Hugh Neems
Hugh Neems
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In an adventurous life that brought him eventually to Todmorden, he had at 27 left the west London suburb of Heston with his wife, Eileen, to become a missionary on the islands of Samoa.

He lived in the village of Leone on American Samoa, but was responsible for the spiritual wellbeing of the whole group of Samoan islands, the means of travel between which was outrigger canoe. In later years he would enjoy describing the dangerous journeys; how after rowing on the open ocean the captain would drift alongside a break in the reef, scanning the horizon for the big wave to carry them through the gap. Once spotted, the crew would row rhythmically to the beat of the canoe’s drum. Hugh’s role was to pray for them all.

On returning in 1968, he was made advocacy secretary for education at the Church Council for World Mission’s headquarters in London. Three years later he moved with his family to Halifax, where he took up the post of minister at Lightcliffe United Reformed Church, making an immediate impact on the congregation by playing the pop hit of the time, Banner Man by Blue Mink, loudly at his induction service.

He established a thriving youth club in the church hall with badminton, table tennis and discussion groups, and on Friday nights, teenagers from miles around would flock to his popular disco. Even when things seemed in danger of getting out of control, he managed to keep the upper hand.

When he retired in 1993 he returned to Samoa for a short period before coming back to England and settling in Todmorden.

He published books about his time on the islands, as well as the story of his Welsh ancestors. But perhaps his greatest literary achievement was his book, A Rough Ride, in which he traced the parts his five uncles played in the First World War. Nearly 80 years on, he could recall the aeroplane tail fin from the Royal Flying Corps that decorated his Uncle Hughie’s staircase.

Sir Hugh Pughe Lloyd was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and his nephew remained amazed that he survived. He went on to be Air Chief Marshall, and was Commander-in-Chief of Bomber Command when he retired in 1953.

But the death of Uncle Arthur in the Battle of Arras took a terrible toll on his family. Another uncle, Dai Lloyd, was severely injured at Vimy Ridge but survived the war, only to die while serving as a pilot with the RAF in Afghanistan in 1926.

Hugh is survived by his partner, Doris, his children, Sue, Leone and Rachel and grandchildren, Becky, Jack and Hannah.