Four weddings in a day for popular church choir
Brian Johnson tells Colette Warbrook about the happy years he spent as a chorister, singing at weddings, funerals and also at Lichfield Cathedral
AS A choirboy, Brian Johnson was known to sing at up to four weddings on a Saturday.
This meant the youngster's vocal talents could earn him up to 20 shillings in a day.
Brian, now aged 62 and living in Werrington, joined the choir at St Mary's Church, Bucknall, when he was seven and left about nine years later.
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His memories were stirred by a photograph of the choir taken on Christmas Eve, 1958, which featured in The Way We Were last month.
In the photograph, Brian points himself out as third from the left in the front row. "The rector was Victor Pearce," he says, "and the choirmaster was Donald Cartwright, a marvellous organist and choral leader.
"Donald's three sons, Ian, Philip and Peter, were also in the choir. Ian is the second choirboy far right in the second row, Philip is standing in front of Mr Cartwright, and Peter, the youngest, was still to appear."
Brian recalls Mr Cartwright cycled around Bucknall to collect donations for the church organ in the 50s. The organ was dismantled about 40 years later.
"Each June or July, Mr and Mrs Cartwright took the choirboys to Rhyl by train for the day," adds Brian, "and a special treat it was too. Also, the choir sang evensong at Lichfield Cathedral each year, which was quite an honour."
Brian, a retired joiner, was born in Milton and has two sisters and two brothers. His parents, Beatrice and Arthur, have passed away.
"As choirboys we sang at weddings for 2/6d (old money), later rising to five shillings (about 25p now)," says Brian, who is married to Susan, aged 61, and has two children and four grandchildren.
"On a Saturday you would sometimes have four weddings, and I've also sung at funerals for people from the church. And at each Harvest Festival, all the apples donated were divided among the choirboys."Looking again at the 1958 photograph, Brian is able to put a few more names to faces.
"The man directly above Mr Cartwright is Geoff Marks, of Mark's Butchers," he says. "His brother Alan was also in the choir and so was their father. David Crutchley is fifth from the left in the second row.
"Fred and Frank Bennett are on the first row of men, second left and fourth left, and I think David Jackson is in the second row, third from the left."
Brian can identify a chorister with the surname Hammond, second right in the front row, of Hammond's fishmongers in Hanley, and names the Ellis brothers, Ken and John, on the back row of boys, either side of the two boys with heads almost touching.
Do you recognise anyone in these photographs? Please send your memories and pictures to Colette Warbrook, including your full name, address and telephone number, at Features Desk, The Sentinel, Forge Lane, Etruria, Stoke-on-Trent ST1 5SS, or email firstname.lastname@example.org