A CHURCH congregation in a former pit village will pay a poignant farewell to their pipe organ next week before it is taken apart and scrapped.

Residents were devastated to learn that after 75 years unfaltering and faithful service the instrument’s woodwork had become riddled with woodworm.

Eva Richardson, president of the Independent Methodist Church in South Hetton, east Durham, said: “It is really sad.

“It still plays beautifully. You wouldn’t think there was anything wrong with it.

“It’s just we have no choice. It will be too expensive to repair.”

Miss Richardson said the church acquired the organ from The Odeon Cinema, in Newcastle, for nothing.

But the community had to pay to dismantle it, transport it and reassemble it, which came to a “tremendous amount of money in those days”.

Miss Richardson said: “I was eight years old at the time.

“I came with my parents and remember the church was very packed for the official launch, because I had to sit on my grandfather’s knee.

“I remember being bored stiff it because it seemed to be a long organ recital.”

Bob Cleghorn was organist for 11 years, before Elizabeth Boad took over and played it for 64 years, including the Sunday before she died, aged 85, six years ago.

Miss Richardson said: “It was her baby really. She never liked anyone else on it. It was her pride and joy.

“Her nephew, Martyn Banks, plays it now.”

Miss Richardson said the church learned of the woodworm problem in October.

She said: “Over the years it has done sterling service. Not just for Sunday services, but organ recitals, cantatas and weddings, funerals and christenings.”

Miss Richardson, 83, marks 50 years of her presidency on Wednesday, January 4.

The Farewell Service of Song will be held at 6pm on Thursday, January 5. The organist will be Andrew Grey, from Easington Lane, while the four soloists will be Ann Pringle, Bill Pringle, Martyn Banks and Sue Atkinson.