Mellor Parish Celebrates Frank Ashton's 43 Years of Faithful Service

Post date: Mar 31, 2010 2:51:55 PM

Palm Sunday this

year was especially memorable as we said thanks to Frank Ashton for his years of service as our organist and choirmaster. Hundreds flocked to church for his final Parish Communion in charge of the choir, and afterwards at his retirement lunch, the school was overflowing with parishioners and other well-wishers from all over the country. Some time ago, Margaret Baldwin put the word out to former choir members and parishioners, and the fact that so many turned up is surely a testament to the respect and affection in which Frank is held. Many past choirboys attended, and some of us were playing a game of "Name That Choirboy"- which involved attempting to put names to those formerly cherubic faces! Our former Vicar, Peter Hudson, returned to Mellor for the event, and Dean Christopher attended to offer words of praise and thanks on our behalf.The adult choir members, in strange new robes, performed a humorous retirement song - specially penned for the occasion by Noel Hunt, and "Frank's Treasures" (the choirboys) went on to sing "The Lord Bless You & Keep You" for him. Frank was clearly touched, if not a little overwhelmed, by the occasion and gave an emotion-touched speech with recollections of the choir, the organ and his beloved church; and that he'd arrived in Mellor back in 1967 as temporary organist and choirmaster - a position which he subsequently held for 43 years! A slide show ran throughout, with collected photographs of Frank from his early years as a choirboy at St. Jude's, right up to his recent award of a decanter for 60 years service to The Royal School of Church Music. The lovely lunch having been largely consumed, and with the wine and conversations still flowing, Dean Christopher presented Frank with gifts from the parish - a 'gold' watch and a 43 year old bottle of malt whisky in a case inscribed "To Frank. Organist and Choirmaster for 43 years. From the Parish of St. Mary's Mellor. With Grateful Thanks" (I learned later that a choirboy, on being told the bottle of whisky was 43 years old, was concerned that no-one had wanted to buy it before!. Ed). Hilda Hilton presented Frank's wife Margaret with a gift of beautiful flowers. Frank's last day in charge was capped with a "Music for Holy Week" service - a most suitable finale to Franks 43 years. At choir practice the previous Wednesday, whilst practising the final hymn "Christ Triumphant Ever Reigning", Frank told us to give the last verse all we'd got - but warned that he intended to drown us out with the organ - and he did!

Thanks for everything Frank - you'll be a hard act to follow!