A LONG-SERVING organist has bowed out of the job after giving more than four decades' service to an Ainsworth church.

Margaret Turner has devoted some 45 years of her life to accompanying a church congregation as well as performing at countless choir rehearsals, weddings, funerals and commemorative events, to name a few.

The 86-year-old began playing the piano when she was seven years old, but was encouraged to try her hand at the organ by the late Rev Ken Bullock, at her local church, Christ Church Ainsworth.

Mrs Turner, from Lowercroft, said: "With three children, I told him I was only a pianist. But he said if I would play the keys, he would operate the pedals while I practised. And so I became an assistant at first.

"I started out as an organist for the church choir while I was still working as a typist at a wood mill."

In September 1978, Mrs Turner took over as the dedicated organist at Christ Church Ainsworth, and soon found her skills in demand.

She recalled playing at St Paul's Church, Walkden, for the final reunion of the Operation Market Garden veterans who served during the Second World War — a military operation fought in the Netherlands and Germany that involved trying to take strategic bridges near Arnhem.

Mrs Turner said: "I played the Dutch National Anthem. It was a packed church of both British and Dutch ex-military men.

"That performance was voluntary. It was a privilege. My greatest reward was the words of thanks afterwards."

Bury Times:

High praise has been given to Mrs Turner for her abilities.

In a short speech at Christ Church Ainsworth, choir member David Holden said: "What makes a very good organist is the ability to deal with matters when something goes awry.

"At a recent carol service, the electrics went on the organ mid-song and the congregation and choir had to sing unaccompanied.

"But before the next carol was due to be sung, Margaret had already recruited two willing volunteers to manually pump the air through the organ pipes so she could carry on."

He added: "Margaret, you have been an inspiration to congregations both past and present, an inspiration to the church, and an inspiration to God."

Mrs Turner said the thing she most enjoys about playing is the variations in music, and her favourite hymn of all time is How Great Thou Art.

She said of playing: "It does get cold in winter. I needed a regular supply of hot water bottles to keep my hands warm."

Husband Roy, aged 90, said: "Margaret just wanted to help out and be useful. She has enjoyed playing all these years and I have done what I could to back her up."

Bury Times:

A surprise retirement celebration was held in the church hall to honour the organist on Sunday, September 30.

Rev Dave Thompson, vicar at Christ Church Ainsworth, said: "Margaret has been incredibly dedicated. She has worked extremely hard for the church, ably serving four Ainsworth vicars in her time. We have all been blessed because Margaret was willing to take the job on.

"Strangely for her, she will now be sat in the pews. We will all miss her. Not that she is giving up entirely."

Mrs Turner has offered to act as a stand in, should the church need her on occasions.

However, the full-time role as organist is being handed over to Mrs Turner's daughter Jenny Johnson.

Mrs Johnson, from Brandlesholme, said: "Playing the organ has been mum's life — as well as being mum — everything was organised around it.

"She will be my mentor."