A Good Samaritan: The autobiography of the Reverend
Cyril Handel Grant
Cyril Handel Grant
SilverWood Books £15.99
Church Times Bookshop £14.40 (Use code
CYRIL HANDEL GRANT is a Free Church minister who, in his
nineties, has written an account of his life and work. He was the
founder of the Samaritans in Bristol, and for 50 years worked for
the organisation as a volunteer. His dedicated service was
recognised with an MBE.
After 70 years as a preacher and public speaker, Grant uses
words masterfully. Reading his memoirs is like listening to an
experienced and gifted lecturer-cum-storyteller who never loses the
attention of his audience. He studied theology in the United
States, and his descriptions of that country after the Second World
War are as vivid as a newsreel, and provide a fascinating social
record of the long-gone age of lengthy sea voyages and
trans-continental rail journeys. He contrasts the affluence he
discovered across the Atlantic with the austerity he had known in
Europe, reliving his astonishment at discovering such plenty.
Reminiscences are important. They help to ensure that the
lessons of long and faithful lives are not lost. Yet Cyril Grant's
account of his life is uneven. His recollections of his journeys
criss-crossing the US as a young man are extensively recorded. His
years as the minister of a challenging Congregationalist chapel in
Rotherham, and the successes and failures he encountered, are given
less space, but provide some useful insights into urban ministry.
He writes barely five pages, however, about his 50 years with the
Samaritans. It would surely have been possible, even within the
limits of confidentiality, to deal more fully with that aspect of
his life. His experience was much valued, as attested to by a
tribute, quoted in the book, from one of his Samaritan colleagues;
and yet he shares almost none of this experience with his readers.
Had he done so, his book might have been an invaluable resource for
new volunteers, and provided important encouragement to Samaritans
of long standing.
Ted Harrison is a former BBC religious-affairs