott. “They were most generous.”
Fr Dorricott has also been chaplain at Bullwood Hall, the women’s prison in Hockley, since 1962, a role that has given him much fulfilment. And his contribution there was marked by a surprise anniversary gift, which linked his prison work with his parish. He said: “One of the lifers – not a Catholic – painted me a beautiful picture of the crucifixion. She got one of the nuns to take a photo of the appliqué colours in the church and painted flowers in those hues in the picture.”
Referring to his parish, he said: “I couldn’t have wished for better people to serve – they have been wonderfully kind to me. Serving the parish and the prison has given me enormous satisfaction – I hope to be here for my jubilee.”
Editor's note: I interviewed Fr Dorricott when he was prison chaplain at Bullwood Hall - such a kind and good priest with a lovely sense of humour. - Jo
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