Nellie, 100, brings joy to congregation

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A cheery church organist will celebrate her 100th birthday tomorrow.

Nellie Taffinder has been tinkling the ivories at Streethouse Methodist Church on Whinney Lane for the past 15 years.

Each week her daughter or granddaughter take her to chapel for the 11am service, which chief steward Keith Madeley said she helps make extra special, adding: “She is remarkable. She sight reads the music, plays, sings and smiles, all at the same time.”

This Sunday’s service will be followed by a lunch in Nellie’s honour, which will be attended by her daughter, granddaughter, friends, church family and eight previous and current methodist ministers of the chapel.

Normanton-born Mrs Taffinder, who was the youngest of eight children, has been playing the piano and organ for 89 years of her life.

When she was nine, her oldest sisters, Doris and Hilda, went into domestic service in Leeds, and with the money they sent home, her parents Albert and Ellen Short, who had a barber and grocery shop on Wakefield Road, bought a piano, so she could have lessons with Mrs Keith, a member of the Congregational Church.

Two years later, she began playing at the Sunday evening services and continued to play there until it was demolished in the 70s.

Rev Barry Owen, of Streethouse Methodist Church, said: “I think Nellie must be unique in the Methodist connexion.

“There can’t be many playing the organ so enthusiastically at such an age. Nellie so much enjoys playing for our services, you can see the congregation’s spirits are lifted when she comes in on a Sunday morning.

“It is a wonderful gift that we are given every Sunday by Nellie.”

At the age of 25, Mrs Taffinder married husband Ronnie and moved to Altofts. They lived opposite Upper Altofts Methodist Church and had a daughter, Joan, who attended Sunday school there.

Mrs Taffinder went on to take over organist duties at the church when the previous organist retired and continued in the role until the chapel closed in 1990. She also became an accompanist to the Altofts Male Voice Choir, as well as the Sharlston Male Voice Choir.

She will celebrate her birthday with a party for family and friends at the Chestnuts Care Home in Altofts where she lives today.