It is with great sadness that I share with you the news that Richard Darlington, an Emmaus champion and founding member of Emmaus Mossley, has passed away.

The one without whom nothing would have been possible.

This phrase was coined by Abbé Pierre in reference to Lucie Coutaz, his lifelong assistant. He viewed Lucie as essential to the development of Emmaus over the years. The same words can be used to describe Richard Darlington’s contribution to the founding and growth of Emmaus in Mossley and the North West.

Richard arrived with an idea and project in mind. Having trained and qualified as an architect, Richard had worked in Skelmersdale, Kenya, Derby and Cambridge before moving to Oldham in 1994. The Derby experience was instructive and valuable as it was where he first became interested in increasing levels of public participation in housing issues. He developed that interest further when he moved to Cambridge in 1972 where he spent 10 years working on private sector properties in General Improvement Areas. He subsequently moved to the housing department and took responsibility for housing aid and advice services. It was in this job that he realised that nothing was being provided for the single homeless. This position deteriorated further in 1988 with changes to the housing benefit regulations making it more difficult for the single homeless to access private rented property.

Helping to open the first Emmaus community in the UK

In 1990, Richard heard a local businessman, Selwyn Image, speak at a conference about Emmaus – its principles and methods of operation. Immediately taken by the concept, Selwyn and Richard travelled to France and spent a week volunteering at Emmaus Boulogne. At the end of the week, Richard knew he had found what he was looking for. Richard worked with a local committee to establish Emmaus Cambridge which was opened in the summer of 1992 by Terry Waite.

Bringing the Emmaus concept to the North West

Richard and his wife Elizabeth then moved to Oldham in 1994 and in 1995 he gave a series of talks about housing and homelessness to members of his local church, St Anne’s Lydgate. Over a relatively short period of time, Richard successfully sold and marketed that vision and brought together a group of skilled and dedicated volunteers capable of making it happen. The search for premises began in earnest and 28 potential buildings were viewed across Greater Manchester.

Longlands Mill in Mossley was an attractive option but it was beyond any budget available. Meetings with residents and local councillors were held and planning approval was obtained on 31 January 1996. Other buyers failed to complete a deal and when Iain Mackechnie-Jarvis of Emmaus UK was offered a grant by the Tudor Trust for an Emmaus project in the North, the purchase was back on. The deal was completed in August 1996.

Leading the development of Emmaus Mossley

Richard then led the team in fundraising and provided the project management skills leading to the redevelopment of Longlands Mill. He continued to provide leadership when Emmaus Mossley began to receive companions, standing in as project director on several occasions. Richard placed enormous emphasis on building trust and confidence within the local community. This led to him playing an instrumental role in the launch of Mossley Heritage Centre, by offering space inside Longlands Mill to Mossley Civic Society.

As Emmaus Mossley grew, Richard also took an increasingly active role at a national level within the Emmaus movement serving as an Emmaus UK Board Member. He was keen to see the movement grow across the UK and offer support to new and emerging groups. In time he stood back and let others take the strain but remained as committed to Emmaus as he was at the outset.

In 2021, Richard was honoured with an Emmaus Founders’ Medal in recognition of his outstanding voluntary service to the Emmaus movement. Later that year, we unveiled a green plaque at the entrance to Emmaus Mossley to celebrate Richard’s enormous contribution to our community. We have no doubt that without Richard, there would have been no Emmaus Mossley.

His contribution has been immense, and we will continue to work to achieve the dreams and vision that Richard had all those years ago. On behalf of everyone at Emmaus Mossley, we send our sincere condolences to Richard’s family, friends and all who knew him.