'Every day was about fighting' - ex-Hell's Angel Brian Greenaway's journey to faith
Brian Greenaway had a troubled childhood, led a violent Hell’s Angels gang and ended up in prison, where he met Jesus ...
Brian Greenaway had a troubled childhood, led a violent Hell’s Angels gang and ended up in prison, where he met Jesus. He tells his story to MANDY PILZ
“Dad left home when I was four years old, but he still came to visit his sister every week who lived on the same road as us. I’d sit in the gutter waiting to see him.
“He had a car, which was a novelty in the early 1950s, so when he appeared I and other kids on the street would run up to him. He would acknowledge them but always completely ignore me.
“I always thought, ‘Why won’t you even look at me – just say, “good lad” or something?’ But there was nothing – ever.
“I’d go back indoors feeling really choked, and mum, who was always angry and bitter, would scream: ‘See, he doesn’t care about you!’ That’s probably the worst memory that I have because it went on for so long.”
Listening to Brian Greenaway’s devastating account of his childhood is very moving. Rejected by his father, brutalised by his mother, stepfather and neighbours, bullied at school, enduring poverty, cold and hunger and shouldering responsibilities that should never have been his – these were the formative years when what he describes as ‘the monster within’ himself, was formed.
“I grew into crime. Mum would send me to steal coal from the neighbours. I later got into petty crime, then became a biker and joined a gang.
“I started taking a lot of drugs, like LSD. We’d fight the mods and skinheads. In one riot I stabbed two skinheads in the stomach. It was just so wild.
“Every day was about fighting – destroying the other person – using a lump of steel or a knife. I got involved in some terrible fights. In the end I was carrying a 12-bore sawn-off shotgun.
“I formed a Hell’s Angels group on a tough council estate. We would deal violently with anyone who gave us hassles. This was my way of getting rid of the pain I’d had as a child.
“I ended up in and out of prison, convicted of grievous bodily harm, gang warfare and wounding with intent.”
It seems hardly credible that this forthright but gracious man sitting before me, wearing a suit for the launch of his DVD and latest book, was once the president of a Hell’s Angels gang.
How did the change in him take place?
“In the early 1970s I experienced a kind of ‘trip’ where I believe I met God in human form, who spoke to me about pruning a marijuana plant.
“Then eight months later, when I was doing time in Dartmoor Prison, a probation officer asked me if I’d like a visitor, someone I could talk with about motorbikes. But I said: ‘I want to talk about God’.
“I’ve always believed God put these words in my mouth. The visitor was a local Christian farmer. He gave me a copy of the Living Bible and Run Baby Run, by Nicky Cruz.
“Later I read Cruz’s book and my eyes began to water as I realised this was my story too. I opened the Bible randomly and the pages fell at John 15, where it talks about God being a gardener who prunes. I knew then that God was communicating with me.
“I was lying flat on the floor in my cell saying to God: ‘What you did for Nicky Cruz, please do for me’. I asked God to forgive me and to come into my life. After, I couldn’t stop grinning and began talking non-stop about Jesus.”
Brian has since spent 32 years preaching in prisons and 10 years of that was as a chaplain in Wandsworth Prison.
“I’ve seen so many people become Christians. It’s been fantastic as well as really hard. I also went to several prisons in Africa. In Zambia I saw 27 guys on death row become Christians.
“That’s not, ‘Well done Brian,’” he adds, pulling a chain from round his neck, and showing me a 3cm model of a double-barrelled gun. “I wear this to keep myself humble, to remind myself of where I’ve come from.
“It’s just amazing that Jesus who’d done no wrong actually died for someone like me.”
Brian Greenaway’s book and DVD The Monster Within (CWR £8.99; DVD £10.99) are available from www.cwr.org.uk
Get more inspiring reading
You can order our printed INSPIRE magazine in bundles of 10 for your church. Get encouraged by stories of God at work in the UK and around the world – and it's great for giving away to those on the edge of church, too! Order FREE* for your church (*we welcome an annual donation towards our costs).