Morecambe sisters get honour from the Pope

Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster, Mrs Frances Burton, Mrs Winefride Ward.

Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster, Mrs Frances Burton, Mrs Winefride Ward.

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Two sisters have received honours from the Pope for a combined 137 years of service at a Morecambe church.

Winefride Ward and Frances Burton have been awarded the highest honour for their dedication to St Mary’s Church, in Matthias Street.

Pope Francis issued the Holy Cross Medal to Mrs Ward, known as Win, for her work as the church organist for the past 70 years.

Mrs Ward, who celebrates her 90th birthday next month, began playing in 1946.

She said: “It is absolutely wonderful to receive this.

“I’ve been playing the same organ ever since.”

Meanwhile younger sister, Frances Burton has also been awarded the Bene Merenti medal from the Pope for her 68 year service to the church choir.

Frances joined the choir at the age of 11 in 1947 and was choir mistress from 1973 until 2015.

She said: “I feel very proud and privileged to be recognised.

“I was sad to leave, it has been lovely to be able to sing for the church for all these years.”

Mrs Ward has learnt many songs over the years, including playing on one occasion, for a bride, the Star Wars theme tune as her entrance.

The only time she wasn’t able to play was when her children were born.

She said: “I was playing at my brothers wedding at St Patrick’s and then I had to go back to St Mary’s for another wedding and later on I gave birth to my first child.

“In between playing the organ I was a mother to five children.”

Mrs Ward recalls another wedding for a couple who had met in the police force.

She said: “Many of the police guests had parked in the car park across the road, only to discover at the end of the service they had received parking tickets.”

Mrs Ward and Mrs Burton are now retired. The Bishop of Lancaster, Rev Michael Campbell, presented the awards.