A CLERGYMAN who played an integral part in structuring the Portsmouth branch of the Samaritans has died.
John Eldrid OBE, a former vicar at All Saints in Portsea and once a director of Portsmouth’s Samaritans branch, passed away at Queen Alexandra Hospital last week.
Mr Eldrid, who was an Associate of King’s College, London, was vicar of All Saints from 1964 until 1971.
The Portsmouth branch of the Samaritans was formed in 1962 and Mr Eldrid took on the role as director from 1962 until 1972.
During this time the charity was led by religious figures.
He held Samaritans meetings at All Saints church before heading to the capital to join the charity’s central London branch in Soho.
He was a close friend of Samaritans founder Chad Varah, who devised the organisation in 1953 in the crypt of his church, and was instrumental in structuring the charity during the 1960s and 1970s.
Mr Varah founded the Samaritans in 1953 after attending the funeral of a teenage girl who took her own life because she did not fully understand menstruation.
The Samaritans built up a strong following of helpers under Mr Varah during its initial years, including Mr Eldrid.
The organisation was left in the hands of its volunteers as Mr Varah made the decision to take a back-seat role.
In 1974, Mr Eldrid became a key member of the organisation by being appointed director of the Central London Samaritans – a position he held until 1987.
Mr Eldrid wrote a self-help book titled Caring for the Suicidal, which was published in 1988 and has been used by academics across the medical industry.
Mr Eldrid died just a few weeks short of the Portsmouth Samaritans branch reaching its 50th anniversary this month.
In a statement, the Portsmouth Samaritans described Mr Eldrid as a ‘strong character’ and a ‘giant of a man’.
It said: ‘He was very instrumental in organising the Portsmouth Samaritans and left a legacy of genuine compassion and care for people in times of need and personal crisis.
‘He left a very caring nature in other people, which has continued to this day.
‘He was a leader and was a pillar of the community.’
Peter Gibson, director at Central London Samaritans, said: ‘John Eldrid was one of the pillars of Central London Samaritans.
‘He had been part of the Samaritans since 1958 –initially working closely with Chad and later becoming a consultant and then branch director.
‘Even after stepping down as director, and at a time when many others would have retired, John continued to work tirelessly for the CLS – supporting callers and volunteers alike.
‘Unfailingly altruistic, John was always there for those that needed support.’
Mr Eldrid moved back to the area with his family to live in Bedhampton and is survived by wife Rosalie and children Sarah and Robert.
His funeral was held at St Phillip’s Church, Cosham, on Monday.
n John Eldrid: Born April 14, 1925; died October 24, 2011.