By Claire Smith
ST Patrick’s Parish Church, Ballymoney, was packed to capacity when it held a special Thanksgiving Service for well-known local artist and singer Jack Wilkinson.
To mark his 90th birthday, the Ballymoney congregation held a special evening of praise last Sunday to pay tribute to the ‘many hours of pleasure he has given to the local community’.
Jack has been a member of the Church choir for more than 83 years, which is an amazing achievement.
Speaking to the Times Chancellor E.R. Lavery of St Patrick’s Parish Church honoured a loyal and faithful member.
"Jack may hold the world record for length of time as a choir member after starting in St Patrick’s aged just seven, giving him 83 years non-stop membership," he explained.
"Even when he waited for his voice to settle during adolescence he remained in the choir helping out in various ways.
"And then he became blessed with that rich bass vocal range which even now at 90 still has the power to move an congregation to tears.
"As well as his church choir activities, Jack was a founder member of two other well-known local singing groups, the Route Singers and the Male Voice Choir.
"Due to his great many years of service to the Church and the local community, we wanted to say a special thanks to him by organising a special service.
"Instead of our usual evening Harvest Service we held an Evening of Praise and Thanksgiving last Sunday to mark this as well as his 90th birthday.
"This was not only a great occasion for Jack but also a rare meeting of all three choirs coming together to honour their long time and founder member."
During the service St Patrick’s choir, accompanied by their organist Rachael Shiels sang Mozart’s’ ‘Jesus Word of God Incarnate’ and Stanford’s Magnificent and Nunc Dimittis.
The Route Singers, conductor Margaret Brown, accompanist Amanda Cupples performed ‘Ye servants of God’ (music Dr Christopher Tye), ‘All in the April Evening’ (Hugh S Roberton) and ‘The Cloud Veil’ (Anon).
The Male Voice Choir also sang a musical version of the 84th Psalm, ‘How lovely are thy dwellings’ by Samuel Liddle, ‘Hine, e Hine’ a traditional Maori greeting arranged by A. Humphreys and ‘Waft her angels through the skies’ by Leptha.
"In the midst of these choral offerings guests also had the great pleasure of hearing Jack sing two solos, including ‘How Great Thou Art’ and ‘Bless This House’.
"Jack’s is an unbelievable man, he has given so many hours of pleasure to the local community not only with his singing but with his artwork.
"I can honestly say that if Jack had been born 30 years later he would have been a world famous singer – that’s how good he is.
"He’s really in a class of his own - you wouldn’t think he was 90 with the fantastic voice he has.
"I have been with St Patrick’s for 22 years and I have found Jack nothing less than a loyal and faithful member of both the church and the community.’
In the church hall after the service – where tea was served to all the congregation – Mr. Tom Murdock spoke on behalf of both the Male Voice Choir and Route Singers.
He thanked Chancellor Lavery for the warm welcome they had received and said that it was a great pleasure to be part of such a memorable service.
He then paid tribute to the talents of Jack Wilkinson and thanked him for his loyalty to the choir.
Chancellor Lavery added: "When Jack had 75 years service we gave him a video and television for him to watch his beloved football. However instead of a gift, Jack has requested there be a collection in aid of Friends of Tower House, a cause very close to his heart."