From St James's we learn that on the porch wall of St James' Church (whose spire you can see just to the east of Father Jack's plaque) is a board which lists Jack Holden as the vicar of the Church of St. James the Apostle with St. Philip, Islington, 1979-1982. This is just after a period of 9 years during which it was administered by St Marys Church so perhaps that was the "challenging times" to which the plaque refers. In 1987 the church regrouped and became the Church of St. James the Apostle with St. Peter, Islington, as named on the 1994 plaque.
We had no information about Father Jack until Tim Browne wrote in 2013 to tell us that Father Jack, born in about 1920, had been a missionary in Guyana working with the Amerindians in the Southern Savannah. His work involved travelling vast distances, often alone, in very remote regions. Father Jack was responsible for Tim’s Dad coming over to England in the early 60s, when he was 19, and they stayed in close contact, to the extent that Tim has fond memories of the priest whom he knew as “Uncle Jack”. Jack lived out his final days in Charterhouse having served the Church for many years.
Also in 2013 Jack’s nephew, Frank Holden, sent a picture and wrote: “Jack was born in Southampton in about 1914 and trained as an aeronautical engineer before joining the church. He went out to British Guiana in 1940 and came home in 1963. For many years afterwards he was vicar of St Andrews, Stoke Newington. As he was a champion of the rights of the Amerindians in the Rupinuni district the government of independent Guyana declared him a 'prohibited person' and he was unable to return to that country. It did however always amuse him that the government of a sovereign state should be so afraid of a little old man.”
Frank tells us that “Jack once 'starred' in a 'movie' that the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel made in about 1960 called 'Bread upon the Waters' about his work in British Guiana.. I think it was more of a recruiting tool as his life out there was quite an adventure.” We can’t trace that but we did find a book "I don't mind where I go - The story of Jack Holden of British Guiana”. [With llustrations.]. by Pat ARROWSMITH, Writer for Children.; Jack Hatherley HOLDEN, published by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts: [London], 1961.
In 2020 our colleague, Andrew Behan, researched this man and states that he was born as Jack Hatherley Holden on 5 January 1912 in Southampton, Hampshire, the sixth child of Frank Hatherley Holden (1866-1955) and Cecile Emily Helen Holden née Brooks (1869-1960) His father was a coal and corn merchant.
The 1939 England and Wales Register shows him living at 352 Hill Lane, Southampton, Hampshire, with his parents and five other family members. His occupation was recorded as an Aero Draughtsman and also showed that he was a War Reserve Constable in the Metropolitan Police.
He made several travels abroad and ship’s passenger lists are recorded showing him variously as follows:-
In January 1950 he arrived in Southampton aboard the 'Bonaire' of the Royal Netherlands Steamship Company having embarked at Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana). His occupation was shown as Reverend and his address in the UK as 352 Hill Lane, Southampton.
On 16 September 1950 he embarked from Dover, Kent, aboard the 'Brasil Star' of the Blue Star Line, for Georgetown, British Guiana. His home address was recorded at 352 Hill Lane, Southampton and his occupation was given as a clerk in holy orders.
On 29 January 1955 he is shown as arriving in Paramaribo, Dutch Guiana, (now the Republic of Suriname, sometimes spelt Surinam) aboard the 'Cottica' of the Royal Netherlands Steamship Company, having embarked at Georgetown, British Guiana. He was shown as a minster of religion of 352 Hill Lane, Southampton.
The passenger list for the steamship 'Willemstad' shows him arriving in Southampton on 20 December 1959 having embarked at Georgetown, British Guiana. He was described as a clerk in holy orders and the purpose of the journey was for a six-month vacation at 352 Hill Lane, Southampton.
The New Year's Honours List for 1965 shows him awarded an M.B.E. as The Reverend Canon John Hatherley Holden, Rural Dean of Essequibo, British Guiana.
Telephone directories from 1981 to 1983 list him at 2 Bishop Street, London, N1.
He died, aged 84 years, on 25 February 1996 and his death was registered in the Islington registration district.