Sam Jeffers felt that 65 years was a time to retire – 65 years in the church choir, that is.
For the 88-year-old has given six-and-a-half decades of wonderful service to the praise of Ballymore Parish Church.
They gave me a sort of montage of pictures to mark my service. I just sit in the body of the church, and I still enjoy singing in generalSam Jeffers
His soaring tenor voice, a rare asset these days, has been a great boon to the Tandragee church since 1950 – a family affair, with wife Hazel having sung in the alto section since they married in February 1963.
Said Sam, “I’m not as mobile as I used to be and I need a walking aid these days. Hazel remains in the choir. They gave me a sort of montage of pictures to mark my service. I just sit in the body of the church, and I still enjoy singing in general.”
The pictures aren’t just of the choir, for Sam was, in days of yore, captain of the Church Lads’ Brigade and Superintendent of the Sunday School – yeoman service to the church in general and the choir in particular.
He especially enjoys listening to the church choir, admiring the four-part harmony that has been the hallmark since he first joined when Mrs Eakins was organist, “right through to the present exponent Philip Elliott, who is a wonderful organist”.
Sam and Hazel met through the Brigade movement. Their paths crossed at the various officers’ meeting, with Sam doing his bit in Ballymore and Hazel being a Lieutenant in Seagoe Church Girls’ Brigade.
They were wed in Seagoe by the legendary Canon Appleby. She sang soprano in Seagoe choir, “but I dropped to alto when I moved to Tandragee as Ballymore was short of altos.”
The choral tradition remains in Ballymore where they don’t have a modern praise group. And Sam rattles off great friends he made among the tenors and basses – people like Harold Crawford, Joe Vance, Tommy Watt and Kelson Kilpatrick.
Kelson was his special mate and called to see the Jeffers most Tuesdays and Fridays. “We really missed him when he died,” said Hazel. “He was such fun and a true friend.”
Sam’s favourite hymns are ‘Be Still My Soul’ and ‘Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah’.
The present was handed over to Sam by the Rector, Canon Shane Forster, who praised his long and valued service to the parish. Sam had a stroke a number of years ago, which affected neither his singing nor his spirit.
They have two sons – Rodney who is retired and David who works in Craigavon Area Hospital.