Organist honoured for 70 years’ service

AN ORGANIST who has played at Littlebury church for 70 years – and did not stop even when he was injured in an explosion – was honoured at service on Sunday.

Denis Wright was only 14 years old when, in 1940, the vicar at Holy Trinity Church asked him to play for the congregation.

The previous organist had been called up to fight in the Second World War and Mr Wright, a choirboy at the church since 1934, had been learning the piano.

Looking back on that day Mr Wright, who is now 84, said he was very excited, but quite nervous to be leading a choir of 16 boys and 10 men.

“I enjoyed playing the organ when I took my first service on June 18, 1940, and, 70 years later, I’m still enjoying it,” he said. “I’ve got no plans for retirement!”

While working on the production line for adhesive company Araldite at their Duxford factory in 1974, Mr Wright was caught in an explosion and damaged his right hand.

“I had been working with a highly volatile resin when the accident happened,” he said. “I was off work for six months and lost about 50 per cent use of my hand. I was worried that I might never play the organ again.

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“Then in February the next year a girl from the village asked me if I would play at her wedding and, although the hand wasn’t really healed, I said yes. I was playing the organ as the bride was coming down the aisle and my hand split open and started bleeding.”

Despite the injury Mr Wright persevered with the organ and the playing helped his hand to recover much of its mobility. He has since played services in churches across the district including Wimbish, Debden, Chrishall and Ickleton.

On Sunday Littlebury church paid tribute to Mr Wright’s commitment and held a service in his honour which was attended by more than 40 people. A collection of about �400 was raised for him and his wife, Mary.

“I was really overwhelmed by the service and they even let me chose the hymns!” said Mr Wright. “I think the highlight for me was receiving a letter from the Bishop of Colchester thanking me for my work – that was unexpected.

“My wife and I celebrated our diamond wedding anniversary in February, so this service has been a cap on an already fantastic year.”

Mr Wright, who has lived in Littlebury since 1932, was previously awarded an OBE in 1995 for services to the community. He was on the parish council for 48 years including 18 as chairman.