Dalwood church organist still at the keyboard after 70 years

PUBLISHED: 15:01 26 September 2019

Still at the keyboard after 70 years - Dalwood Church organist Mary Jarvis with family and members of the congregation. Picture Chris Carson

Still at the keyboard after 70 years - Dalwood Church organist Mary Jarvis with family and members of the congregation. Picture Chris Carson

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Mary Jarvis first started playing the organ at Dalwood Parish Church in 1949 - and 70 years later she is still at the keyboard.

Her seven decades as organist at St Peter's coincided with her 85th birthday on Wednesday (September 25) - and to mark the occasion parishioners organised a big surprise.

After Mary finished the midweek communion service by playing her favourite hymn - Angels Voices Ever Singing - villagers and family members brought out presents and flowers to celebrate her remarkable milestone.

Priest Roger Waring ended the service by saying she has been a 'most faithful and much appreciated organist'.

Church warden Brian Eddy said when Mary first started playing the organ at St Peter's petrol was about 10p a gallon and Winston Churchill had just made his maiden speech in favour of the European Union!

But despite these historic events he said: "Most important of all 15-year-old Mary Ashley started playing the organ at St Peter's."

Mr Eddy added: "Mary will have seen several different vicars come and go and she has no doubt given advice to them all.

"She will have seen new tunes, more modern hymn books, changes in choir members -she coped with it all in her quiet competent way, always with a cheery smile.

"No matter what strange requests wedding couples or funeral parties had for their entry or exit music Mary said OK and settled down to learn it.

"Knowledge of your organ playing has spread far and wide."

In a message to Mrs Jarvis, the Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Rev Jackie Searle, said: "Thanks for your 70 years of musical contributions at Peter's. That really is an amazing contribution to the church in Dalwood and sounds like it ought to be a record.

"I hope you have a wonderful day and enjoy you birthday celebrations."

Mrs Jarvis was presented with flowers and gifts and a special birthday cake to mark her birthday.

She told The Herald she has no intention of stepping down any time soon and would be playing the organ at St Peter's 'until I can't sit on the stool any longer'.

She added; "I want to thank all the people for coming and for their good wishes."

Amongst those at the celebrations were Mary's daughters Lisa Smith and Pauline McCollum and granddaughter Connie Smith.

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