When Pamela Berry agreed to play the organ at St Thomas’s Church in Delph for a couple of weeks she never imagined it would lead to an honour from the Queen.
But 45 years after her temporary role became upgraded to a permanent one the former school teacher is now the proud owner of the British Empire Medal.
The mum of three, 72, was named as a BEM recipient in June’s Queen’s Birthday Honours for her “services to Delph.”
“I am gob-smacked or flabbergasted – whatever word you want to choose,” said Pamela, also a grandmother of six.
“It’s something I have enjoyed doing so it’s very gratifying people thought it was worth pursuing that I get this award.
“I didn’t know anything at all until a few weeks before the announcement. Apparently though it’s been going on for a long time according to my husband, Alan, and others who were plotting.”
Ironically, given her citation of ‘services to Delph,’ Pamela lives in Uppermill. But she has been a long standing member of the congregation at St Thomas’s.
And when regular organist, Stanley Lawley, was off for a couple of weeks Pamela was invited to play.
“The vicar at the time was called Sidney Orme,” she explained. “He knew I could play the piano and asked if I could stand-in.
“My initial reply was ‘not really because I have never done it before.’ But he persuaded me to have a go and shortly after Stanley Lawley, decided he didn’t want to do anymore morning services. So I carried on.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it. I regarded it as a privilege to contribute to the worship of St Thomas’s.
“The organ came from Heights Chapel when it closed. It is actually too big to go into St Thomas’s properly so they had to make a pit to get it in.
“I have to go down some steps to the pit which causes some amusement. I can’t see much of what is going on unless I come up.”
Pamela’s BEM will be presented by the Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester later in the year. She will also be invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace next year.
“It’s very gratifying and something I never expected,” she added. “Who would have thought when I agreed to stand-in to play the organ all those years ago it would lead to this.”