David Shorney is modest about his achievements.

He will tell you that during his six years at Shebbear he was a member of Troop 1 and the choir but failed to distinguish himself in the classroom or on the sports field.

Probe a little further and you discover that in fact in fact he subsequently achieved much more. Scholar, teacher, academic, researcher and writer would more aptly describe him.

Dig even deeper and you find out that the real purpose of his life has been to care about and give hope to those less fortunate than himself. Our President for 2003 is the son of the late Dick Shorney, who taught for two decades at Shebbear, before taking up a lectureship at Loughborough College in 1943.

David went with his parents to Leicestershire to finish his schooling. He trained as a teacher at Westminster College, then in London, before National Service in the RAF.

Afterwards, he set out to gain a place at Oxford University and won an Open Scholarship to Exeter College where he read Modern History. There at the same were John Page in his final year and the later Robin Howard in his second. Leaving Oxford he taught at Hardye’s School, Dorchester, and in a number of schools in Leicestershire before going to New Westminster, British Columbia, to teach at a senior high school.

Returning to Britain in 1962, he took a postgraduate diploma in Theology at Durham University, followed by a lectureship in history and religious studies at Neville’s Cross, Durham, a teacher training college. He also began research into British disarmament policy in the inter-war years which led to the award of a PhD.

Moving south, he took up an appointment at another teacher training college, Avery Hill in south-east London, which eventually became the headquarters of the new University of Greenwich.

In 1986, after taking early retirement, he began what he regards as the most important period of his life. His history of Avery College (Teachers in Training 1906-1985) published in 1989 was acclaimed in the academic press. In 1996, he wrote Protestant Nonconformity and Roman Catholicism for the Public Record Office. One reviewer said it was the best introduction to the subject he had ever read.

Retirement also gave him more time to devote to the homeless and disadvantaged. In Durham, he had already set up a hugely successful club for children from one of the city’s most deprived areas. In London, he worked for Crisis, the organisation which provides comfort for people forced to live on the streets at Christmas; worked and became a trustee for the Attlee Foundation in London’s East End; became treasurer of a day centre for the homeless and marginalised in Deptford, and joined a team of Simon Community volunteers taking soup and sandwiches to rough sleepers in central London.

In 1991 he set up the Aldo Trust in Bradford, Yorkshire, as a memorial to his parents and acquired a large house which for more than 10 years provided accommodation for the young homeless, as well as conference facilities for churches and voluntary organisations.

Now he is researching the history of the Bible Christians: “It has enabled me to come much closer to Shebbear and its origins. It is a remarkable story of which we can all be proud and one which I hope I shall be able to share with others in the near future.”