Archdeacon of West Ham Elwin Cockett says it isn’t just the famous who inspire


- Credit: Archant

Newham has produced more than its fair share of high-achieving men and women, from Elizabeth Fry, the 19th century prison reformer who features on the £5 note, to the likes of Steve Harris, Idris Elba and Christine Ohuruogu.

Many more have been indelibly linked with Newham at some point in their lives, from West Ham United’s Moore, Hurst and Peters, to Stratford East’s Joan Littlewood, guitarist Bert Weedon and poet Benjamin Zephaniah.

Some such as our World Cup trio have been rightly famous in their own lifetime, although even my boyhood hero, Bobby Moore, has been honoured more in death than he ever was in life.

Others such as poet Gerard Manley Hopkins only achieved any sort of fame long after their death.

Hopkins, born in Stratford in 1844, might not be a household name, and certainly never published a poem in his lifetime, but his genius has been recognised by thousands of students of English literature ever since.

But some, perhaps most of Newham’s greatest men and women, do their great deeds without any public recognition or honour. I’m talking about people whose actions effect the lives of others for good, day in day out, and benefit the community.

Such people exist in every walk of life. Many in Newham have cause to be grateful to people in the NHS who have helped them.

Most Read

Many of us can remember teachers who inspired and encouraged us, and made us better people. Equally, we can be thankful for business leaders who have made our lives better by developing products and services that we use every day. And I know, too, that many of the faith leaders and charity workers in Newham are doing wonderful service.

But there’s one particular person in that last group who I would like to single out for praise this week.

Geoff Wheeler retired recently after running a charity serving the people of Newham for many years.

As chief executive of Aston Mansfield he has done more good, quietly and without publicity, than most of us will do in a lifetime.

He is one of Newham’s great achievers, and we can be thankful for that.

May his example inspire us all to seek the good of our community, whether that wins us recognition or not.