Meet Selwyn and Ted – the UK’s oldest council workers

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CALDERDALE is home to two of the oldest council workers in the country.

They are Selwyn Crabtree, who is 89, and his friend, Ted Johnson, who is mere 88.

Both have been employed by Calderdale Council since they were recruited to play the newly installed electric organ at Park Wood Crematorium, in Elland, nearly 25 years ago.

They are each on duty for one day every week and can play for as many as six or seven services.

But both admit with a wry smile that theirs is a dying trade.

Mourners are increasingly choosing recorded music or no music at all and the number of accomplished organists also seems to be in terminal decline.

“They would certainly have trouble finding someone if we weren’t here,” said Selwyn.

The pair both began playing the piano at about the age of seven and were recruited by their local churches and chapels as assistant organists.

Ted lives at Savile Parade, Halifax, and has been married to his wife, Audrey, for 60 years.

Selwyn lives not far away at Manor Heath and has also been married for 60 years to his wife, Margaret.

The couple found they had a common interest when he gave her piano lessons as child.

Selwyn became the acting deputy organist at the former St Paul’s Church, at Cross Stone, Todmorden, during the final year of World War II and then studied at the Manchester College of Music.

He played at St Hilda’s Church, in Halifax, St Mary’s Church, at Illingworth and All Soul’s at Boothtown from 1959 to 1971.

In 1956, he was president of the of the Halifax and District Organists Association which at the time had 70 members.

He taught music in Bradford and for 21 years at the former Sunnyside Secondary School, at Boothtown.

Ted was born in Liverpool and moved to Boulderclough at the age of three because his father worked on the railways.

He spent most of his working life as a weaver in Luddenden Foot.

He was the Sunday School pianist at the former Boulderclough Methodist Chapel and then became the church organist.

Over the years he played at many places of worship including Providence, at Sowerby, Pellon Baptist, where he met his wife-to-be, St Bartholomews, at Ripponden and for 22 years at Bradshaw.

“You get asked to play some queer stuff at funerals,” said Ted. “Someone asked for How Much is That Doggie in the Window? but I couldn’t find the music so I made it up.”

Asked how long the veteran performers hoped to continue playing at the crematorium, Selwyn said: “as long as a piece of string”.

l Calderdale Council employs 99 people over state retirement age. A spokesman said it could never be accused of “ageism.”