Gerard Lorriman SJ 1915 – 2011
Gerard Lorriman SJ 1915 – 2011

Gerard Lorriman SJ

This 1987 photo (below right) of Fr Gerry confronting armoured personnel carriers and tear gas as he led a funeral procession near Cape Town at the height of the apartheid regime in South Africa, has become an icon of resistance to injustice. At this time the security forces and police would frequently shoot at funeral processions. Many clergy were reluctant to conduct funerals so Fr Gerry was often called upon.  

Fr Gerard Lorriman SJ confronting tanks and tear gas in Cape Town 1987

In this picture the security forces have just fired tear gas.  The pall bearers have fled leaving the coffins in the path of the armoured vehicles.  Fr Gerry strode out in front of the vehicles, shook his fist and suggested in no uncertain terms that the security forces remove themselves: “the chap was so shocked he turned round and b******d off!” said Fr Gerry.

Gerry was born in Tynemouth in 1915. He qualified as a doctor and served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in North Africa and Italy during the Second World War, after which he married and worked as a chest speacialist at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London. In 1959 he joined the Treasury Medical Service as an Adviser to the Diplomatic Services.

On the death of his wife in 1970, Gerry applied to become a Jesuit priest and took his first vows in 1974.  On completion of his Jesuit training in 1983, Gerry was assigned to South Africa and appointed parish priest at St Mary’s Church in Nyanga, a township in Cape Town.  He served as Catholic chaplain to prisoners at Robben Island.  Given his fairly overt political sympathies he got to know most of the prisoners personally, including Nelson Mandela, who, although a Methodist, used to attend Mass. 

Gerry witnessed and tried to intervene in the destruction of the Crossroads squatter camp.  His expert testimony helped to win compensation for the victims.  Gerry died in Cape Town in 2011 aged 96.