What a set of pipes! Lilian has 70 years behind the organ

A Northumberland pensioner is celebrating 70 years at the keyboard and is making no plans to stand down any time soon.

Lilian Hume has been playing at the church of St James, in Shilbottle, since 1945 and now lays claim to be its longest-serving organist.

Every Sunday and at weekday services, she has accompanied the singing of the service and hymns and set the mood with carefully-chosen organ pieces before and after the services.

Lilian was taken to the church by her father when she was just four years old and has fond memories of training at Lesbury church before starting at Shilbottle at the age of 17.

Lilian said: “I was appointed when I was 17 but I’d played piano a long time in Sunday School, then I did take organ lessons because the organist at the time was leaving.

“I used to acoompany practices at Lesbury to get used to playing and it’s just gone on from there.

“It doesn’t feel like 70 years, I’ve loved what i’ve been doing and I used to come with my father to the church so it’s really home.”

With her many years of service, Lilian has gathered up a lot of memories.

She was once told the wrong starting time for a funeral so when she arrived the service was already underway.

But Lilian’s best story was about a wedding where the couple asked to walk down the aisle to Widor’s Toccata from the 5th Organ Symphony – every organist’s Mount Everest.

She practised and practised, but without achieving things to her own satisfaction. So she hid her daughter in the pulpit with a tape recorder and told her when to press the button.

No-one was any the wiser at the time, though she confessed to the vicar afterwards that Shilbottle’s organ had been supplanted by that of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Rev Martin Gillham, Vicar at St James’s, said: “She’s like my aunty really. She’s a wonderful soul and a good Christian.

“She plays well after all these years and she’s had a senior role and a central one for probably nearly all that time.”

Lilian hasn’t only been the organist, she’s been involved with the church in many other ways. She has held virtually every post of responsibility at the church and led numerous groups of youngsters, training choirs, producing pantomimes and, every five years, organising a flowerfestival.

This year ‘s festival, her 13th, will have the theme of The Lord’s My Shepherd. It will be held from tomorrow to Monday.

Tomorrow evening, Lilian will receive special recognition for her years of service.

As for the future, Lilian said: “I don’t think I’ll be giving it up any time soon. The church just feels part of me now, I just love doing it.”

This is not the first time Lilian has been recognised for her work.

She was rewarded at her 60th anniversary with an invitation to a Buckingham Palace garden party.

In 2012, she was invited by the Bishop of Newcastle to represent the Diocese in receiving the Royal Maundy money from the Queen at York Minster.