A BRIDGWATER son has become a local hero in Leeds for his tireless work helping the homeless.

John Pocock’s family were boat builders and salmon fisherman on the River Parrett and lived in the cottages on Salmon Parade.

John’s mother died when he was still a baby and his father struggled to cope, and by the age of 10, John and his siblings were living in the workhouse in Bridgwater.

He would steal food for his hungry sister and was caught so ended up in a borstal - a centre for reforming troubled boys - which lead John into a life of crime and eventually prison.

However in his 1920’s, when John was an inmate at Wakefield Prison he met a Salvation Army officer, who would persist with trying to befriend the prisoner despite being shunned numerous times.

When John was released from prison, the Salvation Army officer met him at the gate and offered him accommodation at a local hostel, an act of kindness that began a turnaround in John’s life.

John learned to read and write, and worked his way up to become a trusted member of staff.

John became a Christian and entered the Salvation Army College to become a minister, but instead of a church he dedicated his life to working with the homeless.

At college he met his wife, Irene, and together they raised four children while managing men’s hostels in London, Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Rochdale.

All in all John and Irene spent more than 40 years working to support the homeless.

In the 1980s John was awarded an honorary degree from Manchester Polytechnic for his work.

Even in retirement John continued working for the Salvation Army and even now, approaching his 90th birthday, spends several days each week in the town centre of Morley collecting.

John may have left Bridgwater 80 years ago, but to the people in Morley and Leeds he has become a local hero.