JIS News

Jamaican born Sydney McFarlane has received one of the highesthonoursfor a lay person in the Catholic Church, withthe award of the Benemerenti Medal by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, on the recommendation of the Bishop of Nottingham, Malcolm McMahon.

The honour is for his more than 20 years of service toMarriage Care, acounsellingservice charity run by members of the Catholic Church.

Mr. McFarlane told JIS News that he was humbled, but very honoured to receive this recognition from the head of the Catholic Church.

“It has been a really humbling experience. I have a great deal of personal satisfaction, because it is a great honour. I feel very proud, flattered and deeply honoured to have been nominated for such a prestigious award,” Mr. McFarlane said.

During his two decades with the charity, Mr. McFarlane transformed the fortunes of the Lincolnshire (East Midlands) branch of the charity and then turned his attention to the national fortunes of the free service. He was the national Chair for six years.

"I originally applied to be acounsellor, but I was already at the upper age limit of 55, so I did not get the job. However, a year later they asked if I wanted to be the centre manager. I didn't realise quite how close the centre was to closing. We had only £500 in the bank. I did a lot of work on funding. We were initially rejected for a lottery grant because they thought we only helped Catholics, but the truth is we will help anyone who needs it,”  he said.

Mr. McFarlane attended St. Aloysius Primary School and was an alter boy at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in downtown Kingston before he moved to the United Kingdom as an adventurous 20 year-old in 1955.

“When I first came here (to the UK), my faith was really tested because in those days there were no anti discrimination laws,” he said.

A few years after migrating to the UK, Mr. McFarlane was called up for National Service in 1957.  This national service led to a 30-year career in the Royal Air Force.  This saw him rising through the ranks from aircraftman to commissioned officer.

“The service (RAF) was better than the outside in terms of opportunities and there was less discrimination, because of the discipline and the code of conduct,” he said. 

After his time in the RAF, Mr. McFarlane then worked for 12 years as a civil servant with the Ministry of Defence. During his RAF career he was awarded three Commander-in-Chief commendations for outstanding service during tours of duty in the Middle East and with NATO Forces in Holland and Germany.

Although he is officially ‘retired,’ Mr. McFarlane is very active in his  community. He was appointed an ordinary Board member of Longhurst Homes (Registered Social Housing Association) in May 2007. He served as a Board member of the National Probation Service ;  is a former member and Chairman of Lincolnshire Racial Equality Council ;  is a former Chairman of Lincolnshire Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Hate Crime Scrutiny Panel;  and a former member of the Lincolnshire Criminal Justice Board .

Mr. McFarlane has been involved with the Jamaican Diaspora in the East Midlands since 2006.


Vivienne Siva

JIS Information Attaché

Jamaican High Commission