100 years young and still singing

Phyllis Bowman 2
Phyllis Bowman 2

Calder Vale’s oldest resident will become a centenarian on Saturday.

But 99-year-old Phyllis Bowman has another string to her bow.

It is believed Phyllis, who has lived in Calder Vale all her life, is the longest serving chorister in the country, if not the world.

Phyllis first joined the choir of St John’s Church, Calder Vale, when she attended the village school, and it is something she has done since, rarely missing a Sunday service.

She has sung in the choir for more than 90 years, but as no one knows the exact date she started, her name cannot be included in the Guinness Book of Records, where the record stands at 89 years.

Phyllis has also sung at numerous weddings and funerals, and has seen at least a dozen vicars come and go.

Meanwhile, the choir’s size has fluctuated from more than 30 to below 10, and her chorister’s robes have changed in colour from black to dark red, and then to a lighter red.

Members of her family have also sung in the choir alongside Phyllis.

Phyllis enjoys singing all hymns, although lists Immortal, Invisible, How Great thou Art and The Lord’s My Shepherd as favourites.

Born as one of four sisters and two brothers to Joseph and Elizabeth Bowman at Long Row, Calder Vale, on July 7, 1912, Phyllis moved to a house in Vale Terrace as a young child, and has lived there since.

Independent, active and able, Phyllis still busies herself with cleaning, washing and other household chores which, she says, she thoroughly enjoys.

Among her favourite activites are:

n Every Thursday, she goes on a shopping trip to Garstang market;

n she watches soaps such as Coronation Street and Emmerdale;

n Buys and reads the Daily Mail every day;

n Attends a monthly meeting at the village’s Methodist Church;

n Snd supports Liverpool and Preston football teams.

And that’s as well as keeping up with her large family of eight nephews and nieces, 14 great nephews and nieces and 14 great great nephews and nieces.

A weaver by the age of 14 at Calder Vale’s Low Mill, where she worked for more than 40 years, Phyllis also spent part of her life caring for her father, who lived to be 92, and later worked at the village’s Lappet Mill, sewing and winding.

Phyllis has enjoyed many a summer holiday in Blackpool, and has also been a member of a village amateur dramatic group and keep fit class, enjoyed gardening and dancing, and used to help clean the church.

As a child, Phyllis took part in the parade at Calder Vale Festival and later as an adult helping prepare refreshments for the big day.

So it was appropriate her 100th celebrations started at last week’s village festival during which Phyllis was given her very own crown by retiring queen Jessica Sharples and a bouquet by new queen Laura Simpson (below left).

Celebrations continue on Saturday with a party in Calder Vale Village Hall, while on Sunday, Phyllis will be singing in the combined choir at All Saints’ Church, Barnacre, for a special service to mark the legal licensing of the Rev David Brown (pictured with her above), and this will be followed by a family Sunday lunch in Garstang.