Long-serving village organist to be presented with British Empire Medal

Peter Knowles pictured in August 2015. Photo: ASA Photo Image

Peter Knowles pictured in August 2015. Photo: ASA Photo Image

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A West Chiltington organist is set to be presented with a British Empire Medal for services to the community.

Peter Knowles, 86, will receive the royal honour from Lord Lieutenant Susan Pyper on Sunday February 14 in recognition of 65 years spent serving the parish.

The award presentation ceremony at West Chiltington’s St Mary’s Church follows his nomination on the Queen’s birthday honours list in June last year.

Peter said: “It’s going to be a privilege, no doubt about it.

“I didn’t expect anything at all, it was quite a surprise in a way, but now looking back this is certainly the highlight.”

Peter first moved to the village in 1949, where he has also served on the parish council and ran a recycling charity initiative.

His wife June said: “He’s feeling very, very proud, definitely, but at the same time very humble.”

Around 150 people are expected to attend the presentation and after party, including most of the couple’s five children, 15 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

Peter retired from playing organ in November 2014, but his musical interest goes back to his childhood in Worthing.

“I used to play in school assemblies on the piano and once a week on Sunday in the church next door,” Peter explained.

“One or two times the organist failed to turn up and the headmaster said ‘Go on, you play’.”

He has used three organs, under eight rectors and five bishops of Horsham - including the first one.

Peter continued to play while he was on national service in Northern Ireland.

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