Choirmaster who planned to help Suffolk church for only three weeks retires after 45 years

St Mary's Parish Church

Bob began leading the choir and playing the organ for St Mary's Parish Church in Woodbridge nearly half a century ago - Credit: St Mary's Parish Church

A choirmaster retired from his role at St Mary's Parish Church in Woodbridge earlier this month after 45 years of service.

Bob Pegnall BEM, began his role as choirmaster and organist at the Suffolk church back in 1976 as a favour, as there was no replacement for the outgoing choirmaster.

St Mary's Parish Church

Bob leading the choir - Credit: St Mary's Parish Church

"I stood in in 1976 in September for three weeks and finished last Sunday," said Bob.

He revealed he was asked "Bob will you just stand in for two or three weeks while we find somebody?" He agreed but then never left.

Over the near half century since Bob, who was a maths teacher at Copleston High School, has missed very few services for his church only going away a few weekends a year for a holiday.

But turning 70 three weeks ago, he decided it was time to step down.

"I'm missing it already," he added. "I still loved it but I'm glad to relinquish the responsibility and the commitment, it'll be nice to have the odd weekend when I can just dash off.

Most Read

"I should go to church as normal but I should sit at the back and take it in rather than give it out.

"I shall look forward to it actually, it will be really nice."

St Mary's Parish Church

The church plays a mixture of modern and traditional hymns at its services - Credit: St Mary's Parish Church

The church held a service for Bob on November 21, with many former choristers attending to share their warmest thanks for his faithful, pastoral and musical ministry over the years.

The choir presented him with a long-service medal from the Royal School of Church Music to which St Mary’s has been affiliated all these years.

They also sang one of his favourite hymns 'Ye Holy Angels Bright'.

Bob continued: "The choir are my family to be honest.

"It wasn't just signing together, if anyone had a problem or anything people in the choir always used to help one another."

Throughout his decades providing the music he says services have "evolved" but they are still very similar in many ways.

Some modern hymns are played but the traditional ones have been retained too.

Bob plans to spend some of his free weekend in a caravan along the North Norfolk coast next year and will continue play his organ and piano at home.

He added: "Thank you to everyone for a wonderful evening last Sunday It was absolutely terrific.

"I loved it, the choir was fantastic, the congregation turned up. It was really special."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter