A retired teacher from Penzance is among 26 people received the Cross of St Piran from the Bishop of Truro in March in recognition of his work in the church and community.

A member of St Peter’s Church in Newlyn for almost 50 years, Ernest Jackson was surprised to be selected for the award, which is given annually by Bishop Tim to people from across the diocese who are nominated by their peers for their services.

Ernest said: “Being awarded the Cross of St Piran was a big surprise! You don’t do these things for what you get out of it. You want to do what you can to help people. Part of being a Christian is being involved. You are simply doing your bit to spread the Gospel. It’s not necessarily in a vocal way but rather by setting an example of helping other people. Having said that, everyone knows about the award because it was announced in church!”

Ernest, who is married to Pauline, was put forward by Penwith Deanery for “being instrumental in improving the quality of life at St Peter’s”, as well as his work as a server and Lay Worship Leader in the church.

Outside of church, Ernest was also recognised for his work as a founding member of the Christian Helpline in Newlyn, a volunteer in the Churches Together Giving Shop and his time spent serving breakfasts in Penzance to the homeless.

As a child Ernest attended a Methodist Church but when both his parents passed away before he was 14, he went to live with his sister and she had married a churchwarden at Paul Church.

“I started going to Paul and both Pauline and I were confirmed there before going on to marry there. It was when our two daughters Linda and Angela came along that we moved to St Peter’s Church in Newlyn and we’ve been there ever since.”

Not one for the quiet life, Ernest studied to be a teacher while working full time and with two young children at home. He spent the rest of his career as a teacher in Penzance. He said: “As a teacher you do see that some children come from very deprived families but then you get families giving you updates on the successes of youngsters you once taught and it’s nice to know you had an input into that young person’s life.”

While still working, Ernest was one of the founding members of the Christian Helpline in Newlyn (CHIN), a voluntary organisation which provides drivers for elderly people needing to get to doctor or hospital appointments. CHIN has now been running for over 30 years although Ernest stepped down when he and Pauline needed to care for Pauline’s elderly mother.

On retirement, Ernest started volunteering, as part of a team in Penzance serving breakfast for the town’s homeless as part of a Churches Together project. This continued until two years ago when he suffered a heart attack. “I decided that perhaps I shouldn’t be getting up at 6am in the morning!”

Ernest was also chairman of a St. Peter’s Church Art Exhibition Committee using St Peter’s Hall and for ten years helped to run an annual art exhibition which raised thousands for the Children’s Society, of which Bishop Tim is now Chairman.

Ernest still shows no signs of slowing down. He has just been asked to create a model of an Engine House for the St Mary’s Church flower festival (May 28-June 1), he’s still co-editing the church’s bi-monthly newsletter and he has a successful allotment.

In fact Ernest has turned his green fingers into growing funds for his church. “Each year I sell my surplus vegetables that I grow on my allotment in church. The congregation really like it and through that I have been able to give £100 to church funds each of the last three years.”

Ernest is keen to point out that through it all has been his wife Pauline. “Pauline has helped me and we’ve always been in it together.”