Almost 10 years ago, a chance encounter at a cinema led to a conversation about a group of singers who performed at events raising money for charity.
The information from a stranger from Garstang was the best news for a lady from Longridge after they just started chatting, waiting to go into the town’s Palace Cinema.
Since then, that lady, Gertie Farmery, has booked the June Baker Singers – the group the stranger told her about – every year in aid of the Brittle Bone Society’s Longridge branch of which she is chairman.
“That’s how it all began,” says Gertie.
“After contacting June, it was the start of our 10-year relationship with her and her Singers.
“We arranged the first concert for December of that year at Longridge Civic Hall, when June brought her Garstang group to perform for us, and we raised £630.”
Organised by Gertie and her husband John, the first nine concerts raised the magnificent sum of £7,597 for the branch’s funds.
And the milestone tenth anniversary event held just this month – Welcoming the Spring to Longridge – was hailed another great success, raising more than £1,000.
The choir of around 40 singers from the combined Garstang and Preston groups, performed a selection of songs from the musicals Guys and Dolls and Les Miserables, along with many other well known songs.
There were also solo performances, duets and some songs for the audience to join in with.
Gertie presented June with a gift of a beautiful vanity case as a token of appreciation for all the hard work by June and the singers and for their continued support over the years.
Each year, June brings both her Preston and Garstang singers together for the annual concerts, after realising the space they had to perform.
June adds: “They weren’t able to do that at many places but, since then, the combined groups – anything between 40 to 60 singers in total – look forward to performing at the hall and enjoy the good natured banter between them!”
Raising money for Osteo Genesis Imperfecta – brittle bones from birth – began through Gertie’s daughter, Lynda, who was born with the condition in 1965.
Gertie says: “Then, it was a little known condition but I saw a letter in The Sunday Post by Margaret Grant from Dundee, asking for anyone with it to get in touch with her as she was in the process of forming a society to help other sufferers.
“Both she and her daughter, Yvonne, suffered from it, so the Brittle Bone Society was founded in 1969 by Margaret and her family, along with Doctor Colin Patterson, an orthopaedic consultant, with the society’s headquarters being in Dundee.”
The first branch formed was the Longridge Branch in 1973, with Gertie and Jackie Quinn being two of the founder members.
Gertie is now the chairman and Jackie is treasurer.
Many varied fund-raising functions have taken place over the years, including jumble and car boot sales, market stalls, collections at supermarkets, collecting boxes in local shops and supermarkets, and, more recently, a stall at Bygone Times in Eccleston, which ran for six years.
Gertie’s daughter Lynda was tragically killed in a road accident in Longridge in 1994, and then John helped Gertie by taking over as secretary.
The branch has continued to fund-raise and, on celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2013, it had raised more than £100,000.
John and Gerties said: “Up to the end of the last financial year in 2016, a further £30,700 has been raised and we want to say a big thank you to June and her singers, and to absolutely everyone who has donated and supported us through these 10 years, for helping us to achieve such great results for our charity.”