It was heart-warming to read in the Courier about the two oldest people on the payroll of Calderdale Council, organists Selwyn Crabtree, aged 89, and Ted Johnson, 88, both of whom it is my pleasure to know. I sincerely hope that both gentlemen will still be playing the organ past the age of 90, like Francis Jackson, of York Minster.
Not so long ago there was a Halifax organist who was still playing at the age of 90, although not locally. Many people will recall Shackleton Pollard, organist first at All Souls Church’, Haley Hill, then at Halifax Parish Church, and finally at St Andrew’s Methodist Church.
Shackleton Pollard was born in Pellon in October 1887, the eldest child of Lewis Pollard, a grocer’s storekeeper, of Woodhead Street, and his wife, Ada Shackleton. During the 1890s the family moved to Salisbury Place, Akroydon, and later to nearby Ripon Terrace.
Shackleton’s first job was as a grocer’s assistant. But he had already demonstrated musical talent, and his parents encouraged this.
His first musical appointment was in 1904, when he became organist at All Souls’ Church, Halifax, at the age of 16. He qualified as a fellow of the Royal College of Organists and took a bachelor of music degree at Durham University.
He became organist at the Victoria Hall, playing while silent films were being shown, and for about 30 years he accompanied most of the celebrity singers who visited Halifax to perform, including Dame Clara Butt, Dame Isobel Baillie, Kathleen Ferrier and Norman Allin.
For 30 years he was accompanist for the Halifax Choral Society, of which he was made conductor in 1940. Mr Pollard taught pupils privately and for many years held a professorship of organ and harmony at the Royal Manchester College of Music.
While still playing at All Souls’ Mr Pollard became assistant organist at Halifax Parish Church and was organist from 1941 to 1963.
Over many years he was secretary, treasurer and president of the Halifax Organists’ Association, and served on the executive committee of the Incorporated Association of Organists. He also conducted Sowerby Bridge Madrigal Society and for eight years taught music at Heath Grammar School. In 1964 he was awarded the MBE for services to music.
In December 1920 Mr Pollard married Elsie Mitchell, of Chester Road, at All Souls’ Church. They lived at St. Bevan’s Road and later moved to Skircoat Green Road. They had one daughter, Kathleen. Elsie died in 1953.
From 1963 Mr Pollard was organist at St Andrew’s Methodist Church, Huddersfield Road. In 1969 he left Halifax to live with his daughter in Bristol, where he played the organ at the church where she worshipped, until at least 1977. He died in Somerset in November 1984, aged 97.
Several well-known Yorkshire organists and musicians studied under Shackleton Pollard, including Roy Newsome, Douglas Bell, and Philip Tordoff, present organist at Halifax Minster.