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New Year’s gongs all round
9:37am Thursday 3rd January 2013 in News
A 97-YEAR-OLD former Bury player, believed to be the UK’s longest-serving church organist, has been honoured by the Queen.
Arthur Hoyle Smith, organist and choirmaster at Christ Church Walmersley since 1935, has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the New Year Honours.
He is one of six local people to be accoladed by the Queen.
Mr Smith, who played football for Bury and Leicester City in the late 1930s, has served a remarkable 77 years as organist, a stint only interrupted when he served with the Army during the Second World War.
Officials and members of the congregation have welcomed Mr Smith’s honour which has been given in recognition of his service to the church.
Playing down his amazing achievement, the father-of-two, who lives in Walmersley, said: “I haven’t done anything special, just gone to church and played the organ for more than 70 years, excluding the five or six years I spent in the Army.”
“I became a choir boy at Christ Church at the age of seven and then became choirmaster and organist.”
It was during a children’s service at the church that he and others were approached by the vicar and asked who could play the piano. Mr Smith, who was born in 1915, was put forward and was told just to do his best.
The former company secretary said: “I’m getting on a bit now, but I can still get about OK and play each Sunday. I’ve no plans to stop.”
Asked how he felt about receiving the BEM, he said modestly: “It won’t make any difference to me. I really feel I haven’t done anything too special.”
It is not the first time that the widower’s achievements have been recognised nationally. In 2000, the then Bury North MP David Chaytor tabled a special Parliamentary motion calling on the Culture Secretary Chris Smith to formally recognise his 65-year musical link with Christ Church Walmersley.
Part of the motion read: “We note that Mr Smith is almost certainly the organist and choirmaster with the longest record of continuous service at any church in the United Kingdom.”
Speaking on behalf of the Parochial Church Council (PCC), Mr Nigel Silvester said: “Everyone at Christ Church Walmersley is absolutely delighted to learn of the honour bestowed on our long serving organist and choirmaster.
“Even now at 97 years young he never misses a church service. Last winter, when there was snow on the ground and plenty of ice under foot, he walked up the hill from his house to church to play at the Christmas Midnight Communion. This is so typical of the man and his commitment to the church he has attended, and served, since his childhood.
“He is a great example to us all of steadfast Christian ministry. We give thanks to God that such devoted service, which Arthur has given in his professional, yet unassuming and quiet manner, has been recognised in this way by Her Majesty who is head of our country and church. We are all thrilled for him.”
Pic caption: ROYAL RECOGNITION. Mr Arthur Smith. (bn201239642).