A WELL-KNOWN organist who’s been playing in Barnsley churches for 70 years has celebrated his 85th birthday.

David Matthews has spent most of his life playing the organ, after he started learning at only 15 years old in Cawthorne All Saints’ Church, tutored by the late Ken Shaw.

On Boxing Day, the retired ambulance worker turned 85 – but despite his age David is still maintaining his musical skills, playing at both Silkstone and Hoylandswaine churches each week.

He said: “I shall go on with this for as long as I can.

“I’ve always loved it – my older brother is a fine pianist, but that was never for me.

“I don’t know how my mum and dad paid for both of us to learn, but I’m so glad they got us through it.

“I’ve made so many friends through this.”

In an interview a decade ago, David said that he hoped to carry on for ‘at least another ten years’.

With that goal conquered, David is showing no signs of slowing down, as he helps with as many services as he can, taking part in five just last week – including a midnight performance – for the ‘marathon’ Christmas weekend.

“I can’t really describe how I keep going,” David added.

“There’s Marley, my chocolate labrador, he makes sure I get out every day – I usually get dragged out at 6.40am for his walks.

“Once I feel like I don’t want to do it then I’ll say ‘that’s it’.

“But I want to keep going for as long as I can – I just love music and that’s all there is to it.”

His passion has allowed him to perform all over the world, regularly playing in churches at the Isle of Man during trips to see his friends, and working as garrison organist during his national service in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

On Sunday at All Saints’ Church Silkstone, his dedicated service will be recognised by all those he works with, especially his so-called ‘boss’ Canon Keith Farrow.

Keith said: “I’ve been here for 18 months and he’s never let me down, it’s so good to have a colleague you can depend on.

“He’s fully committed and always here on time, plus he chooses our hymns for Sundays.

“You can tell he cares a lot about the church and his music.”

Known by the vicar as his ‘maestro’, the two have developed an excellent connection as David helped Keith adjust to his current position and learn all the local names and faces.

“For his age he’s got so much energy.

“I hope I’m keeping that well when I’m 85.”