AFTER devoting 60 years of his life to filling St George’s Church in Semington with music, organist Malcolm Bennett played his final performance at the Harvest Festival on Sunday (Sept 20).

The 83-year-old, affectionately known as ‘Mac’ to friends and family members, decided the time was right to retire earlier this year and thought his 60th Harvest Festival would be the perfect setting to conclude his long service.

Mr Bennett, who was born in Trowbridge, said he was only due to take on the role temporarily while the vicar looked for a replacement for the previous organist after he retired in the early 1950s.

However, after 40 years as the “temporary replacement” Mr Bennett was finally made the permanent church organist, playing at St George’s on most Sundays.

“When I was younger I went to The Boys’ High School in Trowbridge and one day a lad from Semington invited some of us over to his house for tea on a Sunday, which was great for us,” said Mr Bennett.

“I’ll never forget his mother saying that we can come for tea provided that we go to church afterwards, which is where my association with St George’s Church began in 1947.

“We initially formed a choir and then when the previous organist retired the vicar asked me if I would take over until they found a replacement. 40 years later I was made the permanent organist, but to be honest I don’t know whether they ever looked for anyone else.

“Sunday was my 60th Harvest Festival and I decided it was the right time to retire from the church, especially at my age. It was an excellent evening and it was lovely to see the church full.”

Following the festival, there was a party to celebrate Mr Bennett’s service at the church hall, where The Semingtones Ladies Choir performed a version of Abba’s Thank You for the Music.

Mr Bennett, who learnt how to read music after having a few piano lessons, was also presented with a gift voucher after the PCC and the church congregation held a collection for him.

“It was fantastic to see so many old faces after the service, with some of the old choir boys turning up, while some came from as far as Weston Super Mare and Shaftesbury to be there,” added Mr Bennett, who was joined by daughter Jude Rodgerson for the celebration.

“I didn’t expect so many people to turn up, but it was a wonderful evening and I’m grateful to everyone who came along. Although I’ve retired from playing the organ, I’m sure I will continue going to church.”